How can I eat it? - the 10th anniversary edition
September 30, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

This coming Saturday, my husband and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary with our family. As part of the event, we would like to serve the top tier from our wedding cake. What's the best way to do this, given my inexperience at decorating cakes and the time constraints?

Ten years ago, the cake (a dense circular fruit cake about 9 inches across) was made for us by a professional baker, who told us that as long as we were careful not to crack any of the icing that cemented the top tier to the foiled cake board, then it would keep pretty much forever. She also said that it would be necessary to re-ice the cake though, because the original icing would deteriorate over time. The cake has spent the past ten years on top of a wardrobe, in an airtight box and with its original icing shell safely intact.

I took the cake out this afternoon, and prised away the old yellowed icing and marzipan. The cake is extremely dense, but it still feels a little springy when I press down hard on it. I cut a small shaving from the bottom and tasted it; the texture was dense and dry, but it still tasted the way fruit cake ought to. I've wrapped it in clingfilm so that it's still airtight until I can tackle the next part.

What do I do with it now? I'd like to re-ice it using a soft fondant icing instead of the sugar-cement that was on it before. My experience in icing cakes has never gone beyond a basic buttercream, and I've never before attempted anything of this nature.

I've kept the ribbons that decorated the original cake, and I was planning to make icing flowers to go on top as well.

I was also wondering if it would improve the texture and moistness of the cake if I drizzle brandy or rum into the base before attempting to ice it. It's something my mother used to do to the christmas cake each year, and those always came out beautifully moist after being kept for months.
posted by talitha_kumi to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should begin adding rum or brandy to the cake right away. Don't wait until you're ready to ice it. You can sprinkle or brush the spirits onto both the bottom and top of the cake and then wrap it up tightly in the plastic wrap/clingfilm.

To make the penetration more effective, you can take a very fine skewer and poke small holes into the cake. Be careful doing that, and start from the center and work your way out so that you don't damage the cake in any way. Practically speaking, though, a cake that old should be nearly indestructable.

I'm not great with decorative icing, but if you can roll out a fresh layer of marzipan, you'll have an excellent base to work on. You'll want to let the cake soak for as long as possible before icing, however.
posted by anapestic at 12:50 PM on September 30, 2013

The cake has spent the past ten years on top of a wardrobe, in an airtight box and with its original icing shell safely intact.

As someone who eats steak tartare made with raw-egg mayo on a regular basis (along with many other "Can I Eat This?" foods) I'm a little concerned about the cake. I know fruitcakes can be shelf-stable for many years but I bring it up because of the surprising (to me) reactions I've seen to edibility questions. Is it possible to double-check with the original baker to see if they meant it would last that long stored on the counter?

Either way, Happy Anniversary!
posted by Room 641-A at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

since it's fruitcake.. I would forgo a thick icing at all and do a simple glaze and drizzle it over right before you serve it. Totally take anapestic's suggestion about adding the brandy right now, though.
posted by royalsong at 1:23 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wait, it was really on a shelf somewhere? I'm familiar with the "save the top tier and eat it in X years" thing but everyone I know who has done this has frozen the cake for later. I like the idea mentioned above of contacting the original baker and asking, just in case.

Otherwise, I don't know how well a soft fondant icing would complement a dense fruitcake. You'd either want something like the original sugary crust or a nice alcohol-laden glaze.
posted by elizardbits at 2:01 PM on September 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I would feed the cake with alcohol using a skewer as suggested above. Then I would cover the cake in marzipan and leave it for a day or two. Then I would cover it in ready to roll fondant icing and put a ribbon round it, perhaps with some sort of cake topper on top. This kind of wedding cake can be treated exactly like Christmas cake, and the above treatment is what we've always done with Christmas cake.
posted by plonkee at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2013

It seems like you are concerned about your skills not being up to making the cake look nice. You could call around to bakers, perhaps one would take the cake to be iced.

