Here’s the thing: this wedding took place on the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle. I live in Boston. As it turns out, those two places are not super close together.
The master plan started with six cakes baked in Massachusetts, frozen, packed into a backpack, and flown across the country.
What, like you haven’t done that? Totally normal.
In Seattle, I showed up at my great aunt and uncle’s house armed with several spatulas and a rotating cake plate to make the fillings and frosting. With the help of sous-chef Peppy, we assembled all of the cake tiers—cake, filling, berries, cake, frosting. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the individual tiers looked simultaneously sturdy and totally vulnerable, susceptible to nudges or pokes from any source. We packed them into the back of a very full car and made it to the island with only mild and occasional panic.
(Please note that the mixer in this picture is from the 70s and I rigged up a towel/bowl/balancing act situation so I didn’t have to hold it for the whole hour it took to whip the buttercream.)
At the venue, I stacked up the tiers, touched up the frosting, added the flowers, and voila! Wedding cake. I couldn’t really believe that it had actually worked and that this real live wedding cake would be served to real live wedding guests.
And so, four months after impulsively offering to make my friend’s wedding cake with absolutely no understanding of what that would entail, 60 wedding guests dug into three tiers of my cakes to celebrate family and love and one of my favorite people. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better reason to bake something wonderful.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this whole transcontinental approach to major baking projects, I do have a couple of tips for the next time you decide to abandon logic and just go for it:
- You can fly with a whole lot of weird things if you just accept that TSA will think you’re very strange.
- Make a dry run cake! My boss insisted that I HAD to do this, and I’m so glad I did since dry run cake nearly lost its top two tiers into the side of the fridge.
- Freeze things. Put them in the fridge if the freezer is full. Freeze the cakes after baking, after crumb coating, after assembly. Cold things are much easier to work with.
- Don’t worry too much! Put on some music and dance around the kitchen. It’s cake, and it will be delicious.
- Lemon blueberry cake:
- ½ c. (113 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ c. (149 g) vegetable oil
- 1 ¼ c. (248 g) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 T. lemon zest
- ¼ c. (57) lemon juice
- 4 t. (19 g) vanilla extract
- ¾ t. (3 g) baking powder
- ½ t. (3 g) baking soda
- ¾ t. (4 g) salt
- ½ c. (112 g) buttermilk
- ¾ c. (128 g) blueberries
- Almond filling:
- ½ c. (113 g) milk
- 1 T. (16 g) almond paste
- ¼ c. (50 g) sugar
- 2 T. (14 g) cornstarch
- 1 egg
- For assembly:
- 1 c. (6 oz/170 g) blueberries, fresh
- 1 recipe Swiss meringue buttercream (see part one)
- Make the cakes: Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment. Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, oil, and sugar until combined. Add the eggs and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk in three additions. Gently stir in the blueberries.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and middle of cake springs back up when pressed. Cool completely.
- Make the almond pastry cream: Heat the milk and almond paste in a medium pot until just steaming.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the egg and beat until combined.
- Slowly pour the hot milk mixture over the sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pot and return to medium-low heat. Whisk constantly, scraping the sides as you go, until the mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Cool completely.
- Assemble the cake: Spread the almond paste on the bottom layer of cake. Cover with blueberries. Top with the second cake layer. Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream, filling in the edges of the space between the cakes as necessary. Frost the cake with the rest of the buttercream. If you’re feeling fancy, top the cake with more blueberries, fresh flowers, or plenty of sprinkles.