For weeks now I been mentally planning this cake and found myself awake at 5.30am on the morning of my designated cake baking day! This time I chose a Madeira cake for my two tiers with a jam and butter cream filling. I have never made Madeira cake before as I prefer a Victoria sandwich sponge and having made the Madeira, I would only use it for fondant iced cakes as it is slightly firmer and dryer that a traditional Victoria sandwich. For this job the Madeira was perfect.
Having made my cakes, next came the nerve racking bit; icing and stacking! Actually, I couldn't stack it until we had travelled the 130 mile trip home to the city because I didn't have a box tall enough to transport it! Having iced and decorated my two tiers and made the fondant numbers that I planned to add once the cake was stacked, I packed a bag of "tools" including my cake lifter, sugar paste glue, paint brush, pearl spray and royal icing. What I didn't take (and should have) was any extra fondant. Unfortunately, in transport, the "3" for the 30 broke and when I stacked the cakes I had left the dowels slightly too long so there was a gap between the tiers. I was able to get some yellow fondant from a local shop but it didn't have enough time to dry, which is why it looks a little weird. I tried to fill the gap between the cakes with some royal icing but this didn't work particularly well. So the lessons I learnt about stacking cakes are
- cut the dowels slightly shorter so they do not stick out of your cake. It is better if they recess slightly.
- try out your stacking before delivery so you can tidy up / hide any imperfections. Often cakes will have a small ribbon around the joins.
- make spare parts for your decorations in case of breakage.
- leave two days between icing and stacking so the base layer of fondant has time to set.
- vertical writing with royal icing is difficult. Better to ice on your banner before adding to your cake.
- Try and get your base layer cake as flat as possible for stacking.
Overall this cake was a good first attempt and both my sister and my niece were thrilled by their cake, my niece particularly liked the ballet shoes hidden around the back of the cake which were a homage to her 6th birthday cake. This cake is the stuff of family legend being that the "ballet shoes" birthday cake looked more like ballet shoes for princess Fiona from Shrek than a little 6 year old. What makes it even more amusing is the fact that my niece has tiny feet and even at the ripe old age of 30 these ballet shoes would have been too big!
175g/6oz butter, at room temperature
175g/6oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
250g/9oz self-raising flour
2-3 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease an 18cm/7in round cake tin, line the base with greaseproof paper and grease the paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each one and adding a tablespoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture curdling.
Sift the flour and gently fold in, with enough milk to give a mixture that falls slowly from the spoon.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and lightly level the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Vanilla butter cream
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
250 icing sugar sifted
1tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
I use my Kenwood chef with paddle beater for the butter cream.
Beat the butter until very soft, it will be very pale and creamy looking.
Add the icing and slowly increase the speed on your mixer until all the icing sugar is incorporated and the mixture is soft and smooth.
Beat in the vanilla extract and milk until you have light and fluffy butter cream.
Use to sandwich your cakes or top cupcakes.
Decorate anyway to your heart desires!