I’ve been wanting to get into proper cake decoration for a while but I’ve always been a bit afraid of it. So I decided that for my boyfriend’s birthday I would spend a lot of time and effort on making it look like a proper birthday cake. I had seen cigarellos used by Lorraine Pascal on a chocolate cake. They looked simple to use and added instant elegance to her cake. An excellent beginner’s way to a professional looking cake.
I was prepping for this cake for weeks. I bought a new cake box, a box of white chocolate cigarellos straight from Belgium, some side scrapers and a new angled palette knife. Jake’s only request was for a vanilla cake. So I just stuck to a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. My dilemma came when I was thinking what to fill the top of the cake with. In most cases people use fresh fruit, flowers or chocolate like maltesers. But I didn’t think any of these would be right. So I decided to top mine with…….more cake! I made a batch of mini vanilla cupcakes and piped swirls on top, and then topped them with stars. Jake’s favourtie colour is green so I wrapped the whole cake with a green ribbon. And so, I had the perfect cake all planned out in my head, now just to make it!
The recipe was very simple, just the vanilla sponge from Hummingbird and the vanilla frosting:Ingredients for the cake and mini cupcakes (two thirds for the layers, one third for the cupcakes) 360g plain flour
420g caster sugar
4 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp of salt
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
360ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract Ingredients for the frosting 1kg icing sugar, sifted
320g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract Fondant or ready to roll icing, coloured blue and green 500g box of white chocolate cigarellos Strawberry jam
The cake mixture is just the basic one egg recipe multiplied by 3. Two-thirds of this goes into the round tins to make the layers, and the last third goes into the mini muffin tins to make the cupcakes. I did these two parts separately, making the mix twice. I used nearly all of my frosting, but if you have any left, you can store it in the fridge.
Make your fondant stars a few days in advance so they have time to dry out and firm up.
Grease and line the bottoms of two 18cm sandwich tins. Preheat the oven to 170° or 150° for a fan oven. Put the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl and beat with a hand held electric whisk, on a slow to medium speed, until you get a sandy consistency. Beat the egg and vanilla extract with the milk then gradually pour this into the mixture and beat until it is just combined and the mixture is smooth, don’t overmix it.
Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and just coming away from the edges.
Repeat for the mini cupcakes, greasing two mini muffin tins well. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Leave to cool slightly in the tins before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool.
Now for the decorating! I made the cakes in the evening, and then decorated the following afternoon leaving myself plenty of time.
I used a large flan tin’s removable bottom and covered it in tin foil to give me a base I could move around. I put that on to my turn table and placed my first layer of cake onto the foil.
First layer of buttercream goes on. Spread it gently from the centre outwards until just inside the edge of the cake.
Place the second layer of cake on top. I put mine on upside-down to give me a nice flat top because they had risen slightly lop-sided.
Next up, apply a crumb coat. Dollop a good amount of frosting on top of the cake and work it down the side of the cake with your palette knife in a thin layer. It’s ok if it gets crumbs in it, that’s what it’s for. Just make sure you don’t put your crumb-coated palette knife back in your good frosting.
Leave to chill in the freezer for about ten minutes so your crumb coat is no longer sticky.
Now start applying your finishing coat of buttecream. Dollop loads on the top, spread it out so it is hanging over the sides and start dragging it down and working it round your cake. I haven’t quite perfected this yet and still ended up doing some plastering-inspired additions on to the lower parts of the cake. Once the cake is completely covered, use a side scraper to smooth off the sides. Just hold it at a slight angle to the cake and spin the turn table to remove any excess frosting.
Now for the cigarellos. Gently push them against the buttercream, keeping them all nice and vertical. It takes time, be patient!
Using a long thing nozzle. Make a hole in the base of the mini cupcakes, try and excavate a cavity in the centre of the cupcake and pipe strawberry jam into it.
Pipe the remaining frosting onto the tops of the cupcakes. I used a 1M tip.
Place the mini cupcakes carefully on top of the cake. You won’t need all of them so you can have a few left for impatient people to “test”.
Top each cupcake with a star and wrap a ribbon round the cake. And there you have my first proper decorated cake!