It was my very first order for a wedding cake (not counting the cake I made for my own wedding last year) and it was both incredibly exciting and just a little bit stressful. I met with the lovely Bride and Groom about 6 months before their wedding day so I had plenty of time to plan and practice. The black damask pattern was by far the most challenging part of the cake as it was my first time doing a stencil on the side of a cake - and being a black pattern on a white cake it was not going to be very forgiving!
I 'painted' the damask pattern onto the cake using royal icing and a stencil. The stencil was a little bit taller than the cake so I used masking tape to cover the section I didn't need. The trickiest part of stencilling a pattern onto the side of a cake, particularly a round cake, is holding the stencil in place while you spread the royal icing on. Here are a couple of helpful tips:
1. Make sure your cake sides are as perpendicular to your working surface as possible. This will allow the stencil to be flush with the surface of the fondant when wrapped around the cake. I use a right angle tool, also known as a 'square' (it's not a cake decorating tool, I bought mine from a hardware store) to ensure my sides don't angle in or out.
2. Make sure your royal icing is the right consistency - it needs to be quite thick/stiff because if it's too runny it will run down the cake and your pattern will be ruined.
3. Only fix the stencil to the cake on one side and spread the royal icing onto the fondant starting from the fixed side. I poked two tiny holes into my stencil using sewing pins and then used the same sewing pins to attach the stencil to the cake.
4. Make sure you wait until the first part of the stencil is completely dry before continuing with the next part.
5. Work slowly, making sure that the royal icing is spread as thinly as possible, while remaining opaque (this is particularly important with black icing). I used a small metal spatula to spread my royal icing.
6. When you have stencilled around almost the whole cake you will most likely be left with a gap which is a lot smaller than the length of your stencil. Use masking tape to section off the length that you need to fill the gap.
7. Most importantly make sure you practise your stencilling until you find the technique that works best for you. The above tips are what worked for me, but there are other techniques which you might find easier.
The cake tiers were a 14 inch red velvet cake, an 11 inch dark chocolate mud cake, an 8 inch red velvet cake and a 5 inch dark chocolate mud cake with fresh red roses as the cake topper. And they were heavy, specially the bottom tier! I chose to deliver the tiers unassembled in separate boxes and I assembled the whole cake at the venue - a much less stressful method than trying to transport a cake which would have weighed around 15kgs. Here are the four tiers boxed up and all ready to go, with the supporting dowels inserted into the bottom three layers:
Each cake was placed inside the box on a non-slip mat so that they would be secure during the drive to the venue. You will notice (particularly on the largest tier in the photo) that I made an indent in each of the three bottom tiers to guide where the next tier would be placed - I lightly pressed my cake tins into the fondant to do this and it really helped when I was assembling the cake later. You might also have noticed a gray smudge on the second tier - that was due to a little mishap while stencilling that tier. Luckily the black icing fell onto the middle of the tier and would be completely covered when the cake was assembled. Phew!
The red roses on top of the cake were a beautiful contrast to the black and white cake. This is one of my favourite photos that really shows off the beatiful red colour of the roses:
The assembled cake was almost half a metre tall and looked much more impressive than I ever could have imagined - especially as the cake table was finished with a matching damask table runner and a lovely bouquet of red flowers.
I was really happy with the end result and only wished that I could have stuck around to see the Bride and Groom's reaction when they saw their wedding cake!