Designing a stained glass wedding cake

So lovely Sydney sent me a message. She’d seen an image on Pinterest of a stained glass cake I’d made while training with Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes 100 years ago and wondered if I could replicate the design of a glass lampshade her father had made when she was little. 

 

This is it

This is it

Here are the sketches I drew for them. The design was fairly straightforward; not too much detail, which is good, because this type of finish is achieved by working with piping gel on a soft buttercream background and the gel has to be coaxed about very carefully. 

 

CA9E20DE-F5FF-4CFF-942E-B4960A191F2C.JPG
96069848-F167-4184-8594-5DA96A800B0A.JPG
AADFD8B0-CD2A-429D-B67E-F5046577BBB6.JPG

The biggest challenge with working on a buttercream base is that, even when it has crusted, it remains soft under the crust and it’s really easy to gouge. Also, with a smooth cake, there can be no bumps or bands of piping between the tiers because there’s no piped detail to conceal them. 

I find transferring a tracing of a design onto a cake, using a piped outline traced on parchment and then pressed onto the cake, quite stressful. If the paper slips you get an ugly blurred line that will be impossible to cover up. Also, once the icing has crusted to a stage where you can work on it, the piped image won’t adhere to it at all. So I just go for it freehand, describing the outline tentatively in gel and then filling it in in stages. It looks shocking at this stage, really ugly, but once you start piping the black outlines itn comes together really quickly.

 

A8869374-AFD0-4865-BA22-82A604115EA5.JPG

There you go. If you can recreate stained glass with buttercream the sky’s the limit really. 

13BC0E89-B5CD-4CA7-AF6B-633D08CD814F.JPG

Top it off!

With rustic buttercream cakes on trend, couples are returning to toppers as a fun and personal way of dressing their centrepiece. Let's be clear, we're NOT talking about those little clay cartoon figures that wouldn't look out of place in a Playmobil fire engine. Toppers now include tiny balloons, witty glitter exclamations, light bulbs and gold dinosaurs. A couple I made a cake for recently had a 3d printout of themselves made to top their wedding cake. It was around £200. Not everybody's taste but a fantastic and spookily detailed keepsake.

top3.jpg

This is a favourite . Little foil balloons add humour and glitz: perfect if you've got gold accents in your theme, and way more affordable than adding edible gold leaf to the cake itself.

Pretty tassel toppers (look on Etsy) will bring a range of colours together to enliven a rustic cake, with or without flowers. Mix metallics and pastels when thinking about styling a marquee with pom poms and fringes and duplicate the effect in miniature on your cake.

Bang on trend, this an urban geometric heart is handmade and featured on the-little-wedding-corner, a German wedding blog. Pinterest is choc-a-block with ideas and tutorials for wire decorations and accessories; any of them can be scaled down with florist or craft wire. Perfect for a winter or candlelit celebration, and a grown-up take on introducing metallics. Don't like the fondant triangles though.

top6.jpg

For a neo-industrial look, how about these quirky lightbulbs, found on ruffled.com? Brilliant foil to the blowsy anemonies and peonies arranged around them.

Mirabel Photography

Mirabel Photography

If you fancy a bit of script, make it witty and unique, rather than Mr and Mrs whatever. 'Light of my Life' works well here because of the irony but would seem a bit lame without the lightbulbs.

I quite like 'Finally' here, but it's a bit hackneyed now. As a guide I'd avoid any topper on Etsy that comes up as most popular. Make up your own if you can. Maybe a fragment of a song or something.

Why not make your own? Or ask your cake maker to. We all love a challenge and sometimes it's fun to make stuff that doesn't generate washing up. This simple heart would look perfect topping a rustic buttercream cake. It's rustic but delicate, and the tiny leaves of the evergreen thyme won't wilt. Your florist could do this for you if a family member is making your cake. The thyme could be repeated in sprigs between the tiers to bring the design together.

Something fun that could be made in advance: plastic dinosaurs sprayed with gold Plasticote and dressed in their wedding finery: perfect for a pair of archeologists! These two are from Etsy but it's an easy DIY. Have a look at my Pinterest board for other ideas https://uk.pinterest.com/emma0262/cake-toppers/.

The best ever wedding cake

If there's a wedding cake to suit every couple, every venue and every budget it has to be a simple three-tier rustic buttercream dressed with fresh flowers. The frosting provides the perfect foil for statement blooms or modest meadow flowers, but unlike the pure polar white surface of smooth fondant, it has a character of its own.

