Lining the Tins:
1. Take your first cake tin and draw round it twice onto baking paper. Cut out both circles. Measure the circumference of the tin with string, then cut a long strip of paper the length of the string and fold in half length ways.
2. Grease the tin with melted butter and place one of the paper circles into the base. Grease, add a second circle, and grease again. Press the paper strip onto the inside edge of the tin and grease. If you’re making multiple tiers, repeat with the other tins.
Baking the Cakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4.
2. Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.
3. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla and salt, and half of the flour to prevent the mixture from curdling.
4. Add the remaining flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and give it a final beat to mix together.
5. Add the food colouring and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for the recommended time. The cake is ready when firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack (you may need two racks side by side for the largest cake). Peel off the lining paper and leave to cool.
The Buttercream Icing:
1. You can make the buttercream in a single batch so you’ll only need one large bowl.
2. Cream together the softened butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese and a few drops of vanilla essence to taste.
3. Cover the surface of the buttercream with clingfilm and chill until ready to use.
To ice the small tiered cake use 305g of buttercream. For the medium tier use 925g, and for the large tier use 1520g of icing.
Cutting and Layering the Cakes:
1. Using a long-bladed serrated knife, carefully cut the smallest cake in half and sandwich back together with 3 heaped tablespoons of buttercream.
2. Spread a teaspoon of buttercream onto the centre of the smallest cake board and put the cake on top (this will stop the cake sliding off the board).
3. Cut the remaining cakes in the same way, using 6 heaped tablespoons of buttercream to sandwich the medium cake and 8 heaped tablespoons of buttercream for the large one.
4. Place the medium cake upside down on its cake board and the large cake on the largest cake board. Spread half the remaining buttercream in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cakes to cover.
5. Refrigerate until set to the touch and then spread the remaining buttercream over the cakes to give a perfect finish.
Covering with Sugarpaste:
1. Cut a piece of string for each cake to measure the combined length of the top and sides – this will be the size to which to roll your circle of sugarpaste.
2. Ice just one cake at a time, as sugarpaste can dry out very quickly.
3. Make sure your work surface is clean and dry, then knead the sugarpaste until warm and pliable.
4. Place 2 tablespoons of icing sugar in a small sieve and use to lightly dust your work surface. Roll out the sugarpaste to 3–4mm thick and keep turning so that it stays circular.
5. Carefully slide your hands and arms under the sugarpaste, lift centrally over the cake and lay onto the buttercream (you could use a large rolling pin for this instead – simply hold the pin over the centre of the sugarpaste and flip the paste over it. Lift, position, and roll over the cake).
6. Dust your hands with a little icing sugar and rub them gently over the cake to make sure the sugarpaste has stuck to the buttercream underneath.
7. Use a sharp long-bladed knife to trim the edges, cutting downwards cleanly (keep wiping the knife blade, otherwise paste will build up and make it difficult to get a clean cut). Repeat with the remaining cakes and sugarpaste.
8. Save any trimmings to make decorations, flowers or frills – keep well wrapped in clingfilm until ready to use, to prevent from drying out.
Building the Cake:
1. To stack the cakes, you’ll need the help of some dowelling rods, because the sponge and icing are too soft to support the weight of each other.
2. Dowels can be bought from specialist cake shops; however, as every cake is different they do need to be cut to size.
3. Only the bottom two tiers need them, so you will need eight rods in total. Hold a rod at the side of the cake and mark with a pencil where the icing comes to. Cut the rod and three others to the same length.
4. Push the rods into the cake about 5cm away from the sides, to form the four corners of a square in the centre of the cake. They should not rise above the level of the icing. If you have miscalculated and the dowelling is too long, remove it and shave off any excess with a sharp knife.
5. Measure, cut and insert the rods in the same way for the medium cake. The three cakes can now be stacked directly on to each other. Once they’re stacked, it’s best not to move them about, so it’s safest to assemble them at your venue or in the position you want them to be displayed.
Recipe courtesy of Lorraine Pascale, Baking Made Easy HarperCollins, 2012 (£20)