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

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42. Swedish Tea Ring – the cake for busy bakers

Planning to bake something in advance of an event or special occasion can be difficult. Sponge cake will dry out if baked too far in advance and if you freeze it you can’t ice it beforehand. I seem to be in a real baking frenzy at the moment. Partly because I’m in the process of baking my 5 tier wedding cake…

The teetering tower of fruit cake… shame 2 tiers need to be re-baked.

I’ve chosen fruit cake for my 5 tier wedding cake is because I love fruit cake and it will be Christmas(!) but also because I can plan it in and bake it in advance. Then take my time with icing it, hopefully resulting in a well organised and non stressful experience. Also fruit cake improves with age! The longer I soak the fruit and feed it BOOZE the better it will taste.

Swedish Tea Ring

So what else keeps well? A rich yeast dough, that’s what! Bring on another new discovery and favourite of mine, The Swedish Tea Ring!!

Marguerite Patten has been tempting me with this recipe for years and I finally found a reason to bake it! To give as a present to my friends Josh and Mark for looking after me in Manchester at the Blog North Awards last week.

It’s like a robust Chelsea Bun/Cinnamon Roll/Belgian Bun hybrid. Perfect for cinnamon junkies like me and for preparing in stages for the busy baker. I can also confirm it’s portability! It survived a 3 hour drive through lightening and torrential rain! That’s one sturdy bake.

Whisking the dry ingredients together…

One thing I dislike about making yeast doughs is the kneading time required. I no longer own a hand whisk with dough hooks attached and my food processor can only handle dough for 2-3 minutes before it starts rocking around the counter top precariously. So, in my mad baking frenzy, I improvised as best as I could do. I used my electric hand whisk and beat the dough together… Who knows if this is an acceptable baking practice?

Whisking in the egg

But despite my poor little electric whisk’s protests (it’s been through a lot this year) It managed to combine the wet dough together with minimal effort required from me. I call that a result (although the blown out birthday candle smell emanating from the little whisk’s motor might suggest otherwise…)

Whisking in the milk – making a wonderfully sticky dough

Now as Marguerite arranged each bit of this recipe in a different section of the book, I managed to confuse my recipe somewhat. I used the full rich yeast dough recipe and didn’t adjust it for the Swedish Tea Ring, which means you either make one massive tea ring or one modest sized ring (according to the recipe) and a smaller mini one for later with the off cuts. (I made 2!)

Poor little burnt out whisk – thoroughly kneading/whisking the dough

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Then whisk into the mix the butter, followed by the egg and then the milk until you get an elastic, wet sticky dough.

One thoroughly kneaded lump of richer yeast dough

Leave it in an oiled bowl and cover with greased cling film to prove. I popped mine in the fridge over night to prove slowly (although it should only take an hour or two in a warm spot).

Or if you’re in a hurry you could pop your bowl over a pot of soup on the hob to prove…

Remove the proven dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (if you have proven it in the fridge).

Fully proven dough straight from the fridge

Kneaded the full proven dough thoroughly to re distribute the heat throughout the dough.

Kneaded and shaped into a rectangle ready for rolling out

Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 inches by 8 inches about 0.5mm thick. I was feeling very precise so I even measured and trimmed the rectangle so it had straight edges, to avoid the misshapen ends I found when making Chelsea buns

Rolled and trimmed to perfection. (Note the ball off extra dough leftover…)

My favourite bit was smearing the entire rectangle of dough with melted butter. I don’t think you need to be precise here. I found a pastry brush too delicate for this job and slapped the lot on with my hand instead straight from the microwave. (It only needs about 30 seconds to melt the butter through). The more generous with the butter the more gooey your filling.

Smeared with butter

For those who adore cinnamon, don’t feel restricted by the recipe. Feel free to pour as much cinnamon into your sugar as you can handle. Give it a quick stir to combine and then throw it onto your butter dough until you have an even blanket of cinnamony wonderment. I like to use enough cinnamon to give the sugar a dark brown colour. I ran out of brown sugar so improvised with normal caster sugar. Perhaps brown sugar would produce more of a caramelised effect?

Generously coat the butter in cinnamon and sugar (I was clearly in a hurry when I took this photo – apologies for it’s blurriness!)

After watching the Great British Bake Off, I realised my rolling skills may bye somewhat lacking. I have a tendency to misunderstand which side is the long side of the dough so I took photos to make sure I can bake this again in the future. Roll the dough towards you from the longest edge to the longest edge creating a ‘swiss roll’ of cinnamon dough.

Cinnamon swiss roll

Don’t worry if some of your sugar falls out of the roll. There’s plenty in there to make it taste wonderful. Keep the roll as tight as possible and if you have some melted butter leftover, it’s a good idea to spread a bit along the longest exposed edge to help ‘glue’ the dough to itself. I would also add a bit to one end to help later on…

Keeping the roll tight with one hand and glueing with butter the dough together

Press your fingers along the join in the dough to encourage the dough to combine and stick together. Turn the roll over so the join is firmly disguised under the roll of dough. Gravity should help to force the roll to stick together and stop the sugary goodness running out whilst it bakes.