This is a cake dressed with soft blush and dusky pink roses by Amanda at Distinctly Floral that we displayed at Chiddingstone Castle Wedding Fair.

Here's a real stunner - a rich chocolate, Madeira and lemon cake frosted with crusting vanilla buttercream and dressed with beautiful David Austin roses and trailing jasmine. This was another joint effort, with florist Miranda Andrews, who supplied the flowers and showed me how to wire and tape them correctly, so that they would remain fresh, food safe and in place until the cake was cut at this Port Lympne wedding.

 

The cake complemented the table arrangements and the bride's bouquet perfectly. The couple are South African and wanted to use King Protea flowers as centrepieces, as they're the South African flower.

You don't have to play safe with a neutral background. Look how effectively this hot pink buttercream rose swirl complements the pinks of this contemporary arrangement put together by local Westerham florist Jo Anne Hardy (of Posy & Wild). This shape can be achieved by stacking a cake dummy between two cake tiers so the flower stems can be inserted into the polystyrene, leaving the cakes intact.

Or you could use an ombre effect to link your colours, like this American design here. For this to work, the frosting needs to be very carefully tinted so that the flowers and foliage are accents, rather than merely adorning an ombre cake.

The strength in this design is that it reinforces the green of the ivy at the base and the pink of the roses on the top. If you can imagine a couple of pink blooms at the base, you'll probably agree that this would have completely confused the design, which would have had a stripy rather than ombre result. Very clever.

I supply cakes to venues and florists to be dressed on site. Most florists will have dressed cakes with fresh flowers before, and will confidently tape the stems or insert them into plastic flower picks so that none of the sap can reach the cake itself. Obviously buttercream is soft, unlike fondant, and this poses a few challenges, particularly when draping foliage between tiers, but often all it needs is careful pinning. Never instruct a florist, events manager or caterer to dress a cake with barestemmed fresh flowers. Some cut flowers are toxic and all have to be properly prepared to ensure that they are foodsafe.

http://www.distinctlyfloral.co.uk/

http://www.mirandajayneandrews.co.uk/

http://posyandwild.co.uk/

 

 

 

Easter Bake Off!!

So chuffed to be asked to judge the Churchill Primary School Easter cake competition. After having children at the school for 15 years, it's a pleasure to go back and visit. They made me feel like a proper celebrity - was allowed to draw the raffle and everything. And look at the cakes!!!

This carrot patch masterpiece was made by a little dot in reception! All the carrots and the strips of lawn are piped in buttercream. Love the carrot tops piped with a star nozzle, and the chocolate soil. Very clever.

churchill2.jpg

More piping and meringues! I made some bunny cakes a bit like this last year but didn't think to use meringues for the bottoms. Lots of skill here. Very cute.

This must have taken ages. Lovely white clean fondant with no holes or chocolate finger prints!

Piping again! Love this: full of character. Really brilliant design.

Year 5 was the hardest group to judge. They'd all gone to such a lot of trouble. The designs were fantastic and they all looked delicious.

One pupil even managed to produce a gravity-defying design with hundreds of mini eggs pouring out of a magically suspended Easter egg!

Another ambitious design, from a year 6 pupil who's made three cakes of different colours, carefully cut them into cubes and painstakingly reassembled them to create a chequerboard pattern. Surprise inside cakes are very on trend so it's good to see the children of my town are out there pushing the boundaries of cake design!

What a treat. Love them.

 

Chaos

I've been working on a lot of these recently. Tall buttercream covered tiers topped with a glossy chocolate drip and piled high with meringues, macarons and chocolate shards. Inspired by Sydney bakers Katharine Sabbath and Cakes by Cliff, these quirky designs are full of fun and character. They can be dressed up with fresh fruit, handmade chocolates, buttercream roses and touches of gold leaf, or taken to the party max with coloured popcorn, sprinkles, lollipops, sparklers and popping candy.

Gold leaf adds a touch of sophistication to this ombre wedding cake

Gold leaf adds a touch of sophistication to this ombre wedding cake

The style of these cakes is chaotic, but the finish has to be immaculate. Think about height - this can be created with chocolate sails; simply spread melted chocolate over a sheet of greaseproof or waxed paper and slide a couple of rolling pins under the paper to produce an undulating profile. If you use Candy Melts there's no need to temper the chocolate, but you won't be able to add past colour without the candy seizing up. Use gel colour, or add a few drops of Wilton FloCoat to a paste colour to avoid this.

