Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

It’s no secret I’m not the best sugar crafter or cake decorator. I’m still finding my feet when it comes to making pretty cakes. I’m more at home pouring loads of ganache over a cake and hoping for the best. So why on earth did I decide to attempt to cover a bundt cake with fondant icing you may wonder?! I’m always up for  a challenge and this really was a test of my cake decorating abilities.

A recent cake experiment - I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

A recent cake experiment My Giant Chocolate Truffle Cake – I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

I was invited to participate in Renshaws Baking Competition. The challenge? To bake and decorate a cake fit for the next heir to the throne, to welcome Baby Windsor into the world. My initial idea was to make a 3D crown, hence the bundt cake. however it seems my imagination is far more advanced than my sugarcrafting skills.

Lavender Bundt Baking

Lavender Bundt Baking

What flavour cake do you bake for the royals? Well, I know Kate enjoyed a few Lavender shortbreads during her pregnancy, so a Lavender Madeira Bundt Cake I baked. Hoping that she hasn’t since developed an aversion to lavender. Not that Kate’s ever going to actually eat this cake, but you know it’s the thought that counts.

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Roll roll roll your fondant gently off the table

One of the reasons I don’t venture into sugarcraft very often is that there isn’t a lot of space in my kitchen. Attempting to roll my crown out meant there was a bit of droppage on the floor. I rolled the fondant as thin as I could manage in one rectangular piece.

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Pizza cutter at the ready – crown creating

I don’t own any proper sugar crafting knives so wielding the pizza cutter I attempted to fashion some crown shapes. Cutting triangles out of the fondant.

Hoping the crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Hoping the sugar crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Once I had my basic crown shape I gently lifted it onto a cling film covered bundt tin. and held the pointy ends in place with a crumpled horseshoes of tin foil. Unfortunately the bundt tin then needed to have a cake baked into it, so it all went to hell. The crown ended up as a crumpled mess, so I made another. This crown snapped after it dried. Admitting defeat I returned to the drawing board.

jam up the bundt

jam up the bundt

To help spur on my creativity I decided to apply a layer of marzipan to the lavender bundt. Applying a liberal coating of apricot jam to make it all stick.

A layer of marzipan

A lovely layer of marzipan

Bundts are not usually iced in this way and I can now see why. Pouring a whole lot of chocolate over a bundt is a much easier option. This traditional style of icing is best suited to a more circular cake with flat edges, like with my wedding cake. Anyway who said I had to be traditional! Undeterred I threw a thin layer of marizpan over the bundt and poked a hole in the marzipan, coaxing it into the inner ring and under the moulded edges of the cake.

Marzipaned bundt

Marzipaned bundt

Surprisingly the marzipan worked exceedingly well. I filled in a few gaps with some extra bits of marzipan as no one will know about the messy joins. If you won’t tell I won’t either. AND only a small bit of the extra marzipan fell into my mouth whilst rolling this out, honest. (Did I mention that I have a marzipan obsession?? It is manna from the heavens!)

Smooth fondant finish

Smooth fondant finish

The most tricky bit is trying to get a thin layer of smooth white fondant icing to cover the bundt. The Renshaw white fondant is really lovely to work with, so soft and smooth, but I had to add a lot of icing sugar to stop it sticking to the worksurface so I could lift it all up in one go over the rolling pin. I didn’t have the courage to pop a hole in the middle of the white icing once I eventually got it on to the cake. I couldn’t have faced more rolling after it took me a good few goes to get it the right size to fit the cake. It took a bit of manoeuvring in my little kitchen to get it to work but once in place it worked a treat! Using the palm of my hand I smoothed the fondant and buffed it to a nice sheen so a hint of the moulding of the bundt can be seen through the icing.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

In a bid to create a royal crown for my baby cake I cracked open a pack of yellow fondant. I clearly had to give up on my crown idea, as this looked more like a wonky chimney. A new approach was needed.

I give up on the crowns let's make flowers instead!

I give up on the crowns let’s make flowers instead!

And that approach is always flowers! I have a few sugar craft tools in my kitchen, most of which tend to be flowers or stars. The yellow sugar paste was really easy to handle. As it was so soft it didn’t really require any kneading to make it more pliable. It was good to go straight from the packet. As we don’t know if the baby is a girl or a boy (yet) I chose the gender neutral buttercup yellow.

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

I whacked a whole load of yellow buttercups randomly all over the bundt straight from the cutter. As the white fondant and the yellow sugar paste were still moist no edible glue was needed to hold the flowers in place. You could add some for extra security if you like, but the fondants bonded instantly and let me crack on with cutting as many flowers as possible.

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Just when you’re think you’re done… keep going

Just when I started to think I was almost finished, I kept on cutting flowers and piling them up in the centre of the bundt to create a bouquet of buttercups fit for the Duchess.

