When Alison first approached me way back in May about baking her wedding cake, I was totally honored. And freaked out. I mean, yes, I’ve made cakes before. I’ve made two layer cakes. Maybe three layer cakes if I wanted to get ambitious. I even made wedding cupcakes for Mary (aka The Arugula Files). But wedding cakes? They’re a whole different ball game.
Not just any cake will do for a wedding cake. Because the cakes are so big, you can’t use a cake recipe that will turn out soft and crumbly. The cake has to be strong enough to support the weight of the upper tiers – but it can’t be so strong and full of structure that it turns out dry. And have you ever tried to frost a 12 inch cake layer? Let me tell you – they’re frickin’ heavy. I could barely hold the bottom layer in my hand. And it’s a wedding, so it has to be perfect – or as close to perfect as I can get.
After some discussion, Alison and I decided on a bananas foster cake – a banana cake with caramel buttercream. Yes, it’s a little unusual for a wedding cake, but Alison needed a cake that was chocolate free, and without any “weird’ fruit filling. She suggested banana cake, and I immediately thought “bananas foster” – so we opted for a caramel buttercream.
I ended up incorporating some other elements of bananas foster – caramelized bananas flambéd in rum and served over vanilla ice cream – into the cake. I added some rum to the caramel filling for the layers, and added vanilla beans to the salted caramel buttercream. I used the banana wedding cake recipe from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, doctored up a caramel buttercream recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, and added some rum to this caramel filling recipe from Bon Appetit. I also decorated the sides with caramelized sugar that I ground up in the food processor – it kind of reminded me of tiny pieces of amber.
Of course, the course of every wedding cake never runs smooth. My first snafu was when I tried to mix a triple recipe for the bottom layers in my 5 1/2 quart mixer – I quickly realized that all the batter was never going to fit, and had to figure out how to divide up all my pre-mixed ingredients. One of the bottom layers didn’t bake through all the way – a fact I only realized when I went to assemble the cake – so I had to bake another one on the fly. And at 20 to midnight the night before the cake was due, I couldn’t find the straws I had picked up for internal cake supports. Thank God Safeway stays open until midnight on Thursdays.
Despite the hiccups, I loved making this wedding cake – and I was very honored that Alison asked me to make such an important part of her wedding day. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Who has a wedding coming up?
Here are some more pics of the final cake construction. I was much more nervous than I appear in the photos – promise!