The Looker Wedding, February 2014

I can hardly believe it was a whole year ago that Hannah and Bill got married, but it was exactly one year ago today that we celebrated their wedding day at Gosfield Hall.  And it was such an amazing day.  The venue was stunning, and everything was brilliantly organised and executed.  Hannah had wanted her closest friends involved in various aspects of the day, and as you can guess, I was entrusted with the task of the wedding cake!  I had only done one wedding cake before this, but this didn’t stop Hannah requesting some things that seemed a little out of my league!! ;-)   As we talked about ideas, Hannah’s enthusiasm wore off on me & I agreed to quite a tall order!  But Hannah & her mum Elaine were a great help, sourcing & buying all the extra bits and even hiring the cake tins for me to use.

My starting point was to bake a 14″ round fruit cake – the largest size I could fit in my oven!!  This turned out to be very stressful, but with hindsight is now the funniest part of the process!!!…  I had baked slightly smaller fruit cakes in the past, and had struggled to lift them out of the oven with my oven gloves on, as they end up so heavy.  So as this was even more mix (including a whole litre of whiskey!!!), I had to find a massive washing up bowl to prepare it in as no mixing bowls were large enough! I also had to coordinate it with James so that he could be at my house to remove it from the oven for me, as I was worried about lifting it myself.  I started preparing one Saturday afternoon and by early evening had the large cake in my oven, with the tin wrapped on the outside in newspaper to stop the edges getting too crispy, as it was going to be in the oven for several hours.  Towards the end of the cooking time I also wanted to cover the top to stop it browning too much, and in the past I’ve always used baking paper for this.  However, on this occasion it lead to a bit of a disaster!  As I placed the paper over the top of the cake, the fan in the oven blew it up, and as the oven had already been on for several hours, it was obviously just so hot the paper immediately caught alight as it touched the top of the oven!! I realised and pulled it straight out and managed to get to the sink without burning myself, but as I returned to the oven I saw the rest of the paper in there had also caught alight!!!  Terrified, (and swearing quite a bit!!) I carefully lifted it from the oven & cut the burning paper off & stomped on it to put it out…..  Still shaking, I tried to assess how bad the cake was, and it was scorched just on the surface around the edge, and had lots of remnants of burnt paper on it!  I could have cut the very top, burnt part off and carried on, but I didn’t think that was acceptable for a wedding cake!  So, I decided to leave it out of the oven and start over again the following day…  I cracked the kitchen window to get rid of the burnt smell & headed to the train station to collect James, who got in my car & greeted me with “Hi! Why do you smell like a bonfire?”!!!  Still upset, I told him about my incident as he pulled bits of burnt paper from my hair!  Once back home, I had a proper look at the cake…  I sliced off the top layer which was scorched, and cut out the very middle which needed longer to cook.. We tested the rest & it was pretty nice!  So I cut it into pieces and put it in tubs to take to share with my friends I was seeing the next day..  When I saw Hannah & Bill I told them everyone was getting some samples as I had set fire to it!!!  They took the news calmly, & I’m glad they didn’t loose their faith in me because of it!  I had to keep the hired tin an extra day, but the second attempt was perfect, & I now cover all my cakes with foil & not baking paper!! ;-)

I finished this tier as it could be done ahead of the wedding day, and found more struggles, but none as hindering as my first problem!  This cake was so large, that I struggled rolling fondant large enough to go over it, even though I had bought the largest rolling pin I had seen on amazon!  However I did manage it, and after a few evenings (adding the marzipan and fondant on separate nights) I had the bottom tier ready.  I loved the striking contrast between the deep purple & the crisp white strips I added, probably helped by the fact purple is my favourite colour!
The second tier I baked was a 12″ Victoria sponge, filled with jam and buttercream, which I covered with white fondant and decorated with just a few small white & purple flowers.  The top tier was from a new recipe I hadn’t tried before – a sticky ginger sponge.  It was delicious!  Again this one was covered with white fondant, and was to be covered in lots of small white dots.  I achieved this using a special tool to imprint a pattern for this to ensure they were all evenly spaced, and then piped over each indent with royal icing.  Luckily James was on hand to help me with this, and he followed me with a damp brush to pat down any dots that had a ‘tail’ on them & weren’t sitting in the right shape.  As you can imagine this took quite a while and was somewhat tedious, but I was pleased with the effect once it was all done!
This was all of the work complete until the day of the wedding, and I had to be well prepared so I could stack & complete the cake at the venue, so I packed everything up ready & arrived at the venue in plenty of time.  However, as prepared as I was I felt quite under pressure as I was assembling the cake by the stair well, where lots of early-arriving guests passed and saw me!!  I also had the videographer filming me as I was putting the tiers together, which I wasn’t keen on as I didn’t want people seeing the incomplete pieces!! ;-)  But, once it was all stacked & the ribbons were attached, I stood back to look & was really pleased with it!