Usually you hear about these cakes being kept for one year, not 10, and in the freezer. I think as long as you announce proudly that this is indeed the actual and very same cake from 10 years ago, people can make their own decisions on that. A second, fresh cake would be nice to have available.
posted by yohko at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

10 years? Not in the freezer? Wow.

I'd do the brandy/rum thing as noted. We do that with our fruitcakes and it's really good. You need to do that today though because the alcohol needs to settle into the cake and mellow.

I wouldn't do a frosting. I'd go with a brown sugar glaze. (Confectioners sugar, some brown sugar, hot water (to melt the brown sugar), and a nip of brandy.)
posted by 26.2 at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2013

This seems a bit like disinterring Grandpa and propping him up at the table on the tenth anniversary of his death and expecting everyone to be okay with it.

I think you should not serve the cake.
posted by jayder at 9:38 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

Found this similar question, and apparently other people have eaten fruitcake this old with no ill effects, and in fact some folks out there ate a hundred and thirty year old fruitcake, so there you go. But you should tell your guests because it will squick some people out and they should be allowed to choose not to eat it. I probably wouldn't, to be honest.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

No. Just, NO.

I eat crazy fermented "spoiled" stuff all the time, and I realize this likely won't kill anyone....we hope....because weird poisonous microbes are you never know...


I am a degreed Culinary Professional, and I'm also a wife and mother. I would not eat 10 year old pastry that has been attached to degrading sugar from your NON-HEALTH DEPT INSPECTED OR APPROVED cupboard under any circumstances. I definitely would not not not serve it to guests or customers. Ever.

There are colorless and odorless things that get into food that can cause discomfort, or even death. While sugar can be a preservative, a heap of beneficial and dangerous compounds and organisms can use sugar to morph or reproduce.

If the item had been vacuum sealed and temperature AND humidity controlled in a sanitized environment over the years, I might consider doing this.

As it stands though - NO.
posted by jbenben at 11:47 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

People are being way overly cautious. This isn't some sponge cake US wedding style this is a rich dense fruitcake UK wedding style. It is like UK xmas cake where you make it in August and feed it brandy as it sits under your bed until xmas. I would start feeding it some nice brandy and then just buy some ready to roll marzipan and icing and buy a caketopper in some wedding shop. Enjoy and don't worry about the bacteria because they bacteria would need moisture and there would have been nearly none in the cake to begin with assuming that it doesn't smell off.
posted by koolkat at 2:54 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know nothing about baking or the science of food, but the answers here confuse me.

British wedding cakes like the one described are heavy fruit cakes. Traditionally, the top layer is removed, wrapped in sugar in what is (potentially laughably) referred to as an airtight shell, and then stored for the christening of the first child.

While that isn't usually 10 years, tradition is going to hope that it's going to be a year or more, and isn't going to involve freezers or anything more hermetically sealed than the top of a cupboard.

And they certainly contain no pastry...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:56 AM on October 1, 2013

So old fruitcake seems to have killed at least one person in the past and made the rest of the folks who ate it violently ill, but this was back in 1907 and things have changed a bunch since then. Still, the more you know...
posted by onlyconnect at 8:38 AM on October 1, 2013

So old fruitcake seems to have killed at least one person in the past and made the rest of the folks who ate it violently ill, but this was back in 1907 and things have changed a bunch since then. Still, the more you know...

Yeah but even I wouldn't purposefully eat fruitcake that is tainted with arsenic. I am guessing that the wedding guests didn't die when the originally ate the fruitcake so I guess they'll be fine still.
posted by koolkat at 8:47 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes actually googling around suggests someone poisoned the flour used for that cake, so that example doesn't really show that old fruitcake can kill someone. That means that my attempts to show via internet research that old fruitcake can be lethal were, uh, fruitless. That doesn't actually show old fruitcake CANNOT kill or make someone violently ill, but you'd think it might make the news now and then if it happened since eating old fruitcake is so common in Britain. So I'm starting to come round to the idea that it might be okay to eat this old, alcohol laden cake although I still am a bit horrified at the idea of ingesting food that is twice as old as my child.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:31 AM on October 1, 2013

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