Now that you have your cake, curd, mousse, and frosting, you can proceed to assemble your Orange-Buttermilk-Lemon-White Chocolate Wedding Cake.
Step 1: Remove Feline Menace, ban from kitchen.
Step 2: Make yourself a quick batch of lemon simple syrup. Combine 1 c. granulated sugar, 1/4 c. water, and 1/4 c. lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove the syrup from heat and add 1/2 c. ice water. Refrigerate if necessary to bring to room temperature.
Step 3: Remove the thawed cakes from the refrigerator. I found it helpful to keep a few cookie sheets and trays handy, lined with parchment paper, to receive cakes and sliced layers. These trays got transported all around the apartment so that I could keep my work surface clear until the component parts started to come together.
Place one cake on a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Adjust the wire on your cake leveler/slicer thing so that it will slice off the top two-thirds of the cake. Slowly begin to pull the wire back and forth through the cake in a sawing motion, applying gentle pressure. Always keep the wire moving from side to side, and take your time: if you try to force the wire through the cake, it’ll just break and crumble.
Once you’ve worked the wire through the whole cake, gently lift up the top section and transfer the bottom third to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Reposition the remaining cake and cut off another third using the same gentle sawing motion. Repeat for each cake, slicing each into three even layers. My cake slicer wasn’t wide enough to slice all the way through the 14″ cake, so I just worked my way around the edges as far as I could, and then carefully used a serrated bread knife to reach the center of each layer.
Step 4: Assemble the Tiers
Drop a spoonful of buttercream onto each of three cardboard cake circles (one 7″, one 10″, and one 14″, the same sizes as your cake layers) and place one of the cake layers on top of each. Beginning with the 7″ cake, transfer the layer (on its cardboard circle) to your rotating cake stand. Brush the surface of the 7″ cake layer generously with the lemon simple syrup (this will be the bottom layer of your top tier). Transfer a few cups of the Vanilla Bean Swiss Buttercream to a ziplock back or a pastry bag and snip off the tip. Pipe a “guard rail” of frosting about 1/2 inch high around the edge of the cake layer. This will keep the fillings from oozing out the sides of your cake, as well as ensuring that the sides of the assembled tier are perfectly smooth once frosted.
Spread 3/4 c. Lemon-White Chocolate Mousse over the cake within the ring of frosting. Drop 9 tbsp. lemon curd over the mousse and gently smooth. Refrigerate the cake layer for 1 hour, until mousse, curd, and frosting are firm. Top with a second cake layer. Brush the second layer with simple syrup, then pipe a guard rail of frosting around the edge. Spread 3/4 c. mousse over the surface of the cake, then top with 9 tbsp. lemon curd. Top with the final cake layer, and then refrigerate the assembled tier for at least 1 hour, until fully set.
Continue assembling the tiers (simple syrup, guard rail, mousse, then curd), moving next to the 10″ cake. You’ll use about 1 3/4 c. lemon mousse and 1 c. lemon curd between each layer, refrigerating the cake for 1 hour between the first layer and the following two.
The 14″ inch cake will start getting very heavy very quickly, and I found the cardboard circle wasn’t equal to its weight. You can either drop another blob of frosting on your cake board/serving platter and position the cake on its cake circle there, or do what I did and just slide a cookie sheet under the cake when you’re ready to move it from work surface to fridge. Repeat the same assembly process (simple syrup, guard rail, mousse, then curd), refrigerating for 1 hour between the first layer and the second and third. For the 14″ cake, use about 2 1/2 c. mousse and 2 c. lemon curd between each layer.
Make sure that all cakes have chilled for at least 1 hour before moving on to the crumb coat.
Step 5: The “crumb coat” is my favorite thing ever about frosting cakes. You know how when you’re frosting cakes, and you go back over a surface you’ve already done with your spatula, and you wind up pulling crumbs into your frosting and no matter how hard you try, you can’t completely cover them up? Crumb coat to the rescue! Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of each cake tier, making sure to fully cover the cake but not worrying about the crumbs. Once this thin coat of frosting has chilled, it will trap all the crumbs and keep them from showing up on the surface of the finished cake.
