The Final Frontier – Decorating and Assembling my 5 Tier Wedding Cake

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

When I engaged in creating hundreds of Hydrangea blossoms to adorn the wedding cake with I didn’t really stop to think too hard about how I was going to get them on the cake… It can’t be that hard right? I purchased a pot of edible glue (amongst many other things from the lovely cake shop) and trotted off to carry on baking, pushing all thoughts to the back of mind about how edible glue works.

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Fast forward 3 months to December 2012 and I have now 5 iced wedding cakes resting nicely in their cardboard cake boxes, up on some book shelves in our spare  room/wedding dumping ground. I have 1 extra iced cake just in case of any disasters and 2 naked fruit cakes leftover from the epic baking stage of this cake.

We were going to celebrate Christmas early this year, what with the wedding being on 30th December. So I started wrapping all of my presents very early. I was wrapping until 11 one night and popped everything under the tree only to look up and discover yellow stuff running down the walls, behind the tree. I showed Chris and he discovered that I had also placed all of my freshly wrapped presents into a quickly mounting pool of water gathering under the tree.

The wall was quickly turning into a water feature in our house. It also joins onto the spare room. A spot of investigating further revealed that the flood had started in the spare room, saturated the wall and then seeped into the living room and across the floor! Thank god my dress was at my parents house and thank god for Kate’s cake boxes! They were the perfect protection against any damp that was lingering in the air (there was a lot!). Luckily the shelves weren’t up against the soaked wall too and lucky that I had been wrapping presents to discover the leak as I wouldn’t have noticed it until we were swimming in our sitting room.

We're all having a dehumifier party

We’re all having a dehumidifier party

One emergency cake evacuation later and removal of everything out of my kitchen cupboards, the 8 cakes had a new dry home!  Our landlord delivered a dehumidifier to get rid of the damp and the stink and we were good to go. Although further calamities were awaiting me whilst Chris was away for his stag do and I had friends round for festive fizz, mulled cider and spare wedding cake tasters. The dehumidifier started to leak! I then flooded the toilet trying to mop it up and broke a handle off the door just before everyone arrived. I think it was best to get all the bad luck out of the way before the wedding.

Sticking a milliong sugar flowers in place

Sticking  millions of sugar flowers in place

To give myself plenty of time to glue the flowers on to the cakes I set aside a Saturday the week before Christmas to give them a chance to dry fully and me to repair any breakages/falling offs. This happened to coincide with the painter coming to repair our flooded flat. It made for an interesting 5 hours of glueing flowers whilst directing decorators to dust pans, brushes and keeping the cat at bay.

Edible glue takes a ridiculously long time to dry! In hindsight I think royal icing would have been a MUCH better idea… I used a cocktail stick to smear a little spot of glue onto the back of each flower (which had become really rigid and quite fragile so had to be handled extremely carefully). The moulded reverse of each flower results in grooves and ridges that the glue disappears into. It needs a bit more glue so that the it can actually touch the cake.

The glue should be tacky before attempting to apply it to the cake… If you try to stick it on while the glue is still runny you will have a happy game of chase the flowers as they fall off the cake leaving a trail of glue which has now taken on some of the blue food colouring all down the cake. Many of the flowers fell on the floor and smashed this way but I also realised that I have quick reflexes, almost a cake decorating ninja.

The painters were highly amused by my antics in the kitchen where I didn’t even stop for a cup of tea for 5 hours whilst contorting myself into all shapes to catch the falling flowers and hold 4 flowers in place with each hand until the glue dried enough to support their weight. Patience and flexibility were useful qualities to have a this stage in the cake decorating process. It’s a good job I do yoga.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet… have a look at the varied blue hues in the hydrangea

Zoe Clark’s original design for this cake uses buttercream icing to cover all of the cakes. The sugar flowers can then simply just sit on the buttercream and be held in place. No glue required. The fondant icing that I used, had now hardened and had no give to it to help hold on to the flowers, so it really was the glue doing all of the hard work.

