Friday, December 12, 2008
Have your cake and eat it too: the making of a fake wedding cake
In these tough economic times, more and more couples are trying to find creative ways to have the wedding of their dreams without spending a fortune. But when in comes to the wedding cake, there really isn't a lot of options out there. You can have a cupcake tower or serve individual desserts instead, but if you have your heart set on a wedding cake, even a small plainly-decorated cake can cost a few hundred dollars. So what can a budget-conscious couple do? Consider using a fake wedding cake.
Pastry chefs and cake decorators have been using fake cakes for many years now. You've probably seen one or two displayed at a local bakery. They are usually made out of styrofoam cake dummies that are covered with either real icing or artificial icing. They are used as showpiece items at cake competitions and also used for practicing or demonstrating cake decorating techniques. Fake cakes have also been used for magazine photo shoots and even movies, where using a real cake would be impractical as well as expensive.
In the past few years, people have been starting to use fake cakes as cost-effective alternatives to real wedding cakes. Couples can rent a fake display cake for their reception and buy affordable sheet cakes to serve to their guests. But what happens when it's time to cut the wedding cake? A slice of sheet cake will be placed nearby but hidden from view, while the bride and groom pretend to cut the fake cake and pose for pictures. The couple can smoothly transition into feeding each other the slice of sheet cake without anyone noticing a thing. Some fake cakes have a secret compartment where a real cake slice can be inserted. Others simply have a slot for the knife to go through. Another variation is to have a real cake for the top tier and the rest is fake. The couple would cut into the top tier and then save it for their first anniversary.
I got to make my first fake wedding cake this summer. It was for my cousin Rodney and his fiance, Kim. They wanted a simple but elegant cake with a satin ribbon band, pearl border and their monogram etched on the cake. Their wedding was going to be outdoors at the Mount Woodson Country Club and I was worried about the anticipated hot weather for that day. Anyone who makes cakes can probably attest to the fact that extreme heat and wedding cakes are a bad mix. It's bad enough that I fret and fuss over cakes in general, but if it's a multi-tiered wedding cake, I get really perfectionistic. I'd be crushed if anything happened to my cousin's wedding cake so I decided to bring up the idea of making a fake wedding cake to Rodney and Kim, and they let me do it. Whew!
I went to my local cake decorating supplies store only to find out that they don't always keep 4-inch high cake dummies in stock. I had to special order them, which could take weeks so I had to improvise. First, I thought maybe I can stack and glue cardboard cake circles together, cover them in plastic wrap and then frost them. Seems like a good idea, but then I saw a Food Network Challenge on tv and they were making cereal skyscrapers. Bingo! I decided to make the cake out of rice krispie treats instead. I just frosted them with a thin layer of buttercream before covering them with rolled fondant. I cut out a compartment at the bottom tier so I could put a slice of real cake inside it. The cake turned out beautifully and at the reception, no one even realized it was fake. After the cake-cutting ceremony, slices of the sheet cakes I made were brought out from the kitchen, where they stayed nice and cool in the refrigerator until it was time to cut and serve them. I didn't keep the fake wedding cake because it was made out of rice krispie treats and it wasn't meant to be reused anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, I made another fake wedding cake. It was for Mike and Janice's wedding at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and this time I made sure to get the styrofoam cake dummies in advance. It just so happened that their wedding invitations had a scroll design on it, so I was so happy I got to decorate their cake in my favorite scrollwork pattern. I made a five-tiered cake covered in rolled fondant and royal icing scrolls which I handpainted with gold luster dust. If I had known about fake wedding cakes back when I got married, I would've wanted this exact cake. Well, maybe I can keep this for my 10th wedding anniversary :-)
Cutting the styrofoam was a little trickier than I had expected, but I manage to smooth out the rough edges by taping over it and then covering it with rolled fondant.
On the day of the wedding, I placed a slice of real cake (which I covered with rolled fondant) inside the compartment. Instead of piping royal icing scrolls, I decorated the real cake with fondant scrolls. It didn't need to dry like royal icing so I was able paint them with gold luster dust right away.
I placed two strips of fondant to cover up the small gap between the fake cake and the real cake. They also served as guides for Mike and Janice to know where to cut the fake cake. I finished off decorating the real cake by making teardrop shaped fondant and overlapping them to make the border. It looked just like the piped royal icing on the rest of the cake. Pretty cool.
When I brought the fake cake into the ballroom, I was surprised to see that Mike and Janice had placed the cake table directly behind them, and on a platform so everyone can see it. Wow! I remember them telling me that they were going to spotlight the cake, but I had no idea it was going to be displayed in such a beautiful way. That definitely made my day and I'm so glad they loved their cake.
I'm really liking this idea of making fake wedding cakes. Maybe next time I'll make one without a secret compartment or try making one with a slot for the knife to go through. I've already told all my cousins that I'm making them fake cakes for their weddings. I'm pretty sure they don't mind - that's one less stressed out person on their special day. If this catches on, I'm probably not going to want to make a real wedding cake ever again. LOL