My first wedding cake!
(Side note: every time I say a phrase beginning with “my first,” I imagine it as a board book introducing toddlers to the subject. This would be a really good one, probably involving mud pies.)
I had SO MUCH fun with this project. As the kid who spent days off from middle school in the kitchen baking cakes, it’s exactly my idea of a good time. Cake hovers near the top of my list of favorite things. I love eating it, I love thinking about how to make it more complicated/delicious, and I love covering everything I see in Swiss meringue buttercream. Getting to do all of those things while also helping one of my best friends from high school get married (!!) was nothing short of amazing.
We decided on three tiers: the bottom one (12 inches) is a hazelnut cake with chocolate ganache and raspberries, while the top two layers (9 and 6 inches) were lemon blueberry cake with almond pastry cream and blueberries. Don’t make me pick a favorite.
If you live within driving distance of me and didn’t try at least one iteration of these cakes, that’s really on you. I showed up on weekend trips with cake and philosophical questions about the formality or informality of blueberries. I made them for other people’s birthdays, brought them to work, and pawned them off on anyone willing to come over and help me out with an extreme excess of cake.
My job as a product developer has totally skewed my idea of how much testing a baked good should go through before it’s ready.
For the hazelnut cake layers, I started with a classic French meringue-based cake, and it was light, airy, and completely terrible. Dry, weirdly chewy, and not structurally sound enough for stacking—back to the drawing board. An ATK bundt cake recipe proved much more promising. I added buttermilk for flavor, oil to make the cake less dry, and whipped cream folded in at the end on the urging of Shirley Corriher.
In case you think it’s weird to show up at your friend’s birthday with a three-tier white cake, I scaled it for a more manageable 9-inch, two-layer concoction. But if you’re coming to my birthday party, tiers are very acceptable. Just so you know.
- 10 T. (136 g) butter, softened
- 3 c. (596 g) granulated sugar
- ⅔ c. (120 g) canola oil
- 1 T. (18 g) vanilla extract
- ½ t. (1.6 g) hazelnut extract
- 8 eggs
- 3¾ c. (448 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ t. (1.4 g) baking soda
- ½ t. (1.4 g) salt
- 1 c. (86 g) hazelnut flour
- 6 T. (72 g) buttermilk
- ½ c. (136 g) heavy cream, whipped
- 200 g dark chocolate (50-70%), about 1¼ c. chopped
- ¾ c. (170 g) heavy cream
- 5 egg whites
- 1¼ c. (222 g) sugar
- 2 c. (1 lb, 4 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 t. (5 g) vanilla extract
- 12 oz. raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two 9-inch pans with parchment paper and grease the edges.
- Make the cake layers: in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and hazelnut flour. In a separate bowl, beat the cream to soft peaks.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light in color. Add the canola oil and the vanilla and hazelnut extracts and beat well.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between additions.
- Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. At each step, mix until just combined.
- Gently fold in the whipped cream with a spatula.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and the middle of the cake bounces back when touched.
- Make the ganache: heat the cream until steaming. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir until fully incorporated. Let cool.
- Make the buttercream: heat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler until steaming. Beat in an electric mixer until medium peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Add the butter about a tablespoon at a time and beat until incorporated (this will take a while). Beat in the vanilla.
- Let the cakes cool completely, or freeze if you have time. (If you freeze the cakes, level them first.)
- Level the cakes, if necessary. Spread the ganache over the top of the bottom layer. Place the raspberries in a single layer, then add the top layer. Frost the cake with the buttercream.