I realised after about an hour of catching and reapplying flowers that I needed to paint the flowers with glue, leave them for about 5 minutes and then the glue would be just about right to stick it onto the cake. Some flowers also had to be rejected as when they dried they hardened into such a curly shape that they lacked a flat area on the back where I could paint the glue on.

I wanted the flowers to appear as natural as possible cascading down the cake.  I chose a combination of hues of the blue hydrangea blooms and applied them randomly at different angles to the cake to give a more varied finish. Tapering off towards the bottom of the cake.

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

With most of the flowers stuck into place, reserving a gap down the back of the cake, so I had some space to pick each cake up and stack it back together later on. I retired for an essential lie down.

A couple of hours later the glue was really dry and the flowers were stable enough so the cakes could be returned to their boxes and shelf for safe keeping.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

Back in it’s box. One Boxed Tier – note the gap down the back – no flowers here yet so it can be handled without damaging the decoration.

I arranged to deposit and arrange the cake at Jesmond Dene House the day before the wedding. It was an exciting and cautious trip in the car trying to keep all the flowers on the cake and intact.

I hired a cake stand to add extra height to the cake and whipped up a batch of royal icing to glue the cakes together and popped it in a icing bag so pipe it easily into place in situ.

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! BUt the cake is almost as tall as me!)

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! But the cake is almost as tall as me!)

Each tier of the cake required a generous dose of royal icing to hold it in place but not too much so it oozes out the sides. When royal icing dries it’s rock solid. That cakes wasn’t going to be moving anywhere!

With all 5 tiers stacked and arranged with the floral cascade running down the front and the joins in the ribbons running down the back I could then add more flowers to fill in the gap that I left to pick the cake up down the back. Amazingly only 2 flowers fell off in the process! Royal icing was a perfect glue and each flower didn’t need to be held in place for hours!

The final result was everything that I had hoped for. The 5 tiers of fruit cake ontop of the cake stand made it almost as tall as me! Please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair.

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

I have no idea how the wonderful staff at Jesmond Dene House managed to manoeuvre the gargantuian cake upstairs. The 12 inch tier by itself was just about all I could carry!

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

When we arrived at JDH after the ceremony it was amazing to see everything all together. I loved it. The flowers, the cake, the vintage glass, the real fire, and the sweets and treats I’d made. It was a dream come true with all of my most favourite people in the world together in one room! It was the most perfect day.

Cutting the cake!

Cutting the cake!

And then we got to cut the cake and the dancing began. I didn’t sit down all night but I managed to squeeze in a sneaky slice of wedding cake and it was truly my best ever cake. Rich, extremely fruity and moist, with not too much of an alcoholic burn. The 3 months of maturing were a really good idea! I love the amaretto and cherries. I will definitely be using this recipe again in the future.

What an adventure. This is without doubt my most epic bake yet. Exciting and exhausting in equal measures. I daresn’t even think how much time and energy I spent on the whole cake process, in fact I’m not even going to consider it (or how much I spent on eveything along the way) as it would detract from the very happy memories. I’m so proud that I could make my own wedding cake. Who would have thought a year ago when I hadn’t even made pastry before that I’d be baking and icing a 5 tier wedding cake?  I’m very grateful for the help I’ve had along the way too. It was all the more special that I made it myself and that I could share with all of our family and friends. I even posted some to my Aunty Carol in Canada. Cutting the wedding cake is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. I wonder if making it yourself gives you extra kudos in the luck stakes?

I’ve saved one naked cake for a special occasion and I still have enough cake left for one last slice. I’m saving that one for a rainy day. I’ll even get the wedding photos back out and relive it all just one more time…

 

This is part 4 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

Where to start when icing a 5 Tier Wedding Cake?

Me and my pride an joy - The 5 Tier iced wedding cake with ribbon in Kate's wonderful kitchen

Me and my pride and joy – The 5 Tier iced wedding cake with ribbon in Kate’s wonderful kitchen

If you’ve ever visited my tiny flat you will quickly realise that there is very little room to turn around never mind ice, stack and store 5 tiers of fruit cake. Thankfully I have a wonderful friend called Cake Poppins who kindly offered to spend the day with me in her amazing kitchen complete with all of her expertise and wonderful non stick cake decorating equipment. I cannot thank Kate enough for her help and guidance. If you haven’t checked out Kate’s blog I thoroughly recommend it !

