Originally commissioned by Borough Market to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday, this stunning three-tier cake fit for a queen, designed and created by baking queen, Juliet Sear is the perfect party showstopper for Jubilee celebrations, too!
This magnificent cake is constructed from three individual cakes and a batch of cookies!
The cake itself consists of:
- A rich tea chocolate biscuit cake, for the top tier
- A gin, Dubonnet and lemon cake, for the middle tier
- Two vanilla bean sponge cakes, for the base layer
- Vanilla sugar corgi cookies, for decoration
The crown is made from rich tea biscuit cake (a favourite of the Queen!), a gin and dubonnet (her favourite tipple) and a Victoria sponge with raspberry jam. It's even decorated with corgi biscuits!
Are you ready to create your own masterpiece that's fit for a queen? Then let's get started!
Vanilla bean sponge
For the vanilla soaking syrup:
- 100ml golden caster sugar
- 100ml water, just boiled to make it quicker
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped and pod reserved, or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the sponge:
- 600g soft salted butter, room temperature
- 600g golden caster sugar
- 3 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out or 6 tsp of vanilla bean paste
- 3 tsp good quality vanilla extract
- 12 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 600g self-raising flour
- Pastry brush
- 2x 10” cake tins, pre lined
- Start by making the soaking syrup. Add the sugar and water to your microwaveable bowl or pan and stir to start dissolving the sugar. Place in the microwave for 1 min at a time and stir in between until all the sugar granules have dissolved. If you’re doing it on the hob, stir gently over a low heat until all the granules are dissolved and you have a nice syrupy liquid. Don’t boil it.
- Leave to cool for a few mins and add your vanilla to infuse the flavour, pod and all if that’s what you are using. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen.
- To make the sponge, preheat the oven to 200C. Place the butter, sugar and flavourings into your mixing bowl and combine, then turn up the speed to high (or use a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease) and beat until the mixture is very pale, soft and fluffy and the granules of sugar have disappeared.
- Add the beaten egg, about a ¼ at a time, mixing slowly until all combined. Add the flour gradually, ¼ at a time, mixing gently on slow until the dry flour has mostly mixed in. Fold with a metal spoon if you are doing this by hand—just take care not to mix or beat vigorously or your sponge can turn out a bit tough if you’ve over processed the gluten.
- Now it’s ready for the oven, so fill your cake tins as required. Bake and begin checking the cakes after 20 mins, keeping an eye on them as they may brown on the outside before the inside is totally cooked, in which case turn the oven temp down a little once the cake is fully risen.
- The cakes should be a light golden brown, springy to touch and if you want to be sure, test with a sharp knife or metal skewer which should come out clean and free of mixture.
- Once they are baked, get them out and brush the tops generously with syrup then turn out and brush over the bottom of the sponges too. It’s ideal to place the syrup in a bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the tops. Leave to cool, then you can decorate as required.
Gin, Dubonnet and lemon cake
For the syrup:
- 150ml tonic water
- 100g sugar
- 30 juniper berries, crushed
- 30ml gin
For the sponge:
- 350g soft butter
- 350g golden caster sugar
- Approx 30 juniper berries, crushed finely
- Zest of two lemons, grated
- 7 medium free-range eggs
- 350g self-raising flour
For the lemon curd:
- 30ml gin
- 150g lemon curd
For the buttercream:
- 100ml dubonnet
- 100g soft butter
- 200g icing sugar
- Line two 7" round cake tins with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 200C.
- First make your gin and tonic syrup, ready for the cake once baked. Bring the tonic water, sugar and juniper berries to the boil and allow to reduce to about ⅔ of the original volume. Leave the mixture to cool, strain out the berries, then add the gin.
- To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar, juniper berries and lemon zest together until very pale and fluffy, then slowly beat in the eggs until combined. Fold in the flour gently until just incorporated.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tins—½ the batter in each—and bake for approximately 30-40 mins, checking after 25 mins. A testing knife should come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 mins, then turn out and remove the paper. Pierce some holes over the cake with a skewer or cocktail stick and generously douse in the gin and tonic syrup by brushing over liberally with a pastry brush. Allow to cool completely.
- Bring the dubonnet to the boil and gently simmer down until it has reduced to a thicker mix of approx ½ the original volume. Leave to cool completely.
- Slice each cake in ½ again through the centre (horizontally) so that you end up with four round cakes to layer. Place the first layer onto your cake board and stick with a little of the dubonnet buttercream. Spread over the layer with a thin covering of dubonnet icing.
- On the second layer, spread the half that will sandwich onto the buttercream below with some of the gin and lemon curd. Lay the layer onto the buttercream sponge below and line up straight.
- Continue the process of adding buttercream to the sponge and gin and lemon curd to the next layer until all 4 layers are back together. Coat over the whole sponge with the remaining buttercream and curd mixed together to crumb coat and place in the fridge to chill for an hour or so before any decoration.
