This week, I was asked to make a wedding cake for later in the year. It’s not something I’ve ever done before and if I’m honest, I’m a little petrified. It’s one of the most important parts of a wedding to many and something people look forward to seeing – it’s such a personable thing. A wedding cake often represents both those who are getting married.
The style requested is a ‘naked’ style cake – something i’ve never done before. To hone my style before October, I thought I’d give it a go. This combines three ingredients that work so well together. The addition of thyme might seem like an odd one, but it goes so well with orange and really adds a depth of flavour that might surprise you.
560g plain flour
340g butter, unsalted and softened.
6 large eggs
2 tsp tsp vanilla
4 tsp orange extract
6 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
several sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
250g butter, softened and unsalted
500g icing sugar
200g white chocolate
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp milk
few drops of orange food colouring
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
First things first: prepare all the pans – I used 2 x 8″ cake tins and 2 deep 6″ cake tins. I brushed them with butter and dusted flour on the bottom and sides, coating the inside with a thin film of flour to prevent the batter from sticking.
Beat the softened butter until creamy. In a separate bowl, combine the orange zest and sugar, rubbing it between your fingers to release the oils from the zest. Transfer this to the butter and beat again until fully combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated in-between each one. Once you’ve added all the eggs, mix in the flavours – both vanilla and orange extracts and the thyme sprigs. Mix together.
Next, add the buttermilk and flour in stages, mixing in-between each one to combine fully. Start with the flour – a sixth of it, followed by a quarter of the buttermilk. Continue with this pattern until everything is added and fully incorporated – you should end with the flour.
Divide the batter evenly in four, distributing it amongst each cake tin. I used scales to ensure accuracy.
The 8″ cakes will take about 30 minutes while the 6″ will need 5 minutes more. Insert a skewer to the middle to make sure they’re done and leave to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, crack on with the buttercream. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave and leave to cool. Beat the butter until pale and smooth and add in half of the icing sugar. Beat together – slowly at first to avoid a plume of icing sugar covering your kitchen.
Once combined, add the second half and beat until smooth and pale. Pour in the cool melted chocolate and beat to combine. Add the extract and stir again. Remove a few tablespoons of this mixture into a separate bowl and then add a few drops of orange colouring – I was going for a light-orange, almost peachy. Transfer this to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. At this point, I also transferred some of the standard buttercream to another ripping bag with a larger star nozzle.
To assemble, spread some white buttercream on the cake board and place the first 8″ layer on top. On top of that, spread a layer on buttercream, using a cranked pallet knife to smooth and level out. Place the second 8″ layer on top, upside down so the base is the top. This ensures the top of very level. Ice the top and sides lightly and use a cake scraper to remove most of this – you should be left with a ‘naked’ effect, being able to see the side of each layer.
In the middle of the 8″ cake, add three wooden dowels, cutting them down so they sit just above flush with the top of the cake. Ice the 6″ cake in much the same way, placing it on top of the 8″ cake. To finish, pipe a few stars in a variety of sizes, alternating in colours as you do. Garnish with thyme springs and voila!