The Alphabakes Challenge this month is for the letter “W”. White chocolate is an obvious choice of ingredient, also walnuts or possibly whisky, but there are plenty of other choices too. Whisked sponge, wholemeal…..numerous possibilities in fact. Just thinking about it made me realise how much I miss our walnut tree chez nous in France and feel rather sad.
This time last year there was a magnificent walnut tree in the garden. It was fully laden with walnuts which fell to the ground in quantities that we could hardly keep up with and we gave them away to everyone who came to the house. Our kitten Daisy had a fine time chasing them around the garden.
Unfortunately our walnut tree was doomed. There was nothing wrong with it, it was a beautiful, healthy tree. Sadly it fell foul of our need for a new “fosse septique” – something we were obliged to do by law when we bought the house. The roots of the walnut tree were in the way of the extensive pipework so it had to go - there are legal limits as to how close a tree can be in order for it to comply with the regulations. Which all seems rather a shame when so many other people in rural France are still using antiquated systems which often consist of little more than a big concrete box with a hole in the bottom. They seem to work perfectly well – as long as you don’t worry too much about where your waste goes. Hey ho.
Putting all thoughts of walnuts and plumbing behind me I looked in the index section of my recipe books for anything to bake that begins with “W” and another thing that crops up frequently is “wedding cake”.
I have only ever made one “sort of” wedding cake and that was for my friends Elizabeth and Colin. They were married in England last September and held a second party for their friends and neighbours in France a few weeks later. I offered to make a copy of their wedding cake for the party and I wanted to make it gluten free so that Elizabeth would be able to have a slice herself.
She sent me photos of her original cake, which was a beautiful two tier sponge cake, covered in marzipan and decorated with fresh flowers. We settled for a smaller version – a one tier sponge cake, covered in buttercream – my marzipan and icing skills being minimal.
I used my tried and trusted gluten free almond sponge sandwich cake recipe here, doubling up on quantities to make two 23cm cakes. I sandwiched them together with cherry jam and some whipped cream, and made a simple buttercream to cover the cake. When we arrived at the house for the party we selected some flowers from Elizabeth and Colin’s beautiful garden to decorate the top.
It looked lovely on the table. I can’t see me ever getting involved in sugarcraft or making wedding cakes that are covered in fancy icing, but I was pleased with this one. It was a reasonable replica of the original wedding cake and when decorated with the fresh flowers looked just right for a gathering of friends and neighbours on a lovely sunny day in early October, to celebrate the wedding of two very special people.
Gluten free summer wedding cake.
I made two cakes using a 23 cm springform tin, baking them individually. The recipe will fill each tin with a little left over which I used to make some cupcakes. ( I suppose if I was really clever I could have calculated the ingredients needed to fill the tin twice exactly – but I didn’t trust my arithmetic that well for something as important as this!) For the buttercream I adapted this recipe, increasing the ingredients by half.
For each layer
185g softened butter
185g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
125g gluten free self raising flour
150ml crème fraîche
½ tsp almond essence
For the filling and icing
5 tblsp cherry jam
250ml double cream
200g softened butter
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tblsp milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4. Grease and base line a 23cm springform tin.
Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat or whisk until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time and beat well with each addition.
Add the other cake ingredients and fold in gently until evenly combined.
Spoon the mixture into the tin, filling to about two thirds full and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cake is done. Remove from the oven, turn out and cool on a wire rack. (There will be some mixture left over which can be used for cupcakes or buns.)
Repeat to make a second cake.
Whip the cream until firm and spreadable. Spread the jam on one of the cakes and spread the whipped cream on top. Put the other cake on top.
To make the buttercream, put the butter into a medium bowl and beat until creamy. Sift in a third of the icing sugar and beat in. Add the rest of the sugar with the vanilla and enough milk to make it spreadable.
Spoon about a third of the buttercream on the top of the cake and spread it over. Use the rest to coat the sides of the cake. Decorate with fresh flowers (remove these before eating).
Cuts into 16-20 slices. Keep refrigerated because of the fresh cream.