Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How To Make Your Own Wedding Cake

Over the last couple of months I have been writing a book for Ryland, Peters & Small entitled Boutique Wedding Cakes. The book is a "how to" guide for those amongst you who are brave and generous enough to take on the task of making a wedding cake for a loved one. Aside from outlining step-by-step decorating techniques and offering hints and tips on styling, the book will also contain 19 delicious recipes. I'm going in for the second set of photo shoots at the end of this month and the book will be available to buy in October this year. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A wedding cake for knitters, cyclists, cat lovers and lovebirds

Last weekend, I made a wedding cake for our dear friends, Lily and Alex. Almost every aspect of their January wedding was a collective effort, with everything from the bunting to the entertainment having been homemade by friends and family. Alex's parents grew gorgeous flowers in pots as pretty and colourful table decorations, which also doubled as favours. Lily's dad, a London-based jeweller, designed and created their beautiful rings and her equally talented mum created her stunning 1950s inspired dress. Friends had stepped in to make games, sound pieces, snowflake bunting made from Mills & Boon novels and even to perform celebrant duties during the ceremony. My job was an obvious one: I was called on to make the cake. 

When Lily and Alex first approached me to make their cake, they were keen to leave every decision about  style and flavour up to me. I decided that this would mean they'd miss out on one of the most fun parts of the wedding cake process at Victoria's Cake Boutique: the tasting session. It wasn't hard to convince them to change their minds, although the tasting session itself did throw up some surprises in their final choices. Lily and Alex were serving vegetarian Indian for their wedding breakfast and my cake would be pudding. Lily was sure she would opt for the citrus-y likes of lemon drizzle, but in fact, they both fell in love with my kirsch-soaked black forest torte and chestnut cake. Lily admitted later that she felt a tiny pang of regret at not choosing orange and polenta and so, as an extra surprise on the day, I made the top tier and the teacups from orange and polenta cake with orange zest buttercream as well as making two special coconut fairy cakes for a vegan guest.

In terms of design, I was more than happy to take the reigns with their blessing, with the only guidance being that "it doesn't have to look like a wedding cake" and "we're really excited to see how you interpret us through cake". No pressure. I wanted the cake to have a sense of humour and to bring in some of their favourite things. They spent a year in Paris so I decided to create the cake from macaron colours. I kept the base tier simple, covering it in lemon yellow icing. I placed it on a white and lemon yellow polka dot covered base board, dressed with a doily to create a little "tearoom". Against the lemon yellow background, I created two teacups made from orange and polenta cake, which were then hand-painted with a mixture of melted cocoa butter and edible powder dyes, and placed the two little vegan fairy cakes between the cups. Everything except the fairy cake cases was edible. 

The next tier up combined two of the couples' favourite activities: bicycles (for Alex) and knitting (for Lily). The bikes proved much harder than I thought they'd be. After a couple of false-starts, in the end, I printed two bicycle silhouettes off the internet, pricked the designs on in place with a scribe tool and then filled in the dots with a liquorice pen. The grass, clouds, knitting, hot air balloon and kite (both out of shot, but I'll hopefully be able to get some more photos when Lily and Alex get back from their honeymoon) were again painted with dyed cocoa butter.

This cake just had to include cats. Not only do the couple have a particular fondness for our furry friends, but Lily is very cat-like, due to her almond-eyed feline beauty paired with her ability to find the warmest, softest furnishings in the room to snuggle up in. I cut some cat silhouettes I had rudimentarily drawn out of rolled out black sugar paste, stuck them on to the cake with a light brushing of alcohol on their backs, and piped round the edges with black royal icing to get a more precise and detailed outline. I wanted the cats to look like they were jumping up to try to get to the love birds on the top tier.

The top tier was the most ornate of all the tiers, a little birdcage (without a cage door, of course!) with a swing for two little lovebirds. I covered the carved cake with sugar paste dyed apple green and made the details out of white chocolate plastique which I painted with edible gold. I added white sugar butterflies and pink blossoms and placed two little white lovebirds made from white floristry paste with royal icing piped detail.

Lily and Alex loved their cake, which was a huge relief, especially as it was a real whopper of a cake - made to feed 140 as pudding, so could be seen from practically everywhere in the reception venue. This was the first time anyone has ever left the design of their wedding cake entirely to me and it was a huge honour to be trusted with such an important job and it was great fun to be given the freedom to let my creative imagination out of its box.