‘Who is making your wedding cake?!’ was the question I was asked a gajillion times a week during the run-up to the big day. I suppose when a cake-obsessed, dessert guzzler like myself marries an ex-pastry chef turned chocolate maker, well, then people think about these kinds of things! The answer? Well, duh we’re making our own wedding cake!
Some brides stress about the dress. Others agonize over the decor or stationery. Not me – I was all about the cake! So there are a few reasons we decided to make it ourselves: One, I was NOT going to have one of those piece-of-art, Pinterest-worthy cakes that look incredible but taste like cardboard. There is nothing more disappointing in life than dry cake and I was not about to start married life with one – oh hell no.
Secondly, why do we have to wait until right at the end of the day to cut the cake? Life’s too short… So we ate the cake first. Jip, straight after the ceremony, the bubbly flowed and we all scoffed ourselves silly on cake. And thirdly, I wanted the first thing we did as husband and wife to be special, and there is nothing we enjoy more than baking which is how we decided to assemble our wedding cake, live, right there in front of our guests. Eeeek!
The cake itself, was the first recipe Chocolate Maker and I baked together. Raspberry is my favourite flavour, while lemon is his and the buttercream is scented with vanilla and spiced rum we brought back from our recent trip to Mauritius. The lemons may or may not have come from my neighbours lemon tree (this is not a confession!). Obviously we couldn’t make the wedding cake on the day of the wedding (we made it the day before), so to keep it super moist, we soaked each layer in a tangy lemon syrup – it’s a secret baking weapon that makes all the difference!
I decorated it with olive branches to bring in a bit of Italy (since I am now, half-Italian afterall!), lemon branches and pomegranates from the Riebeek Kasteel area. The cake was perfect – fragrant, moist, not too sweet and was the perfect pairing for the Ayama MCC (my favourite bubbly!).
It was a seriously delicious cake and the perfect way to start a marriage – on a sweet note, with lots and lots of butter! 😉
LEMON AND RASPBERRY WEDDING CAKE WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
This recipe makes a standard 4-layer, 30cm cake. To make my two-tiered wedding cake, I doubled the recipe below (cake and buttercream) which made an extra 30cm cake plus 2 x 20cm cakes for the top tier. The final cake easily served 70 hungry guests.
For the cake:
500g butter, softened
500g castor sugar
400g whole eggs
400g cake flour
80g cornstarch or corn flour
1 tsp baking powder
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
For the buttercream:
300g egg whites
450g castor sugar
1020g unsalted butter, cut into blocks, softened (see tip)
1 juicy vanilla pod, seeds scraped
juice of 1/2 lemon
For the lemon syrup:
120g white sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons
Good-quality raspberry jam, for assembling
Olive branches, pomegranates and lemon branches, to decorate
Start by making the sponge layers. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius (fan-forced, or 170 degrees Celcius convenional). Grease and line 2 x 30cm springform cake tins. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 8-10 minutes. The mixture should be very white and very fluffy. Next, add the eggs in one by one, beating well after each addition. Sift the dry ingredients together. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk, adding the lemon zest last. Divide the batter between the cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes then turn the oven up by 10 degrees for the remaining 10 minutes. Test the cake with a skewer inserted into the middle. If it comes out clean, it is baked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before unmoulding. Level each cake off using a knife then slice each cake in half horizontally so you have 4 layers.
To make the buttercream, place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl that fits over one of your saucepans. Fill the bottom of the saucepan with water and bring it to a gentle simmer. Place the bowl with the egg and sugar over the hot water and stir gently with a whisk (don’t whisk to aerate the mixture). Keep stirring until the mixture reaches 60 degrees Celcius on a thermometer or until the egg is hot to the touch. Transfer the hot mixture to the bowl of a standmixer and using the whisk attachment, whip the mixture on high until light and fluffy. Continue whipping for a good 10 minutes or until the meringue is cool to the touch. Slowly add the butter one block at a time. Scrape in the vanilla seeds and squeeze in the lemon juice, to taste. Cover and set aside at room temperature until ready to frost the cake.
To make the syrup, place the sugar, water, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil for 1 minute. Allow to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on a cake stand and brush well with the syrup. Spread with a thin layer of raspberry jam and top with a layer of vanilla buttercream. Continue layering the cake, syrup, raspberry jam and buttercream until all the layers are assembled. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream and smooth with a palette knife (using a cake decorating turn table really helps). Place in the refrigerator to set. Decorate with olive branches, lemon branches and cracked pomegranates just before serving.
TIP Never make a buttercream using salted butter – I know it’s tempting because of the ridiculous price of unsalted butter – but the amount of butter used means that you’ll be left with an extremely salty buttercream. Don’t do it.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GUNTHER SCHUBERT OF VORSPRUNG STUDIO