Torta de Boda por <$60

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This past week I was tasked with building a wedding cake for 12–15 revelers, with a budget of $60 and a time-limit of two days. The wedding was informal, intimate, and quick, and the cake was – more or less – the only concession to tradition. As such, there was some expectation of conservative design and smooth-white styling, orchid bouquets and a celebratory couple on the top tier. There was also an assumption that I, braggart chef that I am, would be able to turn in such a thing without a hitch. No worry, right?

 

In conversation with the bride (y my cuñado, pero solamente en español y con errores extraordinarios) , the decision was made for a red velvet interior. No filling, no fruit layer. Red velvet with a bit more cocoa than usual. Red velvet, the strange resurgent cake trend. Red velvet, essentially white cake with a hint of chocolate flavor and a generous jigger of New Jersey’s Best chemical food dyes # 2-41 staining the batter the color of ketchup. Ostensibly, this coloration is abetted by a chemical reaction between undutched cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar, that thrusts the redness to parched martian-surface luminance and creates a stiff dry-but-not-mealy crumb excellent for frosting. But I’ll be damned if I can tell the difference…

Though the bride initially wanted a rolled fondant for frosting, I nixed on grounds of taste. Rightfully, I think: fondant is nasty foul stuff with an alarming kinship to fetal drywall. And a propensity for inspiring weird metaphors. I briefly considered a draped marzipan covering, but the time-constraints and cost were prohibitive. My cuñado felt buttercream a poco mas sweet. Royal icing and ganache fared equally poorly, and whipped-cream was unseasonable in February. So we settled on red velvet’s frequent and inelegant partner-in-crime: cream cheese. We discussed the softness of cream cheese, and the potential for yellowing on prolonged exposure to air. We decided to mix a batch with high quantities of white chocolate and a pachyderm’s q-tip worth of paraffin for body. The results were tasty, and stiff enough, but had a tendency toward shrinkage.

All told, we spent $36.00 on ingredients, $12.00 on fresh flowers (mostly unsprayed baby’s-breath, and three small organic lilies) $8.00 for marzipan and food color, $2.00 on non-toxic metallic dusting powder and $1.96 for structural drinking straws and parchment.

I cooked the top cake-layers in bottomless rings (4.5″ and 6.5″) with parchment bottoms pastry-taped into place, and the 9″ base layer in a springform. The layers were topped to 1 inches in height, covered in a protective layer of frosting, and stored overnight. During the evening, the bride and cuñado helped roll marzipan flowers. We used a little of the red food dye from the cake’s interior, but were unable to get a satisfactorily light color. We settled on a garish Mattel-esque hue that actually ended up looking pretty nice on the cake

Immediately prior to the nuptial noon, the layers were assembled and frosted with a second smooth coat. Flowers real and almond-pasted were added, and the whole thing-a-ma-jig was moved far back on the counter, out of reach of the investigative canine army swarming about the wedding site. A few fingers bumped at prodded at the top layer, and the chocolate and paraffin set in such a way as to preserve their memory. C’est la vie. This is the result

Bad: frosting more stippled and uneven than desired. Due partly to fact that cake stand was a lazy suzan atop two old copies of Canterbury Tales. Shrinkage of frosting.

Good: ease, price, “rustic” but not wholly cornball presentation, taste, does not stain faces.

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