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake –  one of my previous attempts at cake icing

Never before have I attempted any sort of technical cake assemblage that requires dowling. I have attempted rather slap dash icing of cakes with layers of marzipan and fondant icing. My results have been passable, but on my wedding cake passable would not suffice. It needed to be perfect. No pressure there then.

One of the 5 Tiers of Fruit Cake

One of the 5 Tiers of Fruit Cake

Before the cakes could even go near any icing a great deal of planning and shopping was required. I packed up a car full of cake and sugar based goods and headed round to Kate’s. The fumes eminating from the cakes made for a very happy journey.

To start with you need to purchase drum style cake boards (the ones that are half an inch thick to add extra height to the cakes). Each board needs to be exactly the same size as the cake. I purchased a 4, 6, 8 10, and 12 inch round boards. The 4 inch was pretty difficult to find but you can definitely buy them online.

I have absolutely no idea how much marzipan and fondant icing we went through and so engrossed was I in mastering the kneading, rolling and enveloping the cakes in icing I forgot to take any photos along the way. (sorry!) My guess is that about 6 packets of marzipan disappeared in the process, which would be around 6 x 500g = 3 kg of marzipan. As a rough guess the same amount of fondant ivory icing was used to cover the 5 cakes.

A slosh of vodka was required (not for me) but to sterilise the cake boards.

3 jars of apricot jam were used to coat the cakes and the boards prior to the application of the marzipan. This helps to stick the marzipan to the cake and the cake to the board.

There was a lot of tea, cake and rolling going on that Sunday afternoon. Gaps in the cake need to be filled with marzipan, a bit like smoothing putty into cracks in a wall before you paint it. You can even add a sausage of marzipan around the edge of the cake to fit it neatly to the board, if there’s a gap. I learnt so many brillliant tips.

Kate introduced me to cake spacers. A truly wonderful invention. They consist of 2 equally thick pieces of wood (rather ruler shaped) which you place on either side of your marzipan or fondant. You then place the rolling pin onto the rulers and roll away from you (preferably on a non stick board). Turning the fondant at regular intervals so it doesn’t stick. This means you get evenly flattened fondant, giving a smooth and much less holey finish than I often achieve. You have to press with all your weight rolling from your hands all the way up to your elbows evenly. If like me your a rolling novice you then get equally spaced bruises up your arms too. Kate’s an absolute pro!

Once the marzipan layer is on the cake, it’s best to get the layer of fondant on whilst it’s still tacky so it all sticks together. The less you touch the final fondant layer the better finish you get. Only touch the fondant covered cake with the backs of your hands to avoid leaving any fingers prints please. Smoothing the edges down with a plastic cake smoother, pushing the excess fondant down and squeezing it out in to the bottom of the skirt of the cake. Which can then be trimmed away with a lovely sharp palette knife, being careful not to cut into the cake (!)

Once all 5 cakes have a double coat of icing you carefully wrap a thin ribbon around the bottom of each cake. Double sided sticky tape is useful to stick the ribbon together. This gives a really professional looking image. I chose ivory ribbon to blend into the fondant and give a really sleek finish.

The Iced Wedding Cake

The Iced Wedding Cake – you can see the ribbon edging neating up each cake tier

Icing the 5 cakes took around about 5 hours. Then Kate showed me how to make sure the cakes are level, how to cut the dowels to size, where to insert dowels (plastic rods) to hold the weight of the cake above and how to stack the 5 tiers together.

