I first met Carly and her mum at a County Wedding Events wedding showcase at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands, Surrey in March 2019. Carly had pretty much everything in place for her September 2019 wedding apart from the cake and the wedding cars (she also found those at MBW, the lovely Jake and his dad at Oxted Classic Cars).
They had a family friend who was a baker and had made the cake for Carly’s sister, but she only made certain flavours and Carly didn’t want to compromise on the flavour profiles of her cake. She was drawn to the picture I had on display of the naked cake I had created for a wedding at Burnham Beeches Hotel in Buckinghamshire. We had a lovely chat about the cake and other aspects of their wedding, and she went away with some ideas to consider.
After an exchange of emails, I met Carly, her mother, and Ryan at Carly and Ryan’s house. I was armed with cupcakes in the four flavours they had decided to try. They chose lemon and elderflower (Carly had been adamant from the start that this would be one tier of their cake), salted caramel, classic vanilla and Devon Fudge. Eventually we settled on definitely having lemon and elderflower and vanilla. The salted caramel and the fudge caused much debate. They are similar in lots of ways, with Carly initially being drawn to Salted Caramel. But Ryan also had strong family connections to Devon, so was reluctant to give it up. They had chosen it as the fourth flavour for their taster after seeing it on my flavour menu. Therefore, I suggested a compromise: salted caramel cake, salted caramel buttercream and sauce with fudge pieces scattered amongst the layers. It was a winner!
The couple wanted a semi-naked cake with green and white foliage provided by their florist. In order to keep the smear of buttercream on the outside of the cake as white as possible I suggested all the tiers were covered in the same white vanilla buttercream (my salted caramel buttercream has caramel sauce stirred through it, so is naturally darker in colour).
They also ordered six gluten-free cupcakes for a relative with a gluten intolerance (they were happy that my kitchen is not gluten free, but she didn’t need a specialist free-from baker to make the cakes for her). Carly chose Harry Potter themed decorations for the cupcakes, to tie in with their theme. They only thing left to decide was which tier of the cake would be in which flavour …
I knew from the start that Carly would ask for Lemon and Elderflower as the biggest tier. It was the first flavour she had mentioned to me at Mercedes Benz World and the first flavour she had chosen to try. Lemon and Elderflower has become popular since the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however it is a flavour with history. I remember my gran making Lemon and Elderflower cake, and growing up in the country it is almost the law that when the elder is in flower you harvest the delicate blooms, steep in water and sugar and make elderflower cordial (or elderflower wine). The flavour is subtle and floral and balances beautifully with the tartness of lemon, so I can see why it is so popular and making a comeback.
So the final decision was lemon and elderflower for the bottom tier, salted caramel with Devon fudge pieces for the middle and vanilla with raspberry jam for the top.
The key to a naked cake is that, unlike a fondant covered cake with the icing sealing in the freshness, they need to be baked, filled, decorated and dowelled at the last minute. Semi-naked cakes, particularly the style Carly and Ryan had chosen, meant there was enough of a buttercream coating to stop the edges drying out, however they still benefit from being made last minute. As I also had to drive the cake to a venue almost an hour away in Hampshire, I didn’t want to risk delivery of it already stacked. I have every faith in my ability to firmly stack a cake, but cakes without fondant are not as predictable.
The day before the wedding in late September had been a glorious late-summer day. Unfortunately, the day of the wedding dawned thundery and wet. So, the rain hats (cellophane) went on the cake boxes for transportation. Luckily, by the time I delivered the cake (timed to be set up between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, to minimise the time the cake was sat out in the air) the sun had come out.
The Clock Barn looked absolutely breath-taking. It is a beautiful venue anyway, but the couple’s florist, Kimberley Shaw Flowers, had done an absolutely stunning job with the flowers. She had also left me some beautiful roses and foliage to add to the cake.
Setting up a cake doesn’t just involve bringing it in from the car and plonking it on the table. The little touches from your baker will make sure your cake sees out the day until cutting time and looks immaculate in all your photos.
I was given a log cake stand provided by the couple. I have one that I hire out to couples, but Carly and Ryan had their own, again used at Carly’s sister’s wedding. Using a cake stand you are not familiar with, especially sliced from a log is always nerve-wracking. Enter my favourite tool in my toolbox (and yes, I have a proper tool box for all my cake set-ups) – my spirit level. Not only do I use it to check my individual tiers are level, that the dowels are level, but I also check the table (always be prepared to prop up a wonky leg with a bit of card or paper) and the cake stand. There is some leeway with a bit of wonk. I can usually turn things slightly to compensate for one side being higher than the other, but the ideal is that we start off with a level surface. Once that was done, I could start stacking the tiers. I had already dowelled them at home, but the spirit level was brought out again and one or two were swapped over or trimmed to make sure it was completely level. Although covered in buttercream, the best way to stick tiers together is with royal icing. I had a Tupperware already made up for this. Next from my toolkit was a crank-handled spatula and piping bags with spare buttercream. I used this to fill in any gaps between tiers and repair any dents from handling the cakes.
Next was the flowers. I had an image I had discussed with Carly about how she wanted the flowers, but in many ways, this is the most nerve-wracking bit. Once you have put them in the cake there is no taking them out again – you will leave holes in the cake. I selected foliage and roses to make little posies which I then wrapped in florist tape and placed in posy picks or bubble-tea straws, so they weren’t making direct contact with the cake.
Finally, Carly had left me with a wooden topper to go in the cake. A nod to the Harry Potter theme with a Deathly Hallows symbol and their initials. I placed a posy behind it to emphasise its presence on the top of the cake.
“I wanted to send you a MASSIVE thank you for our amazing wedding cake on Sunday. It was absolutely stunning and tasted delicious! All of our guests commented how beautiful and yummy it was too.
Thank you so much, you really did put the cherry on top for us! You’ve been very professional and friendly throughout, reassuring my silly stresses and overall just have been great. I will be recommending you to all of my friends should they be getting married.”
I loved the flavours and the simple beauty of this cake. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, and Carly and Ryan were a pleasure to deal with from start to finish. I was so happy to receive the amazing feedback they took the time to give me. If all my weddings were this easy, I would be a very happy baker!