First Four-Tier

Late one evening, I got a text from a local chap who has been very supportive of my cake-decorating business from my get-go. He gave me a generous budget and a general directive: make an amazing, show-stopping cake for a big birthday party for his adult daughter. The budget was enough that I could make a four-tier cake – something I’ve dreamed about doing, and planned to try, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity. I made a sketch:

And with my client’s approval, I got to work.

Making very large cakes is, more than anything else, an exercise in logistics. Running off the assumption that I can make delicious, properly baked cake, and perfectly smooth, reliable buttercream, most of the rest is just planning ahead. And I do like planning ahead. Making sure I have enough ingredients. And weird supplies like dowels and large cake boards and parchment rounds. Planning out which day to bake what batches of cake. Making sure I have enough room in the fridge to chill all this stuff in sequence. How am I going to transport it. What do I need to bring to the event to finalize it. Do I have enough easy meals in the house that we will still EAT without me spending any more time in the kitchen.

The first step, of course, is baking. To give them some variety, I made the top and third tier chocolate, and the second and fourth tier vanilla. The math on that worked out to three batches of vanilla cake, and one batch of chocolate. Wednesday, I baked the three vanilla batches. Thursday, I baked the two chocolate batches, and assembled and coated the vanilla tiers.

For the chocolate tiers, I went ahead and used chocolate frosting to fill and crumb coat them. To me, chocolate cake is delicious, but the combo of chocolate frosting and chocolate cake is my Very Most Favorite. With a well-chilled crumb coat, even a light-colored final coat covers just fine. Friday, I assembled the chocolate cakes, and piped lots of huge roses to freeze.

Saturday was the Big Day. I whipped up all my colors and put them in bags. I stacked the cakes, the top two and bottom two tiers together, and then started building out the flower cascade on each.

I treat it like decorating a Christmas tree. I anchored the cascade by placing the large frozen rosettes, then filled with piped rosettes, then filled with stars, then accented with leaves and yellow dots. It ends up looking incredibly organic and lush and multi-textured, but it’s honestly not that hard to do.

By the early afternoon, the two halves were ready and chilling for transport. This gets the buttercream nice and firm so it survives any small bumps when it’s being moved. I had to empty my fridge and take out a shelf, but I got them both in there at once! About an hour before the event, I loaded them up into two large clean boxes, and drove them to the event, blinkers on, driving super-slow.

At the house, I did final assembly. I brought the cake stand, my piping bags, gloves, and a stabilizing stake (long sharpened dowel) to put through the whole thing. It has a super-structure inside of cardboard cake boards between each tier, and dowels within the tiers to help hold things up, but I like having that spine through the whole thing to protect against any lateral movement. I staked the cake, then added final piping between the two middle tiers so it looks seamless.

If the colors look a little unusual, my logic was that I wanted feminine, festive colors that also looked mature, not girly-girly. (The green was not so garish in real life.) With the ombre of pink to purple, I figured the flowers shouldn’t be any of those colors, so I picked blue and grey and white. The magenta color is actually what the rose of the 2nd tier looks like when it’s left overnight and re-whipped – buttercream is really weird like that! If you want a dark red, you have to color it in advance, then re-whip it later. I’m sure there’s a rational chemical explanation, but I don’t know what it is. Cream cheese frosting doesn’t have this issue.

I can cross “4-tier-cake” off my bucket list now. I’m feeling confident to take on a wedding cake, should I get an order for one. I’m super thankful to Darren for this massive show of support, and for giving me this opportunity to, frankly, show off! Thank you thank you thank you! Making cake in Rankin has been a huge learning curve, and a continuous series of surprises. Getting to the point of being able to pull off a project like this with confidence feels really good.


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