What an epic this cake from the Baking Bible was! The Pink Pearl Lady Cake is definitely one for a special occasion, not only because it takes so long but also because it has a rich, sweet butter cream filling and fondant icing. These are not the elements of an everyday cake.
This cake is rich and quite dense, and the meringuey butter cream is sweet and buttery. The butter cream was nice but it's never my favourite and I thought it could do with more berry flavour. The white chocolate fondant gave the cake more flavour but it was too intensely sweet for me after a couple of bites and I peeled mine off. In fact I'd prefer a cake with a simple filling of fresh raspberries or jam and cream rather than something this fancy. But it's true there are some occasions when something more substantial is needed to last through an event and that is where fondant and structured butter creams come into their own.
And the fondant icing? I'm not a fan of fondant and for most of my life considered it very old-fashioned since it was always found covering a thick marzipan layer on a heavy traditional fruit cake at weddings, funerals and special occasions. Hardly anyone has iced and decorated fruit cakes for weddings etc anymore, although they're still trotted out at Christmas sometimes. I have memories of my parents agonising together over fondant icing on fruit cakes at Christmas time - how to get it perfectly smooth! I know that fondant has come back with multiple colours and whiz-bang cake designs but I'm still not much of a fan of either the style or the taste. However I decided to make the fondant for this cake because I thought I should try my hand at it at least once.
My decorating style has a definite juvenile bent which lead my colleague to start calling this the pink princess cake. I bought the coloured balls ages ago for no particular reason and it seemed an ideal time to use up some of them since I had none of the prescribed 'lustre dust' (I wish I did - it looks very sparkly).
Before I started this cake I debated with myself 'would I make the fondant or not? Little did I realise (not really having read the recipe properly) that the fondant was the easy bit.
You make the white chocolate fondant in two steps. The first is white chocolate and corn syrup which makes a chocolate plastique (sounds stretchy, right?). The next is the fondant itself which includes ingredients you used to have to buy from the chemist - glucose and glycerin. I made a half quantity after I realised I didn't have enough of the most ordinary ingredient - icing sugar. Then you roll and knead them together. This was surprisingly easy and successful.
I took several days to make this cake which is lucky otherwise I don't think I'd have lasted the distance. The 'mousseline' filling included making a raspberry butter (I used frozen raspberries instead of strawberries because the strawberries in the shops didn't look too good), whipping butter and making a meringue using hot sugar syrup. And the !@#$%^! sugar syrup - it still hates me.
Actually you were meant to buy the strawberry butter but I'd never heard of or seen such a thing. Good old google found me a recipe which included the berries, a little sugar and whipped butter. Not too hard really and quite delicious.
'Good God!' as I think I've said before in the middle of one of Rose's recipes 'will it never end?'. Lucky I hadn't really read the recipe properly all the way through because I might never have started. I think it's easier to ignore the length of the recipe when you use an eBook. Scrolling up and down seems effortless unlike turning multiple paper pages.
The next step is mixing all the butter cream components together one after the other to get a lovely pink and luscious-looking mass. Lucky no curdling.
It was at this point I read the words as 'smooth and flat' as possible and realised that's what I should have aimed for rather than the slap dash hacked in half cake and slapped on mousseline. But really, smooth and flat is not my style and there's no room for that in my impatient, on-the-verge-of-grumpy baking approach. The idea was to give fondant a go. Smooth was a bridge too far.
Perfect! Too late I realised I'd left out the extra raspberry butter from the middle of the cake. Tasting a piece I thought it needed a bit more raspberry flavour, so the next morning (I couldn't bear to do it that evening) I prised the cake open and slathered it with the extra raspberry butter - breaking the cake in the process. But I pressed it all back together firmly, like a loving but sorely-tested parent buckling their child into a car seat. My commitment to decorating perfection is unchanging... i.e. nil.
Next week I really hope there's something shorter.