Add piped buttercream roses for a whimsical rainbow effect.

Add piped buttercream roses for a whimsical rainbow effect.

 

Meringues are tricky, The Meringue Girls add hot sugar (120g) to whisked egg whites (2), a spoonful at a time, to stabilise the egg and produce a smooth finish. I've had mixed, overcooked, results with this method (possibly because the oven was still too hot from heating the sugar) and have gone back to using cold sugar, still adding it very slowly, and stopping the mixer as soon as the mixture becomes stiff and glossy. Create stripes on your meringues, either by painting lines down the inside of your piping bags, or just by swirling colour around the bowl of mixture with a cocktail stick. Bake at 90 degrees C for an hour.

 

Glossy fresh cherries and freeze-dried raspberries add depth of colour to this pink two-tier cake.

Glossy fresh cherries and freeze-dried raspberries add depth of colour to this pink two-tier cake.

A ganache drip needs to be glossy but not so liquid that it runs down the sides of the cake to the bottom. Put your frosted cake in the fridge and pour 100ml of hot whipping cream over 100g chopped plain chocolate (Sainsbury's Basics is perfect and 35p!) and whisk until smooth. When it's cooled down to room temperature, carefully drop teaspoons of the ganache around the edge of you cold cake and coax it over the edge with the side of the spoon every couple of centimetres. When you've gone all the way round you can fill in the middle and smooth it over with the back of the spoon.

Steer away from using too many colours on a single tier. I'd stick to one side of the colour wheel. the contrast should come from the different textures

Steer away from using too many colours on a single tier. I'd stick to one side of the colour wheel. the contrast should come from the different textures

Pop!!

Really thrilled with the images from the Colour Pop photo shoot organised by Creative Brides in September for Wedding Ideas magazine. I love working with romantic imagery and faded vintage hues but it was so fun to work with some bright colours for a change.

Sometimes I think couples associate bright colours with a contemporary setting, but see how well they work against a rustic backdrop! A fun cake topper like this star bunting from Pop Pop Papier is a really brilliant way of picking up the colours in your décor without replicating them on the cake itself. Sprinkle cakes go with any scheme and can be made in confetti sponge (Madeira with sprinkles actually running through the cake) for a sweet surprise crunch.

Outside 2 Emma Page Cakes London.jpg

Rainbow cake is a fun idea if you're opting for one tier. A plain rustic frosting is fine but really needs the addition of a topper to have some presence. Think about paper pompoms, tiny balloons, bunting (all available from Pop Pop Papier) or a perspex and glitter topper.

These neon pearls are devilishly difficult to get hold of, but worth the search. They're an inspired mix - flouro pink, orange, grey, pastel green, red and black - which I would probably never have put together myself, but look how the colours pop against the white frosting!!

Thanks to Creative Brides for organising, (www.creativebrides.co.uk) Kelly and Sara at Not Your Average I Do for styling (www.notyouraverageido.com),  and Matilda Rose Photography (www.matildarosephotography.com.)

Decorations supplied by Pop Pop Papier (www.poppoppapier.com) and flowers by Wild Coco Floral Design (www.wild-coco.com)

Design

A cake design can be worked up from a fragment of material or lace, the flowers of a bouquet or even an architectural feature of a venue. The bride who rather shyly presented me with this fabulous sketch wanted me to interpret the lace pattern of her wedding dress bodice in piped buttercream but knew that this level of throughout the three tiers would take the cake over her budget. I can't take any credit for her idea of covering the bottom tier in a simple rose swirl: a quick finish that combines a romantic shape with a contemporary rhythm, but I was thrilled with the coherence of the result. It demonstrates how the spirit of a design can be captured without duplicating it in full.

Wedding cake sketch.jpg

This cake was made for a textile designer who has won several awards for creating a fabric design that is used for upholstery on yachts. The sketch is her initial draft of the design. I copied and piped the buttercream in a stitch pattern to give it an embroidered look.

Solar fabric

It's hugely helpful to start the design process with a fragment of fabric or a sketch. I've even worked up a wedding cake from a pillowcase design!