When it comes to making a wedding cake, most people leave it to the professionals. HELLO!’s favourite master patissier Eric Lanlard shares his secrets to making your own stunning showstopper, which is created in tiers, so you can bake and decorate as many as you need to feed your guests.
"I have always loved making wedding cakes for my friends and family – even if it does make me a little more nervous than usual. The wedding cake is such an important part of the day – it has to be perfect – all eyes are always on the wedding cake.
"I met Isobel and Douglas years ago on an extraordinary trip to see the Seven Wonders of the World. We have stayed friends ever since. I had no hesitation when they asked to make their son Andrew’s wedding cake. He and his fiancée Hannah wanted a timeless design with a wow factor. Nothing too extreme – they didn’t want the cake to overshadow the gorgeous Loch Lomond setting.
Photograph: © Susan Renée and coordinated by Sarah Hamilton-Walker
The happy couple: Andrew and Hannah Craig
"The outside of the cake was decorated with hundreds of moulded rose petals that created a kind of delicate finish reminiscent of frilled material. Each tier was separated with two rows of fresh Vendela roses. The happy couple wanted a summery and fresh flavour so I created a raspberry pink velvet that worked well with the other three flavours that they choose.
"I was a guest at the wedding so the cake travelled with me up to the Scotland on the Caledonian sleeper. I set the cake up just before the ceremony. It was a glorious sun-filled day! The wedding was truly spectacular."
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How to make a pink rasberry velvet cake
"This beautiful pretty and light sponge is flavoured with pure raspberry extract. This easy to make recipe is perfect for a celebration and I like to layered it with a zesty lemon frosting and good quality raspberry conserve."
Photograph: © Susan Renée and coordinated by Sarah Hamilton-Walker
- 250g/9oz plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 200g/7oz golden caster sugar
- 85g/3 1/2oz unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
- 160ml/5 1/2fl oz whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 tsp pure raspberry extract
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 4 (120g/4 1/4oz) egg whites, whisked to soft peaks
- 4 drops of red food colouring
For the zesty lemon butter cream
- 200g/7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 200g/7oz icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp pure lemon oil (try to get the delicious “Amalfi” one )
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 tbsp pouring cream or full fat milk
1. Preheat oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4 and lightly grease 2 x 15cm/6in round cake tins with butter and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl sift together the flour and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).
3. Add in the milk, raspberry and vanilla extracts, and food colouring and whisk on low until the ingredients are all incorporated. By hand, fold in the whipped egg whites followed by the dry ingredients.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10mn before turning out on to a cooling rack.
5. To make the butter cream, beat together the butter and sugar until soft and very creamy in a stand mixer or using a hand held mixer. Add the lemon oil, vanilla bean paste or extract and keep beating for another 2 minutes before adding the cream or milk to dissolve the sugar grains.
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I always like to weigh my eggs when baking for perfect accuracy. Ensure your food colouring is ovenproof to get a lovely pink colour. I will recommend baking this cake a day in advance so that it settles nicely ready to be decorated the following day without crumbs.”
How to create your cake
This recipe is for a single tier cake so very good for practising if you are going to make your own cake. If you want to increase the size of the tier and add more tiers, I recommend you double or triple the recipes depending on the size of your actual cake.
As for the flowers, I always try to get organic roses from my florist – that way I can be sure that pesticides have not been used. The flowers get pushed into an oasis (foam) disc and it is placed between each tier to add height to the cake.
How to ice a tiered cake
1. Ice each tier with white soft fondant icing separately. When rolling the icing I like to dust my table with corn flour instead of icing sugar. Icing sugar tends to dry out the icing. Then firmly ‘glue’ the cake with royal icing onto a cake board that is exactly the same size as the cake. The bottom tier is usually on a thicker cake board at least 5cm/2in bigger depending on the design.
2. Make sure each tier is completely level using a level set on top. You can usually buy a level from the any good hardware store.
3. Insert dowels into all the tiers except the top one. Place a cake board the same size as the tier above the bottom one centred on top of the bottom tier and press it gently to imprint the outline on the icing or fondant. Remove the cake board and use this guideline to insert the appropriate number of dowels into the tier within the circle.
4. Insert one of the dowels into the tier taking care to go straight and right down to the cake board. Use a knife to mark the exact height at the top of the cake and then pull dowel back out. Cut the dowel the correct length and then cut the remaining dowels for that tier using the first as a measurement.
5. Insert the dowels into the cake tier, spacing them evenly about 2.5cm/1in in from the cake board outline. Push the dowels straight down until each one touches the bottom cake board.
6. Stack the second tier onto the first and centre it, using a palette knife to move it without ruining the icing.
7. Repeat this process for each tier on the cake design except the top tier.
8. To make the sugar petals, roll out the white petal paste or (gum) and paste onto a small board thinly. Using a rolling pin and a rose petal cutter, cut the petals and gently form them into a delicate curl. Theses can be made well in advance – they need to be completely dry and to be glued with royal icing onto the iced cake.
