The Wedding (cake)

After a whole week of brilliant sunshine and high temperatures, the heavens opened on Genna’s wedding day.  It rained and thundered throughout the entire wedding!  But no-one cared a jot.  The day could not have been more beautiful. 

Way too tired to give details.  The pictures say everything.  🙂




An enormous thank you to the owner and staff of Aswanley for making Gen and Keith’s day so incredibly special.  🙂


The Wedding Cake – The Recipe

Last night I made the final practice cake.  The wedding is only eight days away – eeeeeeek! – and, though the last sponge was a resounding success, I felt one more trial was necessary for peace of mind.  Again, the cake turned out very well.  So well in fact that when I returned to the staffroom at lunch time to take a photo of the leftover slices of cake this crumb was all that remained!



I will post a photo of the final cake after next Saturday’s wedding.  Until then, here, after much calculations,  experimentation and failure, is the recipe for a 10″ square moist vanilla sponge cake.  🙂


The Wedding Cake (based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s white butter cake)

 650g Tipo 00 flour (my choice of flour caused much discussion.  The recipe called for North American “cake flour” which is finer than UK plain flour and bleached.  Solved the problem by using the ultra fine 00 flour and self bleaching it by blasting it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Many thanks to this blog for providing the solution)

650g golden unrefined caster sugar

10 teaspoons baking powder

1.5 teaspoons salt

10 large organic egg whites, room temperature

560g whole milk, room temperature

5 teaspoons vanilla essence

360g organic butter, room temperature

Extra butter and flour for baking tins

800g pre-made fondant icing

Butter icing – perfect recipe here

Corn flour

Good quality strawberry jam

  • Preheat a non-fan-heated oven to 180oC exactly
  • Rub two 10″ cake tins with butter.  Dust with flour and line the bases with baking paper.
  • Lightly mix the egg whites with the vanilla essence and 200ml of the milk.  Set aside.
  • Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  • Cream the butter and add to the dry ingredients along with the milk.  Mix until most of the flour is dampened then transfer the mixture to an electric mixer (there is a lot of mixture – adding the flour and other ingredients straight into the electric mixer’s bowl results in a flour storm).  Mix on medium speed for 1.30 mins.
  • Add 1/3 of the egg mixture to the batter and mix for 20 seconds.  Repeat until all of the egg mixture is combined.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 10 more seconds.
  • Pour equal amounts of the batter into the two pre-prepared baking tins and smooth over.
  • If you have a huge oven, bake both cakes in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.  If you have a normal sized oven, bake the cakes separately for 40 minutes each.
  • Remove baked cakes from the oven and cool thoroughly.
  • Carefully tip one cake onto a plate/cake holding thing.  Liberally spread with butter icing then strawberry jam.
  • Carefully  tip the second cake upside down on top of the base cake.  Placing this layer upside down ensures a very flat cake top.
  • Dust a work top with cornflour and roll the fondant out to 5mm thickness.  Carefully lay over the cake and trim. 


The Wedding Cake – Elephants and Baking Powder

As many of you know, I (Wendy-the-non-cake-maker) am presently trying to master the science of baking in order to make my best friend’s wedding cake next month (eeeek!).  Despite having purchased the aptly named Cake Bible and having read it cover to cover, all is not going smoothly.  In what way? you ask.  In many ways, I tell you.

Humour me whilst I tell you about a conversation D and I had last week.


On reading what promised to be a crucial section of my new baking book, I burst into tears.   One too many people had politely suggested I order a cake from the bakery and one too many of my baking attempts had been entirely inedible.   The nail in the coffin was the following paragraph:

“The larger the pan size, the less baking powder is used in proportion to other ingredients.  This is because of surface tension.  The larger the diameter of the pan, the slower the heat penetration and the less support the rising cake receives because the sides are farther from the centre.  Baking powder weakens the cake’s structure by enlarging the air spaces, so decreasing the baking powder strengthens the structure and compensates for the retarded gelatinization and the decrease in support.”

No matter how many times I read and re-read it, it made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  It appeared to be suggesting that something big required less baking powder and that sounded like madness to me.  Seeing my distress and knowing me well enough to understand it was caused by sheer frustration rather than any real ailment, D asked if he could help.

“Well, not unless you can tell me what this crap means!” I sobbed and read him the paragraph. 

After listening carefully D breezily announced that the writer was, as she had stated, talking about the principles of surface tension and that it was really a simple concept.  Sceptically, I listened to my science teacher boyfriend’s explantion.  It seems that the smaller an object is the greater its surface area proportionally.

“Think of an elephant.” D explained.  “Imagine the amount of skin required to cover an elephant but also imagine just how much matter is inside.  Now think of a mouse and how much skin it has on the outside but how little is inside it.”

“But it’s smaller.”  I was confused.

“Ok, think of how many acrobatic circus mice it would take to stand on top of one another and balance in formation to make an elephant sized, elephant shaped structure.”

I imagined that and giggled.