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

I realised that my bundt was starting to resemble a 1970s swimming cap. I was going for a vintage look but no one wants to eat a swimming cap, especially not Kate Middleton and Wills. The flowers required a lift. Spray on silver lustre is always my go to when cakes need a little something extra. It’s my pièce de résistance. And yet it still wasn’t enough. Back to my cupboard and I discovered a pot of edible pink pearls. Terrific! I studded the still supple yellow fondant flowers with a pearl in the centre. This (in my opinion) makes all the difference.

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Birds eye bundt view – Welcome to the World Baby Windsor

Pushing the pearls carefully into the centre of each flower added variance to the flowers, giving a more natural look and lifting the petals slightly from the cake. The added pressure also encouraged the bond between the fondants to help hold the flowers on to the cake.

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I love a bit of lavender in my baking, you can probably tell from all of the other cakes I’ve made. Lavender keeps coming back. Infusing caster sugar with lavender is so easy to do and gives you a naturally wonderful flavour that enhances any cake, shortbread, meringue, Madeleine or cupcake that takes your fancy. It’s subtle floral scent perfumes the house and soothes the soul (and tummy). A nice hunk of lavender Madeira cake is best served with a strong cup of proper tea. The marzipan and fondant gives you an extra flavour dimension and sweetness. That sugar boost a new mammy needs. Welcome to the World Baby Windsor.

Baby Bundt Cake

Build me up Buttercup – Baby Bundt Cake

Things that I used to make this Baby Bundt Cake

  • 115g Self Raising Flour
  • 115g Plain Flour
  • 175g Margarine
  • 175g Lavender infused sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 500g Renshaw white fondant icing
  • 500g Natural Marzipan
  • 40g yellow sugar paste
  1. Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy
  2. Beat eggs in, one at a time until fully incorporated
  3. Fold in the flours
  4. Fold in enough milk to get a good dropping consitency
  5. Pour into a bundt tin and smooth down, filling all of the gaps
  6. Bake for 50 minutes at 170 degrees C
  7. Cool
  8. Coat with apricot jam
  9. Apply a layer of marzipan
  10. Apply a layer of fondant icing
  11. Apply flowers, lustre and pearls!
  12. Present to your new parent friends.
Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercup Bouquet

Thank you to Renshaw for sending me this lovely box of icing and marzipan. I loved getting creative with the icing and it’s really easy to work with. I shall have to practice my cake decorating skills more often! Now who needs a celebration cake??

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

If you’d like to see the other entries in the Royal baby cake competiton head on over to www.renshawbaking.com

 

 

 

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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

How many Hydrangea Sugar Flowers does it take to make a Wedding Cake?

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After you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time baking 8 enormous boozy fruit cakes, how do you decide which wedding cake design to go for? Do you opt for a classic look, a fashionable design or something to match your colour scheme?? For those that know me, you will know that there has never been a colour scheme in my life. I don’t manage to match things very well. In fact if things clash that’s probably for the better. (

I couldn’t bring myself to decide on just one colour for my bouquet, as I love so many colours so I went for a bit of everything. It was only a last minute decision to leave out the bright pink roses from the bouquet. I decided it may be a little bit too much.  You can even see the blue hydragena flowers peeking out between the hyacinths. It was touch and go as to whether these flowers would bloom with it being a December wedding. It was clearly meant to be!

My wedding flowers

My wedding flowers – a little bit of everything

Part of me longed for a classic cake that I would love forever and part of me me wished for an entire room of different types of cake from around the world. Unfortunately there is not enough space in my freezer to create such an awesome display unless I baked them all the day before the wedding which in reality, was never going to happen.

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

As a compromise I baked as many extras as I could possibly manage. Opting for petite Lavender Meringues

Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

Table Treats – Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

and mini bundt brownies and madeleines to adorn the tables with.

I found so many gorgeous cake designs flicking through endless pages of Pintrest and magazines but many were way out of my skills set. One favourite was an impossibly beautiful white damask lace design on a pale green fondant  I made many many trips to my local cake decorating shop and experimented with different technniques,  I was never going to be able to use a stencil. (I practiced with a little one I had in the house and I always managed to smudge it or it oozed out of the sides.)  I was then going to make millions of sugar roses, but I made about 4. It took me ALL night and I felt angry. It was way too fiddly and my roses always turn out ridiculously enormous and ‘rustic’ looking.

Green Damask Lace Cake – The Cake Parlour

Another of my favourite designs was a tiered cake with a cascade of hydragena blossoms. Little did I know that both of these cakes were designed by the same woman the amazing Zoe Clark. (I have since purchased her books as I love her designs!)

I continued in an experimental vein ordering lots of plastic sugar tools online and waited a month for them to arrive. I attempted to make fondant pearls by hand but didn’t think about how they needed to dry so ended up with one lump of sugar pearl. That would never do.

One lump of pearl for me please

Just the one lump of pearl for me please

Back to the drawing board and my two favourite designs. My Mam invested in a hydrangea cutter and mould for me (thank you Mam) rather than watch me struggle with trying to do everything for myself.

