A Cake Fit for a Royal Wedding
This Saturday, there's a small ceremony happening across the pond. I was pleased as punch to hear that the wedding cake wouldn't be the traditional fruit cake drowned and draped in royal icing. Instead, the bride and groom chose a confection infused with lemon and elderflower, a lovely pairing that is both tart and warm. In honor of the day, here's a cake inspired by their chosen flavors and the couple themselves (succulents for California. Peonies and English roses for England). I added my hand-piped flowers purposefully but still a bit willy nilly, not unlike my favorite English gardens. I even draped a purple anemone flower "fascinator" across an English rose for good measure.
For the cake
3 ½ cups/380 grams all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 cups/396 grams sugar
2 sticks/226 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup elderflower syrup
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon extract
zest one lemon
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 8-inch cake pans (either round or square) with parchment and spray with non-stick baker’s spray. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest and whisk for 30 seconds to distribute the leavening. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the lemon extract. Then, with the mixer running on 1 or 2 speed, add ½ half the flour mixture then all the wet ingredients (buttermilk and elderflower syrup) and then the remainder of the flour. Mix until just incorporated.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again and fold the batter a few times to make sure the batter is well mixed but not over mixed.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently poked.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then run a paring knife along the sides of the pan to release the cakes and then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
For the lemon curd
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick/113 grams unsalted butter, melted
generous pinch salt
1 ½ teaspoon gelatin
In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and then sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the juice. Make sure the mixture looks like wet sand before incorporating into the remainder of the curd.
In a microwave safe bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup lemon juice, sugar, eggs, melted butter, and salt. Microwave for 3 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 3 minutes. Stir, Microwave for 3 more minutes. Check the temperature of the curd with a sugar thermometer. If it reads 180ºF, it’s finished (you can also see if it coats the back of a spoon). If not at temperature yet, microwave in 1 minute bursts until you get there.
NOTE: if you have a very powerful (schmancy) microwave, you may want to adjust the power setting to 70% to avoid scorching the curd and cooking the egg whites.
Once at temperature, run the curd through a sieve into a large bowl and stir in the gelatin. Continue stirring until the gelatin has completely melted. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the curd, making sure the plastic wrap actually touches any exposed curd to keep it from forming a skin. Refrigerate until the curd is completely cool, about an hour.
For the Elderflower Swiss Buttercream
8 egg whites
1 ½ cups /297 grams sugar
¼ cup/59 ml elderflower syrup
generous pinch salt
6 sticks/678 grams unsalted butter, just a bit cooler than room temperature
Combine the egg whites, sugar, elderberry syrup and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the mixer bowl over simmering water and whisk until the sugar has completely melted and the mixture reads between 170ºF and 180ºF on a sugar thermometer.
Immediately transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and the mixer bowl is cool to the touch.
With the mixer on high, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, making sure each piece of butter is incorporated before adding the next. Mix until the mixture thickens (it may look curdle at some point but that’s ok. Continue mixing. It will smooth out). Once the mixture smooths out and thickens, continue whisking for at least 3-5 minutes more.
Torte (cut in half horizontally) the two cakes to make 4 layers total and place one of the layers on a cardboard round. Pipe an even layer of buttercream over the layer and then pipe a “dam” around the perimeter of the layer, this will keep your curd in place. Smooth 1/3 of the curd over the buttercream layer. If the curd is very loose still, freeze this single layer for 10 minutes. Otherwise, place a second layer of cake on top of the first and pipe a buttercream layer, dam and then fill with curd. Continue with the third layer in the same way and then top with the final layer of cake. Freeze the cake until set, about 2 hours. Smooth the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.
I made an extra, smaller, batch of buttercream and tinted it with gel dyes (eggplant and moss americolor, as well as bright yellow , rose and delphineum blue from Wilton, also gel dyes). I piped a few succulents to represent California and then continued hand piping peonies, anemones, roses and other fantasy flowers .
For flower piping, it’s all practice. You really just need one flower tip, I use Ateco 124k the most. Play. Look at online videos. Most importantly, have fun.