Ok all you home based cake bakers: imagine your ideal house. You wake up in the morning, get dressed and drift downstairs to the lower level of the house which opens with a welcoming sofa and one wall made up entirely of large picture windows with an amazing view of a beautiful river, boats gently drifting past. Turn around and look at the rest of the room.
Stainless steel benches furnish the room, and a table filled with the most amazing cake constructions you can imagine. This is your teaching kitchen. Not only that, but your teaching kitchen has regular visitors such as London’s couture cake expert Peggy Porschen and UK bestselling cake author Debbie Brown to come and teach you and a group of other people how to decorate cakes!
This is no dream, well not for Linda Harden who, after training and working at Australia’s Planet Cake for many years set up her Whimsical Cakehouse with her husband Guy! This place is my dream! Whimsical Cakehouse is a boutique cake decorating school which offers classes in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, with the head office being 20 mins away from me in the Sutherland Shire (South of Sydney).
I found this wonderful place when researching other cake makers in the area where I was moving to last year, and on finding it, I also quickly learnt that cake designs and their construction were very different out here than back home in Blighty!!!
The first thing that will strike you, when looking at an Australian wedding cake, is the shoulders of the cake. They are magnificently sharp! Reminiscent of the old style of royal iced cakes (which is what I thought they were to begin with) but they are actually covered in fondant (sugarpaste). The majority are stacked cakes, possibly with polystyrene extra "dummy" layers, and the fashion at the moment is for deep tiers of at least 4 inches each. A good deal of lustre can be added to the decoration, and heavy stencilling with royal icing is a common feature of the design. The sharp edges are then normally contrasted with a single beautifully made large ruffly flower, like a gardenia, or rose, but it is more important to make it stunning in size and shape than an exact replica of a particular specimen!
It didn’t take me long to realise, that I had to learn the Aussie techniques, and that fitted in nicely with an excuse to visit Linda and her cake paradise! The big decision was which course to take. In actual fact, this task didn’t take me too long, just a quick look on the Facebook page and I was in love! The most beautiful 3 tier cake stood out at me and I knew I had to learn how to make it! This would be the Cake Face Scrunch Rose cake! Mignon Daymond is actually from New Zealand, but she runs her own business from Melbourne and luckily for me Min teaches classes through Whimsical Cakehouse!!!
My weekend was set; 3 tiers of chocolate mud cake were mine for playing with, and here I learnt the other principal differences between Aussie and British cakes. The majority of Australian cakes are muds. Heavy, moist chocolate cakes which can be tailored to white chocolate, Baileys, "Cherry Ripe" (Cherry and chocolate). These are then split (torted) in to a minimum of 3 layers and filled with chocolate ganache. Now here’s the other big difference; no marzipan is used to cover the cakes, but a time consuming process of layering ganache around the outside of the cake and letting it set, again similar to the old royal icing technique of covering a cake. Scraping ganache away as you go, you form a perfect, smooth squared shouldered block of chocolate surrounding the cake, which is what you then cover in a thin layer of fondant. Then using fondant smoothers and a cunning little piece of acetate, the fondant is smoothed on the surface and sharpened around the edges to create the perfect crisp shoulders which I described earlier.
Once covered, the tiers are stacked onto the cake board using the normal dowel technique, but with an extra insurance policy of a whacking great central pole which has been glued to the main cake board, and each tier is skewered down onto the pole! Brilliant! I can see that taking away all the stress for transporting large stacked cakes!
The key to the design of Mignon’s Cake Face Scrunch Rose cake that I fell in love with, was a textural contrast between a smooth lustred tier with no other detail other than perhaps a ribbon, and a beautiful ruffled tier of "Scrunch Roses" made from flower paste which added movement and warmth. I am so lucky to have learnt Min’s clever technique and it will be something I will enjoy using in my designs for a long time to come!!!
In my opinion the Australian wedding cake designs are very sleek and, in comparison with the UK, very modern looking. I look at them and think they are perfection, but whilst I do really like them, I sometimes miss the soft edges of a Peggy Porschen masterpiece, so I think it will be my aim will to do both, depending on the style of the cake; a more vintage style cake will still have rounded shoulders. I now think myself lucky to have the two techniques of marzipan or ganache under my belt, and I can’t wait to add more techniques and have more visits to that cake heaven which is Whimiscal Cakehouse!
To see more information and the wonderful cakes made at The Whimsical Cakehouse and Cake Face please visit their websites;
About Victoria Forward
Victoria Forward has just returned to the UK after two years in Australia, and is setting up cake business "Victoria Sponge", in Buckinghamshire. She previously ran Let Them Eat Cake in the UK for six years providing celebration cakes / cupcakes, cake decorating courses and workshops. In 2012 she won the award for Best Presented Cupcake at the British Baker National Cupcake Championships. Victoria is married with 2 children.