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Frosting suggestions for outdoor-wedding cake: no fondant


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On the strength of a cake my wife and I made for my parents' 40th anniversary party, a friend has asked us to make her wedding cake. We've agreed. We have the cake recipe pretty well nailed, but are less sure about the frosting.

My parents' anniversary party was held indoors, in cool weather. We used a buttercream infused with Grand Marnier, and everyone loved it. The wedding cake, however, will be served outdoors, in June, in the Adirondacks. At a YMCA camp. With sun. And bugs.

I would very much appreciate suggestions as to what sort of frosting might be most appropriate for this sort of situation. Flavor is more important than refined appearance; we're probably not interested in fondant. We are ambitious home cooks, but this is a challenging project for us. Please aim us in the right direction.

cake.jpg

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If you have until June you have plenty of time to test different options. I'd make a list of them, work out their pros and cons, and decide what you're most comfortable with. Then make a small test, and another, until you're happy. Butter, sugar and eggs are pretty cheap, especially when compared against the expectations of a wedding cake.

I agree with Robyn that there's probably nothing that will stand up to heat significantly better than anything else. Buttercreams are easy to make, flavour and spread. If you have until June then you can even experiment with Swiss/Italian & French styles to see if you have a preference!

If you increase the ratio of chocolate to cream then you could also consider a ganache, but this would definitely require some experimentation with the exact brand and type of chocolate you'd use on the real cake to find a balance between heat resistance and spreadability. With white chocolate you might need to go to a 2:1 chocolate-cream ratio, and large quantities of ganache can take a long time to set before you can start spreading. If it's a big cake then the cost of white chocolate can add up- it's hard to judge but the one in your photo might need about 3kg (6-7 pounds) - so buttercream could also be a lot cheaper. It's personal, but I think the advantage of a ganache is the taste- it's mostly chocolate, as opposed to being mostly butter.

I would guess that a buttercream and a ganache melt at roughly the same temperature, so it will probably come down to your personal preference.

I've never tried a marshmallow icing but I definitely agree that you want to keep the cake inside for as long as possible!

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Thanks for the suggestions so far. We are already doing some testing, and are thankful to have the time to do more.

To answer some questions:

There will probably be about 125 guests. We're planning on doing two different flavors of cake split between the tiers; a buttermilk cake with raspberry curd filling, and a chocolate cake with ganache filling, probably with a bit of Chambord in the ganache and/or Chambord syrup spritzed on the cake before assembly. Same frosting over all.

It's sounding like we might need a tent or shade fly if it's a sunny day. I just checked with the National Weather Service and learned that average early June high temps are low to mid-70s at the wedding location. Not so bad.

Edited by Jon (log)
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Thanks for the suggestions so far. We are already doing some testing, and are thankful to have the time to do more.

To answer some questions:

a buttermilk cake with raspberry curd filling,

Can you elaborate on this a bit? How thick are you going to make the curd filling in between the layers? As an experienced wedding cake maker of many years, I would worry about the tiers sliding if it is just curd filling and it's anything more than a skim coat... even with a buttercream dam around the edge to hold the filling in ...

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Can you elaborate on this a bit?

Sure, Jeanne. The curd doesn't seem to be a problem, probably because we're keeping it thin. We've already made a 6" square test cake using about 3 1/2T of curd per layer, and it was fine. The cake layers themselves are thin too, so it all balances out. The cake we did for my parents' anniversary (pic at top) was the same deal, but with mango curd.

Edited by Jon (log)
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Gorgeous cake, that! With the curd fillings, have you considered piping a thick ring of mousseline buttercream, etc. around the edge of each layer as a dam? Also, you could then put a crumb coat of the curd all over the cake and then drape it with ultra-thin marzipan - which can be tinted, airbrushed, crimped, etc. to your heart's delight. It is far tastier than rolled fondant, creates the same porcelain-like finish, and will armor the cake against the elements. I would suggest, though, that the cake be given one heck of a deep refrigeration prior to putting it out.

Regards,

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Edible wax (aka canning wax, highly refined nontoxic but indigestible paraffin) is added to chocolate to raise its melting point, and should do the same for cake frosting. You'd have to mix and apply the icing at a high enough temperature to keep it spreadable, and the content would have to be low enough that the icing wasn't brittle. I'd try a basic white frosting with 25% of the butter replaced by wax. and see if it was too hard, and use a hair blower & thermometer to see what the upper temperature limit is, then adjust the wax/butter ratio up or down.
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Theabroma, your marzipan suggestion sounds delicious, though also scary because we haven't done much with marzipan before. Thanks for helping us thing outside of our accustomed box.

Over the weekend we made another test cake, this time with Rose Levy Beranbaum's Silk Meringue Buttercream. It didn't go so well because our cheap candy thermometer is worthless when gauging the temperature of small / shallow batches of anything. I also underestimated the amount of frosting I would need, and ended up with only a messy crumb coat. Of course, this is why testing is necessary. We will forge ahead!

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