1. How big should I make the layers for about 75 guests considering that the cake will be the only dessert served?
6" square serves 8
8" square serves 16
10" square serves 24
12" square serves 40
14" square serves 54
16" square serves 62
Let me know if you need amount of cake batter to use for each of these sizes and baking time.
2. Any advice as to how to stack/layer these cakes? The layers should be flush to each other (no space between the layers). I know that I need to use dowels or something and am planning on using foil covered boards, but I'm not sure how many dowels I need or where to position them or how keep the foil board from showing (especially since Wilton's seems to advice that the boards be greater in diameter than the cake layer)?
Like you said, you'll have to use dowels. THe Wilton wedding book will advise you to how many based on the diameter of each layer and the number of layers. I'd do some more reading about the size of the boards--I wouldn't advise them to be larger than the layers; at most they should be equal in diameter. That way you can easily ice over them to cover the boards. And be sure that the dowels you cut are long enough. Too short, and they woon't provide the support you'll need!
3. How do I place the flowers on the cake? I know that the flowers should not touch the cake, but this is especially challenging when using fondant and since the flowers should cascade.
You have two overall choices in this--1. use nice silk flowers or 2--find a florist (I'm sure the wedding florist could help) that sells pesticide-free flowers and make sure theier not poisoness. Violets, lavender, some roses, and nasturtiums are edible, as are any herbs that have flowers.
Fresh or silk, you need to make sure your flowers aren't touching the cake--this isn't any harder on fondant. You can put down separator plates, floral bowls (food for a nice flower topper), waxed paper, plastic wrap, or doilies. For your cascades, or for flowers around each tier, rather than putting stems directly into the cake, use floral spikes (Wilton sells these). Floral spikes are designed to hold water, if you're using fresh flowers. Plus, if you're using fresh on top, just use some floral foam in the dish on top. You can totally hide what you're holding the flowers in by using enough flowers. Another option is to have the bride work with you and the florist and have the florist be in charge of the floral decorating.
4. How do I make sure all the layers look the same since they will have different flavor (and color) icings under the fondant and that the chocolate doesn't show through the fondant?
Only make the icing filling different and use a crumb coat of white butter cream over each cake tier. This will ensure the fondant sticks, too.
5. Is there anything I need to be wary of in a cake recipe so that the cake will be firm enough to support the weight and keep a crisp sharp edge to the squares? Also, do I need special recipes that can be made for cakes this size or can I just take any recipe and multiply it a few times? (and does anyone know any good recipes for these wedding cake flavors?)
I'd stick to Wilton recipes for the cake batter itself (their recipes tend to produce relatively solid cakes) and just flavor accordingly. Do you have any favorite filling recipes? Just make sure your fillings are firm, so they don't ooze.
The following make a single 2" layer:
12" square, 10 cups of batter, bake at 350, 40-45 min.
14", 13 1/2 c batter, bake at 350 45-50 min.
16", 15 1/2 c batter, bake at 350, 45-50 minutes.
Let me know if you need more than just these 3. Bake one layer at a time in your oven, or be sure to rotate pans half-way through to ensure even baking.
6. The wedding is on a Friday night at 6 pm. I am planning on taking the day off from work on Friday and working on the cake Thursday night and all day Friday. I have never made a cake of this magnitude before... Will this be enough time? Are there things I should or can do ahead of time? (I will be out of the country for the prior two weeks and weekends before the wedding).
You can easiily make the cake layers ahead, wrap well, and freeze. Just don't unwrap them until they are completely thawed and at room temp. Fondant can be stored for 2 months in an airtight container, and a refrigerated cake covered in fondant can be refrigerated for 3-4 days (I'd be conservative with the last part of this because of your fillings). I'm sure you can also make your fillings in advance. The buttercream for the crumb coat can also be made ahead. I don't know if this will be enough time for you. I'd be sure to do a couple trial runs start to finish and see how they go and base your time needed on those.
I'm not going to charge them for my time for making this cake (since this is the first time I'm making a wedding cake), but they will be reimbursing me for ingredients, supplies and equipment for both the test cake and the final one. They asked me for an estimate of how much I think this will cost. Could anyone give me a ballpark that I can pass on to them before I actually start the test run?
Make a list of your ingredients based on the recipes you choose and take a nice, long trip to your grocery and cake supply stores to figure out cost per item (i.e. 5 lb bag of flour costs X an contains Y number of cups of flour, how many cups do your 3 layers call for?)
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. It's much needed and much appreciated!