This past weekend signalled a marathon baking session for me! It was my little sisters 21st Birthday Party (here in Australia your 21st birthday is quite a milestone so often involves a large party/celebration) and I, being the genius that I am volunteered myself to bake all the cakes! The Party itself had a pink and white theme so my sister and I decided to make a two-teir round cake for the centre-piece followed by 70 cupcakes for the guests. The first step for me began about two days before the party, when I baked the three round cakes that I needed. Now I should probably mention that for this event I decided to use packet mixes (shock and horror!) mainly because I had to bake on such a large scale I didn’t want to waste time measuring things out. I also worried that a home-made mix might have room for error, which i really didn’t have time to accommodate as I also had to decorate all the cakes. Either way, I was very happy with the flavours of all the cakes (I used WhiteWings mixes). So, about two days before the party I started baking, first up was two separate red velvet cakes about 30cm in diameter, followed by a raspberry swirl cake about 20cm in diameter. All in all this part was very easy, follow the instructions and out comes a lovely moist cake that smelt delicious in the oven! I then flattened them out on top using a serrated knife (the off-cuts then became the taste tests for my family). So far so good! I particularly wanted to bake these cakes in advance as I’ve read somewhere that its easier to cover them in ganache and fondant a day or so after they’ve been baked as the crumbs are a bit firmer once you’ve cut the tops off them. Once they were cooled, I popped them into airtight containers and left them in a cool place.
The next day I was onto the cupcakes. Again, I used WhiteWings Vanilla and Raspberry Swirl mixes for the cupcakes. The trickiest part of this stage was not overfilling the cupcakes, so that once baked, the tops would sit just flush with the top of the paper case. Normally I would fill them up quite a bit so that the top of the cupcake was a dome shape but not this time. I used a measuring cup and meticulously measured out 1/4cup per cake! It was all very precise! Now while they were baking I began exercising my multitasking skills by covering and assembling my round cakes. First up were the two red velvet cakes, which I covered in the cream cheese frosting that I was included in the packet. I was a bit disappointed though as the consistency was not very nice (I had planned to use the packet frosting to ice the cupcakes also) but continued the best that I could. Once I’d stuck the two layers together and covered the whole thing I got onto the fondant icing. What.A.Workout!! Wow, I didn’t even need to go to the gym that morning!! Truly it was really hard, especially as I was working alone. One thing that I would really recommend doing though is rolling it out between grease-proof paper. That way it doesn’t stick to anything and it’s very easy to pick up and roll out over the cake. Finally, after about half an hour (and with very sore arms) I could stand back and admire my cake..until I realised I had to repeat the entire process on tier two!! I must say though that I was quite happy with the finished result, especially considering I have only worked with fondant once before (at which time I got my nice strong boyfriend to help me with the rolling part!) Once it was all done I then inserted my dowels. So to do this I pushed one directly into the centre of my bottom tier, marking where it was flush with the top of the cake. I pulled it out and cut it using a hand saw, repeating the process so I had 6 small pieces, one in the centre and the rest in a star around it. Dowels are completely necessary in a layered cake as they ensure the whole thing won’t collapse (my worst nightmare) and can be purchased from your baking supply store. I used wooden ones but I have read that you can get them in plastic too. I also learnt that I needed a small wooden board underneath the top tier to give further support and luckily my cousin, who is an avid baker herself had a spare one which I could borrow! The other final thing I should add is that I didn’t assemble the cake until it was time to serve it, preventing a possible collapse!
So, once all of this was said and done I moved onto icing my cupcakes on the morning of the party! Again I used a store bought buttercream frosting mixture which you add milk and vanilla to. To keep with the theme, I also added some colouring to make them pink and a dash of rosewater to give a hint of flavour! Using my piping bag I attended to each cupcake, topping it off with a little popping candy. And finally, after 3 days of baking and flour and sugar and frosting I was done!!
I must say the whole process was totally worth it! Everyone loved the cakes and most people were asking where we had bought them from! Since the party I’ve also been asked to make cakes for a few upcoming birthdays although, I’m not sure if thats a good thing just yet!! Anyway, some tips for baking en mass!
1. Using a packet cake mix is totally fine, this will ensure your cakes come out of the oven perfectly meaning one less thing to worry about!
2. Start in advance and allow yourself plenty of time! Theres nothing worse then having to rush on something like this
3. Use a measuring cup to ensure your cupcakes are all even sizes
4. Cut the top of your round cakes off so that your left with a flat surface
5. Roll your fondant between two pieces of grease proof paper to avoid it sticking to the bench or tearing
6. Have a helper on standby to lift it onto your cake
7. Use dowels, they’re not very expensive or hard to put it and will prevent all your hard work collapsing…literally
8. Refrigerate your cakes once they are done, especially if its hot!
9. Place a round cardboard piece underneath your tiers for further support
10. Remember to enjoy…even in moments of stress!!