Flowers, food, special dresses, smart suits and cake.
Who doesn't love a wedding?
Well, maybe not poor cousin Bobby who always gets stuck sitting next to dear old Aunty Doris whose soul mission in life is to hook him up with "...that lovely girl Tess..." who she had forgotten is actually dear Bobby's second cousin.
But in general, weddings are good things!
Especially your best friend's weddings in Scotland. Yes, then weddings are awesome.
Okay. Before I get to the actual recipe for my spelt flour carrot cake, go get yourself a cup of tea, this going to be a long one. Oh, I also have to apologise right here for the mish-mash of photos. We've got cake pics, we've got wedding pics that I took, and then ones from my mobile phone. My mobile's pics are in vaguely relevant areas. The other wedding pics are not, so there's some strange cross-over at times. I'm sure you'll survive, but I just wanted to give you a heads-up.
It all started when a wee Scottish girl named Cat said "yes" to a lovely Irish fellow called Eoin. That's pronounced Owen, for you lot at the back who don't understand Irish names with three consecutive vowels. Anyway. Back to my story.
Cat said, "Yes!" There was much glee and happiness. And then the planning started.
Actually, the planning itself wasn't really anything to note. Cat was so organised she (and he) had everything thought out without much fuss at all. Seriously, super-bride was our Cat Steel (she even has (had!) a superhero's name). The only thing that made things a little trickier was that they both wanted to get married in Scotland. This isn't really a problem when you're only "over the pond", just meant things were going to be a little interesting when it came to the logistics of getting things over there.
Like the cake, for instance.
See, before they even got engaged I'd already said, and in fact, Cat had already said that I'd be making their wedding cake. It was our not-a-joke joke. When she called to tell me the news the conversation went something like this.
*Star Trek ringtone* *Looks at phone* Unknown number. I hate unknown numbers. I never answer unknown numbers. In a moment of madness, I answer the unknown number. "Hello?"
"Will you make my wedding cake?"
Unknown number, "Will you make my wedding cake?"
*Lightbulb* Oh holy Moses, that sounds like Cat!
"Cat?" Unknown number, "Yes! Will you make my wedding cake?" Me, "OH MY GOD YES YES YESYESYESYESYESYES!"
So after much squealing and bouncing around my office like a mad thing, the conversation proceeded on to all the details of how Eoin proposed. Best unknown number phone call ever.
So, it was agreed from the outset that I'd be the cake lady. YAY! (And she knows I probably would have cake-crashed anyway.)
There were a few discussions about the design. Cat wasn't entirely sure at the beginning, but once other things started falling into place like settling on her colours, venue and flowers, she very quickly chose a style for the cake.
Mint green, with edible lace on the bottom tier, hand piped pearl design on the middle tier, and a plain top tier. A few peach coloured sugarpaste roses to finish everything off. Very simple. Very pretty. Very Cat.
One of the things that Cat wanted to make sure of was that there'd be enough cake for everyone. See, the wedding was going to be a weekend event.
Actually, let me set the scene a bit more.
The Scottish borders in a town called Melrose. A beautiful country manor named Kippalaw House surrounded by trees with a beautiful garden. A grand staircase and even grander rooms, fifteen in total. A large ballroom perfect for a reception dinner.
The bridal party and those involved in helping get things set up would arrive on Friday, and those guests who would also arrive on Friday would have a night-before-the-wedding dinner to get things started. The wedding would take place on Saturday. On Sunday there would be a relaxed day at the house with a big barbecue. On Monday, we'd all leave.
Andrew and I were invited to stay in the house with Cat, Eoin and all of their family, bridesmaids and groomsmen. I was thoroughly chuffed with the invitation! In fact, I was lucky enough to be involved in a lot of the wedding preparation! I even got to see the wedding venue before the wedding. Of course, on strict instruction from one of the bridesmaids currently living in New Zealand to send plenty of photos!
All of this was well and good, but eventually it hit me that the cake would be travelling from Ireland to Scotland. Ah crap. What did I sign up for?
Especially considering that the cake would need to be on the larger side so that it could feed everyone. Everyone being about eighty guests. There would be dessert served after the meal, but there would also need to be enough cake. Also, Cat wanted to have plenty of cake to serve at the barbecue the day after.
We'd decided that the three tiers would be made up of an enormous 12" chocolate biscuit cake (again, for those of you in the back, biscuit = cookie, and technically I wouldn't call it a cake. It's more like a rocky road bar, but ginormous and in the shape of a regular cake, but it's very popular here!). The middle 10" tier would be carrot cake and the top 8" cake would be lemon drizzle. All the bride and groom's favourites.
Nothing out of the ordinary with those choices, except for the fact that I decided to make the carrot and lemon cakes with spelt flour.
Cat's somewhat wheat intolerant (not gluten intolerant) so stays away from regular wheat when possible, but she has no problems with spelt flour. It's an easy enough substitution in cakes. Literally just replace regular flour with white spelt flour. Simples.
