Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Three Tier Challenge

My first three tier wedding cake

Just like the three peak challenge, the three tier challenge is pretty daunting. It goes something like this - almost a year ago my cousin tells me that he is engaged and an excitable evening of drinks and wedding chat occurs. During this evening I offer to make the wedding cake - as the words roll off my tongue I'm thinking Jules and Rach are the bakers, not me. I don't even like cake that much, in fact when I was a child I had pavlova every birthday because I decided that I categorically hated all cake. So, a few drinks in - I thought how hard can it be?!

Fruit cake was always my least favourite of the hated cake category. Conjuring up images of dry, crumbly Christmas cake that you have to try because your gran has made it. Marzipan was always abhorred as was dried fruit and candied peel - a repulsive ingredient that tormented me as a child.

So, imagine my joy to discover that in the Caribbean they go for moist cakes filled with brandy AND rum and they blend up all the nasty fruit so that it is a boozy gooey delight! They use vanilla, almond and lemon extract and lots of dark brown sugar - the result is a delicious black cake - Trinidadian in this instance.

Not wanting to limit my cake practising skills we went for three different cakes and although I got the fruit cake out of the way early on, as the wedding day approached lemon polenta cakes and chocolate cakes were flying out of the oven left, right and centre.

In the end I settled on the River Cafe lemon polenta cake, as recommended my my favourite chef at Spuntino. It is a fool proof recipe - moist and delicious and it stays this way for several days. I now bake this cake regularly.

For the middle 9 incher we had decided on chocolate. Having tested three different recipes and not quite been satisfied I decided to head for Delia and she delivered as always. I was caked out by that point and feeling fairly confident that I did not need to practice another one - I probably would not recommend wedding cake baking without practising, but it worked! The recipe is actually an Anna Del Conte Italian chocolate nut Christmas cake - a beautiful sturdy cake that is flourless (as is the lemon cake) so you have your gluten free fan base covered. Having spent £10 on hazelnuts alone it is not the cheapest of cakes but again it is moist and lasts for several days, which is important if you are trying to minimise your stress levels.

Having done a cake decorating class with Victoria Glass earlier in the year I spent a day marzipanning, stacking, icing and decorating the cake which was actually quite therapeutic! Trauma came when we drove 4.5 hours from London to Devon and I held the cake on my lap - the cake was a weighty boy when all stacked and wrapped in icing. Amazingly (or rather because I could not reach) I avoided punching the taxi driver as we drove across London to hire a car when he slammed on the brakes and the cake slammed itself into the seat in front. All was rescued in Devon and the cake was a hit.

Success all round.

Next step - wedding cake number two and the three peak challenge.


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