I continue with a floral theme this month – hard to resist in April when we are surrounded by all things floral – from clothes covered in blooms to everything coming alive in the garden! Spring has well and truly arrived and as summer fast approaches, many of us will be attending and possibly planning a wedding too.
I was married over 30 years ago – actually before I had any interest in baking cakes! Little did my husband and I know what lay ahead – a cake business! Our wedding cake was a very traditional, quite an old fashioned affair looking back. A three tiered pure white royal iced fruit cake, with a silver vase of freesia on top (and all arranged by my mother!).
Since then weddings and wedding cakes have changed quite dramatically. The wedding is now often themed and personalised down to the very last detail. A simple way to do this is to refer to “The Language of Flowers”, many flowers have meanings and sentiments, and can be incorporated in the bouquet and on the cake as decoration. This idea has been around for centuries and it became very popular in Victorian times. Flowers were used as a code to convey personal messages. Some examples would be:
- the rose – love
- lily of the valley – happiness
- daisy – innocence
- ivy – marriage and fidelity.
There are some lovely wedding trends at the moment: soft pastels, ombre (varying shades) can be fun and we love creating a dessert table. At Fiona Cairns, we find ‘Naked Cakes’ (that is a cake not covered in sugar paste or buttercream) are very popular at the moment and great for a couple who prefer a more natural or rustic approach. The naked cake in my photo above is a delicious vanilla bean sponge layered with cherry conserve and rose buttercream. Decorated using crystallised fresh roses and petals, fresh redcurrants, cherries, physallis and figs.
We love to change the cake flavour, icing and decorations seasonally. In Spring maybe use crystallised Spring flowers (see my March blog for instructions), and light floral flavours – rose or orange blossom fillings. In the Autumn possibly a dark chocolate cake decorated with marzipan fruits, berries and leaves. For a Winter wedding, deep red roses and golden tones or pure white and sparkling. Should you wish to make one yourself there is a full recipe and instructions of how to make a three tiered naked wedding cake in my book ‘Seasonal Baking’. Perfect for any celebration or party it will take centre stage – you don’t need to wait for a wedding to make it!
Homemade Wedding Favours
Many brides like to give a small gift to each guest and of course this can become quite expensive. These little gingerbread biscuits can be baked and iced several weeks before the wedding. Packaged into little clear cellophane bags and tied with a pretty ribbon these make a charming gift. Piped with royal icing into floral patterns or even a few polka dots and a place name, they are very effective. I have added tiny sugar pearls which I stuck on to the biscuits by using little dots of Royal icing.
Gingerbread Biscuits Recipe
(Makes about 36)
- 350g plain flour, plus more to dust
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 130g salted butter, very slightly softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 150g light muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 tbsp black treacle
- zest of 1 orange, finely grated
TIP: Once you have wrapped the dough in cling film to chill, you can store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to a month so they are ready to bake at any time.
- Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and add the butter, cut into small chunks.
- Gently rub together with your fingertips – or pulse in a food processor – until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Add the egg yolk, sugar, syrup, treacle and zest and mix together until you have a firm dough. If it’s too sticky, mix in a little more flour.
- Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/350°F/gas mark 4 & line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 4mm thick, and cut out with a heart cutter (mine measures 8cm).
- Bake for 10–15 minutes. The gingerbreads will have darkened a little. Remove from the oven and leave to firm up a little for a few minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool. They will become crisp.
A note about Royal icing: Make up according to the packet instructions; fill a disposable piping bag and using a number 1 or 1.5 nozzle to pipe your decoration. This will require a bit of practice so to begin with maybe practice on a work board and keep your designs very simple. Alternatively, follow this simple recipe for Royal icing:
Royal Icing Recipe
- 1 egg white
- 250g icing sugar, sifted
Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg until bubbles appear. Now whisk in the sugar bit by bit. Continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes. The consistency is key; it must hold its shape when piped. Gradually add water to thin, or sifted icing sugar to thicken. Store in an air tight container, it will keep for up to five days if kept in the fridge.
Tip: If the royal icing is too runny you can thicken it by sifting in a little more icing sugar, and if too thick then thin down with a little cold water added drop by drop.
Next Month: Chelsea Flower Show – “Everything’s coming up roses!”, and 5 simple ways to include flowers in your baking.