Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2: Swiss Meringue Buttercream & the Game Plan

For Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1, click here.
Swiss Meringue ButtercreamWedding Day is two days away and things are getting *real* around here. I have not lost my mind yet, but that’s a very big “yet.”

To be fair, this is probably the most prepared I’ve ever been for anything in my life. I’ve read all the homemade wedding cake information out there (especially Deb’s brilliant series) and done as much work ahead as I possibly could.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
In case you missed it, the cake will be three round tiers (14-inch base, 10-inch center, 6-inch top), all vanilla, with alternating mocha and caramel fillings and Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Each tier will be filled, frosted, and doweled (!) at my workspace in Brooklyn, and then transported via my friend David’s trusty Volvo station wagon to the Central Park Boathouse on Sunday afternoon. The cake will be assembled on site and finished off with a cascade of fresh flowers. And then I will go put on my ballet pink bridesmaid’s dress and support my friend as she marries the man she loves. Did I mention that I’m a bridesmaid, too?Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
I baked, wrapped, and froze all the cake layers last week—that’s what I did to celebrate the Fourth of July. All the layers are made with my Vanilla Layer Cake recipe, but instead of baking them at the usual 350F, I went with a lower 300F. This helped keep them flatter—sort of the opposite of how I bake muffins—but also meant that each individual layer took 50 minutes to bake. Each layer was triple-wrapped in plastic and frozen flat.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For those interested, I used Wilton Decorator Preferred pans that came as a set. Each 14-inch layer took 1.5x of the regular 9-inch cake recipe (10 cups of batter). The 10-inch layers were made with 0.75x the recipe (5 cups of batter), and the 6-inch layers were made with 0.37x the recipe (2.5 cups of batter). There was a lot of math and I’m sure most of it was inaccurate.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
Since this is my first-ever tiered cake, I had to learn some new skills, namely how to dowel a cake so that it will be structurally sound and not one big, sad mess. This meant watching many YouTube videos about tiered cake assembly and, of course, doing some practice.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I made two miniature wedding cakes last weekend, each with a 6-inch base and 4-inch top. The first was hideous from humidity, but it was properly assembled and survived a ten minute walk to a friend’s house without incident. The second was properly doweled and pretty. It’s basically exactly what I hope the real deal will look like but, you know, bigger. A lot bigger.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
FYI, my favorite part of doweling a cake is shoving a sharpened dowel through the whole thing. It’s very satisfying to break through the top tier’s cake board.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
On Wednesday, I picked up last second supplies—extra dowels, cake rounds, boxes, and a gold-foiled cake base. My beloved N.Y. Cake Supply is currently closed while it moves to a bigger space, so this meant going to The Sugar Room in Sunnyside, Queens. I don’t think I’ll be going to Queens for supplies from now on, but I will say that it was a great shopping experience and shockingly inexpensive given the amount of stuff I needed.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I started thawing layers yesterday, so they can be trimmed and torted, AKA sliced in half. Yes, each tier is going to have six thin layers because I am freaking crazy.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Flash forward to today, when I am making a triple batch of each filling. I think this may be too much, but I’d rather have too much than too little. Plus, after a long day of cake assembly, leftover pudding is the kind of problem I’d like to have. I am also making a batch of simple syrup to brush over the layers. Dryness is a common wedding cake concern, and I am determined to counteract it!

My plan for tonight is to have all the tiers filled and wrapped tightly in plastic before I go to bed. This means that I’ll be able to get up and start frosting tomorrow. I am hoping to complete the top tier before I leave to attend the rehearsal luncheon, and then to complete the other two that afternoon.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
And speaking of frosting, that’s today’s recipe 🙂 Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a dreamy, fluffy bright-white frosting perfect for any occasion, but especially beautiful on wedding cakes. It’s made from whipped egg whites, sugar, and softened butter, so it’s airy and light, but has a rich, pleasing mouthfeel. I also like to add a little cream of tartar for stability (like in Lemon Meringue Pie) and a pinch of salt for flavor balance.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
If you feel like you’ve heard me talk about Swiss Meringue Buttercream before, you’re right—I posted a chocolate version a few weeks ago. That recipe is literally the exact same as this one, except that there’s no chocolate here and I reduced the salt slightly because there’s less sugar in this recipe overall. Basically what I’m saying is that if you can make that recipe, you can make this one, and vice versa.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
I’m using Swiss Meringue Buttercream not only for its aesthetic beauty and flavor, but because the egg white base means it’s less likely to melt than an American Buttercream, i.e. most of the frostings on this site. There’s still butter in there, of course, so melting during transport is a possibility, but the risk is much lower than it would be otherwise. I plan to have all the frosted tiers spend the night in the refrigerator, so they should survive the trek to Central Park just fine.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
The recipe I’ve written here is just to frost a 9-inch round layer cake, not a full-on wedding cake. I am not exactly sure how many egg whites I’ll need to make frosting for all three tiers, but I have two dozen in my refrigerator, ready to go. That should be enough to leave some for piping a border at the base of each assembled tier. If it’s too much, Swiss Meringue Buttercream keeps well in the refrigerator and can even be frozen! It just needs to return to room temperature and be whipped again before use. Easy peasy.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Whew! That’s a lot of information for a Friday. Thank you all for the enthusiasm, encouragement, and general showing of support during this exciting and challenging project. Please send me some good vibes this weekend! I’ll be documenting it on my social media and do a full post-cake rundown next week.