Zoe Clark’s design used pink blossoms which is lovely but I’m not much of a pink girl. Instead I experimented with a few different colours including, lilac, baby blue, teal and finally decided upon ‘hydrangena blue’. I coloured some florists paste with food colouring and added a little more to get the right colour. I also left some to dry for a couple of weeks to see how the colour developed as it can fade as it dries out fully. I had found my winner. I made 3 slightly different shades of hydrangea blue paste to give the flowers more of a natural look and variety in the final cascade.

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it's the colour you need.I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it's in you can't take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it's not too sticky!

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it’s the colour you need. I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it’s in you can’t take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it’s not too sticky!

When adding food colouring gel to sugar paste it always makes the paste sticky. I find it much easier to handle if I colour it a few days before I need to use it.

Roll out the colourful florist's paste on a lightly dusted surface - making sugar flowers hydrangea

Roll out the colourful florist’s paste on a lightly dusted surface

You can add a little icing powder to the worksurface when you’re rolling it out but not too much as it will dry the paste out and it will crack. Florists paste isn’t cheap but it has a special ingredient (albumen) which allows you to work it into much thinner and more delicate shapes than normal sugar paste. It also dries really hard quite quickly so it keeps it’s shape. I tried to make my own (I know this was not my best idea!) I thought it would be cheaper to buy powdered albumen and knead it into sugar paste. In reality this was an extra faff on that I didn’t have the time for. It was much easier to just buy pre made florists paste and mix my own colour. If you’re feeling extravagant you could even buy yours in the shade you really want.

strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste - sugar flowers hydrangea

Strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste

My hydrangea cutter and mould instructions informed me that I needed vegetable fat to smear on the silicon mould to prevent the paste from sticking to the mould. It was late, I was all ready to cut out some flowers so I wasn’t going to make it to any shops. Improvising I took some pearl lustre powder and popped it in a shallow bowl.

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Using a brand new clean blusher brush I coated the mould liberally with a combination of edible pearl and baby blue lustre powders.

Dust like your life depends on it

Dust like your life depends on it

Et voila. I have satisfactorily released flowers with a touch a sparkle and glamour that I was going to have to paint on afterwards. Success and time saved!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

The little mould that I loved to hate. The first 50 flowers were a breeze but your fingers do start to ache after so much cutting, folding and pressing! The trick is to fold the mould over carefully so you don’t dislodge the flower inside. Or if the paste is too thick it oozes out of the sides of the mould when pressed…

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There is a lot of patience and gentleness required in this process…

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom – look at that beautiful detail

If you’ve lustred up the mould enough it should pop out quite easily but you might need to coax it out if it’s a bit stubborn. (Spot the cocktail sticks in the background). Flipping over the mould allows gravity to do the work for you and release the lovely detailed blossom into your palm.

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it's job

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it’s job

The final result! I also added a little baby blue edible lustre powder to the mix to ad depth and variation to the blossoms. I was glittering for a week after this!

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

I found a good way to make the flowers look more realistic was to gently roll themeach one in my cupped hand before leaving them to dry. This gives more shape to the petals, so they don’t appear too flat and fake. Then repeat times a million… This is probably an extreme exaggeration but I lost count of how many flowers I actually pressed. I used about 2 and half 500g packs of florists paste to create maybe around 150 hydrangea blossoms. Not all of them ended up on the cake however as I dropped some on the floor… Some snapped after they dried. They are quite delicate little flowers! And some flowers just weren’t that pretty (sorry flowers but some had to be prised apart and suffered the consequences) so they didn’t make the cut.

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

The flowers need to be held in shape whilst they dry. You can splash out on a special sugar paste foam mat if you like, or you can wrap an egg box in cling film and pile them all up like me. Crinkled up tin foil works really well too. It may also be a good idea to add layers of cling film to stop the flowers sticking together. I know I’m biased but don’t they look pretty all sparkly and delicate??

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat...

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat…

It takes about a day for the flowers to dry out. I made mine in stages so I could spend an hour or two at a time pressing hydragenas until I thought I had enough. Then  all that’s left to do is ice the 5 tiers of fruit cake and assemble it all.

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

This is part 2 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

We’re painting the roses red… Sugar flowers (first attempt)

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My Christmas food coloring pastes have arrived. I’ve started icing the 14 mini Christmas cakes and I’ve been watching the Junior Great British Bake Off avidly. I’m so very impressed with the creativity and imagination that the young bakers have.

I’ve been itching to try out sugar craft but been put off slightly by the expense and equipment required.

Improvising to the hilt and having read I read Ruth Clemens sugar rose tutorial a couple of months ago I thought that I’d give sugar craft a whirl. Surely it can’t be too difficult. Can it?

Lacking any official icing tools apart from things I can find in my cupboards which includes a cocktail stick to add food colouring, a glass worktop saver, 2 plastic sandwich bags, my mini children’s rolling pin and of course a block of fondant icing.

Its quite delicate work. Not so much like play dough as I had hoped. I mainly gave up attempting to roll anything out properly and just used my hands.

Here’s the results…