If you're a regular reader of these pages, you'll know that things started way back in 2009, the bits and pieces which I post about have evolved as time has progressed and I've grown up. However, posts about my adventures in baking have proven to be something of a regular fixture around these parts- and I'm relieved to say that since my first foray into making cupcakes back in the day, my skills in the kitchen have improved quite considerably. Whilst cupcakes are still a firm favourite in my baking repertoire, I've picked up some new recipes which have proved just as enjoyable to experiment with in the kitchen- including macarons and lots of festive bakes which have become real perennial favourites. However, for a fair few months or so now, I've been working on my biggest baking challenge to date- a wedding cake!!!
When my lovely college friend Katy told me she was getting married, it seemed like making her wedding cake would be the perfect present. We settled on something quite simple rather early on- a vintage inspired Victoria Sponge cake with tiered layers. Not only was this something which we were sure would be a guaranteed crowd pleaser, it was also a bake which would be easy to whip up in a comparatively short space of time- and which would be pretty hassle free to transport to Cambridge, where the ceremony was taking place. Whilst this was definitely one of my scariest (and biggest!) baking challenges to date, it was one which I enjoyed- so I thought it made sense to share the recipe and some top tips in case you're thinking of doing something similar, whether for a wedding or for another celebration.
First thing is first- the recipe. I stuck to a Mary Berry classic as it is so straightforward and had worked really well when I practiced it. Obviously depending on how many separate layers you want to have, then the quantities are subject to change- I've listed the total ingredients I used for this three tier version in brackets:
225g soft unsalted butter (675g total) , 225g caster sugar (675g total) , 225g self raising flour (675g total), 2 teaspoons baking powder (6 total) , 4 large eggs (12 total)
For the filling
Apricot jam, buttercream and icing sugar to decorate.
1) Set the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 4.
2) Prepare the tins by cutting out greaseproof paper circles, and placing inside each greased tin. Make sure to grease the sides of each tin well to avoid sticking.
3) Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs into a large mixing bowl, and beat using an electric mixer on slow speed. Mix until smooth and the mixture falls easily away from the whisk. (I made each layered sponge individually as it was so much easier to make sure the ingredients were well mixed. And I didn't have a bowl big enough to fit in everything all at once!)
4) Pour the mixture equally into each of the baking tins, ensuring that the surfaces are level for an even bake.
5) Bake for 20-30 minutes, until each sponge is golden brown and risen. It's a good idea to check the sponges about halfway through the baking process, just to make sure they are getting an even distribution of heat, moving around the oven if necessary.
6) Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and cool in the baking tins. Once cool enough to handle with ease, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack.
7) Whilst the sponges are cooling down, begin to prepare the ingredients for the filling. Measure out the jam, and mix gently to smooth.
8) Next, prepare the buttercream. This can be quite a messy process, but is much easier if you fully soften the butter in a large mixing bowl to start. Then gradually sift in the icing sugar, mixing together with the butter as you go and adding a little drop of water if needed. In terms of quantities, I usually tend to this recipe as a guide, substituting the vanilla extract for water.
9) Once the sponges are completely cold, turn the bottom layer of each tier upside down and place onto a plate. Spread generously with jam and buttercream before placing the other layer on top (the right way up).
10) Repeat with each sponge, and then begin to build the tiered structure.
11) Sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate as you choose.
12) Serve and enjoy!
- Leave yourself plenty of time. There's nothing worse than rushing through a bake, and this is a challenge which requires optimum levels of baking zen.
- Make sure you use good quality ingredients- you really can tell the difference when it comes to cooking the sponges.
- Invest in some good tins- I used the Silverwood Sandwich Pans and they really stood up to the task.
- Do your maths- if you're making several tiers, it's worth sitting down with a pencil and paper and crunching some numbers- particularly in terms of the different diameters which you will be working with.
- I stuck to the basic recipe for a standard sized sponge, which became the middle layer. I then made the smallest (top) layer, but as the pans were smaller I had some excess mixture, which I then used to bulk out the largest (bottom) layer.
- Get plenty of inspiration- check out my Baking board on Pinterest for a look at some of my research!
- Think about logistics- if you're transporting the cake to a venue, it's an idea to suss out how it's going to get there. I did the final assembly and decoration at the Reception to make sure it looked perfect on the day.
- Make sure each sponge is stone cold before you attempt to move things- they are pretty fragile. Also it's well worth popping each individual layer in the fridge to help things set properly.
- If you're decorating with fresh flowers, give them a good wash and dry beforehand!
Have you ever taken on a baking challenge like this?
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)