I have been decorating cakes for 20 years for family and friends, alongside my job as a business journalist. But when I discovered the versatility of buttercream I was hooked. Every spare minute was spent experimenting with different tips and techniques, improving the stability and taste of the recipe, playing with different colour combinations, and of course washing up.
For the last three years, apart from a regrettable fondant blip with a pair of witches legs, I have only used buttercream and chocolate to decorate cakes. My special recipe vanilla buttercream has been developed to remain fresh at room temperature for over a week, and stable enough to pipe elaborate floral arrangements with realistic volume and crisp edges, while tasting completely buttery and delicious.
As well as a vast number of different flowers, this buttercream can be piped to produce intricate tapestry, lace, graphic transfer, mosaic, brush embroidery and even stained glass finishes with astonishing detail. It can also be applied with a palette knife for a trendy rustic finish that will provide a perfect centrepiece for a country wedding. My most popular finish is a simple rose swirl – graphic and romantic; this suits both contemporary and vintage settings and can be graduated in colour to produce an ombre effect that can be carried through to the actual sponge inside the cake. ‘Surprise inside’ cakes are very fun. Delight your guests with a hidden heart, rainbow sponges, confetti, polka dots or even a face! Why should the outside of a cake have all the fun?
I never use fondant. Any moulded or pressed details will be made with white or dark tempered chocolate. A popular chaotic look can be achieved by piling striped meringues, honeycomb, chocolate shards, caramel spikes and candied nuts on top of your cake. Add some gold leaf and popping candy for an unforgettable showstopper.