Rich tea chocolate biscuit cake
- Some butter for greasing the tin
- 225g rich tea biscuits
- 120g soft unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 120g golden caster sugar
- 120g dark chocolate, melted and allowed to cool slightly
- 1 egg
- Grease the tin well and line it by laying two long strips of greaseproof paper in the tin, so that the base is covered and the paper comes all the way up the sides and a few inches over for pulling the cake out once set.
- Break the biscuits up into large chunks (about the size of a pound coin) and set aside.
- Cream the butter, vanilla paste and sugar together in a stand mixer or by hand until light and creamy. Mix the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar stirring constantly until filly mixed.
- Beat in the egg, fold in the biscuit pieces and make sure they are all nicely coated by the wet mix. Spoon the mix into your tin, and press down firmly at intervals to pack the mix down tightly. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
- Once ready to use, run some hot water into a large bowl or the and place the tin in the water—without wetting the cake—for 10 to 20 secs until the cake feels a little loose when you pull on the long lengths of the baking paper.
- Remove from the sink and pull out the cake, place in clingfilm and store in the fridge until you are ready to decorate.
Decoration & assembly
What you'll need:
- Round cake drum, 4” larger than the bottom tier
- Two tiers of iced cakes. I have used a 10” and 7” in this design.
- Cake drums for under each cake; I used a 4” for the biscuit cake top tier, a 7” and a 10” for mine. You can make any size of course; ideally having 3” gaps between each tier looks best.
- A few paint brushes
- Cake decorating dust colours for the painted details
- Cocoa butter for mixing the colours to an edible oil paint
- Sugar paste in red, blue, green, yellow, white
- Royal icing
- Black, caramel ivory or gold, and royal blue food colouring
- Raspberry jam
- Apricot jam
- Pastry brush
- Icing sugar
- Rolling pin
- Small round cutters for the polka dots
- Piping nozzle no 3, round tip for the bunting rope
- Piping bags
- Can of gold edible lustre spray
- Yellow flower or petal paste (here I’ve used two packs of Renshaw flower paste)
- Cocktail sticks
- Cake dowels
- Baking paper
- Piping bag with a little white royal icing for sticking
- Apricot jam, sieved
Before starting the cakes, it’s a good idea to make the little round coloured jewels in advance. They last for weeks, so you can do this whenever you like. I just rolled out different coloured sugar paste and cut small circles with a little polka dot cutter, but you could simply roll tiny balls if you don’t have a cutter. For added ‘bling’ you can get non-toxic decorative glitters—rainbow dust is great and available from many cake decorating and hobby craft stores and websites. To add sparkle, just dip each ball in the glitter, which will adhere to the sticky sugar paste. Leave these to dry until ready to use.
1. Start by cutting the two vanilla bean sponge cakes horizontally through the centre to create four slices, then stack these on top of each other, using 150g of raspberry jam per layer to stick them together. The base board and middle tier cake (gin, Dubonnet and lemon cake) both need to be iced in white sugar paste. The bottom tier cake (the layers of vanilla bean sponge) can be covered in marzipan and iced in a light sky blue paste, but if you don't like marzipan just use a thicker layer of icing. Once these are set, you can add four cake dowels to the base tier to support the middle tier, and three cake dowels in the centre of the middle tier to support the crown.
2. First off, decorate the crown for the top tier (chocolate biscuit cake). It looks very elaborate but in fact is pretty straightforward. I recommend giving yourself a day in advance to allow this to set well. Start off by sticking the biscuit cake to its drum with a little apricot jam and a few small pieces of sugar paste to help adhere. Then brush the whole cake and drum with cooled boiled apricot jam.
3. Make the four ‘puffy’ parts on the top of the cake by adding four teardrop lumps of sugar paste in a cross shape. Smooth these onto the cake.
4. Roll out approx 600g red sugar paste and lay over the whole cake to cover the top, sides and drum. Cut away the excess. Smooth over with your fingers and shape into the inner velvet crown shape. It’s a simple moulding process to press it into the shape by eye.
5. For the circlet band decoration, roll out a length of white sugar paste and then cut into a strip to fit, using a ribbon cutter or a knife. Attach to the bottom of the crown using vodka or a little cooled boiled water to stick it.
6. To make a simple template for the fleur de lis decoration, cut a strip of greaseproof paper and wrap it around the crown to measure the circumference of the bottom. Now fold this into four: this will indicate where you can draw a little fleur de lis detail at four points to fit around the crown. Draw this out with a band about the same size as the white circlet, hand-draw the little fleur de lis details, then cut around the template with scissors. Roll out a strip of yellow petal paste, about 5mm thickness, and slightly longer than your template, then cut around the template carefully using a sharp knife cut. I’ve used petal paste because it is much firmer and will hold its shape more easily than regular sugar paste. Now attach the strip to the cake, resting it on top of the white circlet, using some more vodka to stick. Trim off any excess, or just push the two ends together at the back of the crown.
