If things get a little cake-heavy round here for the next week or so I can only apologise; it was big sis’s hen do at the weekend, and I made a shedload of cakes for afternoon tea. The centrepiece, and most technical was this, my first attempt at wrapping a cake in fondant. It was not as easy as I had expected. Nothing in cakeworld is. Turns out fondant, though it rolls out beautifully, gets sticky very quickly if you play with it too much. Plus, because it clings so well to cakes it highlights every lump and bump underneath. I was planning on just coating the cake with a thin layer of jam to help the fondant stick, but I actually needed copious quantities of buttercream to even out the not so geometric lumps of sponge. Torting frozen cakes is not as easy as you’d think.
Quantities were also tricky. To make an L-shaped cake I needed rectangular pieces of cake. My 8×4 loaf tins were roughly the right size, as compared with the 7-inch sandwich tin called for, but I needed three cakes in total, not two, and wanted them slightly thicker, so I could cut them in half lengthwise, so I opted to double the original recipe. I ended up with an L which was the perfect size, plus a little mini layer cake left over for me to munch on during the week.
Apologies if the recipe seems a little long-winded; I’ve tried to add in all the helpful things I learnt along the way to save you having to discover them yourself.
220g gluten-free flour blend
100g ground almonds
1 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 tablespoons milk
3 drops red food colouring
1 12-inch cake board
4 tablespoons strawberry jam
330g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
400g pink fondant icing
Sugar decorations, if required
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Lightly grease and line the bottom of three 8×4-inch loaf tins with greaseproof paper.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
3. In a medium bowl stir together the gluten-free flour blend, ground almonds, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Slowly add to the egg and butter mixture, stirring carefully, and add the milk to make a smooth batter of dropping consistency.
4. Spoon one-third of the mixture into another bowl and add the red food colouring to the remaining two-thirds of the batter. Stir well. Divide the mixture evenly between the loaf tins, so you have two pink cakes and one white cake. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 5 minutes, before tipping out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
5. Once cool, using a sharp serrated knife, slice the cakes in half lengthwise, so you have six 8×4 cakes. Trim the sides and top of the cakes so they are rectangular then wrap tightly in clingfilm and freeze until required, for up to a month. If using straight away it’s still a good idea to freeze them as frozen cakes are easier to ice.
6. To build and layer the cake first lay the cakes out on a chopping board. Layer a pink cake on top of a white cake on top of a pink cake. Do the same for the horizontal arm of the L, then cut about one-third of the cake stack off, so your L doesn’t have a freakishly long bottom. Check that both arms of the L are roughly the same height. I failed to do this and ended up using a lot of buttercream to fill in the cracks. When the cake is as neat and geometric as you can make it, spoon the jam into a bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it slightly. Stir and set aside.
7. In a large bowl beat the butter until soft, then beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and milk and beat into a smooth, homogenous cream. Dot a little of the buttercream onto the cake board and use it to stick the first cake layer onto the board in the L shape. Dollop about 3 tablespoons of the buttercream on top of the first cake layer and smooth with a palette knife. Make sure the buttercream fills in the crack between the two cake pieces as well. Take the two white cakes and using a different knife spread about 1-2 tablespoons of the melted jam onto their underside. Gently place the jammy-bottomed white cake on top of the buttercreamed pink cake layer. Repeat the process with the remaining cake layer – spread buttercream on top of the white cake layer, then place a jam-covered pink layer on top.
8. This process should only use about 3/4 cup buttercream, if that. The remaining two-thirds of the buttercream I used smoothing out the profile of the cake. Of course, if you’ve done a good job of torting the cake, you won’t need all the buttercream. The fondant will highlight every uneveness in the surface of the cake so use the remaining buttercream to fill in any cracks or dents and to build up areas that are a little lower. If the cake is perfectly smooth, then just cover it with a very thin layer of buttercream, or if you like a little more jam. Then place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes for the crumb coat to firm up.
9. Meanwhile roll out the fondant icing into a 12-inch square. Carefully using the rolling pin lift the fondant onto the cake. Using a palette knife carefully press the fondant down onto the surface of the cake, then working round the edges press the fondant into the sides of the cake. Using the edge of the palette knife remove any excess fondant at the base of the cake and tuck the edges under. You may need to fold the fondant round at least one of the corners to get it to fit neatly.
10. Return the cake to the fridge for at least 30 minutes before adding any additional decorations. I added a few sugar stars at the corners for colour and interest. To attach them I used a cocktail stick to put a dab of buttercream on each star, then pressed them lightly into the fondant with the tip of a clean cocktail stick.
The cake will keep well in the fridge, as long as the fondant is in tact (up to a week). Once the cake has been cut be sure to cover any exposed surfaces with clingfilm to prevent it from going stale. The cake will survive outside the fridge for up to a couple of days, but the buttercream will be very soft when the cake is cut and the moistness from the jam will encourage mould after a few days.