Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns (£15; W&N)
- For the tiers:
- 175g unsalted butter, soft, in small pieces
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 175g golden caster sugar
- For the filling:
- 100ml clotted cream, whipped
- 4tbsp jam of your choice
- sprinkle of icing sugar, to dust
- For the decoration:
- bunch of crystallised flowers
- 200g cherries, with stalks
- 150g redcurrants, with stalks
Preheat the oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Butter a 15cm, two 20cm and two 25cm round cake tins and lie each base with baking parchment.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and butter. Cream together thoroughly, but not too enthusiastically as you want a light sponge.
It is best to bake the cakes one batch at a time. The batter in the 15cm tin needs to be twice as deep as that in the other tins. Bake the 15cm cakes for 50-55 minutes, the 20cm cakes for 25-30 minutes, and the 25cm cakes for 30-35 minutes.
Leave the cakes in their tins for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
Select the best-looking cake for the top and place the other, baked top-side down. Cut the 15cm cake in half horizontally. Spread with cream. Spread the flat side of the top cake with the jam. Sandwich the two cakes together.
Attach each cake to the right-sized cake board with a blob of jam. Check they are all level and, if not, trim them level with a serrated knife. At this stage they can be sotred in the fridge for quite a number of hours, ready to be assembled a few hours before required. Dust all three cakes with icing sugar.
Insert four dowelling sticks vertically into the largest cake, spacing them apart to form a square sitting just within where the middle cake will rest. Push each stick down on the board until it will go no further, then mark with a pen about 1mm above the surface. Remove each stick, score where it is marked with a knife and snap. Replace the sticks into the holes. Repeat for the middle tier.
To stack the three cakes, simply place the largest cake, still on its board, on to a cake stand or serving plate. Place the middle tier on top, checking it is exactly in the centre, then add the top tier.
Now the cake is all ready for decorating. Once you have crystallised your flowers simply arrange them on the cake with the cherries and currants.
Crystallise your flowers by painting them with egg white and sprinkling sugar on them. Leave to dry overnight in a dry warm place in an air tight container.