This past year I’ve tried to be more adventurous with my baking and now feel fairly confident with a range of breads as well as desserts: lemon cake, lemon meringue pie, fruit crumbles, fruit muffins, cheesecake and shortbread. But my baking has always been pretty basic, never straying into anything too fancy.
However, I recently took a cake decorating course with Amanda Penny (highly recommended to anyone in the London area!) and learned a few techniques for assembling and decorating cakes (see the result to the left!), and I have to say I’ve found a new love!
After spending a sizeable chunk of my monthly pay on cake decorating equipment, I decided to test my newly acquired skills and bake a cake for our traditional Christmas morning nibbles with the neighbours.
Not wanting to take a literal route with a Christmas theme, I looked to winter for my inspiration and landed on the idea of the first snowfall of winter. In my mind I pictured a collection of flowers and roses running up along one side of the cake, over the top and down the other side situated on one third with snowflakes swirling amongst the flowers.
I started with the vanilla sponge cake, baking it in a large rectangular baking tray. I let the cake cool in the fridge overnight, then turned it out to work with. Trimming the edges of the cake and using my 7-inch cake round, I cut out two rounds of cake and then used the remaining pieces to piece together a third round – a bit like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. I assembled three layers, with the puzzle pieces comprising the second layer, and sprinkled each layer with a sugar syrup before applying a thin spread of buttercream frosting and raspberry jam.
Once the cake was together I used the buttercream frosting to crumb coat it. I’d never heard of this before, but by applying a thin layer of buttercream frosting to the sides and top of the cake, you are able to stop the crumbs from the cake from getting into everything and making things messy. Aside from the functional benefits, the sweetness it added was incredible!
Next up was the layer of sugarpaste, which I rolled out very thinly and then draped over the top of the cake. Amanda taught me that the best way to get rid of the pleats in the frosting is to lift a section and tug gently away from the cake before letting it drop down and then using the side of your hand to smooth the sugarpaste up the side of the cake. Once the frosting was snug around the cake, I trimmed the edges and used my cake smoother to buff the sides and top so that it was perfectly even and smooth all over.
All that was left was to decorate it. I’d spent the week before making my decorations from florist paste. I made white snowflakes with an embossed press to give them a bit of texture and then brushed them with edible silver dust. I made dozens of red flowers and a few roses, building the petals up over a rosebud a layer at a time. A couple of green leaves finished things off and I glued everything down with royal icing.
The cake was a success and, while there are a few things I’d change next time, I’m so proud that I pulled it together in time. I’m absolutely hooked on this new hobby and already planning my next cake…thinking something very art deco…