“In that structure”, he continued, “there’s a lot more skin or surface area, isn’t there?  Think of all those mice…”

Suddenly it became clear.  Baking powder makes cakes airy and big cakes can’t cope with too much air beacause their surfaces are (proportionally) smaller giving them less support.  Therefore you need less baking powder (proportionally) to make an elephant than you do to make a mouse.  Eureka!


Buoyed by my new understanding of baking I decided to take on the cake challenge yet again.  I had a lovely sounding recipe for “white butter cake” and I had made a list of hints from the exceptionally knowledgably Ms Levy Beranbaum.  Unfortunately, implementing all of her advice was not as simple as I had hoped.

  • Use aluminium cake pans – Couldn’t find those.
  • Make sure the cake pan is the same height as the cake you want to make – couldn’t find those either.
  • Make sure your baking powder is not out of date – that baking powder has a shelf life was new to me.  Checked my tin and, yup, expired 2005. Bought new stuff.
  • Use “cake flour” – this doesn’t exist in the UK.  I used Tipo ’00 instead.  It’s very fine.
  • Make sure all ingredients are room temperature – ok doke.
  • Ensure your oven is the right temperature – checked and it is.
  • Rub cake tin with clarified butter, dust with flour and line the bottom with baking paper.
  • Cook cake in the centre of the oven.
  • When cooking large butter cakes ensure you cool them thoroughly before turning out.

With all this good advice and a carefully worked out recipe (more about that another day), I felt sure my next baking attempt could not go wrong.   But go wrong it did.  See for yourself.



What went wrong?  The answer lies in the last three hints I gleaned from Ms Levy Beranbaum.  Firstly, my oven was too small to accomodate both cake tins at the same time resulting in one cake being cooked on top but not on the bottom and the other being cooked on the bottom but not on top.  Secondly, I forgot to put the baking paper in and the sponge stuck to the tin making the last hint redundant.  :-S

On the bright side, knowing where I went wrong means I know what to correct and the parts of the sponge that cooked well were absolutely delicious.  That’s progress!

Trying again tomorrow.  Watch this space…

The Wedding Cake – 1

Firstly, can I say an enormous thank you to everyone who has given me baking advice in the last few days.  It has been greatly appreciated and will, undoubtably, come in very useful in the next couple of months.  I’ve made a wee bit of progress this weekend in that I’ve become more organised and have also been clearly reminded of what my cake baking abilities are at present.

 Firstly, D’s mum has very kindly lent me her rather cool 1970’s Kenwood Chef.  I can now experiment with both hand and electrical mixing.  Some people swear by mixers, others think they create more problems than they solve.  Joy from Almanzo’s Belly suggested I stick with the manual approach and “use a wooden spoon for [my] creaming and really beat the air in, and a metal spoon for [my] flour folding.”  

Secondly, on Lucy’s advice I’ve ordered The Cake Bible from Amazon U.S. (it’s not available over here).  Eagerly awaiting its arrival and wondering what Ms Levy Beranbaum thinks about mixers.

 Thirdly, the happy couple have given me a clearer idea of what they’d like: a square cake, with royal icing, not fruit cake, decorated with gold ribbon and fresh flowers.  The above picture is from their wedding invitations and was painted by Faye Anderson, the same artist who designed my banner.  🙂

 And finally, I had another go at making the stunning vanilla sponge that I’d spotted on Confections of a Foodie Bride a few months ago and, yet again, I failed miserably to produce anything edible.  Not only did it in no way visually resemble Shawda’s beautiful cake, it wasn’t cooked through and it had an odd greasy texture when cooled.  I’m not fazed by this disaster though.  This cake is my public starting point.  I have eight weeks to become a more confident, more successful cake baker. 

I can do it, I can do it, I can do it….  😀

Trial and Error

If your name is Genna and you are getting married in a couple of months and you have asked your only bridesmaid and oldest friend to bake your wedding cake, then read no further.  The contents of the following paragraphs are of absolutely no interest to you whatsoever.

Go away.

I said, go away, Gen. 

Jeez, you’re so nosey.  Get!

OK… I think she has gone.

I’m in a bit of a pickle.  My bestest friend in the whole wide world and her lovely fiance are getting married in May.  So excited was I at the prospect of being part of the wedding that I offered/demanded to make the wedding cake.  That I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and that I am not a baker did not faze me in the slightest.  I had five months to learn how to bake a cake and five months to learn how to use royal icing.  She didn’t even want a proper fruity wedding cake: she wanted a light sponge filled with jam or cream or something else moist.  And it was to serve just twenty five people.   It didn’t seem like a tall order.

Well, I have since tried out five recipes and each cake has been highly disappointing.  I haven’t even ventured into icing territory yet!  Where am I going wrong?  Is my lack of mechanical mixer the problem?  Have I simply been unlucky in my recipe choices?  Am I just a rubbish baker?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I am running out of time and if I cannot crack this I’m going to have to admit defeat and order a cake from the local bakery.  Boo!

Antonia commented earlier in the week that she likes it when we share disasters.  That’s fortunate as starting this weekend I am going to share with you all my cake trials.  Including all of the errors. 

Any advice before I start?