In the meantime, have you ever made a wedding cake? Got any tips?Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes enough to fill, frost & decorate a 9-inch layer cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar*

Egg whites will not whip properly if they are not treated well. Before beginning, please ensure that all equipment used in this recipe is very clean and dry. I like to wipe down the bowl(s), whisk, and mixer attachments with vinegar before starting the recipe. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Cut butter into 16 one-tablespoon pieces. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a very clean, dry heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk frequently until sugar dissolves. Test for readiness by rubbing a drop of the mixture between your clean, dry fingertips to feel for granules. Remove bowl from heat and wipe off the bottom to remove any condensation.

Use a very clean, dry electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer) with a whisk attachment to beat egg white mixture until room temperature and doubled in size, about 7-10 minutes. At this point, the mixture (a meringue) should hold stiff peaks and be glossy.

Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing to combine. Buttercream will probably curdle before re-forming; this is normal. Continue to whip until it thickens and becomes airy and frosting-like. If the buttercream is taking a long time to thicken, it may be too warm. Simply pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before whipping again. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is ready when it goes from being runny to being fluffy.

Leftover frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature and whip until fluffy before using.

Note:

There is no substitute for cream of tartar. It is mandatory for this recipe.
Swiss Meringue ButtercreamLet’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2

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Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1: Caramel Pudding

Caramel PuddingIf you’ve been on my social media in the past few days, you know I’ve been busy lately. Aside from working and blogging and petting dogs and being a person in New York City, I’m making a wedding cake!Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1One of my nearest and dearest friends is getting married on Sunday, and asked yours truly to make a big, beautiful cake for her and her dream man. I said yes—it was a proposal this baker couldn’t refuse. Of course, July 15, 2018, seemed very far away when I agreed to this last summer. In fact, it didn’t start feeling imminent until May, when she and future hubs planned a trip home to NYC to make some final arrangements, including a cake tasting.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Cut to June 4th when I showed up to the bride’s mother’s apartment with three little layer cakes: all vanilla, two with traditional Swiss Meringue Buttercream, one with Seafoam (brown sugar) Swiss Meringue Buttercream, two with mocha filling (the bride’s request), and one with caramel (the groom’s favorite). I wasn’t too confident, not because I didn’t think the cakes would taste good, but because this isn’t just any ol’ cake, you know?Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1The original plan was that they would choose one filling and one frosting and that would be that. About five minutes into the tasting we were all in agreement—vanilla, mocha, and bright-white Swiss Meringue Buttercream. But that was before the mother of the bride randomly stacked a bite of the caramel-filled cake on top of a bite of the mocha-filled cake and then insisted the rest of us do the same. Just like my friend and her betrothed, each filling was fine on its own, but they were better together—the combination of chocolate, espresso, and dark caramel is divine. And so, it stands that this cake will be vanilla layers with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and alternating mocha and caramel fillings.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Since this cake has to be made, transported, and assembled in the middle of a hot, humid NYC July, I had to take melting into consideration when developing the recipe(s). Traditional American Buttercream (butter + confectioners sugar + vanilla + heavy cream, AKA most of the frostings on this site) was out as a filling/frosting option—too prone to melting. Instead, the fillings and frosting are all at least partially egg-based. Eggs are textural and structural powerhouses in cooking and baking, and most importantly, they don’t melt.Caramel PuddingThe frosting, which I’ll write more about on Friday, is made from egg whites, while the fillings are made with the yolks. The mocha filling is simply my chocolate pudding with a tablespoon of espresso granules added to the dry ingredients—easy peasy. I’ve already gone on and on about its richness and depth, and used it as a cake filling.Caramel PuddingToday is all about the caramel filling—this rich, silky, insanely delicious pudding that is practically like eating a little bowl of pure caramel! So freaking good.Caramel PuddingCaramel Pudding is a streamlined spin on the Butterscotch Cream Pie filling I made last fall. It’s super quick and easy to make, coming together in just 15 minutes on the stovetop. You may absolutely enjoy it without any accoutrements, but I especially love it with whipped cream and a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce.Caramel PuddingAnd, of course, it also works well as a cake filling, if whispers of dark caramel between layers of buttery vanilla cake are a thing you’re into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1They are definitely a thing I’m into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1

Caramel Pudding
makes 4 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving (optional):
whipped cream
caramel sauce

Combine sugar, light corn syrup, apple cider vinegar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until dark amber, about 7-8 minutes. Do not burn. Whisk in milk. Mixture will bubble violently and caramel may briefly seize, but keep whisking until it has smoothed out and boiled for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/3 of the mixture into the egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to pot and place back over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and butter.

Push through a sieve to remove lumps. Divide mixture among 4 4-ounce ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surfaces. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or until cold.

When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and caramel sauce, if desired.

Caramel Pudding will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Caramel PuddingLet’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1