Here you will find recipes and decoration ideas for exquisitely beautiful cakes. While in previous years the fashion had been for cakes to be encased in fondant and decorated in a fancy style, there is now an established trend for stripping cakes back, and decorating them more simply with edible flowers and vibrant berries or using different shades of batter to make the cake itself the star attraction.
Whether you want to create Vintage Elegance, Rustic Style, Romantic Charm, Chic Simplicity or Dramatic Effect, or make something to represent the Changing Seasons, you’ll find the perfect recipe and design here. Choose from floral cakes such as Rose Petal Cake, zingy citrus bakes such as Clementine Cakes and luxurious berry fruit offerings including Blueberry and Lemon Drizzle Cakes.
There are plenty of ideas to tempt the sophisticated nut-lover and chocoholic, such as Chocolate Chestnut Cake, Hazelnut Harvest Cake, and Pistachio Layer Cake. These cakes are not for every day—they are special treats and perfect for birthdays, weddings and other celebrations all year round.
This pretty cake would not be out of place in the window of a fine French patisserie store, filled with fresh berries and topped with sugar macarons.
1 recipe 6-egg Cake Batter (recipe follows)
Pink food colouring paste
For the macarons
130 g/1 1/3 cups ground almonds
180 g/scant 1 cup icing/confectioners’ sugar
3 egg whites
80 g/1⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon caster/superfine sugar
Pink food colouring paste
For the filling
450 g/1 lb. clotted cream (or 600 ml/2 1⁄2 cups double/heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks)
300 g/3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons strawberry jam/jelly
300 g/2 heaped cups raspberries
2 tablespoons raspberry jam/jelly
Icing/confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Food-safe fresh leaves, such as mint or bay leaves
A piping/pastry bag fitted with large round nozzle/tip
2 baking sheets, lined with silicone mats
3 x 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment
Begin by preparing the macarons. Put the ground almonds and icing/confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and blitz to a fine powder. Sift the nut powder into a bowl, returning any pieces that do not pass through the sieve/strainer to the blender. Blitz, then sift again.
In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then, continuing to whisk, add the caster/superfine sugar, a spoonful at a time, until the meringue is smooth and glossy. Add the food colouring paste, then add the nut powder, one-third at a time, folding in with a spatula. As you fold, the colour will become even. It is very important to get the meringue to the right texture; it needs to be folded until it is just soft enough that it will not quite hold a peak. Drop a little of the mixture onto a plate; if it settles into a smooth surface, it is ready. If it holds a peak then you need to fold it a few more times. If you fold it too much it will be too runny and the macarons will not hold their shape.
Spoon the mixture into a piping/pastry bag. Pipe 3-cm/1¼-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them out well as they will spread during cooking. Leave the macarons on the sheets for 1 hour, so that a skin forms. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) Gas 3.
Bake the macarons for 20–30 minutes, until firm, then let cool completely on the baking sheets. Turn the oven up to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
Spoon one-third of the cake batter into one of the cake pans. Divide the remaining cake batter into two bowls and colour one portion pale pink and the other portion a deeper pink. Transfer to the remaining pans. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the cakes spring back to the touch and a knife inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Trim away the edges of the cakes to reveal the coloured sponge. Place the deep pink cake on a serving plate and spread with a generous layer of clotted cream. Top with the strawberries, then spoon over the strawberry jam. Top with the pale pink cake and cover with more cream, most of the raspberries and then the raspberry jam. Top with the plain cake and dust with icing/confectioners’ sugar.
Sandwich 8–10 pairs of macarons together with a little of the cream. (Store the remaining macarons in an airtight container to eat another day.) Decorate the cake with macarons, raspberries and leaves. Serve straight away or store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. As the cake contains fresh cream, it is best eaten on the day it is made, although it will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Basic 6-Egg Sponge Cake Batter
340 g /1 1/2 cups butter, softened
340 g/1 3/4 cups caster/granulated sugar
340 g/2 1/2 cups self-raising/self-rising flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream
Use an electric whisk to mix the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk again. Fold in the flour, baking powder and buttermilk or sour cream using a spatula, until incorporated. Use as directed in your recipe.
Excerpted from Naked Cakes by Hannah Miles, published by Ryland Peters & Small (CAN $27.95). Photography by Steve Painter © Ryland Peters & Small. Used with permission from the publisher.