The great wedding cake off


This weekend a couple of our good friends, the Wards, got married. I have been looking forward to their wedding for ages. Not only was it to be the first social event in the past six months to which I would actually be escorted by my husband but also the invitation included a request to enter The Great Wedding Cake Off. Rather than having a single traditional wedding cake, the Wards had invited their guests to bake a contribution and compete for first place.  This instantly appealed to my competitive nature.

At the time of putting my name forward for the Cake Off I was in the process of buying a house and imagined what pleasure I would have baking for such a special event in my very own kitchen; selecting ingredients from the pantry and mixing them in my beautiful Kitchen-Aid artisan mixer. The wedding being on a Sunday I planned to bake the cake on the Friday night, allow it to cool and then decorate it on the Saturday morning. I wasn’t sure what to bake at first but one of those cakes with the Barbie doll standing in the middle wearing a delicate gown of white icing seemed the most appropriate option, if a little ambitious.

As the wedding drew nearer I began to realise that I wouldn’t be baking the cake in my very own kitchen. We are no longer buying that house and are instead trying to buy a different one but the completion date is no where in sight so until further notice we continue to reside as guests of my lovely sister, her fiancé, their five month old son and his (the fiancé’s) dog.  The dreamed of pantry remains limited to a single kitchen cupboard and a shelf in the fridge. My Kitchen Aid remains in storage. Growing increasingly disheartened by the house buying process, I failed to give the Cake Off much thought until two days before the wedding.

Now, two days is not much time to create a winning cake. I was determined not to back out at such short notice though so I accepted my cake was unlikely to be a real contender and I would just be ‘baking’ up the numbers! I asked Matt what he would like to eat at the wedding and decided to bake that.

Cake decided (he chose coffee and walnut), recipe found (thank you very much Nigel Slater) I spent Saturday night beating eggs and sugar by hand, chopping walnuts and brewing coffee. The kitchen smelled delicious. The cake rose perfectly and after ten minutes of cooling on a wire rack I was brave enough to cut it in half to prepare for filling. By the time Howie walked in at 1.00 am the cake was assembled, filled and two-thirds covered in coffee and walnut butter icing. I kissed him hello, handed him the mixing bowl and asked him to whip up more butter icing. By 1.30 am the cake was complete and I was finally able to go to bed.

At the wedding a dedicated table for cakes was set out. I placed my lumpy, tan coloured creation between a beautiful three-tier Victoria sponge decorated with fresh flowers and a striking raspberry pavlova, satisfied that although it wouldn’t win any beauty contests, my cake was at least taking part.

Hours later, after we had watched the Wards walk down the aisle, drank a lot of prosecco, played wedding golf, been amazed by the magician’s sleight of hand, eaten a wonderful wedding breakfast and starred in hundreds of photographs, the newlyweds went off to judge the cakes, tasting each of the entries and deliberating in a dark corner of the room. I was excited to see which of my friends’ creations would win.

In third place was the pavlova, which I’m told should have won as it was divine. In second place was the surprise inside cake baked by my good friend Laura, with delicate lemon icing and a filling of sweeties that spilled out as the cake was cut. In first place – against all odds – was my ugly coffee and walnut cake! My sister told me she had never been more proud of me in her life, I was speechless. What a great wedding.