Tendrils of romantic buttercream wisteria adorn this majestic cake; royal-icing blossoms dangle from the natural, curly willow arbor framing the bride-and-groom topper. This vintage cake topper is from a personal collection. The columns are hidden beneath winding royal-icing vines. Since the top tiers are balanced on nine-inch columns, the cake should be assembled on the table at the reception site. If you prefer, you can use a 22-inch-diameter round cake board coated with thinned royal icing instead of the cake riser.
- 8 to 10 curly willow vines
- Green floral tape
- One recipe Royal Icing Recipe
- One 1-ounce container each violet, nut brown, moss green, and leaf green food-color paste
- Four 9-inch Wilton crystal-look pillars
- One 10-inch Wilton clear plastic separator plate
- 1 each 8- and 14-inch-diameter round cake tiers, each set on corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam-board round, trimmed, split and filled to a 3-inch height
- 1 each 10- and 16-inch-diameter round cake tiers, each set on corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam-board round, trimmed, split, and filled to a 4-inch height
- 2 to 3 recipes Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Sixteen 4 1/8-inch-long 1/4-inch-diameter wooden dowels
- One 14-inch-diameter-by-4-inch-high wood or Styrofoam round
- 1 grape wreath, 20 inches in diameter
- 1 cake topper
Make arbor: Soak willow vines in water until pliable, and drain. Gently bend vines to form an arbor tall enough to extend over cake topper when inserted 2 inches into cake. To hold shape, press ends into a block of Styrofoam; let dry completely, about 8 hours. Remove arbor from Styrofoam, and glue together or clip any stray vines. Wrap lower ends of arbor with florists' tape, and set aside.
Make hanging wisteria: Line a sheet pan with waxed paper. Tightly roll green florists' tape into a 2-foot-long cylinder, and cut into 1- to 2-inch-long stems. Tint 2/3 cup royal icing pale purple. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and Wilton #101 petal tip, and fill one side with purple and the other side with white icing; the bag should be half full, with the purple and white icings side-by-side vertically. The purple icing should pass through the narrow end of the tip. With the pastry tip perpendicular to the pan and the narrow end pointing up, pipe blossoms onto waxed paper. Make clusters, 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches long, beginning at the narrow tip and moving down to the stem end (similar to a grape cluster). Immediately insert a floral-tape stem about 1/4 inch deep; let dry 4 to 6 hours. Turn over, and pipe clusters on backsides; let dry another 4 to 6 hours.
Prepare columns: Attach pillars to separator plate. Tint remaining royal icing brown. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and Ateco #5 round tip; fill halfway with icing. Pipe vines along top 6 inches of each 9-inch pillar. Switch to a #3 round tip, and pipe smaller vines over the larger ones; let dry overnight.
Coat tiers: Using a large offset spatula, thinly coat each filled tier with buttercream to seal in crumbs, and refrigerate until firm. Coat each chilled tier with a perfectly smooth layer of buttercream.
Decorate bottom two tiers: Tint 2 cups buttercream pale purple for clusters, 2 cups brown for vines, and 2 cups a combination of moss green and leaf green for foliage. Remove 16-inch tier from refrigerator, and place on a turntable. Insert twelve 4 1/8-inch dowels: eight in a circle 3 inches from edge and four dowels in a square within the circle. Remove 14-inch tier from refrigerator; center and place it on top. Fit a pastry bag with a coupler and #5 tip; fill halfway with brown buttercream. Pipe vines trailing down from tops of each tier. Pipe more vines over top of 14-inch tier. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and Wilton #101 petal tip; fill in same way as for royal icing wisteria (half purple and half untinted buttercream, side-by-side vertically), with purple flowing through narrow end. Pipe clusters on most of vines on sides of tiers; pipe lushly over top edges of 16-inch tier, covering completely. On top of 14-inch tier, pipe wisteria following vine patterns; do not cover completely. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and Ateco #349 diamond tip. Place 1 cup green buttercream in a small cup, and add 1 cup brown buttercream; stir four or five times with a knife to slightly streak. Fill pastry bag halfway; pipe leaves on remaining vines and onto top edges of 16-inch tier; refrigerate to chill. Reserve filled pastry bags.
Decorate top two tiers: Remove 10-inch tier from refrigerator and place on turntable. Insert remaining four 4 1/8-inch dowels in a square 3 inches from edge. Remove 8-inch tier from refrigerator; center and place it on top. Decorate in same manner as bottom tiers, leaving center of 8-inch tier undecorated for topper; refrigerate to chill. Reserve filled pastry bags. When chilled, place bottom set of tiers in a 20-inch cardboard box and top tiers in a 14-inch cardboard box. Refrigerate until cake is ready to be moved to the reception site.
Assemble and finish cake: At reception site, place 4-inch-high round riser on table. Lay grape wreath around riser, rearranging vines for a more natural look, as desired. Set bottom tiers on riser. Center separator-plate unit with prepared columns over 14-inch tier; gently push into tier until columns reach bottom of tier. Make sure unit is secure; center top tiers on top. Using reserved pastry bag with green/brown buttercream, pipe leaves around lower edge of 10-inch tier. Center and insert arbor into top tier. Hang royal-icing wisteria clusters from arbor by bending stems around willow pieces. Place cake topper under arbor. Add more buttercream stems or wisteria blossoms as needed.