When you first think of buttercream you probably think of butter and icing sugar beating till it's light and fluffy. Quick to make but oh so sickly sweet! This is what cake designers and pastry chefs call American buttercream. It's often made with a blend of butter and shortening (solid white vegetable fat) for added stability, and sometimes no butter at all. It tends to have a grainy texture from the icing sugar.
There are many other types of buttercreams (See our FAQs) but the best for wedding cakes are the meringue-based buttercreams. The most commonly used is Swiss meringue, which is made using a Ban Marie to slowly cook the egg whites (or aquafaba if you're vegan) whilst gently whisking before making your meringue for your buttercream. We, however, opt for the Italian version, made by slowly pouring a very hot sugar syrup into beating eggwhites while they whisk, the meringue is then beaten until it cools to room temperature before beating in butter, and of course a good helping of Madagascan vanilla.
Italian meringue buttercream is delicate, soft and just melts in your mouth. It also has a fraction of the sugar that you would find in an American buttercream, just 30% rather than 70%. The other added bonus over even Swiss meringue buttercream, and particularly American is how well it holds up in the heat. Which makes it perfect for painting and piping delicate decoration. But more importantly, it won't collapse on a hot sunny day in a warm marquee, as I've seen many American buttercream cakes succumb too. I doubt you want the Leaning Tower of Pisa for your wedding cake? And even if you do maybe not the fallen over tower! Just don't expect it to survive in a sunny south-facing window, as that it just madness!
All in all this does involve a lot more time and effort to make but by god, it's worth it, and we can even make it in a vegan version too!
Naked & Semi-Naked Cakes
What's the difference?
Naked (left) cakes have filling in-between the layers of sponge only. Nothing around the outside. Like a Victoria sponge. You can opt for a rustic style where the filling oozes out a little or a slightly more elegant finish where the buttercream is swept around to give a more polished look depending on what you like.
Naked cakes are a great option if you're on a budget but you want something that will taste and look impressive. The main drawback is that the sponge is exposed, so the cake can start to dry out if it's sitting around all day.
Semi-naked cakes like the one to the right have a thin layer of skimmed buttercream around the outside of the cake so the layers of the cake are slightly exposed, this extra buttercream helps lock in moisture.If you are looking for something simple but elegant, this is a good option.
Fruit and edible flowers make great decoration for either of these finishes. If you want drips added to your cake, this works better on semi-naked cakes as you have a smooth side for the drip to run down, Either style can be finished in either buttercream or ganache depending on your preference.
Ganache Wedding Cakes
Some designs just aren't possible with buttercream, even with Italian meringue buttercream no matter how hard we try. Metallic finishes always take better on a ganache cake, and as ganache sets a lot firmer we can create intricate textures like this ganache origami cake with pleated textured finish.
Painted designs work great with ganache too, it takes colour really well for vibrant colours or if you want a really dark coloured cake, dark chocolate ganache is a really good place to start for this. White chocolate ganache usually has more of a yellow hue compared to buttercream, but this can easily be coloured to create a traditional ivory wedding cake.
Ganaches can be used for both fillings and icing your cake, and can be mixed and matched with buttercream if you'd like different options. The smell of a ganache finished cake is also absolutely divine, what could be better than the sent of chocolate filling the air on your wedding day?
Fully Iced Cakes
Fully iced ganache or buttercream cakes have a thick layer around the outside of the cake, built up in layers so as not to show any crumbs in the final finish. Because the cake is set before each coat is added you can have a different buttercream inside your cake to what you have on the outside.
You can opt for a simple smooth finish if you like or a textured finish like the cake to the left. There are lots of ways we can create different textures and effects on your cake including ombres, marbling, pleating and much more.
All of our cakes are decorated in either a naked; semi-naked or fully iced finish or a mix of these finishes for different tiers. We don't ice our cakes in fondant at Red Robin Pantry just Italian meringue buttercream or chocolate ganache!
Over the last couple of years, buttercream has had a huge reinvention. Painting and sculpting with buttercream has become increasingly popular the world over. It's easy to understand why, as you can have a beautiful modern cake that tastes amazing even down to the decoration!
Buttercream is a great medium for hand-painted flowers, that can be intricate or abstract. We can recreate your wedding bouquet on your cake or paint a wildflower meadow. We can create wonderful ocean sprays, pipe macrame or Mexican embroidery. Or even just add abstract splashes of colour or washed out ombrés, which look great coupled with real flower arrangements.
Romantic silhouettes look wonderful in buttercream too. If it can be painted with oils or acrylics then we can do it with buttercream! We're always adding more designs to our gallery so why not have a look for further inspiration.
Real Flowers & Your Wedding Cake
Making sure they are safe!
We love decorating our wedding cakes with fresh flowers. The trouble is most flowers available are not safe for human consumption sadly.
They may be toxic or poisonous. These flowers are to be completely avoided, even when they are inserted into your cake with the utmost care, using flower picks, or food-safe wax to seal the stems. Parts of the flower will still likely touch your cake, and sap, pollen or hairs from the flower may end up on your cake. And we wouldn't want you or your guests getting ill on your big day.
The second problem that we come across when decorating cakes with fresh flowers is the use of pesticides and fertilisers. Flowers grown for the floristry industry are just not grown for human consumption, even edible species such as roses. Because of this, we do not recommend asking your florist to supply extra flowers to decorate your cake with. They will have been sprayed and they will have been stored in a manner that promotes bacterial growth.
This does not mean that we can't decorate your cake with fresh flowers however. Edible flowers that are grown for this purpose are available from a great organic Devonshire farm. Yippee! They supply dried petals, fresh petals, whole flowers, edible leaves, herbs etc. These flowers are seasonal, but there are lots of varieties including roses, calendula, cornflowers, dahlias, daisies, daylilies, elderflowers, gladioli, honeysuckle, pansies, pinks, sunflowers, violas, tulips, as well as many wildflowers and herbs too.
If you do choose to go with a different cake decorator in the end, we do recommend that you verify that any fresh flowers used are non-toxic and that they have been grown without the use of pesticides and fertilisers that are harmful if consumed.
Fruit & Flower Decoration Styles
From classic summer berries to more contemporary autumnal fruits such as fresh figs, pomegranates and citrus slices. We can air dry fruits and flowers or decorate in fresh edible flowers, leaves or herbs.
Flowers and/or fruit decorating the tops of each cake and the base of the bottom tier
(See above also)
Flowers and/or fruit arranged in groups on each or some tiers, these look great with large statement flowers and on alternating sides.
Flowers or foliage arranged on the side of the cake, sweeping down and around the cake.
Individual petals or small flowers sprinkled over the cake like confetti.
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Flowers and/or fruit arranged in a crescent moon design on top of the cake.
Pressed flowers and/or leaves. They look great when they are arranged around the bottom of the cake to give the impression of flowers growing up the cake.