• Ashley Margaret Waterman

My Third Wedding: Dairy-Free Red Velvet

Back in May, I held a cake tasting for a bride and groom. I brought three options: chocolate, lemon poppy seed, and red velvet. They seemed to like all of them, but kept going back to the red velvet. They needed a small, dairy-free cake for the bride and groom because of the groom's dairy allergy, but I wasn't sure if they were going to book me for their cake. This was months before the wedding and I knew they had enough time to shop around and find a professional bakery they liked better.

At the beginning of August, the bride contacted me to say they'd love to have a red velvet cake for their wedding. I was ecstatic. The bride requested a red velvet tiered cake with cream cheese frosting and some piped buttercream flowers. I wasn't thinking about the difficulties of stacking a cream cheese frosted cake, so I made the invoice and started planning for a tiered cake.

I decided to make a practice cake. I wanted to practice frosting the tiers and stacking them, so I bought some cake mixes. This was cheaper than making two cakes from scratch and since all I cared about was the frosting, I felt I could cut costs with mixes. What resulted resembled a hot mess.

For the top tier, I used a butter pecan cake mix. The bottom was red velvet. I made two batches of cream cheese frosting: one to fill and one to frost. The outside of the cakes barely looked frosted. For the actual cake, I discovered it would take three batches of frosting to cover the cake completely.

It didn't look like a hot mess until I realized I made the biggest mistake. How would the tiers separate to slice and serve? Unlike buttercream--even vegan buttercream--vegan cream cheese frosting doesn't stiffen. After being in the fridge, it's solid, but there's not a beautiful crust that you can stack cakes on top of. Removing the top tier of this cake will pull the top of the bottom tier with it. I panicked. I had to tell the bride that this cake was impossible. Before I emailed her, I came up with some options. I looked at cake stands online and thought about how to make some. I offered to let the bride use my cake stands to display the cake. She decided to go with a smaller cake instead. Relieved, I prepared to make a four-layer 6-inch cake. Much easier than this massive tiered cake.

With the practice cake in the fridge, I let out a sigh of relief. If I hadn't practiced, the time to bake for the big day would have come and the cake would have been sloppy and unprofessional. I cut myself a piece of cake and rejoiced until I tasted it. This is the first time--probably since I started T&C--that I used a cake mix without doctoring it. It tasted dull. The flavors weren't exciting and didn't stand out. I often question my baking skills, but baking with cake mixes reaffirmed that at least my cakes taste better than what you get from a box.

The wedding was August 21. I set to baking the cake the weekend before. To my shock, nothing went wrong. The cakes baked beautifully and I had more than enough frosting with two batches. I trimmed the cakes to be the same height and, as per usual, ate the leftover bits. The red velvet cake leftovers confirmed that my cake is indeed better than a cake mix. The taste was spot on.

The appearance of this cake made my day. Even without the flowers, this is the most beautiful cake I've ever made. Type & Cakes is three years old this month. Looking back at the cakes I've made in the past three years, this is the one that makes me the proudest.

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