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Hannah and Bill’s wedding cake

Hannah had got lots of ‘extras’ for this cake, so it had a beautiful stand to go on, with artificial flowers arranged around the base of it, and two sets of ribbon around each cake – one personalised purple ribbon with their names and wedding date on, and one diamanté.  The two biggest features on the cake were the vase between the top and middle tier, filled with lights and purple petals, and the ceramic topper of a dancing bride and groom with a large heart behind them.

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The cake viewed from the stairwell

 

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The happy couple cutting their cake

The cake looked really grand and I nervously waited to hear Hannah & Bill’s reaction to it… Fortunately they loved it!!  It matched the colours they used elsewhere in the decorations – such as on the stairwell as you can see below – and really suited the beautiful venue.  Hannah & Bill loved their day, as did all their guests!

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Hannah and Bill with their closest family members

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

I know I’m a little late with the Christmas wishes, but I didn’t get time to get this post done any sooner, and as it contains some Christmas cake pops it didn’t seem right not to include a Christmas greeting!! So I hope everyone had a great Christmas & is having a brilliant start to 2015 :)

As mentioned, I have a few Christmas cake pops to show you which I made using a different method to normal, and a few other recent makes to show why I haven’t had much free time before now to post!

For this round of cake pops, I decided to use the method I had read about in books and seen on YouTube – whenever I have researched cake pops I haven’t found any instructions referring to using a cake pop machine. Rather than making little balls of sponge cake in my cake pop maker as I have done in the past, I used the method of crumbling the cake and mixing it with frosting, and hand rolling it into the desired shapes.  With little idea about quantities, I decided to just make a standard 8″ Victoria sponge, and then blitzed it all up in my food processor to make fine crumbs.  I weighed out portions of the sponge, and calculated how much frosting to add based on quantities from a book.  I normally make as much as possible of my fillings and frostings, and have never bought ready-made frosting.  However, my mum had got me tub of some chocolate fudge frosting she saw reduced in the supermarket a while ago, and I needed to use it up before it expired as I hadn’t wanted to use it before now!  So I decided now was the ideal time to use it and I added the quantity stated in my book, and mixed it into my crumbled sponge until I had a nice smooth mix.  However, it was also a very sticky mix!  So, I added more crumbs until it seemed a nice enough mix to roll into the shapes I needed – some cones for Christmas trees and hats, and spheres for reindeer heads and Christmas puddings!  Something else I did differently this time was to add my cake pops sticks (dipped in Candy Melts) in to the cake, and to set them in the fridge for 15 minutes.  This really helped and none of them fell off their sticks when I was coating them!  I also melted Trex in a Bain Marie before adding my Candy Melts, and this seemed to help me get a better consistency for coating.  I don’t know how this made a difference to adding the Trex during melting, but I did manage to do a better job coating them this time!  I added extra decoration as needed before the coating dried (I had made all these in advance so they were ready), and once they were dry they were ready for the taste test!!  They were very sweet due to the frosting I had used, but James and I decided that as they were small it was acceptable – so long as no one ate more then about 5 or they might become a bit sickly!  I was pleased with their appearance, but as always, could see there’s still room for improvement!

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Christmas Cake Pops – reindeer, trees, puddings and hats!

Although the cake pop stand I have looks good, it doesn’t hold the sticks securely enough for them to stay still during transit, so here you can see the cake pops in a box that James prepared for me to transport and display them in!

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Selection of Christmas Cake Pops!

Also over the Christmas period, I had some exciting cake orders!  Firstly, a friend of mine I used to work with called Mandeep text me asking if her friend Tracy could have my details to make enquiries about Frozen themed cupcakes for her daughters birthday.  I thought this sounded exciting as I found Olaf SO adorable that I loved the film just because of him!!  I was then even more excited once Tracy emailed me details of what her daughter Eden had seen and would like….as it included one special Olaf cupcake!  I spent a few days preparing different parts of Olaf so they had time to dry, and assembled him the day before Tracy was coming to collect her order.  I also prepared 30 cupcakes with my favourite frosting coloured blue, and topped them with white fondant snowflakes and small silver sugar balls.  I bought a set of snowflake cutters from Lakeland and was really pleased with them – they were easier to use than I expected and I thought the embossed parts really made them look professional.

