Life can be a messy, wonderful and challenging affair; rather like making a wedding cake for the very first time.
Sometimes, the curd will split. You’re not sure which recipe is the right one. You’ll worry that the whole thing is about to topple over, but then you’ll realise the structure is stronger than you thought, built on a sturdy foundation of simple ingredients and a lot of trial and error. Cracks and imperfections are smoothed over with fresh cream and tart lemons are transformed into the sweetest curd, holding the cake together. The metamorphosis of eggs, flour and butter, with a little heat and vigorous stirring, into something even better than you imagined makes that first bite all the more satisfying.
Last year, some dear friends of mine asked me to make their wedding cake. I was both deeply flattered and terrified at the same time. Firstly, I had no idea how to make one and secondly, making the centrepiece for such a special and monumental occasion added to the pressure. I mean, what if I did crap job? There would be my cake, forever frozen in time in the proceeding wedding photographs or surely turning up as one of those ‘nailed it’ compilations on Facebook. In the end, I got over myself and said yes. A trial run rather than my usual make-it-up-as-I-go-along-and-see-what-happens was needed.
Like any good project, planning was key. I needed to find out;
- the best recipe for a wedding cake sponge
- how to structure, layer and fill the cake
- how to make passionfruit curd
- how long it would take to make
- where to find a tree slice base
- how to make shortbread love hearts
The following notes are my jottings as I built the cake from scratch. This cake is super time-consuming – I’d estimate around 10 hours for the actual baking and making the filling then another 2 hours to construct the cake – BUT trust me, its totally do-able and well worth the effort at the end. Yes – you can do it!
Once the cake was complete, it was released into the wild to a small herd of willing cake testers. The entire cake was scoffed in exactly 30 minutes and all gave it the resounding thumbs up, which I was most pleased about. I was worried the cake might be stale after 4 days but amazingly, it was still moist even then.
STEP 1: MAKE YOUR PASSIONFRUIT CURD
Follow the recipe at the bottom of the post. I found this one to be best after testing a couple of other recipes. I recommend to start making the curd in the week before you start baking.This is one of the most time-consuming elements and the longer it sets in the fridge, the better it will be to work with.
STEP 2: MAKE YOUR SPONGES
If you are making a multi-layered sponge cake that needs to take a bit of weight, a regular light sponge cake recipe wont cut it. I chose a classic Victorian sandwich sponge recipe which is more dense than a more traditional variety. With equal amounts of sugar, butter and flour, it’s pretty straight forward to make too.
Sponges can be made up to three days ahead of time if keeping fresh. According to the recipe, they will also keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. After making each layer, allow sponge to cool completely then wrap snuggly with cling wrap to keep the moisture in and set aside until needed.
***Unless you are a transport professional, I recommend constructing the cake on-site. Don’t tempt fate in the back of your car! Word.
STEP 3: WHIP THE CREAM AND CHILL IN THE FRIDGE UP TO AN HOUR BEFORE YOU START FILLING THE CAKE.
STEP 4: SPREAD 1ST LAYER OF CURD THEN A LAYER OF CREAM AND TOP WITH SPONGE, REPEAT LAYERING WITH 2ND SPONGE
It was a particularly warm day when I put the cake together, so you can see my curd is a bit runny. The heat also melted the cream a little. Remember to only put a small amount of curd on the sponge and like wise for the cream as the heavier layers will push the filling out. You can experiment with amount needed with the first layer. Do worry if you’ve put too much filling on, this can be cleaned up at the end.
***TIP***When layering the sponge, have the flat (bottom of the pan side) facing upwards for uniformity in shape and structure and facing down for the second layer.
STEP 5: PUT IN YOUR FRAME – 3 X PIECES OF DOWLING
To create a solid base for the top layers, you need to add 3 pieces of dowling. These can be wooden or plastic dowling purchased from a kitchenwares shop or you could use strong plastic straws as well. Measure the height of the 3 layers of sponges then cut pieces of dowling to measure. Push each piece into the cake on imaginary tips of a triangle.
