With baking I am a firm believer that simplicity, done well, can often give the best results. And while I occasionally go for over-the-top-looking creation with cakes, for me it really is flavour that is has to be at the heart of the cake: after all, once a cake has been cut into and has lost some of the visual appeal, you want the flavour to carry on the joy.
Simple, effective flavours
This particular celebration cake, for the anniversary of my Civil Partnership, has 4 tiers of Victoria Sandwich – arguably the simplest of cakes to make and one of the nicest to eat. Each cake is brushed generously with a light Framboise and vanilla syrup, filled with tangy raspberry buttercream.
The cakes are decorated with fresh raspberries that have also been brushed with a Framboise syrup: simple flavours that enhance the Victoria Sandwich and take it easily to a level that would work for any celebration!
The syrup is just caster sugar, vanilla pods and enough water to cover the sugar, brought to a gentle simmer to dissolve the sugar, before getting boiled for about 5 minutes to give a syrup. A generous splash of Framboise is added at the end.
The tiers in this cake are wrapped in what has become my signature chocolate lace collar.
I gave a light brushing of edible gold lustre over some of the raspberries to add a hint of gold: mostly frippery on my part, but I do like a touch of gold with red!
The cakes themselves:
The recipe for a standard Victoria Sandwich cake is on my key cake tips post, along with flavoured buttercream and general chocolate tips.
The cake sizes were 6″, 8″, 10″ and 12″, with the top two tiers being made gluten-free, for which I simply replaced the self-raising flour from the normal recipe with the equivalent weight of gluten-free self-raising flour.
The cake only used about 150g of chocolate in total for the lace effect.
How to assemble:
(1) Make the cakes, let them cool completely and brush each liberally with the syrup.
(2) Fill the cakes with raspberry buttercream (and fresh raspberries inside, too, if you want). Apply a thin layer of buttercream all over the top and sides of the cakes. Ideally chill the cakes at this stage to firm up the buttercream which also helps the chocolate set more quickly. My cake post that is linked above has further detail and tips on getting a great flavoured buttercream and crumb-coating a cake.
(3) Place the cakes onto cake boards, ensuring each cake – apart from the bottom cake – is on the same size cake board as the cake. The bottom tier goes on a slightly larger board. Use a little buttercream to fix each cake to its board.
(4) Melt (or ideally temper) dark chocolate for the lace effect, and apply the chocolate to each cake separately (see How to create the chocolate lace effect on a cake, below). Peel away the acetate slowly from each.
(5) Stack the cakes from the bottom tier upwards, making sure the tier below is in place before carefully placing the next tier on top. You will need dowels to support the tiers: I find 8 dowels are enough for the larger cakes, with 5-6 for smaller ones.
Stacking tip: when placing each cake onto the one below, angle the cake slightly onto the supporting cake and carefully ease it down to set it in place, removing your hand from underneath the board gently. Now you might break some of the chocolate that rises up from the cake below, but that is absolutely fine as these breakages can then get covered with the cascading raspberries; and nibbling on breakages is a must! Mind you, you could always wrap the chocolate around each cake leaving a few inches gap at the front, which allows you to slide your hand out safely!!
(5) Place raspberries around the top rim of each tier and cascading down one (or even more) side of the tiers, covering up any chocolate breakages you might have had: you can dip the base of the raspberries in just a little melted chocolate to ensure they stick vertically.
How to create the chocolate lace effect on a cake:
(1) Cut acetate (or even baking parchment) into rectangles, with length enough to surround each cake with a little overlap, and width just larger than the depth of each tier: this gives the crown effect around the top of each cake. You might instead prefer to use a shorter length, giving a few inches gap on the cakes for the raspberries to later be stuck, giving the cascade effect. You could also go just to the depth of the cake if you want the chocolate lace to be flush with the top of each cake without a crown effect.
(2) Temper or melt the chocolate and spoon into a disposable piping bag. Snip off the end to give a very small hole. Alternatively, fit the bag with a small writing nozzle. Either way, the smaller the hole, the better.
(3) Pipe/drizzle over the acetate, going almost to the edges of the length of the acetate, piping either in random or more structured shapes – whichever takes your fancy. Leave it for a minute or so (until the chocolate is only just starting to set).
(4) Lift the acetate carefully, using the clean bit at the edges to help, and gently lay it around the cake (chocolate-side against the cake!), patting gently to just fix it in place.
(5) Chill for at least 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set fully and then carefully peel off the acetate, starting with a corner and going slowly, a little at a time, revealing the lace effect.
NB: you can instead spread the chocolate thinly over the acetate without drizzling it for a full-on chocolate collar (as in the white chocolate cake pictures above). Or very loosely mix white and dark chocolate together on the acetate for a marbled effect.
Top tip: you can practise with a small amount of chocolate and acetate/parchment around a tin or cylindrical mug to get a feel for how it all works!