Food editor TRISH DESEINE says “I DO” to artistic, FREESTYLE WEDDING CAKES …
The fantasy preparations for my fantasy wedding have once again been reignited. Soft spring breezes and the blooming west Cork landscape are fanning the modest flames lit by gossip around Harry and Meghan’s imminent big day. Their wedding, of course, will be everything mine will not (apart, perhaps, from the tricky dysfunctional family guest list).
Despite the constant romantic bombardment on social media, the groom will certainly not be in uniform. Thankfully, I did the princess veil and flowing white gown already and, even if I actually knew 600 people, a formal reception at the centre of such a crowd is my idea of hell. And no, I do not need or desire gifts. I have no further need for more things. Moving six times in seven years, then stuffing all your favourite belongings into a lock-up deep in the Languedoc cures you of owning too many things, believe me. Besides, I have all the silver, crystal and china I need for this lifetime and three reincarnations from my first marriage and my grandmother. I think we’ll just have to elope.
But the cake! This I cannot do without. The cake at my first wedding was a towering, ethereal hazelnut dacquoise – a delicate combination of crunchy hazelnut meringue and smooth chocolate ganache recreated from my memory of dessert at La Tour d’Argent years before, right down to the thick coffee crème anglaise pooling around it. It was divine, and even better the next day with ice cream at our sleepy, hungover family barbecue. In fact, after my four children of course, it was probably the most delicious product of the entire marriage.
But marry again for the sake of cake? Well, there have been much less noble motives for getting hitched through the ages and with such an explosion in cake craft in recent years, thanks to Bake Off and its impersonators, you’d have to at least give it a second thought.
Harry and Meghan have embraced the artistic, freestyle trend by making the sharply discerning choice of Californian baker Claire Ptak’s Violet Bakery for their wedding cake on May 19. It’s to be a lemon elderflower creation, decorated with spring flowers. Could there be a better wedding dress of a cake than this?
Closer to home, I chatted about weddings with Shannen Butler Keane from much-loved Diva Boutique Bakery in Ballinaspittle. She told me, “What we’re seeing these days are two-tone/ombré cakes and naked cakes,* both super-popular. I’ve noticed a move away from fondant icing and definitely anything dry and flavourless. Our favourite flavours are chocolate, carrot and lemon and raspberry.”
According to Shannen, despite the slow invasion of cheese wheel and even pork pie wedding “cakes” the traditional form of dessert is still considered an important element of any wedding and she urges future brides and grooms to remember to decorate the surrounding surfaces with petals, candles and photos of the couple. After all, it is one of those rare moments of your life where going over the top is not only encouraged, but actually compulsory.
*Naked cakes have a mere scraping of buttercream around the edges with a natural decoration on top, usually real flowers.”
(Almost) Harry and Meghan’s Lemon and elderflower cake
If elderflower is in bloom when you make this cake, use the flower petals to decorate of course, but also to flavour the cake batter.
20 minutes preparation; 30 minutes cooking
170g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
170g plain flour
75g unsalted butter, melted
200g salted, softened butter
2 tbsps elderflower cordial
200g icing sugar
2 tbsps elderflower cordial
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Butter two deep 20cm/8 inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
Break the eggs into the mixer bowl, add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is pale and fluffy, almost doubling in volume.
Add the vanilla extract then carefully fold in about half of the sifted flour with a large metal spoon. Pour the cool melted butter over the surface and fold it in, immediately followed by the remaining flour.
Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes are golden and beginning to shrink from the sides of the tins. Leave in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn onto wire racks to cool.
Cream the butter, sugar and cordial until very soft and fluffy. Sandwich the cakes together with the buttercream.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, stir in the elderflower cordial and enough lemon juice to make a fairly thick but spreadable icing. Spread it over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides a little.
Decorate with elderflowers if you can find some, or any pretty, flouncy spring flowers you have to hand.
Coffee, Chocolate and Hazelnut Dacquoise
An impressive dessert, made up of layers of meringue, hazelnut praline, chocolate ganache and coffee cream. Delectable!
For 10; 1hr preparation time, 1hr15 min cooking time
For the meringue:
250g blanched hazelnuts
300g caster sugar
6 egg whites
1 pinch salt
For the chocolate ganache:
150g dark chocolate
125g thin (pouring/ whipping) cream
For the coffee cream:
4 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
600ml whole milk
2 tbsps very strong espresso coffee
200ml (7floz) thin (pouring/whipping) cream, well chilled
For the hazelnut praline:
150g caster sugar
150g blanched, toasted hazelnuts
Make the meringue. Preheat the oven to 180° (350°F/Gas 4). Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor, not too finely. Spread the ground hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10–12 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let them cool. Combine the ground hazelnuts with 100g of the sugar and the cornflour.
Lower the temperature of the oven to 150° (300°F/Gas 2). Beat the egg whites with the salt to soft peaks in a mixing bowl, then add the rest of the sugar and beat for 2 minutes until you have a firm and glossy meringue. Fold in the hazelnut mixture using a large spoon.
Make 3 discs of meringue, each about 20cm (8 inches) in diameter, on some baking paper. You can use a piping bag to do this if you like. Bake the meringues for 1 hour, rotating the baking trays regularly so the meringues cook evenly. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool with the oven door ajar.
Make the ganache. Break the chocolate into pieces in a mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan and pour it over the chocolate. Let it stand for 1 minute, then stir to melt the chocolate. Let the mixture cool.
Make the coffee cream. Whisk the egg yolks with the cornflour and sugar until they are pale and have doubled in volume.
Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan. Pour it over the egg yolks and add the coffee, whisking at the same time. Return the mixture to the saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes on a very gentle heat, stirring at the same time. The custard will thicken. Take it off the heat and cover with plastic wrap in contact with the surface of the custard, and let it cool.
Whip the cream with an electric beater until light, then gradually fold it into the coffee custard. Make the praline. Melt the sugar in a saucepan to make a caramel. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and spread them over some baking paper or a silicone mat. Pour over the caramel. Let the praline harden and set aside to use for decoration.
To assemble the dacquoise, spread a layer of chocolate ganache on the meringues, followed by a layer of the coffee cream. Finish with a disc of meringue and decorate with the praline, broken into pieces.
Diva Boutique Bakery Bundt Pound Cake
Makes one 9” bundt cake or three 9” layers
15 minutes preparation, 30 – 60 minutes baking
1 pound each of softened butter (salted is fine) caster sugar and plain flour
9 large, free range eggs
1 tbsp vanilla.
Preheat oven to 180°C, Gas 4 and 160°C, in a fan oven.
Grease your desired pan with butter and lightly dust with flour, tapping out excess.
Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment or mix with a handheld mixer with beaters, cream together on high speed for 10 minutes. This is where the batter gets its leavening as there is no baking powder added later.
Add eggs one at a time at low speed, scraping bowl in between additions.
Add vanilla and then flour and mix on low speed until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour for a bundt-style cake or 25-30 minutes in smaller pans. Make sure to test cake with a skewer or sharp knife before removing from oven. You want the skewer to come out cleanly from the cake. Cool and remove from pan on to cake stand or a decorative plate.
At this point you can dress the cake with an icing sugar glaze made with lemon juice or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Flavour variations, as desired.
Try adding the zest of two lemons and a few tablespoons of poppy seeds to the batter, or roughly 2 cups of fresh berries.
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