9. If the cake needs to travel build the tiers at the venue to avoid any damage. Always take a repair kit with you – just in case!
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Recipe for success
You trained as a patissier in France, worked as a chef for the French Navy and left your homeland to move to England to work with Michel and Albert Roux. That must have been some decision to make as well as a transition from the Navy to London’s 90s gourmet scene?
"When I arrived in London in the 90s the food scene was far from impressive – now London is one of the best foodie destinations in the world. Then it was not very good – really not much choice and the standards were very low. There was, of course, Conran who changed the face of dining by introducing the super restaurant – large dining spaces with modern European fare. Other than that, there was little choice and certainly not anything such as gastro pubs and food markets or pop-ups. I still enjoyed it though and had a great time – I was a boy from Britanny working for the legendary Roux brothers. It does not get better than that!"
Tell us about your childhood inspiration to become a patissier.
"I wanted to be a pastry chef from the age of six. In France there is a patisserie on every street corner – no matter how small the town or village. I was always fascinated by the displays, the packaging – some of shops were like jewellery boutiques. They really were fascinating and glamorous – I think that must have spurred on my interest and imagination. I knew where I wanted to do my apprenticeship – I was born to do it. I can’t imagine doing anything else it was a vocation, a calling."
You have cooked and baked for many famous names – from statesmen to celebrities – even it is reported so impressing former French President Francois Mitterrand that he bestowed a gift on you. Who have been among your clients – and tell us about the cake you made for the Queen Mother’s 101st birthday?
"I have baked cakes for a lot of VIPs but as far as I am concerned, every customer is a ‘celebrity’ – we treat them as such. A cake will take centre stage at a wedding or an event so it’s really important that we look after our customer from their initial consultation to the finish. The Queen Mother’s 101st cake was decorated with her beloved corgis. It was an iced cake and I delivered it in person at Clarence House."
Your first business in the UK Laboratoire 2000 subsequently paved the way for the opening of your current venture Cake Boy. What is it about Cake Boy that makes it the success it is and what courses do you offer at the cookery school there?
"I always dreamed about opening my own patisserie and cookery school and when we needed to move to find a new kitchen a space in South West London presented itself. I am the first person in my kitchen when I am not travelling. I think that helps – customers are always happy to see the patron on the premises. I have high standards so me being there means that it’s easy to ensure that everything is tip top.
“It’s a glamorous laid back café vibe so I think customers quite enjoy that. We have regular customers and the staff look after them well. Our popular Cookery School classes include Chocolate, Afternoon Tea and French Country Baking. The classes run once a week and are a full day. We also hold bespoke classes and lots of brides-to-be take up this option for their 'hen' days."
What’s the most memorable cake – apart from HELLO!’s 30th birthday cake of course – you’ve made?
"It was for a couple who were set to retire and they commissioned a cake that represented everywhere that they had been. It took on the world and we also decorated the cake with icons that depicted big moments in their lives. It really was a masterpiece and the base was made up of Louis Vuitton trunks."
Who in the industry do you most admire?
"I admire any young chef that has trained hard and works hard and is an ambassador for his industry and is an inspiration for his colleagues and customers."
You’ve hosted numerous TV shows, won prestigious awards and published several books – what else would you like to accomplish?
"Well, I am going to space so I hope that happens soon. I am a future Virgin Galactic Astronaut! I would like to continue to do what I’m doing – I really enjoy collaborating with travel bands and am lucky to work with some of the best out there including P&O Cruises and the Marriott Hotel Group."
Your latest venture is Afternoon Tea with Virgin Atlantic across all cabin and in ‘Club House’ globally, so perhaps as afternoon tea is a favourite of yours, you can solve the nation’s great debate – cream or jam first?
"I would say the jam goes on first followed by the cream!"
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
"Le Gavroche …the original UK Michelin star legendary restaurant. The Soufflé Suissesse has been on the menu since the opening and is to die for! I go every year for my birthday religiously."
For couples planning their wedding, what one piece of advice would you offer them when deciding on a cake?
"Don’t get too carried away on the design – I would also say try if you can to avoid novelty cakes. When you look back at those photographs in years to come, you’ll be asking yourself why? I always prefer something that is elegant over something that is wacky or gimmicky. My style is timeless elegance…. And of course I make sure that the cake tastes even better than it looks!”
Eric Lanlard’s wedding and celebration cakes are made to order, consultations are available on request. Cake Boy is located in South West London and open Monday to Saturday 8am to 6pm (9am to 6pm Saturday). Visit for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea or simply a glass of fizz and a slice of cake! Visit cake-boy.com.
This article was originally published in October 2018.