Using a spirit level, a hack saw, a dowling guide template and a marker pen we forced the plastic dowels strategically into all 4 iced cakes, all in the right places so you can’t see any plastic dowels on the finished cake! The top tier didn’t need any dowels to as there was no other cake to support above it.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

One Boxed Tier – complete with a full round of dowls – ignore the flowers these were added later on…

The final result was very impressive! Seeing all 5 tiers stacked up in their smooth white finish was worth all of the effort! Then all we had to do was carefully take it apart again, box the cake and manouvere it all back into my car. Then the task of finding a suitable storaged place in my tiny flat to rest the cakes whilst the fondant set.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet…

There was still a month to spare before the wedding and I still had to glue all of the hydrangea flowers to the cake, box it back up again, transport it to Jesmond Dene House AND stack the entire cake, glueing each tier together. And then to eat it! So close and yet still so far to go…

This is part 3 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

36. Wiltshire Lardy Cake – Let Them Eat Lard! – 18th Century Clandestine Cake Club – EAT Festival

Wiltshire Lardy Cake at the Clandestine Cake Club

Lard in a cake? Sounds vile doesn’t it? I’ve always been perplexed by this notion of animal fat in food. Long gone are the days when we made Yorkshire Pudding with blisteringly hot fat and yet we still use butter and such like in all our cakes which I guess is a tad more appealing than pork blubber.

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I purchased a pack of lard to bake some Chinese cakes but never found the right occasion to bake the Lardy beauties. I was greatly amused in my favourite Chinese Bakery to see little signs in front of some of the buns proclaiming “I contain lard”. Like they were sharing a guilty secret with us. This was another case of serendipity,  me having the perfect random ingredients required to bake something unusual for a very special EAT Festival Clandestine Cake Club.

Clandestine Cake Club – 18th Century Cakes – note the oranges and cauliflour!

The theme was 18th century cakes. (It’s harder than you would think to find a genuine 18th century recipe online.) A bit of research/googling later I realised in the 18th cake was spicy (the spice trade was blooming) and mainly contained readily available ingredients such as Lard and yeast!

I reverted back to good old Marguerite Patten and found Wiltshire Lardy cake. A very traditional English recipe. (I realise I’ve baked A LOT already from England but I promise to be more exotic again soon.)

Marguerite instructed me on making a basic yeast dough. I could tell how authentic (and genuinely old this recipe is as it uses the measurement ‘gill’ I have never heard of this before and it took a bit of deciphering!)

Now attempting to follow a recipe and instructions located in 3 different sections of a book is sure fire way to get me to make mistakes. I did not fail. Was it the late night baking efforts or my recipe coordination skills that are lacking?! Probably a bit of both!

The Food Processor did a wonderful job of distributing the yeast and rubbing the butter into the flour. Saved me a job!

The recipe instructed me to make a yeast paste. I ignored this as I know dried instant yeast doesn’t need to be mixed with liquid first. If I was using fresh yeast (which is a bit more difficult to find these days and more tricky to encourage) I would have followed the recipe to the letter, using blood temperature water and whatnot. With the instant yeast all you need to do is chuck it in with the flour and give it a stir to distribute it throughout. Simple.

Proving Time

After creating the basic yeast dough and leaving it to prove I fully embraced the lard. The technique required is very pastry like and it requires a little planning and preparation.

I set out my;

- glass work surface protector on top of a damp tea towel to hold it in place
– rolling pin
– flour for dusting
– lard
– spices, sugar and dried fruit

Proven Dough

Pastry is not my strong point I’m unashamed to admit. I’ve only tried to make flaky pastry once and I shed a few tears over the sheer effort and complicated origami folding required. It was distinctly lacking in flakes too after all the hard work!!

To start with the dough needs to be knocked back and kneaded gently to distribute the yeast and warmth again. Then on a floured board it needs a good flattening with the rolling pin. Roll it into a rectangle.

Rectangular Rolling and dotting of LARD

Then to dot dollops of lard all over, (but leaving the final third empty)! I was in the throes on smearing the distinctly stinky lard in dots onto my flattened dough and crazily folding it into envelope shapes when Super Hans (the cat) joined me wailing for a bit of lard.

One Fold

Two Folds

Seal the edges with the rolling pin

Roll it out and repeat!

