I’m getting a lot of questions about buttercream cakes so I thought I’d pop the answers on here. Let’s kick off with one that would've been super relevant if I’d posted this when I wrote it on Thursday!
Won’t a buttercream cake melt in hot weather?
No it really shouldn’t. Unless it’s placed directly in front of a south-facing window, the Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) I use to decorate and fill cakes is pretty stable and used throughout Southeast Asia, which has high temperatures and humidity. Unlike American buttercream, which is simply a mixture of butter and icing sugar, the structure of IMBC is created by whisking egg whites (which are pasteurised for food safety), and this makes it more resistant to melting.
How do you transport the cakes?
Carefully. Years ago I was delivering a three tier cake and had to pull up sharply at a motorway accident. When I arrived at the venue the cake was on its side! It was pretty much destroyed. A kind cafe owner nearby made me a few kilos of buttercream and brought me some piping tips from her home and we repaired it as best we could. It actually looked ok in the wedding photos, but SUCH a horrible nightmare! The cake hadn’t been chilled. Now I chill all cakes overnight before delivery, so that they’re firm, and haven’t had any subsequent disasters, even travelling over cattle grids and speed bumps.
Can you make brilliant white buttercream?
Good question. Butter in Europe is yellow, so there will always been some warmth to the colour of a natural buttercream. Some bakers (this is commonplace in the US) substitute all or some of the butter with solid white vegetable fat (Trex) to achieve a bright white, but even with the addition of vanilla and butter extracts, it tastes pretty awful and has a cloying mouth feel. I tend to add a tiny tiny dot of purple gel to counteract the yellow and sometimes a white colour paste. This will create a cooler ivory, but it still wont be white white.
How big a cake do we need for 100 guests?
A three tier cake of 10, 8 and 6in tiers will feed 100 generously. My tiers are 5-6in tall and a slice will measure 1x1.5in across the top.
Can our florist dress our cake with fresh flowers? Surely you just poke them in
No, I’m afraid I have to do it to ensure that the flowers are inserted in a food safe way. We use a combination of hollow plastic spikes and florists’ tape to protect the cake from any toxins that may be present in the stem. Some flowers and foliage are poisonous and we often have to check that they are safe to use at all. Most wedding florists are happy to leave enough material for us to dress the cake, and I don’t charge for us to do it.
What will a buttercream wedding cake cost?
This depends largely on the level of detail involved. An intricately piped or sculpted design will cost more that one involving a simple cascade or a more spacious composition. I also charge more for certain flavours: chocolate, carrot and pistachio will all cost more that a vanilla Madeira sponge. VERY roughly, a three tier cake serving 100 is going to cost around £600. Delivery is £65 into central London and £1 a mile otherwise, from Westerham.
What does the design process involve?