Thursday, November 21, 2013

The preparation - baking a giant, giant cake.

Remember the test cake I baked for the 1963 Flashback Party?  For that tower, I baked two recipes of white cake, two recipes of chocolate cake, and as usual, not enough swiss buttercream frosting.  But for the main event, I would need five recipes of each cake, plus 12 recipes of frosting, 3 recipes of chocolate ganache, and 5 recipes of seedless raspberry preserves. 

The best way that I've learned to handle big projects like this is break them down into smaller pieces.  And thanks for Rachel of Heart of Light (my party-inspiration-idol for many years) and Deb from Smitten Kitchen (can't I just be you already?) - I had all the tools at my disposal to make this work. 

Two weekends before the event, I made the cake.  Five batches of white cake on Saturday, and five batches of chocolate cake on Sunday.  Going from pre-cooking clean kitchen to post-cooking clean kitchen took about 10 hours, and I was down for the count by the end.  But it worked!  So, I wanted to put together a short photo essay of my day with butter up to my elbows. 

Even if you have a small kitchen, mise en place is essential.  Take care of breaking all your eggs, separating all your eggs, all the butter, mixing the flours, etc, and then, only then, proceed with mixing.  If you don't have enough room in your kitchen, bowls on the floor are the thing to do.  

Also, for this recipe, you use more egg yolks than whites, so I saved the whites for making frosting, they freeze just fine. 

Adding vanilla to the beaten eggs.  Especially for baking in this quantity, a scale is essential. 

All lined up and ready to go.

The other counter was kept completely clear for assembly.

Action shot!

Preparing pans - use lots of butter, and then definitely parchment paper.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will help in removal post-baking.


Normally I wouldn't fuss with a scale when pouring batter, but to ensure the levels would be similar sizes, it made sense in this case.

Only three more batches to go!

So. much.  cake.  You'll notice these don't look all that pretty.  That's okay.  We're going to be covering them with fillings and frosting, they'll be fine.

Advance preparation isn't just important for your sanity, working with frozen cake is so much easier.  So - step one, place the cake side up on a sheet pan.  Cover with saran wrap.

Clamshell the cake with another pan on top.


Take off the top clamshell, and now you see, the cake is flipped.  Remove the parchment paper and untwist the saran wrap.

Bring the saran wrap across the bottom of the cake, and repeat two more times for two layers.  If putting in the freezer for two weeks or less, a single layer of aluminum foil is fine; if longer than that, do a triple layer.

Now - for the recipe!  It's fairly similar to Deb's recipe, but it does use yogurt (I rarely bake with anything else), and I adapted it to use almost exclusively gram measurements.  I also don't normally keep cake flour in my pantry, so I did the substitution with cornstarch and flour.  The link below leads you to Deb's full series on making a wedding cake, so she's a great resource if you're thinking of making a cake like this.

Vanilla Cake for Layering

Originally from Smitten Kitchen (Adapted from Sky High Cakes)

55 grams cornstarch (6 1/2 tablespoons)
348 grams all purpose flour (3 3/4 cups less 6 1/2 tablespoons)
500 grams granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon + 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
282 grams 2% yogurt (1 1/4 cups)
75 grams 2% yogurt (1/3 cup)
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
13 grams vanilla extract (1 tablespoon)

1.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare either three 9-inch round cake pans, three 8 inch square cake pans or two 9x13 cake pans with parchment paper and butter liberally.
2.  Combine corn starch, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a mixer.  Blend for 30 seconds.
3.  Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of yogurt.  Mix on low speed briefly to blend, and then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, two to three minutes.
4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup yogurt until well blended.  Add to batter in three steps, folding in completely after each addition, scraping down often.
5.  This recipe makes 1800 grams (approximately 9 cups) worth of batter.  Distribute evenly between pans.  Bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on thickness, rotating once, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.  Turn the layers out onto wire racks and let cool completely.  Peel off paper layers once completely cooled.  If freezing, wrap in plastic wrap on top of cardboard layer.  

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