Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wedding Cake

Update - see how the cake turned out here and here!

Now this is a biggie. For our wedding next month (next month!) we have decided to make our own cake, for factors including a) preferring home-made cakes to shop-bought, b) having the week off before the wedding so it shouldn't be too horrendous a job, c) absolutely hating fruit cake, marzipan and any of that sugarpaste icing which is rock solid and tastes disgusting, d) refusing to spend £500 on cake. After careful consideration of our menu, our venue (ha! rhyme) and our appetites, we've decided that a classic English summer Victoria Sponge would be perfect. This is where it gets complicated...

I found the ultimate inspiration for how the cake would look here (photo by Simon Fazackerley, found at RockMyWedding:

Doesn't that just look gorgeous? So pretty, so informal, so tempting and yet also very definitely a wedding cake. That is our inspiration and if we achieve anything as pretty, I'll be thrilled. We decided to fill it with raspberry jam and white chocolate buttercream and top with berries and roses like this. 

I emailed the bride from this wedding, a lovely lady called Aisling, asking if there was any chance that I could pick her brains for advice on cake sizes and construction etc. She was very nice and kind and sent back full information - namely that they used a madeira cake (recipe from the internet), the sizes were 6, 9 and 12 inch cakes, and they needed to be stacked using dowelling, cake boards and all sorts of internal scaffolding. This echoed what I'd read during extensive internet trawls, so it looks like this is the way we have to go. Easy?

Well, not exactly. Firstly, the madeira - chosen because it is sturdier and longer-lasting than a normal Victoria Sponge cake and therefore stronger when it comes to stacking. I tried out Nigella's madeira recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess but it didn't come out massively well - although, in fairness, I did split the mix across two tins which probably contributed to the dryness (as the edges are the driest bit). Nonetheless, it was tough, dry and just not right.

After more internet searching I found this recipe from an apparently famous cake baker called Lindy Smith (available here) and gave it a whirl in the 9in tin. The quantity of batter was outrageous and my poor little electric beaters were drowning amid the flying dollops of mixture but I eventually wrangled it all into the tin. Now, in an effort to get a level cake (better for decorating and stacking, innit), Lindy recommends firstly scooping out a hold in the middle of the tin of mixture before baking, and secondly wrapping the tin in layers of newspaper. As you can see from the pictures, I  did the former and not the latter and still ended up with a dome. I don't think this is a problem though, slicing it off is easy and means you avoid the crusty top layer anyway.

I made this on a Thursday, left it wrapped in foil until Saturday morning, then cut the top off, sliced it into three horizontally and filled it with raspberry jam and white chocolate buttercream icing (Lindy also recommends doing these separately rather than in a single layer, to avoid slippage). I am so happy to say that the result was brilliant! Moist, tasty, vanilla, sturdy but not too heavy, and delicious with our chosen fillings. 

The following day, the filled cake had dried out a bit but we tried some of the cake which had not been split into layers and it was still in good shape after two weeks! That is a serious cake, I'm impressed. Nonetheless, I reckon that we'll aim to bake on Wednesday or Thursday then split, fill and stack on Saturday morning for eating on Saturday afternoon.

In terms of quantities, both Aisling and the lady we consulted in a cake shop said that  it looks best to have a 3inch size difference between tiers. Apparently, a 6inch sponge cake serves 12 people, 9inch serves 30 people and 12inch serves 58 people. That gives 100 slices, so enough for everyone to have one and a third of people to have another. Given that we're serving other cakes, plus dinner two hours later, hopefully that should be fine even for the greediest of our guests (and by that, I mean me).

Wedding Cake
Adapted from Lindy's Cakes Blog
This is the one I made for a 9inch tin - see other ratios below.

- 15 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
- 15 oz caster sugar
- 15 oz self raising flour
- 7.5 oz plain flour
- 7.5 large eggs, or 8 medium at room temperature(I only had large so I broke the last one into a bowl, weighed it, beat it and measured out half to add. I know, serious stuff.)
- 1/4 teaspoon glycerin for each egg, so 2 teaspoons in total
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste

Preheat the oven to about 150C and place a roasting tin full of water on the shelf below the one you're going to use. 

Cream the butter and sugar really well (ideally until it's nearly white) then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour each time to stop it from curdling. Once you've added all the eggs, beat in the vanilla and the glycerin, then sift in the remaining flour and fold it in carefully with a metal spoon.

Transfer it to the lined tin and scoop the mixture out in the middle (see pictures). It's quite stiff so you'll manage, and don't be shy - really scoop it out deep! Bake in the oven for 1.5 hours then test with a skewer until the skewer comes out completely clean - mine needed about half an hour more, and I kept checking every ten minutes.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack. Wrap it up tightly for 12 hours in foil (or in an airtight tin) before you do anything to it, and it'll last for ages.

Return of the cake - this time it's bigger (and also, smaller)

Based on Lindy's cake conversion table, it looks as though I will want the following recipes for the other sized tins:

For the 6inch tin
- 6oz unsalted butter
- 6oz caster sugar
- 6oz self raising flour
- 3oz plain flour
- 3 large eggs

For the 12inch tin
- 30oz unsalted butter
- 30oz caster sugar
- 30oz self raising flour
- 15oz plain flour
- 15 large eggs

That is an insane quantity of ingredients. Further instalments to follow!

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