When cake maker extraordinaire, Eric Lanlard, wants to challenge you to decorate a cake for the Queen’s Birthday, you just have to say yes.
This is how I ended up in a kitchen in North London, playing with butter icing and edible glitter, trying to decorate a cake. I have never actually learnt how to do this before. All I have done is mess around with some slap dash chocolate fudge icing to make rustic home made chocolate cakes. My last attempt at this ended with winning the worst cupcake prize, so this did not bode well.
Eric has designed a Pink Velvet cake for Tesco Finest to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. He said that he was inspired by the Afternoon Tea tradition and having made several cakes for the Royal Family before (including one for the late Queen Mother with little corgis on top), he knows what will appeal.
The cake is made up of a layer of chocolate sponge with 2 layers of pink velvet sponge, sandwiched with raspberry preserve. The decoration uses creamy Tesco finest* Madagascan white chocolate buttercream and crowned with delicate prosecco flavoured buttercream roses.
This cake is available from Tesco across the country from 3rd June, cost £10.
Of course, they had to do it BakeOff style with a timed challenge. For someone who doesn’t know the end of a piping nozzle from a teapot, this is quite daunting. I watched Eric’s demonstration very carefully. Here is a video of Eric showing us how it’s done.
Cake Decorating under time pressure and with absolutely no know-how
I then looked at all the prepared icing and food colouring in front of us on and decided to get creative. There was the choice of the doing the white chocolate dripping effect which is all the rage in cake decorating now. Although I like the rustic look to my baking, this didn’t fit with my grand ambitions. I just went with some purple colouring. I wanted to try this ombre effect that I have seen everywhere from cakes to ice lollies and thought it might be a bit of fun.
Our 4 layers of sponge cake were ready for us on a rotating cake stand. (An essential piece of cake decorating equipment).
First we had to prep the 4 layers of cake with some icing and raspberry preserve in between the sandwich layers. Then we did a generous layer of plain white icing all over the cake. This gives it a nice base for the rest of the icing to sit on. At this stage you would normally put it in a fridge for the icing to set a bit before working on the next part.
Starting with the darkest purple icing first, I stuffed the icing into the piping bag, getting more on my apron than in the bag. There must be some way of doing this where you don’t lose all the icing in the top of the bag leaving very little to pipe. Anyway, lumbering on, I piped the first row a the bottom, rather messily. Promptly ran out of dark purple and had to frantically mix up a bit more with the shade a bit off.
Then the second row of roses were done with a lighter purple. I was getting the hang of it now and it went quite smoothly. At this point, I ran out of icing. Had to beg some off the people behind me and did the next shade. My roses were all different sizes and if you looked closely, quite a mess.
With just 5 minutes to go and a partly decorated cake, I just had to wing the last bit. We had a bowl of the special Prosecco butter icing and as this was what was left, I used this to pipe the top, trying to cover up as much cake as possible, to hid the imperfections. Who knew that you could really hack cake decorating.
Then the glitter party began. We had a couple of tubs and the pink stuff was just glorious. I sprinkled it all over the top of the cake, over myself and all over my phone too. (Was still finding this stuff days after).
So here is my finished cake. I took the picture from the good side.
So if you have never done any cake decorating before, do have a go. It’s not as difficult as people make it out to be. I might need to take a cake decorating class and a lot more practice before I attempt something for public consumption again.
Eric’s top Cake Decorating Tips
1. BE ORGANISED
A little bit of preparation goes a long way, it will help you to avoid getting caught off guard and ensure you aren’t missing anything. Always start with a clean and clear work surface and make sure you have all your equipment and ingredients lined up ready for action.
2. CHILL OUT
If you’re about to slice a sponge ready to be decorated, place it in the fridge for at least one hour. Chilling the sponge will make it easier to slice and you will get less crumbs than if you cut it when it’s super fresh.
3. MORE IS LESS
When using food colouring to colour icing, always use a tooth pick. Adding a small amount of colouring in stages avoids getting the colour wrong. Remember it’s easy to add more, but not to take it out!
4. 50 SHADES OF GREY
When baking coloured sponges for cakes such as red velvet or a rainbow cake, make sure the food colouring you use is bake table. If it isn’t, your lovely coloured sponge will turn grey in the oven.
5. DON’T CRACK UP
When rolling icing on a surface, swap your icing sugar for a light dusting of corn flour…it won’t dry out your icing and will give you a much smoother result without cracks.
6. PUT ON YOUR CRUMB COAT
When icing a cake with frosting or buttercream, start by doing what we call a ‘crumb coat’. This is a rough coating of frosting or buttercream which helps to glue the crumbs together. Place the cake in the fridge for one hour before finishing off without a crumb in sight.
7. GLAZE OVER IT
When making a chocolate ganache to glaze a cake, take extra care mixing your hot cream and chocolate. You will need to mix it gently so the ganache does not curdle. If it does, don’t panic, you can save it by folding one tablespoon of cold cream into it. The addition of a bit of glucose syrup into your ganache will help smooth it.
8. STAY IN CONTROL
Do not overfill your piping bag when piping icing. Instead, it is better to refill frequently as it gives you more control. When refilling, try placing your piping bag into a measuring jug so you have two free hands to do so.
9. ICING ON THE CAKE
To fill and ice a cake with buttercream or frosting, use a turntable or a cake stand to help you spin your cake, making it easier to get all around the edges. A palette knife is the perfect tool for icing. To finish, dip your palette knife into hot water for few seconds to get a super smooth and glossy sheen.
10. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
If you’re decorating a cake for a special occasion and want to practice your technique ahead of the big day, purchase a polystyrene dummy from any sugar craft store. This way you can decorate it as many times as you want without wasting any cake, icing, frosting – or even piping!! All you need to do is place a clear sheet of Perspex underneath any design and then follow with your piping bag, and clean wipe and start again until you have perfected the technique.
Here are some of the other cakes.
EatCookExplore was a guest of Tesco Finest at this Masterclass