STEP 6: ADD A LAYER OF THIN CARDBOARD BEFORE ADDING THE SMALLER SPONGES
STEP 7: TOP CARDBOARD WITH A THIN LAYER OF CURD & CREAM
STEP 8: TOP WITH 5TH LAYER OF SPONGE
STEP 9: ADD ANOTHER ROUND OF CARDBOARD AND TOP WITH MORE CURD AND CREAM THEN TOP WITH ANOTHER SPONGE
STEP 10: ADD FILLING FOR TOP SPONGE
STEP 11: CLEAN UP THE CAKE
Get a knife and scrape off any excess curd and cream then use a damp cloth to wipe to finish off
STEP 12: DRESS THE CAKE
Give the cake a light sprinkle of ice sugar and garnish the cake with berries, shortbread hearts and fresh flowers
Naked Wedding Cake Sponge with Passionfruit Curd and Fresh Cream
Original recipe from the Everyday in the Kitchen by Campion & Curtis
Makes approximately 500ml of curd
4 egg yolks
200g (7 oz) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
200g (7 oz) soft butter
grated zest 2 lemons
60ml fresh passionfruit pulp (or canned is ok)
20ml lemon juice
- Beat egg yolks and sugar in a large heat proof bowl until pale and creamy. Place over simmering pot of hot water.
- Add butter and zest and stir vigorously until melted and mixed in. Slowly pour in lemon juice then passionfruit pulp ** be sure to keep whisking well at this stage to ensure that that the mixture does not split.
- Keep stirring for approximately 15-30 minutes until the curd has thickened. Pour into sterilised jars in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Classic Victoria Sponge
Original recipe from BBC Goodfood
Makes 2 x 20cm round sponges
200g (7 oz) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
200g (7 oz) soft butter
200g (7 oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tblsp milk
- Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
- Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
The cake tin sizes I used and quantities of cake batter/ fresh cream :
Top sponges – 15cm ( 1 x recipe – fill both your cake tins to half-way – there will be some batter left over = 2 x rounds)
Middle sponges -20cm ( 1 x recipe = 2 x rounds)
Bottom sponges – 28cm ( 4 x recipe = 2 x rounds/ 1 x recipe = 1 round)
1 x 600ml thickened cream
** note reduced fat cream will not whip.
Icing Sugar to sprinkle
Fresh strawberries, raspberries and assorted flower posy
Tree slice base – obtained locally via Ebay
Love heart shortbread
Original recipe by Fiona Cairns via The Telegraph
500g salted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar (superfine sugar)
500g plain flour (all-purpose flour)
250g cornflour or rice flour
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC/fan 160ºC/340ºF/gas mark 31/2.
- Using a large bowl and a wooden spoon, or a handheld electric whisk, or an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, then sift in the flour and cornflour gradually, mixing briefly between each addition, until it binds together. Flour your hands and gently knead until just smooth (do not over-work).
- To make the dough easier to roll – and if you have time – wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- On a floured board, roll out the dough to 5–6mm thick, then cut into loveheart shapes. I used a 4.5cm heart-shaped cutter. If the shortbread is to be frozen, lay the biscuits between sheets of baking parchment in a freezer container. They need to be defrosted for 1 hour before baking.
- Place the shortbreads on 2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment and cook for 15–20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar, then cool for 10 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack.
Caroline Martin-Knowles says
They want a Vanilla and Lemon naked sponge and your’s looks perfect.:-)
Thank you so much for the recipe. It talks however of dowsing the cooled cake with vanilla syrup which would certainly make it more moist but perhaps too soggy??:-(. Did you dowse it??
I will be testing the cake exactly as you did, with friends and family willing to eat up but would you recommend leaving out the syrup?
I will be practicing soon so as to get it just right.
How long would you give to set it up and decorate? !-2hrs??
So look forward to hearing from you:-)
By Gillian says
Hi Caroline – apologies for the very late reply – I hope you had success with the naked sponge 🙂