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Snowflake cupcake

I was really pleased with how they all looked, and Tracy and Eden were delighted too, and having happy customers really adds to my enjoyment of my cake making!!

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Snowflake cupcakes for a Frozen themed party

Although I was pretty sad to let Olaf go, I quite wanted to keep him for myself ; )

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Olaf cupcake!

I also spent Christmas Eve and Boxing Day baking and working on cakes, but it didn’t mind as it was for two very special little girls – my god daughters Grace & Freya.  They are twins, but with very different tastes, so they had very different requests for cakes!  Grace loves superheroes and asked for a Spider-Man cake, and Freya asked for a Princess cake with her favourite colour, purple.

As Freya requested chocolate cake, I knew I could bake this on Christmas Eve as it’s flavour would develop over the extra few days and it would still be fresh for their party on Saturday.  I also hired a tin, and thought I’d be best to leave myself enough time in case my first cake didn’t bake well as the tin held such a large amount of cake mix, and I still find getting a good bake on a large sponge tricky.  The tin I hired was a Wilton Wondermold, and it is designed to be used with the top half of a barbie doll stuck into it, so the cake forms the skirt of her dress!  I had seen these cakes when Freya mentioned it to me, so was quite excited to try it out, and bought a blonde doll to use to match Freya’s hair colour.  My first try with the tin baked reasonably well, but I didn’t cover the top and the outside edge at the top turned a bit crispy as it took about an hour to bake!  However, my main issue was that I didn’t use enough cake mix, and the dress looked too short and out of proportion!  So, I doubled the amount of mix and baked again later Christmas Eve, covering the top of the cake with foil towards the end of the baking time to stop it drying out.  Luckily I was happy with this second attempt, and could see as I cut it into three layers, that it had cooked well and evenly throughout.  On Boxing Day I filled the layers with chocolate buttercream, and covered the whole of the dress with more buttercream for the fondant icing to stick too.  I made a white underskirt, embossed with a small flower pattern, with silver sugar balls in the centre of each flower.  I sprayed this white part with a shimmer spray to add some subtle sparkle.  I then covered the rest of the skirt with purple fondant, which took me two attempts as my first piece of rolled fondant ripped as I moved it as it was so big and difficult to move.  I added some frills around the underskirt, and dressed the doll with white fondant, adding two purple flowers and a purple flower necklace.

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Princess cake with Barbie Doll top and chocolate cake skirt!

Grace asked for a vanilla victoria sponge, so I baked this Boxing Day morning, and once it had cooled I levelled it and filled it with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream.  I covered it with a bold blue fondant, and spent ages rolling pieces of black fondant to make a spiderweb pattern.  As this had taken so long, I decided to make some black royal icing and to pipe the pattern on Spider-Man’s face to make it quicker, although I thought this was a bit of a gamble as I don’t do much piping and still need to work on this skill!  I had already cut out some red shapes and left them to dry for a few days, so I took one of these and piped the same pattern, and before it dried I added his eyes from rolled black and white fondant.  I stuck this onto the cake with more royal icing, and with the contrast of the colours and a bright red board, I thought the cake looked quite impressive!

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Spider-Man vanilla sponge cake

Grace and Freya were really pleased with their cakes, and I’m already looking forward to what they might ask me for next year, if I’m lucky enough to be asked again!

 

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Grace and Freya’s cakes ready for their 6th Birthday party

Finally, I just have a quick paragraph about my last Boxing Day bake…  My brother Craig had requested some White Russian cupcakes as part of his Christmas present, and I wanted to bake them as late as possible so he could take them back to Bristol with him to share with his girlfriend Natalie.  I had made these for the first time a few months back and had text Craig to tell him now much I liked them, as he was the one who got me into drinking White Russians!  This cupcakes had Vodka and Kahlua in the mix, and I also brushed extra Kahlua over them when they were still warm from baking.  I topped them with a Kahlua buttercream, and dusted some of them with cocoa powder to make them look more appetising.  I loved the taste of these, and certainly want to try more alcoholic cupcakes now!

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White Russian cupcakes make with Vodka and Kahlua