Turn clockwise and roll into rectangle

The animal fat smell most surely lured Super Hans into the kitchen. Is this a good sign?! I guess if it’s good enough for the cat to eat it’s good enough for me. Lard most certainly passes the Super Hans taste test. However a wailing cat is not conducive to pleasant baking experience…

Super Hans the noisy Cat. He enjoys a nice bit of lard.

I merrily proceeded to fold the dough up as required and smeared all the lard into it, then returned to the Lardy Cake recipe to discover I was supposed to have folded the fruit and spices into the dough along with the lard! Damn. Back to the rolling pin and floured board for me to fold in the remaining ingredients. My Lardy dough had a very through folding and rolling! It is a bit more difficult to roll dough when it has dried fruit sandwiched in it, but don’t despair if a few raisins pop through. I think it gives it character.

Folding (again) this time WITH the sugar, fruit and spices!

Folded and ready to be rolled with fruit, sugar and spices

Rolled out and ready to be folded again

Second half of the fruit and sugar and yet more folding!

Another fold (don’t worry the fruit is going to peek out in places!)

This Lardy cake definitely has ‘character!’

I was very lucky that my friends Jill and Jonny brought me back some amazing spices from their Indian Honeymoon including some cinnamon bark, which I whizzed up in my spice mill on my food processor. It smells AMAZING, much fresher then my normal ground cinnamon. I added rather a lot of my Indian spices to the sugar mix.

Hand Shaped chunky lardy cake

Once I had folded everything into the dough, it needed to be shaped and coaxed by hand into a chunky square. I plonked the square dough into a round, greased and floured cake tin. Then to squash the dough into a round, ensuring there are no gaps along the edges or on the base of the dough to avoid any holes in the cake. It needed a bit more time to prove and then into the oven!

Squashed-into-a-cake-tin Lardy Cake

While it was baking away I prepared my glaze to pour over the cake as soon as it came out of the oven.

Just Baked – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I was very nervous taking this cake along to the Clandestine Cake Club as it wasn’t as pretty as the other 18c cakes, which included a Wedgewood Iced Pepper Cake (beautiful!!), a basket of oranges! (marzipan encased chocolate and ganache cakes! So very realistic!) and I brought along LARD!? I made sure I sampled my cake first in case it was horrid and I needed to remove it from the table. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

Post Glaze – Just Chilling – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

It actually tastes rather nice. It’s a distinctly brown cake. The sugar glaze adds a nice crunchy texture and the lard (dare I say it) gives the cake a slightly savoury feel, a little bit like the Herman the German Cake. I couldn’t see any layers despite all the meticulous folding but perhaps I messed that up with my accidental double folding and rolling. I’m not entirely sure it’s supposed to result in layers either! Marguerite doesn’t really go into that much detail.

A sideways glance of Wiltshire Lardy Cake – No layers in sight but plenty of fruit and spice

But as you may realise by now I am a sucker for a fruit cake and this ticks all my boxes, fruity, spicy, sugary. It’s always the way isn’t it? The things that are the least healthy, taste the best!

A fine selection of 18th Century Cakes

The Clandestine Cake Club was held in the Alderman’s House, which is absolutely beautiful. I’ve walked past so many times and it is only open on special occasions. It was perfect for our 18th century cake feast. As it was part of the EAT Festival we had additional guests to entertain with our cakes. It was a fabulous atmosphere with lots of tea flowing, cake demonstrations and sugar craft too. I’m looking forward to our next meeting in August.

 

Alderman’s House – Clandestine Cake Club

More Clandestine 18th Century Cakes

 

Rose cupcake decorating – look what I learnt!

