Here we are! It was a success, thank. GOD. By far the biggest and most stressful cake I’ve ever made but it worked, and was enjoyed by the two it was made for. For those who don’t know, I was asked a few months back to make a wedding cake – I accepted and then wondered what I had let myself in for! I’d never made a wedding cake before, why on earth did I think this was a good idea?! Luckily for me, the two marrying could not have been nicer, which set my nerves at ease. We sat down and talked about what kind of cake they wanted, what look they were looking for, one which represented their day and personalities.
I made it clear this was my first wedding cake, and it did not phase them and for that, I thank them wholeheartedly.
What we settled on was this three-tier, semi-naked cake that bought outdoors in and gave an ‘autumnal’ theme to the cake. That meant some deep purples, some in-season fruit, and some natural elements such as wood and herbs.
I did a test run of the cake a few weeks back for a Macmillan Coffee Morning, but this did not stop the real thing being any less nerve-wracking. I kept flipping between whether I should drive there with the cake tiered already or not. In the end, with the help of some doweling, I deemed the cake sturdy enough not to fall over during transportation so once I’d arrived at the venue, it was just a case of adding the decoration and making sure it looks perfect.
To my relief, both seemed very happy with the look and taste of the cake and that alone made it all worthwhile. I was honoured to be asked to make their wedding cake, for them to deem what they’d seen on the website as good enough to be included in their day and that they fully trusted me to capture their ideas and express them in cake form. I made it clear this was my first wedding cake, and it did not phase them and for that, I thank them wholeheartedly.
If you fancy tackling this, see the recipe and methods below.
ORANGE SPONGE (Top Tier)
280g plain flour
170 butter, unsalted and softened
3 large eggs (room temperature)
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
Juice of 2 oranges
70g caster sugar
400 icing sugar
2 tsp milk
LEMON CAKE (Middle Tier)
560g plain flour
350g butter, unsalted and softened
6 large eggs
6 tsp baking powder
zest of 3 lemons
2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp lemon extract
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds
400 icing sugar
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Juice of 1 orange
VANILLA CAKE (Bottom Tier)
840g plain flour
510g butter, unsalted and softened
9 large eggs
9 tsp baking powder
4 tsp vanilla
3 tsp salt
600g icing sugar
300g butter, unsalted and softened
3 tsp milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Juice of 1 lemon
There is a lot to do to create such a big cake, and to keep things simple, I’ll give you the basic cake method – this process is the same for each tier apart from, of course, timings which I will outline separately.
You’ll need: 2x 10″, 2 x 8″ and 2 x 6″ pans, respectively. You’ll also need to pre-heat the oven to 170°C or 160°C fan. Remember, the following method is for one tier, then repeat the process for the other two. Don’t make all the batter at the same time as there is just far too much of it.
Place the sugar and water in a pan on a medium heat until the sugar all dissolves. Place the rosemary spring in one ramekin, the orange peel on another and leave a third ramekin empty. Divide the syrup between the three ramekins and leave to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy in a stand mixer or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add an egg at a time, beating to combine in between each addition. Once all eggs are added, add the flavourings – depending on the tier, these would be any extracts, juices, zests and seeds. Mix.
In a second bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add a third of this to the egg mixture and beat for a minute until combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix again. Repeat the process with the second lot of flour, the remaining half of the buttermilk and the final third of flour. Once all is incorporated, divide the mixture in half and decant into the two cake pans. Bake at the following times:
10″ Tier: 45 minutes.
8″ Tier: 40 minutes
6″ Tier: 30 minutes
Once done, test with a skewer. Leave to cool in the pan and if needed, level the top with a serrated knife. Brush the syrup of the respective layers – the plain syrup goes on the vanilla sponge, the rosemary syrup on the lemon sponge and the orange syrup on the orange sponge! Get your sponges ready for the assembly!
I made all the buttercream at once and then divided the mix in three and flavoured then. Add all of the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for five minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway. Add half of the icing sugar and beat for a further two minutes. Add the remaining half and mix again until you’re left with a light, fluffy and smooth buttercream. Divide the mix in three, portion it out so you have the smallest amount for the orange buttercream, following by the lemon and then the largest quantity for the vanilla. Add the respective flavouring to each bowl.
I got my orange curd recipe from this website and halved the ingredients.
Mix the eggs, egg yolk and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the orange juice and stir to combine. Add the cubed, cold butter and place in the microwave. Microwave on 50% power for 7 minutes – whisking every minute. By the end, the mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If not, heat for a few more minutes, again stopping every minute to stir and check. Leave to cool.
BLUEBERRY AND BLACKBERRY JAMS
Place the blueberries, sugar and water in a pan on a medium heat. Add the orange juice and the vanilla extract and heat the mixture for approximately 10 minutes, until the blueberries have broken down and the mixture resembles a jam-like consistency. Leave to cool.
Repeat this process in the exact same way for the blackberry jam.
Place the bottom layer of the first tier on your cake board and brush with the plain simply syrup. Spread a thin layer of the vanilla buttercream on the top of this cake and pipe a border around the circumference of the cake. In the middle, please the blackberry jam. Place the second layer [upside down, so the bottom becomes the top] and push down slightly. Spread the vanilla buttercream on the sides of the bottom tier, liberally to coat. Take your cake scraper and scrape it round the entire edge of the cake until you begin to see the sponge, but there are still patches of the icing here and there. Spread some on the top of the bottom tier and level out. Place a long wooden dowel or thick thick straw that will be long enough to run through all tiers of the cake in the centre. Around this dowel, place a few more, cutting them so they sit just above the cake. These will hold the weight of the second tier.
Take the 5″ cake board that the 6″ cake will sit on and drill or pierce a hole in the centre that the long dowel will run through. Place the 6″ cake on top and ice – repeat the process you used above, filling with the orange curd this time. Place in the fridge once completely iced.
Take the 7″ cake board and once again drill a hole in the centre. Ice the 8″ cake on this board as above, filling with the blueberry jam. Dowel it as you did above, so the 6″ cake will sit on those supports. Push the long dowel from below, so it runs through the hole in the board and through the cake. Take the 6″ chilled cake so you can handle it with your hands without leaving marks and feed this on to the dowel so it feeds through the hole in the board and once again out the top of the cake. The 6″ cake should sit on the dowels, leaving a little gap. You can either leave this, as not will be covered with fruit or if preference, pipe some buttercream to hide it. Sit both these tiers in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Once chilled, take the cakes to the base tier and, holding the cake over, push the dowel so a good amount of it appears out of the bottom of the two tiers, then feed this into the hole created earlier. Place the tiers on the base cake and push the rest of the dowel down until it hits the final cake board. You may need to cut off the top if it sticks out, depending on the length of your dowel [so to speak!]. Then cake is no assembled! All you’re left to do is decorate how you wish. My clients called for an autumnal theme, with some reds, deep purples and dark blues so I used figs, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and garnished with some cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprigs to inject some further natural colour.