7. Insert a cake dowel in the centre of the iced crown cake and allow it to protrude 2cm above the cake. This will act as a support for the upper petal paste strips, creating the 3D arched crown effect. Cover the exposed dowel in red sugar paste to hide it.
8. To make the arches, roll out more yellow petal paste to the same thickness and cut two long strips of the same width. Attach the first strip to the yellow band between two of the fleur de lis details using a little royal icing, wrap this up and over the top of the crown, using cushions of scrunched-up clingfilm either side of the dowel to support the arch. Allow the paste to set firmly in the domed shape. Trim to the length you need and stick the other end of the strip down in between the fleur de lis on the opposite side. Now, looking at eyelevel, adjust the clingfilm cushions so that both sides look nice and equal. Repeat the method for the second strip.
9. For the globe detail on top of the crown, make a little ball of yellow petal paste, and cut out a square to sit on top of this, either by hand or using a square cutter. With a small knife or scalpel, cut little chinks into the four corners to allow light to shine through. Insert a cocktail stick through the middle of the square to help strengthen it and plunge this into the globe, use a little royal icing to stick them to the main crown. Ideally then leave the crown overnight to set nice and firmly.
10. Next, pipe a trim (or ‘snail trail’) to all of the crown edges using a no 3 nozzle in a piping bag filled with stiff caramel or gold coloured icing.
11. Once set, make sure the crown is protected within by covering the exposed red icing with clingfilm. Using your gold lustre spray, generously spray the whole crown.
12. We’re almost there now! Time to add your prepared colourful jewels using a little royal icing to stick them to the crown.
13. Decorate the sky blue bottom tier (the vanilla sponge). Stick the iced blue base to the white iced drum using a little royal icing. Load a piping bag with a no3 nozzle with soft peak royal icing. Mark out eight places along the top edge of the cake for a guide for where to pipe the bunting rope detail. If you have a tilting turntable, it really helps. If not, use some kind of wedge to lift up the cake on the side facing you—it helps to get the piping drop ropes neat. Place the nozzle against the cake, gently squeeze the piping bag and allow it to create a loose U-shaped length on the side of the cake that will drop down and then join up to the first mark. Repeat all the way around until you have eight even lengths of bunting.
14. Now, heat up 1 tbsp cocoa butter in a bain marie or microwave. Take a plate and pop a little pile of your coloured dusts around the plate to create a palette of paint colours. I have used greens and browns for the trees and grass, some yellow and rust for the corgis and some white and black for shading, eyes and clouds. By eye, paint a few tree trunks around the base tier. The beauty of this cake is that you don’t have to do a set design—you can just draw these wherever and however you choose. Start by outlining, then gradually fill in the detail. Use a stippling effect for the grass and leaves by pushing your brush against the board and the cake, roughly adding blotches of green shades to create the scene. Add different shades of brown for the tree trunks. If you have more colours, add some little flowers so they appear to be growing up from the base board. Add a few wispy clouds on the upper part of the bottom tier.
15. For the corgi cookies, cut out the lower body of the corgis from a piece of white sugar paste using the same cutter that you have used for the corgi biscuits (you can get these online) and stick them to the biscuits with a little royal icing. Add some light rusty brown detail—ideally have a look at a picture of a corgi and copy what you see. Add a little smile and an eye by using a very fine paintbrush and a little black colouring.
16. For the bunting, roll out some red, white and blue sugar paste fairly thinly and cut a strip out of each colour the same size that you want the length of each bunting flag to be. Now cut little triangles out of these strips. Gently attach these using a little drop of vodka or water on the top of each flag and press along the blue icing rope. Allow them to stick out a little so it looks as if they are blowing in the wind.
17. Add the white iced middle tier (the gin, dubbonet and lemon sponge) using a little stiff royal icing on the top of the base tier where the cake is doweled. Align it so that it is central. Roll out a small amount of blue and red sugar paste fairly thinly, and cut out lots of little polka dots. Stick around the cake to cover using a little vodka or water on the back of each dot.
18. Stick your corgi cookies around the base tier with stiff white royal icing.
19. Now you can add the crowning glory! Again, using some royal icing on the top of the middle tier, stick the crown in place and make sure it is centred. Finish off by piping stiff white royal icing all around the bottom of the crown to create the ermine fur effect—it’s best to use an open small star nozzle so it looks nice and fluffy. You can add little black dots by dipping a cocktail stick into black food colouring and swirling it around into the icing to create this effect. If you think you need to give the crown a little more height before adding the piped white fur, you can always place a little more white sugar paste underneath the crown before sticking in down, to give it a lift.
20. And now you have a cake fit for a queen! Allow to set overnight if you are transporting it around and make sure to keep it level. It will last for up to three days and of course can be frozen.
Images by John Holdship.