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

Ingredients

Plain Yeast Dough

  • 12oz Plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1oz margarine
  • 1-2oz sugar
  • 1/2oz fresh yeast or 14grams instant dried yeast
  • Approx 1and ½ ‘gills’ tepid water, milk & water or milk (7.5 imperial fluid ounces or 213ml)

If using fresh yeast…

  1. Cream the (fresh yeast) yeast with a tsp of sugar
  2. Add tepid liquid and a sprinkling of flour
  3. Put into a warm place until sponge ‘breaks’ through

If using dried yeast ignore these 3 steps above and add instant dried yeast directly to the flour at this point

  1. Sieve flour and salt into a warm bowl
  2. Rub in margarine and add sugar
  3. When ready work in the yeast liquid and knead thoroughly
  4. Put into a warm place to prove for about 1 hr until it doubles in size
  5. Knock back and knead again until smooth

 

Lardy Cake

  • 4 oz Lard
  • 4oz Sugar
  • 4oz dried fruit
  • Little spice (mixed spices, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,)
  1. Roll our the plain yeast dough into an oblong shape
  2. If it’s a bit sticky flour the board well
  3. Divide the lard and sugar into 2 equal portions, cutting the lard into tiny pieces
  4. Dot  half the lard onto the all over the dough and half the sugar and fruit, with a light dusting of spice on to the dough
  5. Fold in the same way as for flaky pastry
  6. Fold the dough over one third at a time, closing it like an envelope.
  7. Seal the edges by pressing it with the rolling pin
  8. ‘Rib’ the dough with the rolling pin. (Press the rolling pin into the dough lengthways to create ridges equally spaced across the dough)
  9. Turn the dough clockwise and roll out flat to a oblong shape
  10. Add flour as required to prevent the dough sticking to the board
  11. Re-roll the dough and repeat with the remaining lard, sugar, fruit and spice
  12. Fold again and roll into a neat square or oblong shape
  13. To fit into a 7 or 9 inch tin
  14. If using a round tin mould the dough with hands to the required space
  15. Put the mixture into a warmed, greased and floured cake tin, making sure it comes no more than two thirds of the way up the tin.
  16. Prove for 20 mins in a warm place
  17. Bake in the centre of a hot oven (425-450F or Gas Mark 6-7) for 15 mins
  18. Lower heat to 375F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 mins
  19. Either dust the cake with caster sugar when cold or brush with glaze when hot (1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water)
  20. Enjoy with a big cup of tea and revel in the lardy glow

Happy Mother’s Day Mam! Here’s a Cath Kidston-esque cake just for you

Happy Mother’s Day! Cath Kidston inspired cake

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mam! I wanted to bake something special, Cath Kidston -esque and chocolate free for my Mam and came up with this haphazard star cake. I will tell you all about the inside of the cake later on as it’s still a little secret (and we haven’t tried it yet!).

After some frantic last minute icing shopping I managed to get a layer of marzipan and royal icing on the very alcoholic cake in record breaking time. Fingers crossed it’s all set in place now as there was no time to let the icing dry before adding the decorative touches. Especially with the cake inside having taken 2 weeks of soaking and 7 hours of preparing/baking. I’m hoping it tastes good!

The various colours of icing and star shape cutters

I attempted to colour my own icing after failing to create purple with red and blue food colourings I managed to use some silver spoon blue liquid colouring to create the blue icing and I was lucky to have some pre coloured red icing left over from Christmas too, that needed to be used up.

Glitter plate

I rolled the different colours of icing out using my mini silicon rolling pin and used a variety of star cutters to cut out the shapes.  Adding a liberal coating of glitter on each star to give it a bit more sparkle. I found tipping the glitter onto a plate and swishing the stars in the glitter made life a bit easier and a good generous layer of glitter to boot. Although the curious cat also got a bit glitterified too in the process.

Super Hans the glittery cat

I don’t own edible cake glue so I made my own with a bit of water and liquid glucose and used a knife to spread it on each star (sparingly) as I didn’t want the colours to bleed into the white icing and ruin the effect. The idea is to create just enough stickiness to hold the decorations on.

Stars climbing up the side of the cake

I got a bit carried away and put as many red and blue stars on to the cake as I could fit, including a few that are climbing up the side of the cake… I was envisaging a Cath Kidston fabric print and hope that it kind of conjures up that image but with more glitter :)

I’m off to take it to my Mam now. Let’s hope she likes it!

