Wedding Cakes Don’t Have to Taste BadSeptember 30, 2010
Why do so many people have low expectations on how wedding cakes taste? I have been to two weddings recently and I and the other guests were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the cake. It’s sad that we go to weddings assuming the cake isn’t going to be that great.
One of the weddings was in the Bay Area and the cake was made by Jill Branch and Ann Sakai of Branching Out Cakes. It was a delicious- lemon cake with a lemon curd filling and buttercream.
Assuming the bride and groom have picked a cake flavor that tastes first-rate, the key factor is the frosting.
Many wedding cakes are covered with a layer of rolled fondant. This is not the same fondant that is used inside candies. Made out of powdered sugar, gelatin, glucose and glycerin, it is rolled thinly and draped over the cake. It is popular because it can be dyed to any color and pieces can be cut out and used to form flowers and other shapes to decorate the cake. Fondant cakes are impressive to look at. They also hold up well when placed on display during a wedding reception when it is 85 degrees. The down side is that it tastes gross- like gummy sweet cardboard.
I give huge credit to pastry chefs that are able to roll the fondant very thin making the texture better and to cover a cake without seams and cracks. Using fondant is an art in itself and takes lots of practice. I will be the first to admit my fondant skills are lacking. I have made fondant cakes but never bothered to perfect them because no matter how great it looks it still tastes like fondant.
Buttercream is the other popular frosting for wedding cakes. There are delicious buttercreams and those that are inedible even though they are made of edible ingredients. Some butter creams aren’t made with butter but with shortening. Like fondant they hold up well at room temperature and are great for piping decorations on a cake, but that’s about it. They taste artificial and are generally way too sweet. Most buttercream cakes you see in grocery stores with the piped roses are made with shortening. Stay away at all costs.
Buttercreams made with butter is the way to go, but the right balance of ingredients is crucial. Too much butter and they taste as though you were eating a stick of butter, too much sugar and they hurt your teeth. The buttercream recipe I use is an adaptation of Rose Beranbaum’s. It has white chocolate in it; not a lot but just enough to give it some background flavor and make it stable. Real buttercreams don’t have the luxury of holding up well at room temperature when it’s hot outside so even though that’s the frosting that tastes the best you don’t see it on many wedding cakes.
Fortunately we are in a trend where the taste of a wedding cake is becoming as important as to how it will look in photographs 10 years after the ceremony. Nontraditional wedding desserts like cupcakes and gelato bars are all about flavor. If you are a bride and groom planning a wedding make sure whatever you serve tastes terrific. Hopefully the more great tasting wedding cakes we have our fear of them will change.
What wedding cake experiences have you had?