Nursing an almighty hangover today after a fantastic wedding yesterday. It’s all the effort I can muster to blog tonight but I’ve been baking up a few winter wonderland bakes this week so a quick post about them.
Yesterday was the wedding of my wife’s best friend, Helena, and the very awesome Will. Sarah’s known Helena for 25 years but I’ve actually known her even longer – pretty much all her life, as Helena’s older brother and I were in the same class at primary school. It was an absolute honour to make a cake for Helena and Will – two of the kindest, most considerate and laid back people we know. Our elder daughters (above) were flower girls, which they were so excited about. It was a proper city wedding, with the ceremony at Islington Town Hall and the reception at The Peasant in Clerkenwell. If you’re thinking of a central London wedding, I’d really recommend both of these venues – the staff were excellent and the food at The Peasant was ace. We left our youngest daughter at home for the day (cheers Mum!) and the girls’ babysitter picked the older two up from the reception in the evening (thanks Charlotte!) so we could let our hair down, ending in a traditional late night kebab quest (see below).
The cake itself (pictured at the top of this post) was four tiers of different flavours. The top cake was lemon sponge, with homemade lemon curd and limoncello Italian meringue buttercream. Next was red velvet cake with white chocolate buttercream. Next was my current favourite – coconut cake with Malibu Italian meringue buttercream. Finally, the bottom cake was coffee and walnut cake with a crunchy Lotus Biscoff buttercream. Helena and Will wanted it decorated like stumps of wood, having seen the cake I recently made for STIHL, so each cake was topped with homemade marzipan and coated with a total of 3kg dark chocolate ganache. Decorating cakes with flowers isn’t really my forte, but thankfully Helena’s florist was on hand at the venue to help pretty-up the cake. Check out her Instagram here – she’s excellent and I’d really recommend her. At Will’s request, the cake was topped with hamsters, which Sarah made out of Fimo earlier this week.
I’ve had a lot of questions this week about how I treated the cake base for this cake. Our tree surgeon Lee (who also knows Helena – I’ve said before, NW7 is a very villagey part of London) gave us the lump of oak pictured above. We kept it indoors near a radiator for about four days to dry out, then I used my electric sander to sand the top of the stump (you can do this by hand if you don’t have a sander – but it will take ages!) I then brushed the dirt and sawdust from the bark, but don’t worry too much about dirt on it, as this gets sealed in by the varnish to give it a clean surface. I used yacht varnish to coat the stump and for the bits of bark that fell away from the sides of the stump, I used Instant Araldite, which dries in 90 seconds, to stick them back on. To make sure the base was straight, I used a spirit level and then used the Araldite again to put two chocks on the bottom of the base to even it out. I made sure these were at the back of the cake so you couldn’t see it.
In between all of the wedding preparations this week, I also had a great day’s filming at home on Thursday with STIHL. Their mascot, Lumber Jack, and I built him a winter wonderland in the woods out of gingerbread. I can’t wait to share the film we made as the final product is one of the bakes I’m proudest of this year so watch this space! I still have all the templates so if I’m in the mood to make it again the week before Christmas, I might knock-up another. But there are also some really easy templates for gingerbread houses in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and of course, my gingerbread recipe won me a Star Baker award on Bake Off so it’s pretty good!
I have a wedding cake and two macaron towers to make this week so keep an eye on my Instagram to see how it goes. And don’t forget to watch Christmas Kitchen on Friday 16 December – either on BBC1 at 10am or catch it later on iPlayer – to see how to make the delicious sausage roll wreath above. It really has an excellent effort-to-glory ratio, so give it a go! For now, me and my hangover are off to bed so until next week, Happy Baking!