Best Butter Cake for Carving & Decorating

Well here it is everyone, the one you’ve all been asking for…

Best Butter Cake Recipe

This is the recipe I use for all my shaped cakes and any that need to take any weight.

It’s also my go to vanilla cupcake recipe.

It’s not too sweet and dense enough to carve while still being light enough to be an enjoyable mouthful.Wine Bottle Shaped Cake


  • 400g caster sugar
  • 400g salted butter (soften first)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 400g self-raising flour


  • mixer, paddle attachment & bowl
  • another mixing bowl
  • metal spoon
  • baking paper
  • 2 x 20cm round baking tins
  • wooden skewer
  • wire cooling rack


  • Set the oven to 200°C and line the base of the two baking tins with the baking paper
  • Cream the butter and sugar together using the mixer until they are pale and fluffy. This can take 10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time and mix well between each addition.
  • When you get to the fifth egg, add a spoonful of flour with each egg before mixing. This will help prevent curdling.
  • Add the vanilla extract once all the eggs have been added & mixed in.
  • Mix the rest of the flour in with the metal spoon, not the mixer. This prevents overmixing and will keep your cake tender when it’s baked.
  • Split the cake mix evenly between the two baking tins.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, checking to see if the cake is done using a wooden skewer poked into the centre (which will come out clean if the cake is fully baked).
  • Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack


This cake can be wrapped in cling film and stored in the fridge for up to a week.

If you are going to carve this cake into a shape you should leave it for 24 hours, wrapped in cling film, before doing so to allow the cake crumb to ‘set’.

Making The Taj Mahal

Remember my Taj Mahal challenge?

Well here it is…

Taj Mahal CakeI wouldn’t say it was my best work but it had the desired effect – lots of laughter and wows!

For those of you interested in what actually goes into making a cake like this read on.

First of all I had to decide what were the most important bits of the Taj Mahal to include.Taj Mahal

Looking at the picture the things that struck me first were

  • the dome at the top
  • the 4 smaller domes
  • the big arch
  • the little arches
  • the turrets on the corners
  • the platform

So those are the features I decided to focus on.

I choose to keep the shape a simple square rather than the eight sided one too.

Now, onto the build details.

The platform is a 14 inch foam cake tier covered in white fondant and stencilled with a paisley pattern using Royal Icing. After much testing I use Bakels fondant because it works really well here in humid Sydney.

Around the bottom of the platform are some small edible pearls.

I rolled the turrets using fondant around wooden skewers & topped them with fondant pieces. They were left to harden for a couple of nights and the skewers could  then be poked into the foam & fondant platform.

The main cake was a 10 inch foam tier and a vanilla butter cake/maderia cake (recipe to come in another post as lots of you have been asking for it) covered in fondant.

I painted the arches onto squares of gumpaste using silver food grade shimmer mixed with alcohol and left them to dry out then stuck them onto the sides of the main square cake using royal icing.

The 4 little domes are cupcakes covered in fondant.

The larger dome is a 4 inch foam tier topped with a 4 inch cake carved into a dome cake and covered in fondant again. I scored the fondant with a diamond pattern and  topped it with a fluted circle & ball of fondant.

There were lots of things I could have done differently and at times I wondered what I’d got myself into to!

But in the end I’m glad I made it.

Because you can make the Taj Mahal as a cake.



Why You Should Never Bet On The Taj Mahal

Once upon a time, a few years ago now, when I was cake decorating professionally, a friend of mine’s husband said, laughingly,

I bet you couldn’t do the Taj Mahal as a cake.


I bet I could,

I laughed back.

Then we giggled together for a few minutes as we both imagined what that cake would be like.

Over the years he’s brought it up a few times. At birthday parties mainly.

We’ve giggled and laughed about it often.

This weekend my friend’s husband turns 40.

We’re going away for the weekend to celebrate.

Close friends with their families.

Guess who’s been asked to do the surprise cake…

Guess what my friend wants it to look like…

Taj Mahal


I have to admit to being a trifle worried.

But I have a plan. It involves foam tiers and gumpaste and some shimmer and some sugar pearls as well as painting on fondant & a dome shaped vanilla cake for the top.

Wish me luck.

And come back next week and see how I’ve done! I promise pictures even if it all goes wrong. ♥

How To Make The Best Cookies for Decorating

Decorated cookies will always be popular.Star Cookies

They can match any theme and be as simple or as complicated as you like.

The way they’re iced is important of course (and I’ll do a post about that very soon) but I also really want them to taste great when they’re eaten too.

