For the past two weeks, I’ve secretly been making cake. Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries, Iced with Swiss Buttercream to be exact. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary today and I, with the help of one of my mom’s best friends, planned a surprise dinner for them at the Mission Inn last Sunday. And now that the party’s over, I can finally share my baking experiences, and everything I learned along the way.
The event took on many manifestations (including a blind wine tasting for 50 of their closest friends where I planned to make all the food) before we settled on an intimate dinner (at a restaurant, who would make the food for us) with just the immediate family. So, with no invitations to mail or appetizer menu’s to brainstorm, I thought of cake. Wedding cake, in particular, is one of my dad’s favorite guilty pleasures. At my own wedding, we made sure he had a special box to take home extra slices. Having never attempted a true wedding-style layer cake (thankfully, this time there were no dowels or tiers involved), I had to do some practicing.
There were a lot of firsts with this cake. First triple layer cake. First batch of Swiss Buttercream. First attempt at frosting a cake with my icing spatulas. I started by reading lots of recipes, watching videos, and generally getting a feel for the skills required to pull this off. Overall, nothing was a complete disaster. The biggest mistake I made was removing the layers too quickly from their pan after baking. One layer broke in half with steam still rising from the center. The lesson? Let your cakes cool before transferring them anywhere. But with no one to impress just yet, the pressure was off. Plus, after smushing the layers back together, the break was undetectable.
The cake was moist, and its light flavor took the edge off the tart lemon curd and raspberries. I couldn’t have been happier. After my husband and I devoured our slice, I packed the rest up for him to take to work. The cake was finished before 9 am, and his colleagues prepared some thoughtful critiques after explaining it was a practice cake. The most common note was preferring more flavor in the buttercream. Personally, I thought the flavors were spot on, but I upped the vanilla by a ½ teaspoon in the final cake.
Next, tackling fondant…