Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding Cake: Fiona Cairns

Prince William and Kate Middleton, who each are known for their sweet tooth, have chosen Leicestershire baker Fiona Cairns to bake their wedding cake. The royal couple chose Cairns for her use of traditional British ingredients and creative style. Fiona says the cake is a traditional wedding fruit cake with a modern twist! There will be lots of lattice & scroll work and she has been given a list of 16 flowers to incorporate into the cake in one way or another. 

The final Wedding Cake delivered to Buckingham Palace

The finished cake will of course be multi-tiered, with a simply but stylish white and cream scheme. Fiona sums the cake up as being traditional, delicate, modern with a vintage element. The cake will also be decorated with the couple's new cipher, most likely made up of their initials, which will be unveiled for the first time on the big day. 

Fiona Cairns is also a celebrated cookbook author

Prince Charles' godson and Camilla's son Tom Parker Bowles, who is a food writer, editor and author, says, "Fiona Cairns makes cakes that taste superb and look amazing. They’re handmade and elegantly decorated". At her bakery in Leicestershire, Cairns explained that each of the tiers of icing-covered, brandy-flavored fruitcake will have a different theme. Detailed piping is being used to make 3-D scrollwork, flowers, leaves and other decorative touches, while the flowers of the four corners of the U.K. will be represented by the English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock. 

Cairns sent samples of different fruit cakes to William and Kate, who chose their favorite, and she has now started baking to allow the cakes the necessary four weeks to mature. Mrs Cairns added: "I can’t tell you exactly the recipe, but the brandy is very important. We always soak our fruits overnight to plump them up. This is exactly the same method you would use at home if you were making a fruit cake – we just use bigger batches." Trained as a graphic designer and as a pastry chef, Cairns started her business from her kitchen 25 years ago, and now produces over 750,000 cakes a year for clients including Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Sainsbury's. She has made cakes for celebrities including Bono and Sinead O'Connor, and supplies Sir Paul McCartney with a specially commissioned Christmas cake every year. In addition, the couple have also asked McVitie's Cake Company to create a chocolate biscuit cake for the reception at Buckingham Palace. 

Fiona Cairns Pansy Wreath Cake
Serves 6

This lemon cake is so summery with its circlet of violas and pansies. In spring it would look equally pretty decorated with crystallised primulas, says Fiona Cairns.

175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
175g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

175g golden caster sugar
the zest, finely grated, and juice of
1 large unwaxed lemon

For the topping:
the juice of 1 large lemon
100g white granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter an 18cm, 7.5cm deep, round springform tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Using an electric whisk or mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until very light and fluffy (about five minutes). Blend in the melted butter; then very gently fold in the flour and zest. Finally, slowly fold in the juice.
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Meanwhile, make the crunchy topping by mixing the juice and sugar together. Immediately the cake comes from the oven, prick tiny holes all over it with a fine skewer or cocktail stick. Pour the lemon syrup evenly all over the surface. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

To decorate:
150g icing sugar, sifted
purple food colour
20-25 crystallised small violas and pansies (see recipe below)
50g bag white royal icing

Place the cake upside down on your serving plate or cake stand. Tip the icing sugar into a small bowl and add 1½-2 tablespoons of water and a tiny amount of purple food colour. The icing should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Spoon it over the cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides. Arrange the violas and pansies in a circle, using the royal icing to affix them, if you like, then place a few in the middle of the cake. It’s as simple as that.

Crystallized Flowers

Makes as many as you want. These should keep for up to a week in a dry place. Use unsprayed flowers that are completely dry.

egg white, lightly whisked
white caster sugar
edible flowers and leaves, such as whole roses or rose petals, violas, pansies, violets, mimosa, cowslips, pinks, primroses, lavender, sweet geranium leaves, mint leaves
a small paintbrush
florist’s wire (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the egg white in a bowl and the sugar in another. Hold the flower, petal or leaf at the base and paint with egg, ensuring you cover every fold. Gently sprinkle on the sugar, again making sure every surface is covered, then shake off the excess. If crystallising whole roses, push a fine florist’s wire through the base of the bloom then hook the wire over a tall glass. Leave overnight in a dry, warm place. The flower will dry while hanging. Lay petals or leaves on the lined sheet and leave overnight in a dry, warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal). They will harden in a few hours, becoming brittle. Store in an airtight container, lined and interleaved with baking parchment. They are very fragile, so make only a couple of layers.