Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dowels...wooden or plastic?

Wilton plastic dowel rods

Wooden and plastic dowel rods
When constructing a wedding cake, dowel rods must be inserted into each tier to support the tiers that are stacked above it. Until a few years ago, the decorator always used wooden dowel rods, because they were the only ones available. Several years ago, Wilton came out with hollow plastic dowel rods that I find work much better than wooden dowels...they add more support and are easier to work with. The white plastic dowels are 12 inches long and come in a package of 4. The plastic is quite thin, so they can be cut easily with a small knife or saw, just like you would cut the wooden dowels. After cutting, I like to sand the ends smooth with a piece of sandpaper. Because the diameter of the plastic dowels is much wider than the wooden dowels, they add greater support, even though cake still comes up the center of each since they are hollow. Wooden dowels also have a tendency to tilt, whereas the plastic ones aren't as likely to have that problem. Here are some hints to make sure that your tiers are level when inserting the dowels.
  • Cut the dowels for each tier separately. The tiers, even though on the same wedding cake, may be slightly different in thickness, which can make a difference.
  • Be certain that all dowels for each tier are exactly the same height, after sanding the ends.
  • Always insert the dowels around the edges of your cake plate or board, never in the center. If the cake settles too much, the cake will be balancing on the center dowel, and may tilt to one side.
  • Cut your dowels only slightly below the top of cake, since there is always a chance that the cake will settle a bit.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

General guidelines when designing a wedding cake

All tiers 10 inches
6" - 8" - 12"
6" - 8" - 10" - 12"
6" - 10" - 14"

There are a few basic guidelines a bride should follow when designing her wedding cake. Often, the decorator designing your cake will fail to let you know these things.
  1. If your cake has all tiers directly above each other, either with or without separations, your tiers should have at least 4 inches difference in the diameters. This will not only make the cake look nicer, because of the proportions, but will make the cake more stable. The possible exception to this rule is when you have a smaller cake, the top 2 tiers may have only a 2 inch difference in diameter. (For example, 6"- 8"-12".) The cake would still look nicer if the proportions were 6"- 10" - 14".
  2. If the tiers are staggered and on separate pedestals, the above rule does not apply. You may have any amount diameter difference between the tiers, or all of the tiers may even be the same.
  3. When delivering your cake, the tiers must all be transported separately. Depending on whether or not you have separations between the tiers, the decorator may need extra time at the reception site to assemble the cake, including adding borders and details.
  4. The top tier of your wedding cake is traditionally saved for the first anniversary. This is normally included in the cost of your cake. Most decorators should give you the option of paying for and serving the top tier at the reception and offering a free tier that is ordered prior to the first anniversary, so it will be fresh.
  5. Be sure to ask your decorator which items are included in the cost--delivery, floral arrangement, fountain, mirror, extra decorations, etc.
  6. Stay away from dark icing colors on your wedding cake. They will bleed onto the background icing and also give your guests funny colored teeth. Also, the more color used in the icing, the more bitter the taste. The most beautiful, elegant cakes are iced and decorated all in white or ivory, with color detail brought in with ribbon or flowers.
  7. Be sure your table is large enough and/or the correct shape for your cake design. Also, be sure an electrical outlet and extension cord, if necessary, are available if your cake design includes such things as a fountain or lights.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The hardest thing about moving...

When we were anticipating and preparing for our move to Colorado, we were excited. Even though the circumstances around our move were not the best, we were excited about starting out again "fresh." And that we did...new business with no other job, no home, not knowing where in Colorado Springs we would end up, and having to start my cake business all over again. When we were packing up the house to move, I was fine, until...I had to start packing up my baking kitchen. Not only did I not realize how much I had to pack, but I was leaving MY KITCHEN. I had designed this baking kitchen myself. We had filled in the covered patio to make the kitchen, and we built another one. The kitchen was separate from the rest of the home and I could lock the rest of the family out if I needed to. Inside, I had a double oven, double large industrial size sinks with racks above for drying pans,etc., an extra refrigerator, and lots and lots of cabinet and counter space. Beside my oven, were 10 shelves of cooling racks that I could slide in and out. Then, to the left of them, I had vertical slots that fit all of my various sizes and shapes of cake pans. I had enough cabinet space to store all of my supplies, equipment, and books. When I started packing up the kitchen, the tears began to fall. I knew I would probably never have another kitchen like this one, and it had been my dream. So, now three years later, my business is just beginning to grow again, I make do with baking in my regular kitchen, and most of my decorating equipment is stored in cupboards in the garage. My kitchen is quite workable, even though I still have only one oven. When the time comes that I need more than that and when I have the money to do so, I will again have a double oven, even though I may never again have my dream kitchen.