Better late than never: Festive carrot cakes

What better way to brighten these frosty February days than with a twinkly reminder of the festive season we just left behind? Ha! The truth is I’ve just been too busy to keep up with posts. So apologies for harking back to 2011 but I feel it would be a shame not to celebrate these:

Concealed inside is a rich carrot sponge, with cinnamon and nutmeg, heaps of orange and lemon zest and a helping of preserved mixed peel (the type that normally makes it into xmas puds). Cake-decorating gurus stress the importance of a strong, firm cake that can hold the weight of plentiful decorations, so the basic sponge is adapted from a Mich Turner recipe (from this book). Once baked, I skewered the sponge and drowned it in Mich’s sugary citrus syrup, then sandwiched it with orange buttercream. I’m not such a fan of marzipan, so I gave both cakes an undercoat of the same orange buttercream, before their topcoat of white sugarpaste.

The decorations are made from sugarpaste, using a snowflake cookie cutter (for the larger ones) and a snowflake plunger cutter (by PME, bought from Amazon) for the smaller, more intricate ones. The ‘gold’ sugarpaste I coloured using the ‘caramel/ivory’ shade of Sugarflair paste colouring, mixed with a smidgeon of ‘tangerine/apricot’. They were then brushed with ‘Royal Gold’ edible lustre dust (also by Sugarflair). The white ones were brushed with ‘Snowflake’ edible lustre. To stick them down I painted the underneath with boiled water and manoureved them carefully with a palette knife and cocktail stick. They were quite delicate, so it was a tricky business!

The gold trim piped round the bottom is made from royal icing, coloured with the ‘caramel/ivory’ paste, and piped from a piping bag through a No.2 nozzle in a trail of pearls. Once it had hardened, I painted it with the Royal Gold lustre, mixed with a little bit of vodka, left it to dry, then frosted it with a dusting of dry lustre.

The boards are also covered with sugarpaste, and trimmed with gold satin ribbon.

Making these was a pretty big effort, involving lots of stages. It gave me an understanding of what goes into those amazing cakes you see in stores and at weddings. The books I referred to were indispensible — aside from Mich Turner, whose book I already mentioned, I took loads of amazing tips from Juliet Sears, whose cake-decorating book I recently copy-edited.

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