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Its never too early to think about wedding cakes

(Joyce Trepus welcomes your questions at 503-292-2741.)

Wedding cakes are on many minds right now so I will share my secrets for making the perfect one.

First and foremost, NEVER ask a friend to make yours unless you are positive they can do it. Otherwise, you may find yourself with one less friend (or more).

If you are making the cake, set aside a large table and area, free of traffic that you can work in. Don't try a new recipe - use one you know and have made before.

Remember that two layers frosted together make one tier. The tallest one I've made was five tiers with a fountain underneath. The fussiest one had more than one hundred pre-made daisies.

Cut up old, thin, threadbare terry cloth towels the depth of the outside of each pan. Dip them in cold water, wring out and wrap around the outside edge of each pan and pin tightly using safety pins. Seems messy, but this simple step will drastically reduce that ugly hump on the top of each layer. Use this technique any time you want a flat appearance. The hump forms because the edges of the pans heat more quickly and cook the cake faster around the edges, forcing the middle to bake up.

When cooling the layers, place on wire cooling racks. When cool, gently rub all areas over a sheet of foil or waxed paper, saving all of the crumbs. This prevents little crumbs from rising to the surface of the final frosting.

If you need a good butter cream-type final frosting, call me. I make mine with white Crisco and sifted powdered sugar plus a little vanilla extract and a pinch of popcorn salt. No butter because it discolors the frosting and any color added to it is not true. I use paste colors, not liquid.

Next, I put a little frosting between the layers to make the tiers, and place each tier on a cardboard circle to give it stability. Place a cup or two of the frosting in a heat-proof pan, stir in a little water and gently heat the whole thing until it gets very soft. Now pour and spoon the hot glaze over each tier, pressing gently and smoothing with a long metal spatula. Set aside to dry completely.

When dry, frost with a thin layer of the original frosting and decorate as desired.

To get a smooth appearance, have a tall glass or jar of very hot water next to the cake and dip the spatula in the hot water often, shaking it before using again.

My favorite border is using the star tubes to make shells and a number 103 or larger rose petal tube. Pipe the shells all around the top and bottom of each tier and gently insert a frosting rose petal between each shell. Have fun and call if you need more ideas.