A Cheesecake Wedding Cake
When my older daughter was getting married, she wanted a cheesecake wedding cake since she doesn’t like regular cakes.
We could find no caterer or bakery willing to try a four-tier cake to serve 100 made of cheesecake. Some claimed it was impossible. Since I’m the family cheesecake expert, she asked me to do it.
Reluctantly I agreed to try and figured out the logistics of this cake. I had a set of tier pans bought from a kitchen supply warehouse, and I bought cardboard base rounds, dowels and other sundries, and began experiments to see how you could support cheesecake layers without collapse.
We made a decision to lighten the cake by using layers of almond torte with the cheesecake layers. This is a simple mixture of whipped egg whites, sugar, nuts, almond flavor and/or vanilla, and graham cracker crumbs, baked in layer pans. We also chose an icing that is not too sweet, made with regular sugar, not confectioner’s, and using a cooked milk base. It tastes much like whipped cream but is much more stable and versatile. This was also vanilla-almond flavored, using special uncolored extracts, available in gourmet or baker’s shops.
My cheesecake recipe is a basic New York style cheesecake, a family secret, but any recipe will do. You will need to measure the amount of volume in each pan filled about 2/3 of the way up and make sufficient batches to fill the pans. Unless you have several ovens, this will require several batches, and these layers need to chill thoroughly before assembly. The almond torte is made in the same pans, one layer for each cheesecake layer, and can be made in advance, cooled and sealed in air tight wrappings for the assembly.
Each layer goes on a cardboard round of the same size and dowels are cut to the thickness of a combined layer of torte and cheesecake, four to a layer, so the cardboard takes some of the weight off the lower cheesecake/torte layers.
Don’t put icing between the cake and torte layers but do use it between paired layers. I think it is safer to assemble this kind of cake and decorate it on the table where it will be served, which I did an hour or two before the wedding. We kept the hall pretty cool. The cooked icing is best for simple decoration, just swags and ruffles, but we used fresh flowers and an heirloom cake topper, so it was fancy enough.
You must make the icing in advance, and chill it well. The cooked base must be cold before it is combined with the sugar-butter mixture while you are
making it as well. Always make much more icing than you think you will need. When a cake is this fragile, bring the layers to where the cake will be instead of even attempting to transport it.
I was very nervous about making such an important cake, but it was beautiful and it was delicious as well. We barely snatched the top layer to save for the bride and groom, as every other crumb was devoured. The caterers even asked for the recipe. And my daughter and son in law said the top layer was still tasty when thawed a year later for their first anniversary.
The icing is made this way:
"Whipped Cream" Cooked Icing
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 pound butter or margarine softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cook flour and milk until thick; cool. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. When all the sugar is dissolved, add the cooled milk-flour mixture and the flavorings and beat on high until light and fluffy. Chill well before use. Can be made with vegetable shortening if pure white is needed.
This makes about a 9” torte layer, so increase as needed to fill larger pans also about 2/3 full.
Graham Cracker Nut Torte
½ cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ almond extract
2 egg whites
½ cup sugar
Line the pan with lightly greased parchment paper for easy removal, leaving a little overlap for “handles”. Preheat oven to 325F. Beat the eggs until fluffy, then beat in the sugar and flavorings as for a meringue. Combine salt, baking powder and salt with the graham cracker crumbs, and fold into the egg white mixture. Bake about 35 minutes, cook thoroughly on a rack. (Large layers may need a few minutes longer.)
Use parchment paper with an overhang to line pans for the cheesecake layers. Use a slightly lower oven temperature for baking these, usually 300F. You want just a little browning. They are much easier to work with if frozen solid before removing from the pan and assembling and will keep the cake cool a little longer.
One note: I made several practice versions scaled down a bit before attempting the real cake. If you decide to make this kind of cake, I really recommend doing a trial version first, and leaving yourself extra time and ingredients in case of kitchen accidents. But if you do brave it, a cheesecake wedding cake is memorable and so much better tasting than most traditional cakes, it is well worth the effort and stress.