Star shaped and sparkly

All shapes and sizes

12. Carribean Christmas Cake – Jamaicing me crazy and setting the kitchen on fire

My battered Delia Recipe

I LOVE Christmas and Christmas Cake! A few years ago I decided, the week before Christmas, to make my first ever independent Christmas Cake. I now know that this is breaking all of the Christmas Cake rules. It needs time to mature, to be fed Brandy and then the icing needs to be spaced out, one layer at a time over a week, so the marzipan has time to dry out and to achieve a much smoother finish. But in true Lauren style, I dove straight in and was sitting up til 1am waiting for the cake to bake. Then a spot of slap dash icing (which I had never EVER done before) til ridiculous o’clock on Christmas Eve.

My first ever Christmas Cake and decoration attempt. I went a bit overboard with the fondant icing! The marzipan snowman lost his head on the way too!

I didn’t want to make the same mistake(s) again this time. My Mam has a fantastic recipe, but I ended up adapting a Delia Recipe as it was a very spur of the moment decision when I first baked it and I have used it ever since. Even the same print out to be exact!

As per usual I didn’t have the correct ingredients in the cupboard so I had to substitute a the vast majority of Delia’s recipe. Ending up with dried mango, dates and raisins instead of cherries, candied peel and currants. Although I did splash out on a big bottle of brandy.

As the rules of Around the World in Eighty Bakes states, I have to bake something that I haven’t baked before. I pondered over this for a while and decided to modify my Christmas Cake and put a Caribbean twist on it. Also I wanted to make mini Christmas Cakes so I can give them as presents this year too,  inspired by a wonderful little short story by Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory.

Rum Soaked Fruit

In order to put a different slant on the classic Christmas Cake I replaced the Brandy with Rum. There’s always some in my cupboard and having tried to drink the leftover Brandy following reading  Gone with The Wind (Scarlett was a Brandy advocate) I realised I’m not a huge fan, perhaps Tesco Value Brandy is not the best to start with….

After soaking all the dried fruit in rum for a day. Opting for cranberries (very Christmassy), raisins and apricots, it was time to start mixing everything together. The butter was a bit hard so I decided to soften it slightly in the microwave, after ensuring the butter packet was paper only I popped the whole block in the microwave for 30 seconds.

The microwave went up in a loud bang and a massive white flash. I created fireworks in the kitchen! A little girly squeal from me and I ripped open the microwave door, to discover actual flames coming from the cleverly disguised tin foil sandwiched inbetween the paper of the packet.

I’ve never set the kitchen on fire before, so I got a bit of a shock.  But I managed to think quick and decided to blow the flames out, whilst balanced precariously on my tip toes. The microwave is on top of the fridge and I’m only 5 foot 2 (ish) so it’s a bit of a stretch at the best of times… Thankfully it worked and I rescued the butter and the kitchen.

The Offending Article

I persevered following the slight disaster and finished mixing the ingredients, with the addition of coconut too. Let’s hope this tastes nice!

Lovely Mixing. (Make a wish)

Then to grease and line 14 small tins of various sizes! This was a bit of test of my patience. I made the next mistake of popping another pack of butter directly on the oven shelf, ‘just for a minute’ to soften. I forgot about it and returned about 20 minutes later to an empty pack of butter and an oven swimming in grease. Eugh!

Oh dear

I got a bit bored of making lids for my mini cakes and decided to wrap the entire tray in baking paper to protect it from the heat. As the cakes are much smaller than the norm I reduced the cooking time slightly
too, so no 1am cake vigils for me!

Mini Cakes. Individually greased and lined.

Patience wearing thin... I'll wrap the entire tray!

They look lovely and smell beautiful too. These cakes are most definitely a labour of love. Now to feed them rum on a regular basis. I’ll store them for a few weeks then attempt some sort of creative decoration. I predict some sort of gold lustre making an appearance. I will keep you posted on my progress!

Phew! 14 mini Christmas Cakes baked

Close up