Firmly joined together – then hide this join underneath the roll of dough

This also means you have the smooth (and prettier) side of the dough roll to play with. The most difficult bit of this bake is definitely joining the two short edges of dough together as they are very sugary and don’t want to stick.

This is my Chelsea Bun attempt but it’s very similar! The swirl of cinnamon at each end makes it difficult to join but making sure you have straight edges when you roll out the dough (unlike here – look at the overlap!) makes it much easier to join

I coaxed them together with butter and nipped the edges together with my fingers until they begrudgingly worked with me.

The troublesome join

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it finally stayed in place! It could almost be one MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut at this point. But it had to have another little rest to prove again (about 20 minutes) before the next step…

a MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut

Now here my recipe reading skills escape me again. What I failed to understand was Marguerite meant for me to cut completely through the ring to create a fan of cinnamon buns in the shape of a ring, like this…

Marguerite’s Swedish Tea Ring – How it should look in real life – fully exposed cinnamon

Unfortunately the photo was on a completely different page and I interpreted the instructions like this…

Partially exposed cinnamon – my interpretation

Brandishing my sharpest kitchen scissors I snipped delicately and diagonally into the ring to partially expose the cinnamon swirls. I must admit I was nervous that this slicing would compromise the integrity of my dough join so was possibly overly hesitant at this stage.

Snippity snip

All it needed was to be placed into a moderately hot oven for 30 minutes or so, until it turned golden brown.

Swedish Tea Ring ready for the oven

As the Swedish Tea Ring is essentially a bread dough I also made sure it was baked through by knocking the bottom of the ring to listen for the resounding hollow tap.

Fully baked (and a bit more irregular in shape than Marguerite’s)

The baked Swedish Tea ring is a tempting sight with glitterring cinnamon peeking out from the dough (although not the most organised of rings it still looks inviting to me!)

Lemon Glace Icing

Once the ring cooled fully I whipped up a batch of lemon glace icing. It hides an enormous amount of irregularities and flaws, especially if you layer up your icing! Again I can;t say I followed Marguerite’s recipe exactly. I like a tart lemon flavour so I sloshed in a bit of lemon extract to give an extra punch to the icing. I also free poured the icing sugar and mixed it with enough lemon juice to create a runny yet thick icing. (This does take quite a bit of icing sugar!).

free pouring icing – balanced over a big mug

When the icing is just about right in consistency it should taste good (obviously!) not be gritty, the sugar should totally melt into the liquid and it should part when stirred in the bowl. (see the picture above) This means it’s starting to hold it’s shape a bit whilst still being runny to cascade over your tea ring and coat the cake in thick white goo.

iced and decorated Swedish Tea Ring

It’s best to pop your Swedish Tea Ring on some greaseproof paper (or a plate) before you pour the icing over it to catch the icing waterfall. It needs some time to dry and set. I iced mine just before bed so it had time to set over night before being deposited into it’s travel box. Please note you may need more than 2 hands and a palette knife to prise your cake from the paper after it’s iced!

The final Swedish Tea Ring

Mary Berry recommends decorating cakes in groups of threes. I didn’t have the traditional galce cherries in my cupboard but I always have a store of sultanas, hence the trio of sultanas dotted on each section of ring. It’s also best to add these decorations while your icing is still wet.

The Swedish Tea Ring in it’s rustic glory

I loved this bake. It was a pleasure to make, especially as I could spend an hour at a time doing each step making it a more manageable bake to do after work over 2 evenings. The contrast of the sharp and sweet icing against the warming cinnamon is so comforting, just what you need after a long drive in the winter night. Each slice reveals a beautiful cinnamon swirl…

A cinnamon swirl in every slice

I can recommend it with a celebratory gin or a cup of tea. Whatever your preference, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I enjoyed seconds, and could have even squeezed in thirds if I wasn’t being polite!

A chunk of Swedish Tea Ring

It was a good job I had baked my mini Swedish Tea Ring and froze it for later on that week for my friend’s house warming, as it then made a special appearance in a photo shoot for the Sunderland Echo who published an article on my Blog North Award. You can see the mini Swedish Tea Ring being balanced on a cake stand by me here

Double Swedish Tea Ring – Little and Large


Things I used to make my Swedish Tea Ring

1 quantity of Richer Yeast Dough

  • 7g of dried instant yeast
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 lb plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 0z butter/margarine (you choose)
  • 1 egg
  • just under 1/2 pint milk (room temperature)

Swedish Tea Ring

Use 8 oz of richer yeast dough to make one tea ring or the full quantity of richer yeast dough to make a larger ring (and a mini ring like me)

Filling

  • 1 oz melted butter
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (although I added enough to ensure the sugar was a dark brown colour…)
  • Sultanas to decorate (although it should really be glace cherries)
  • 30-35 minutes 350F, Gas mark 3-4 or 170 degrees C

Lemon Water (Glace) Icing

  • about 200g-300g icing sugar (you may need more to get the right consistency)
  • about 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • a good slosh of lemon extract (not essence)