Little Wed Hen recently chatted with Perth-based chef Helen Pratt from Cook Learn Love, a culinary tuition school offering a cake-making course for couples interested in creating their ow wedding cake. Today we extend our coverage of DIY cakes with a feature on Terry Wright, a Melbourne-based man who recently basked in his share of the wedding limelight after creating—from start to finish—his daughter’s wedding cake. But we have to say that hearing about the work undertaken by Terry to create his masterpiece certainly give us a new-found appreciation of professional cake designers!
Meet the father
Terry’s decision to take on the weighty task of creating his daughter’s wedding cake didn’t simply arise on a whim. “I wanted to contribute to the wedding and make something personal. I’ve become a little famous in the family for my chocolate mud cake, and thought it would be a lovely contribution to the wedding,” says Terry.
But even with a history of successful mud cake baking under his belt, Terry had to embark on some substantial research before beginning. Fortunately, taste-testing multiple mud cake recipes was something that he and his family didn’t see as too arduous a challenge, and after a few efforts he knew he had hit upon the right recipe.
“Most of the recipes were off the Internet but I tried a few recommended by friends. The key to making a great chocolate mud cake is using the best quality chocolate. We used top-of-the line chocolate, which made a huge difference.”
The baking process
Terry’s masterpiece, a two-tiered mud cake, brought with it all manner of demands not usually required by domestic cooks, and he admits to having had to hone his skills along the way. Getting the right mix of ingredients was tougher than he first imagined, and Terry found himself performing some trial-and-error baking along the way.
One unanticipated find was that dark chocolate mud cake was denser than its white chocolate counterpart, something that had an effect on the overall construction of the cake.
“The chocolate mud cake was heavier, so it had to become the bottom layer,” he says. But he notes that the white chocolate cake was still dense enough to potentially pose a threat to the layer beneath it. “To assemble the cake into its two tiers, we put the white cake on a board and then balanced it on top of bolster wood skewers to make sure it wouldn’t sink. It seemed to balance fine and there were no problems.”
But while working out the architecture of the cake was relatively stress-free, the icing posed more of a challenge.
“It was difficult to get the perfect recipe for icing; it often turned out discoloured. But I found a simple recipe that worked,” says Terry, pointing out wryly that his “simple” recipe contained no fewer than 12 eggs.
The next challenge Terry encountered was how to evenly ice the cake—after all, as any baker will tell you, icing a square cake is no easy task.
“It definitely did not look like a store-bought cake, so we decided to go for a rustic look. We achieved this by using sugar-made autumn leaves to decorate the cake and to cover any ‘mishaps’ or holes.”
The judgement day
We’re on tenterhooks after all of that, and are dying to know how Terry’s cake was received.
“It was a huge hit,” Terry says proudly. “The function manager was hoping to taste some but there was none left. Everyone thought it was the best wedding cake they’d tasted.”
In fact, Terry tells us that the cake was such a success that he was asked by one of his daughter’s friends to create one for her wedding, too!
The cost of love
Out of curiosity we asked Terry how much his cake cost to make. Interestingly, it turns out that DIY cake baking isn’t as much of a cost-saving endeavour as might be imagined, with the cost of ingredients putting the cake’s overall cost at that comparable to one designed by a baker. “It cost around $200 including tins and boards and decorations and the best possible chocolate,” he says, “or $300 including labour.”
Fortunately, his was a labour of love.
We asked Terry whether he had any tips to share with potential wedding cake DIYers, and he happily obliged. Here’s what we took away:
- Be aware that your DIY cake probably won’t have the same appearance as one made by a professional cake designer
- Use only high quality ingredients and be sure to bake a few trial cakes prior to the day
- Consider using round cake tins, as round cakes are easier to ice than square cakes
- Ensure that the heaviest cake mix is used for the bottom layer, and that all layers have adequate structural support
- Let the icing dry before trying to apply decorations such as ribbon. These decorations may otherwise become soggy and will be consumed by the icing
- Plan transport carefully. Terry nearly got run down by a group of runners while delivering the cake!