I’ve tried heaps of recipes over the years and, in the end, this is the one I’ve found tastes best and holds together well.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cookies for Icing & Eating

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 85g unsalted butter (soften first)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt


  • mixer, paddle attachment & bowl
  • another mixing bowl
  • metal spoon
  • baking paper
  • cookie tray


  • Using the mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and mousse like. This can take 10 minutes plus.
  • Next add the egg, all in one go and beat really well.
  • Add the vanilla and beat again to combine.
  • In the other mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the flour mix to the butter, sugar & eggs and combine gently using a metal spoon. Do not use the mixer at this point or you will over mix the dough and make your cookies tough instead of soft and buttery.
  • Use a piece of baking paper to cover your cookie tray and place the dough on the baking paper.
  • Use another piece of baking paper the same size over the top of the dough and then gently flatten the dough out by smoothing the top of the paper. It doesn’t have to be even.
  • Set the oven for 180°C.
  • Put the tray, baking paper & dough in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  • Remove the dough including both layers of baking paper from the cookie tray.
  • With the baking paper still attached, roll the dough out to about 5mm thick.
  • Remove the top layer of baking paper and cut out your cookie shapes.  If the dough sticks to the cutters dip them in flour first.
  • You can either peel the extra dough away from around the cookies and put the baking paper with the cookie shapes left onto the cookie tray or you can place the cut out cookies onto another piece of baking paper on the cookie tray.
  • Reroll the extra dough in the same way by placing it between two layers of baking paper.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until light golden colour then place on a rack to cool.
  • If you are icing them for presentation leave them at least 4 hours to cool completely.


Letter & Number CookiesRolling the dough out between layers of baking paper means you don’t have to add more flour, or handle the dough so much which means they will be lighter cookies with a lovely melting texture.

How to Make a Sour Dough Starter

I know this is a cake website but I love baking anything and everything and there’s something truly satisfying about a loaf of bread.

Sour DoughAnd sour dough bread especially.

Sour dough is different because it uses the wild yeasts from the air to make the bread rise & give flavour.

This means it’s a little unpredictable and that bread made in one place tastes different from bread made in another.

I think that’s pretty amazing!

As usual, I’ve tried several ways of making a starter over the years, and this is the method I’ve ended up with. It takes 7 to 10 days to produce the first batch of starter, but after that you just keep it in the fridge and feed it every week or every time you make a batch of bread.

Sour Dough Starter

  • 100g strong flour (organic is good and wholemeal even better)
  • 200ml warm water
  • 1kg strong flour


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Tea towel


  • Mix the 100g of flour & warm water together in the large mixing bowl. You’re aiming for a consistency like house paint. Add some more flour if you need it.
  • Cover with the tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 24 hours.
  • Check for signs of fermentation (bubbles & a acrid smell).
  • If there’s no sign of fermentation after 3 days discard the mixture and start again.
  • Once fermentation begins you need to feed your starter every 24 hours by adding 2 tablespoons of flour and some more water then beating it with the fork to mix everything in and bring the batter back to the same consistency.
  • Repeat this routine for between 7 and 10 days until you have something that smells sweeter & almost alcoholic.
  • You can now use some of this starter to bake bread with.
  • Put the rest in the fridge and feed it 2 tablespoons of flour & some water every week or every time you use it.

How To Change Your Cakes Up

Cup CakesHere’s a tip I learnt from a women’s magazine a long time ago.

If you want to bake a cake that tastes really special replace some of the sugar in the cake with jam.

Sounds crazy I know.

But it really works!

Chocolate Orange Cake

  • 185g butter
  • 150g dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 450g orange marmalade
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour


  • 25cm cake tin, bottom lined with baking paper
  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Small bowl
  • Fork


  • Set the oven to 180ºC.
  • Melt the butter over a low heat in the saucepan.
  • Stir in the chocolate until it just starts to melt then take it off the heat.
  • Stir the chocolate and butter until mixed and melted.
  • Crack the 3 eggs into the bowl and beat them together with the fork.
  • Add the marmalade, sugar and eggs to the chocolate and butter mix the saucepan.
  • Stir with the wooden spoon until well mixed.
  • Gradually add the flour, in 3 or 4 additions, beating well between each one.
  • Stir thoroughly until the flour is fully mixed.
  • Pour/spoon the mix into your cake tin and bake for an hour and 2o mins.
  • Start testing with a wooden skewer in the centre of the cake (which will come out clean with no mixture on it if the cake is done) at about an hour and 10 mins.


I prefer unsalted butter for cakes, but use what you have.

If you use thin cut marmalade it will ‘disappear’ into the cake. I prefer thick cut because I like the orangey chunks.

Other jams I’ve used and loved include black cherry & apricot.  I’m also thinking those ginger conserves would be lovely too.  I’ll add it to my list to try and let you know!

This is a cake for eating not decorating. It would work as a single layer cake or as cupcakes but doesn’t have enough structure to be tiered.