If you’ve begun cake assembly the day before the wedding, congratulations, you’ve done all you can do! Pop the cakes in the fridge for a bit, and then once the crumb coat has set wrap them in plastic wrap to chill overnight.
Step 6: Make your second batch of Vanilla Bean Swiss Buttercream, if you haven’t already. Working with one chilled cake at a time, apply your final coats of frosting. You’ll use about 3 c. frosting on the 7″ cake, 4 1/2 c. frosting on the 10″ cake, and 7 c. frosting on the 14″ cake. Use an offset spatula and the magic that is your rotating cake stand to make the frosting as smooth as possible. Dipping the spatula in water will help you achieve a smooth, shiny finish, or you can use the spatula to create big, dramatic swirls.
Step 7: Trim a handful of cake dowels (or drinking straws) until they’re ever-so-slightly shorter than your 14″ and 10″ frosted tiers. Press one dowel directly into the center of each tier, and then position the remaining dowels around it, spaced equally apart a few inches from the center (about 7 for the 14″ tier and 5 for the 10″ tier). Carefully slide the assembled, frosted cakes into their cake boxes and refrigerate until ready to transport. Cover the remaining frosting to bring with you to the venue, leaving it at room temperature.
Step 8: Let Ruby have a tiny bit of frosting, because she’s been hovering outside the kitchen looking pathetic this whole time.
Step 9: Pack up any equipment you want to bring with you to the venue. I brought a LOT of stuff, and used almost all of it:
- Offset spatulas and silicone spatulas of varying sizes
- Kitchen towels
- Paper towels
- Extra ziplock and pastry bags
- Kitchen scissors
- A hand mixer, just in case the frosting needed some love
- The remainder of the second batch of frosting
- Plastic wrap
- Dress, shoes, makeup, jewelry, hat, lingerie, petticoat (these last ones might have been specific to me, actually)
Step 10: Shower affection on one of your very best friends ever since elementary school who has brought his car to your apartment to be your cake sous-chef/wedding date/best dance partner ever.
Step 11: Your cakes will get a little dinged up in the car. It’s the nature of the beast. However, even on a warm June day, I found that my cakes had set enough after a few hours of refrigeration that they made the trip from northern Manhattan to Brooklyn in excellent shape. We placed the big cake and the middle cake flat in the trunk of the car, and I held the smallest one in my lap. Others have recommended resting the cake boxes on beach towels, slightly dampened, to keep them still and level throughout the journey.
Step 12: You’re pretty much in the home stretch at this point. Position the bottom tier, on its serving board, wherever you plan to serve it. Stack the 10″ cake atop the 14″ cake, and then the 7″ cake atop the 10″ cake, as centered as you can. I left mine on their cardboard cake circles, although I know some would frown on that. I knew it would be much easier to remove the top tier for the bride and groom to take home and slice the remaining cake if I left them on their circles. Use the remaining frosting to smooth away any bumps and smudges from the journey and assembly and to cover the “joins” where two tiers meet.
Note: save at least one of your cake boxes, so that the bride and groom can take home the top tier and/or any leftovers. I did not do this. Whoops.
Step 13: Let your insanely talented florist friend prettify your cake with colorful flowers, while you go and prettify yourself for the ceremony.
Step 14: To serve the cake, work your way from top to bottom. My friend and her husband chose to take their top tier home, so once they cut the cake and had their pictures taken, I removed the top tier and set it aside. To slice the big cakes, you’ll want first to cut a concentric circle in the center of each cake, creating a smaller inner cake surrounded by an outer ring of cake. Slice and serve the outer ring first, which will leave you with a smaller, more manageable center cake.
Step 15: Bask in compliments, toast the gorgeous couple, dance your face off.