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Cake Decorating 101: At-Home Wedding Cake

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After learning the basics with cake baking and decorating, and learning how to create special shapes and designs out of fondant, like Dogwood flowers, it's time to put all of these skills together to make a spectacular, eye-catching cake.

Now that we are halfway through wedding season, I thought it would be fitting to create an at-home wedding cake that is not as difficult to make as it may seem and won't put a dent in your wedding budget.

I am not claiming to have made this cake by myself. My mother is the mastermind behind the concept and the design, so thanks to her amazing help, we were able to put together a beautiful at-home wedding cake. Too bad we had no one to give the cake to... anyone getting married who wants a green and gold wedding cake?

Bake the cakes a day in advance so that they have plenty of time to cool and rest before you start assembling. This cake requires four layers -- requiring two nine-inch round cake pans and two six-inch round cake pans. We used a golden butter cake, but next time we want to use a pound cake so there are fewer crumbs. However, if you prefer a butter cake, it will work just fine.

Follow the steps in prepping the pans to bake the cakes, just as we discussed in the first installment of the cake decorating 101 series. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap once they are completely cooled and place in the refrigerator overnight.

During the same day you bake the cake, prepare the fondant flowers so they can harden overnight, allowing you to easily paint and decorate with them the next day. Make any type of flower you feel comfortable with, like the Dogwood flowers, or just buy real flowers that match the colors of the wedding. Real flowers will look just as beautiful as (if not more so) the fondant flowers.

Day one is complete once you have the cakes baked, wrapped in plastic wrap and sitting in the refrigerator, and the fondant flowers shaped and drying in an egg carton.

Day two is for assembling and decorating the cake.

Start by preparing a white chocolate buttercream frosting. My mom and I decided to use a buttercream frosting to cover the cake instead of fondant because we enjoy buttercream more than fondant; it's smoother, creamier and, in my opinion, a lot tastier.

To make the white chocolate buttercream frosting, boil ½ cup of water and add two 4-ounce bars of white chocolate, stirring until melted. Let the mixture chill for about 30 minutes, then beat the chocolate with a cup of softened butter until fluffy and creamy. Slowly incorporate one two-pound sifted package of powdered sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until everything is completely mixed together.

To make the frosting stiffer (so it doesn't run off the sides), add more powdered sugar.

You will need to make this recipe twice so you have enough to fill the layers of the cake and frost the entire cake twice.

Meanwhile, paint the insides of the Dogwood flowers green and gold with luster dust and vodka. Add a little bit of gold to the tips for more texture and design. Let these dry while you assemble the cake. Place a dollop of frosting onto the plate or cake stand you will use to present the cake, and place one of the nine-inch cakes on top. The frosting serves as a glue to hold the cake in place.

Next, spread a quarter-inch, or thinner, layer of frosting on top of the first layer and on the sides, then repeat the same process with the remaining cake layers, until everything is covered in frosting. This is the crumb coating, which is basically the thin layer of frosting that holds the crumbs in the cake, allowing you to have a smooth finish when you frost again. Make sure the cakes are sturdy and centered while you stack them on top of each other and frost them. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before applying the second layer of frosting.

Place three wood dowels into the top of the cake to hold all four layers together, then frost it again with more frosting.

Before smoothing the frosting, place it back into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to ensure the frosting is firm. Use the fondant smoother and a piece of parchment paper to eliminate any strokes from the spatula or imperfections in the frosting.

Now it's time to add texture to the cake with the ridged buttercream technique. Have someone slowly turn the cake while you create creases in the frosting with a small paring knife. Run the knife along the sides to create lines across the cake. Once you are done, you will be left with a beautifully textured cake that didn't take much skill at all.

Using a round tip, pipe small circles around the base of the cake and the base of the 6-inch cake, then pile frosting onto the top of the cake to create a fluffy base for the flowers. Starting in the middle, assemble the Dogwood flowers until the entire top of the cake is completely filled.

If you are taking this cake to a wedding, bring the frosting and flowers with you so you can assemble them at the location.

Keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is going to be on display at the reception.

Check out the previous installments of the Cake Decorating 101 series:

Decorating with Stencils Fondant Dogwood Flowers Covering the Cake with Fondant Fondant Designs Piping & Frosting Baking the Perfect Cake

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