Although I'm not very pleased with my first attempt at a wedding cake, it was at least a useful experiment in assembling multi-tiered cakes, working with fondant, and piping patterns with royal icing. All these skills are really quite useful for all kinds of celebration cakes, and so, whilst I don't think anyone is going to ask me to make their wedding cake any time soon, at least I have learnt some new techniques to use on birthday cakes!
Things I have learnt from making this cake...
This cake should be made in two batches as there is just too much mixture for a normal electric whisk to cope with.
To ensure the cake stays light, beat the butter and sugar together for 10 minutes and add the eggs VERY slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time, in order to prevent the mixture splitting as this will destroy the air bubbles you have made in the butter.
Most people don't have six differently sized cake tins required for this cake, and neither do I, so I baked it in two round tins (of roughly the right size for the base tier) and a large sheet pan and then cut out circles from this to make the rest of the layers
I have made this cake before and loved it when iced with mascapone icing with some lemon curd stirred through it. However, I chose to make this one with buttercream as it is more stable when stacking the layers – this tasted far too sweet and sickly with what is a very sugary cake, so next time I would risk using the less stable icing.
Don't roll out the fondant too thinly as it will easily tear when you place it on the cake if less that ¼ inch thick.
You're supposed to use two fondant smoothing tools to make a neat straight edge around the top of the cake, I had great difficulty with this. I found that using the smoother on the top and then one hand on the side of the cake much more effective.
Proper cake decorators would use wooden dowels rather than straws to support a tiered cake, but straws are much more practical for anything other than really large cakes as you can snip them off with scissors rather than pfaffing with measurements or the special cutters that dowels require.
When making the template for the decoration you need to press quite firmly with a soft pencil to make sure it will transfer to the fondant.
I piped my royal icing with a size 1.5 nozzle – this was really far too small for piping such thick icing and meant it was really hard work to squeeze the icing out the piping bag. I would use a 2 or a 2.5 next time.
You need to have at least two days but preferably three to make this wedding cake. Bake the cake on the first day (or bake in advance and freeze), make the buttercream and ice and coat in fondant the second day, then pipe the designs around the outside on the second day – allow a whole day for piping a design like this so you can take regular breaks, or your hand will seize up from squeezing the piping bag for so long!
Lemon and Ginger Wedding Cake:
(adapted from Felicity Cloake's perfect ginger cake recipe)
400g dark muscovado sugar
pinch of salt
700g self raising flour
16 teaspoons ground ginger
700g golden syrup
4 tablespoons ginger wine
8 free range eggs, beaten
4 walnut-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
200g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 160°c and line six cake tins (or two 18cm round tins and a 11x15 inch tray)
- Cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (10mins)
- Pour in the golden syrup and ginger wine and beat to combine
- Beat in the eggs very gradually
- Mix in the flour and ground ginger before folding in the crystallised and fresh ginger
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and make for 50 minutes
- Cool in the tin
Lemon buttercream:375g unsalted butter
4½ cups of icing sugar
4 lemons, zest and juice
a little milk or cream
- Beat together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
- Add the lemon zest and juice and beat again to combine
- If the mixture is still a little stiff, add some milk or cream to loosen to a good spreading consistency
Icing the cake:
- Cut out the cake so that they measure ½ cm smaller than the size of the cake boards you are using (mine were roughly 17cm, 14cm and 11cmin diameter)
- Level the tops of each layer to make a flat surface
- Place the first layer on the centre of the cake board, sticking it on with a dab of buttercream
- Sandwich the two layer together with buttercream and coat the top in a thin even layer
- Place the second cake board of the same size on the top and ice the sides of the cake by using a palette knife to make sure the sides are straight and flush with the cake boards
- Repeat with the other two layer and chill for ½ an hour
- Slide a sharp knife underneath the upper cake board and slice off
- Use a palette knife to smooth any rough patches in the buttercream
- Return to the fridge until you are ready to cover in fondant
Covering cakes with fondant:
- You will need 1.5kg of ready to roll fondant icing for this size of cake
- Dust your worksurface and rolling pin with cornflour or icing sugar
- Take 1/3 of the fondant and roll out to no thinner ¼ inch thick, making sure that it is also large enough to cover the cake, to do this measure up one side, across the top and down the other side – this will give you the minimum size that your fondant needs to be in order to cover the cake
- Carefully slide your hands underneath the fondant and gently lift over the top of the cake
- Smooth across the top to make sure there are no air bubbles, before working down the sides of the cake, smoothing the fondant from the top and lift out from the bottom,which will get rid of any excess fondant without the need to cut and smooth over (might be best to look at a video on this point as it doesn't look like it should work, but it does!)
- Once smoothed down to the base, trim off the excess fondant with a sharp knife
- The cake will have naturally rounded edges, but if you want straight cornered edges you need to use a fondant smoother on top of the cake and you hand on the side and gently squeeze them together with very light pressure and circular motion with the smoother (again a video might be handy here)
- Once all the fondant is neat and square you need to dowel the bottom two layers: poke drinking straws (or wooden dowels) straight down into the cake underneath where the next to layer is going to sit and snip off the excess flush with the top of the fondant.
- Place in the fridge until you are ready to stack and decorate the cakes
Royal icing decorations:
- You will need 250g of royal icing mixed with water to the instructions on the packet
- Make a template of the pattern you would like to use and trace it onto greaseproof paper with a soft pencil
- Place this template along the top or bottom edge of the tier, pencil side down, and use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to gently rub the pencil marks onto the fondant
- Pipe the royal icing onto the template using piping nozzle size 2 or 2.5
- Pipe a beaded line (called a snail trail), by piping a series of dots with a line between them, along the top and bottom edge of each tier
- Leave to the icing to set for a few hours until it is completely solid
- Paint the raised pattern with edible metallic paint, top with flowers