Monday, August 13, 2012

Celebration Cakes: A Special Graduation Cake

When I married my husband, I inherited three sisters-in-law. They are all beautiful, each with their own loveable personality. The middle one, Allison, graduated from college this year with flying colors. When I first met her a mere 18 years ago (!!), she was a cute, spunky little toddler with loads of energy. I have watched her grow up over the past nearly two decades and she has become a strong woman with a tough-as-nails shell and a heart of gold. That energy still runs rampant in her now, but is more purposefully channeled into running, which she does quite amazingly well, coming first in dozens of races. She is one-of-a-kind, very special and someone I am extremely proud to know and call my sister.

So, when I heard plans being made for a graduation party, I immediately wanted to make a cake celebrating her. If Allison were a cake, what would she be? This cake had to be her - feminine but not overly so, with an edge and a little spunk - strong and bold with a soft side.

I found inspiration in one of Collette Peter's books, Cakes to Dream On: A Master Class in Decorating. The Torte of Babylon was exactly what I was looking for.

Making such a large cake takes weeks if you want to maintain your sanity. Doing things in steps, with lots of time in between for things to set and dry as necessary, is crucial. This was the largest cake I've made to date. It served 75-80 people very well and it consisted of 4 tiers - each was 3 layers of cake. The three layers were chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla (a neapolitan cake) sandwiching strawberry jam. Each tier was covered in buttercream and then a layer of fondant. Using strawberry jam instead of buttercream between the layers was a huge success because the cake was not overly sweet. The layers of cake were the stars rather than an overpowering buttercream. In making cakes, it's so very important to regulate the sweetness of the cake through its parts. If a cake is too sweet, it is often hard to eat and takes away from any flavor the cake may have.

The homemade jam that I had tucked away in my pantry ended up being a bit thin for the cake so I used a storebought jam as I didn't have strawberries or the time to make up another batch. Other than that, everything was homemade from the fondant to the cake layers. Whenever I bake and decorate, even grand pieces such as this one, I always use fresh ingredients and make everything myself. Like I always say - homemade is much better than storebought, both for taste and healthfulness.

I had to empty out a good portion of my refrigerator to fit the assembled cake the night before the party. As you can see, it took up a great deal of space!

This cake had to be taken on a 2-hour trip to Long Island on a very muggy and hot summer day. The top tier was removed for stability during transport. I reassembled the cake successfully once we arrived at the party locale.

With my husband's help, I had created a pedestal which coordinated with the cake, but was unable to use it as the cake ended up being too heavy to be supported by it. It did serve a purpose though, as a resting spot for each tier as I took each off to slice and serve to the guests.

It was such a fun party and the cake was so worth the effort it took to make it! Everyone loved it, and I was thrilled to be able to add a little something memorable to Allison's already special day.

We wish you all the best in every endeavor you take from here on in. Reach for the stars! We love you!

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