I won’t lie, I was a little daunted when I was asked to make the cake for one of my favourite people’s kitchen tea. But that was beautifully balanced with the excitement of unleashing my creativity on this “no pressure” bake for a Madhatter’s Tea Party themed celebration.
Although I often explore my creativity through exciting flavours and ingredients, for this challenge, I stuck to old faithfuls that are simple to make but that are rich and pleasing so that I could focus on complex construction of a crazy topsy turvy cake.
So the base was my all-time favourite vanilla sponge cake (pure buttery deliciousness) frosted with a smooth and silky Italian meringue buttercream. The great thing with this icing is that you can get creative with the flavour (just be careful when adding liquids such as liqueurs or coffee as too much liquid can affect the consistency of the icing).
From there, it was all about slicing angled layers of sponge, connecting them with the icing and then getting creative with some colourful fondant. I can’t say it was a quick or easy bake, but luckily I had support from another one of my favourites who took charge of the added detail like the White Rabbi’s gold-coated pocket watch (she was also in charge of topping up wine glasses to keep spirits up).
The result… a crazy topsy turvy success!
For the sponge:
- 250g butter
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large free-range eggs (at room temperature, beaten)
- 250g self-raising flour (or regular cake flour and 2½ tsp baking powder)
- 2-3 Tbsp milk (if needed)
For the frosting:
- 5 free-range egg whites
- 55g caster sugar
- 285g sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 455g butter (cubed)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Beat the butter with an electric mixer, then slowly beat in the caster sugar and vanilla
- Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed
- Add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition and added a tablespoon of the flour with the last few egg additions to stop the mixture from curdling
- Sift in the remaining flour and mix with a metal spoon until no streaks/specks of flour are visible
- The mixture should just drop off the back of a spoon when lightly shaken (add a small amount of milk if necessary)
- Spoon the mixture into two 7-inch baking tins (lined or greased – I use loose bottom tins lined with baking paper)
- Bake for 35-40 mins (until golden and springy and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean)
- For the frosting, place the granulated sugar and the water in a saucepan and place over a medium-high heat (allow the sugar to melt slowly without stirring)
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand-mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy
- Add the caster sugar and then continue beating until stiff peaks
- Allow the sugar and water mixture to bubble until all the sugar has dissolved and large rolling bubbles move from the edges to the centre of the pot (I found this IMBC tutorial really helpful when it came to making this for the first time as I don’t use a sugar thermometer)
- Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly (the mixture is really hot!) pour in the sugar mixture in a steady stream
- Turn the mixer back to high, and beat until the mixture comes down to room temperature
- Reduce the speed of the mixer again, and add in the butter block by block and continue beating until smooth and silky
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