Last week I made one of my favourite cakes. I knew before I started working on it that there would be lots of processes involved so, just to add time to an already time consuming job, I decided to keep a photo record of each stage. That worked fine…until the early hours of the wedding day. By then, just getting finished and into bed (at 3am) became top priority- no time for photographing the final cupcake decorating part!! So, I’ve put together a little blog of how I made this cake and I hope you enjoy a peek behind-the-scenes!
The cake in question was for Stephen and Ambrosia’s Irish-Greek Cypriot/ Sicilian wedding. Their colour scheme was red, black and gold- both wore black, red boutonnière & bouquet and the beautiful bride turned heads in 1950’s vintage Dior. When Ambrosia initially came to see me, we went through the styles of cake the couple were interested in- dramatic, quirky, romantic, elegant. So after a few sketches we pinned down the basics of a design and I was given free reign to go ahead and create my interpretation. It’s a great compliment when a couple trust you enough to do this.
Some jobs, like making sugar flowers, are so time consuming they have to be done in advance. So the week before I started on 16 full size roses, a few medium and a few buds. This is how a sugar rose begins life- a cone of Sugar Florist Paste (SFP) attached to a hooked wire…
…lots of roses equals lots of cones…
I can’t claim to be an expert on sugar roses, I probably don’t make them ‘by-the-book’ but you basically keep adding petals in increasing sizes and number. You can stop at any stage depending on the size of rose you need. Dusting these with Chilli Red and steaming, intensified the colour.
Cupcake Favours- For the jam filled Vanilla cupcakes I made small red roses using a silicone mould and gold leaves. They were finished off with a few hand piped pearls and some black lace which I absolutely LOVE!! The caramel filled Salted Caramel cupcakes were topped with sugarpaste which I embossed with a quilting tool, gold dragees and cameos (again from a mould) which started off white and were individually hand painted. The chandeliers for the Double Chocolate cupcakes were ‘printed’ onto black sugarpaste with a stencil and edible gold lustre. Yum. Want one now!! Here they are all boxed up and ready for the guests to take home…
Baking usually starts 4 or 5 days before the wedding: one day to bake, one day to cover with icing, one day drying and one day to stack & decorate so that the cake is ready for delivery the following day. Covering cakes is something that people are often curious about, ‘How do you get the icing to fit onto the cake?’ It seems like a mystery but sugarpaste is very malleable and honestly, its not as difficult as it looks. (Cue You Tube!) Getting it perfectly smooth, free of creases, bubbles, ‘elephant skin’ etc requires a bit more skill and practice.
Firstly you need a level cake- no point stacking lop-sided tiers on top of each other. The only thing for it is the trusty spirit level. I didn’t just pull this one out of the tool box either. No, this is exclusively for my cakes!! Once it’s level its time for the first coat of buttercream or ‘crumb coat’ and that needs to be scraped smooth, making sure that the sides of the cake are at 90 degrees to the base and the top is flat. Into the fridge to chill, then a second coat of buttercream, again scraped smooth and then its on with the icing!
Over the top it goes, smooth it down gradually to the bottom and then trim around the base. Simples!! (?) Actually, it takes a bit of time and concentration, working those smoothing tools, to achieve a clean finish.
After a day to dry, it’s time for some creativity!! This cake had a square base tier which was raised up on a 2″polystyrene separator (covered with black ribbon) to create the illusion of decorative gold feet holding the cake up. I used silicone moulds and yellow-gold coloured modelling paste to make the feet and side designs. Thankfully it was easy enough to make the pieces fit together into a pattern.
Then, onto the swags and bows. I made a template from greaseproof paper to map out 3 equal swags on each face of the square tier and marked the cake lightly with a scriber so that I could attach the swags at the same height. Then I made a rectangular cardboard template for the swag itself to ensure they would all be roughly the same size.
I don’t have any fancy kit for this part- just regular old cake dowels. Line them up with spaces in between and use this as a former. Place more dowels on top of the modelling paste to create a corrugated shape. Then remove the dowels, push the folds together and shape into a curve to match the paper template. I attached these to the cake and covered the joins with bows which I made using a bow cutter (for uniformity!)
Next, the rigorous task of painting all the gold pieces. I used gold highlighter as it has a great metallic shine. It’s non toxic, therefore safe to use for cake decorations but it is NOT classed as edible, so these parts are removed before the cake is served. The third tier was quilted, again using the quilting tool and the second tier had alternating black and gold vertical beading. I rustled up some edible gold lace for the top tier, a day in advance, using the Chantilly lace mat, below.
The tea cup was made using SFP with a real china tea cup as a former. I borrowed this from mother who reminded me that it was part of a set given to her as a wedding present circa 1969 i.e. ‘Don’t break it like you broke the lovely glass cake stand I let you borrow for the last Quirky Wedding Fair!!’ Oops….!!
The only thing left to do was deliver and assemble in the Porcelain Suite at Ten Square.
Delivering cakes is stressful! As I’ve learned over the last 5 years, my stress levels are more manageable if I don’t take risks when it comes to transporting cakes. Anything that involves separators, lots of sugar flowers or more than 3 tiers for me, HAS to be at least part-assembled on site. Attaching the roses was a bit fiddly but this is my favourite part- the excitement and satisfaction of seeing all those hours of work finally coming together.
As is often the case , I found it hard to walk away from this cake. I do the usual fussing over it, the dusting off, taking photos, making a few tweaks, more dusting, more photos. It’s not really that there’s anything to fix, I just have to separate myself from it slowly. I’ve spent a lot of time with it and because I created it I’m putting part of myself out there, which is kind of scary. People could love it, hate it, or worse be indifferent!!
So, like the sad, cake-obsessed individual that I am, I take one last look at it over my shoulder as I walk through the door and head back to the car. Only to discover that I’ve got a parking ticket (grrrrrr!!) and that brings me back down to reality with a few expletives and an irritating £45 bump.
So there you have it- diary of a wedding cake. I hope you found it interesting.
Bye for now
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