That is, until it comes time to make said cakes and you're running around from store to store looking for plain white spelt flour only to find that it's nowhere to be found even though there's an abundance of wholemeal spelt flour. Finally, after looking everywhere for the stuff, I was told in a health food store that the most recent spelt crop was bad. And because spelt crops are not modified or fortified or meddled with, there was nothing to be done with the crops but only use it for wholemeal spelt. She speculated that plain white spelt would be back in the stores in September. A little too far down the road as I needed it then, in May, for Cat's wedding in the first week of July.
I'm so glad I'm not a panicky baker.
I stocked up on wholemeal spelt and did some online shopping. I found a health food store in the UK with a supply of white spelt and ordered 6kgs of it. The express delivery cost more than the flour itself, but thems the breaks.
I decided to go ahead and bake the carrot cake tier with just the wholemeal spelt 'cause I'd actually baked the very same recipe a couple weeks before for Cat's hen party and it turned out great. Carrot cake being carrot cake; the colour, spices and oil adding moisture, hid the fact that it was wholemeal. Not a single soul could tell, and in fact, it got plenty of compliments.
Okay, I'm simplifying it a little bit. You can't just replace plain white flour with wholemeal flour. There are rules. You still need a certain amount of gluten, and wholemeal is largely made up of fibre which doesn't help with the needed gluten as well as it not absorbing as much liquid as plain flour does. So, I ended up sieving my wholemeal spelt flour like a demented hula dancing girl to remove as much of the fibrous bits as possible so that I'd get a decent amount of "plain" flour. (What I won't do for my friends!)
Before you get worried, no, the recipe below does not have you sieving kilograms of wholemeal flour. The recipe posted has you using both plain and wholemeal flours. Unless you're looking for the exercise, in that case, you're welcome to get sieving. It really does work up a bit of a sweat. Oh, and good news, plain white spelt flour is back on the shelves in Ireland! And it's September, just as the girl in the health food store guessed. Gold star for her.
I was almost ready to do the same sieving for the lemon drizzle cake, but thankfully my order from the UK arrived just in time.
Cakes made and covered in fondant, it was now just the dreaded travelling.
At the start when planning and pondering about how best to get the cake over to Scotland, we'd decided that Eoin and Cat, who would be driving and taking the ferry over, would take the bottom two tiers already stacked. I would fly with the top tier, roses and other bits of kit that I would need for assembly and any repairs needed.
This is where the fun really began. And when I say fun, I mean stress and grey hairs!
It all started when Cat and Eoin came to fetch the bottom two tiers. We knew the box would be big. But we didn't know the box would be so big! I'd specially ordered a heavy duty travelling box which had extra space around it so that there was no way the cake could get bumped. And seeing as the cake board was 16", this made the box 20". That is a very big box.
The boot of the car was unpacked, the cake box with a very very heavy cake inside (did I mention that the chocolate biscuit cake used up 2kg of chocolate? And that's excluding all the other stuff I put in it!), and then repacked very carefully. Thankfully, Eoin's very organised engineering brain managed to get everything back in. It was like watching a game of Tetris.
So off they went and off it went. I was happy that it was made, covered and on the road. But I just prayed that I wasn't going to get a panicked phone call from Cat saying that the chocolate was melting and oozing out from under the fondant (another detail, this had to be the hottest week in summer, naturally). They did pack some ice in around the box when they could, but still, I was just waiting for the call to say that it was all a disaster.
And you know what? I actually did get a dreaded phonecall.
Cat, "Hi. Um. So we're here at Mum's, and the cake's mostly okay. But there's been a bit of a problem."
*lump in throat*
"What sort of problem?"
Cat, "Well, you know you covered the cake board in fondant? Well, the cake slid or something so the fondant on the cake board is all cracked and stuff. I'll send you a picture."
Thankfully, and I do say thankfully, I was somewhat okay with this disaster. Turns out, there had been some heavy braking so the very heavy cake slid, even though it was glued in place with royal icing, and in the process proceeded to destroy my fondant covered cake board. But, the cake itself was fine, although precariously close to tipping off the cake board.
I talked Cat and her mum through the process of trying to manoeuvre the cake back into the centre of the board. This involved sticking forks into the sides of the cake at the bottom where the fondant was covering the drum, and shifting it back into place (I wanted to avoid using hands on the sides of the actual cake in case they left lovely bumps). I knew I'd be putting ribbon around the cake to finish it off, so some cake forking was fine that low down. The cake board itself? I decided I'd bring fondant with me and I'd recover the board when I got there. Not ideal, as the board should dry for a couple of days before you put a cake on it, but, that would be the only way. (Advice to future self or anyone else travelling with cake. Put supports in the fondant on the cake board so that your heavy cake doesn't weigh it down and you end up like mine.)
The rest of their journey to the wedding venue went without a hitch and the cake was somewhat safely waiting for me to arrive.
So now it was on me to finish the transportation.
I was a little nervous about flying with a cake. I'd checked the airline's website to make sure they allowed such a thing as cake to be taken as hand luggage, and that was fine. I was still a bit nervous about it though, the airline might be happy with cake, that didn't mean airport security would be.
As it turns out, it would seem many people fly around the place with cakes. When we got to security and sent it through x-ray, the guards had a bet going that it was a wedding cake. I told them that indeed it was and asked if this was a normal thing. I was told that they got cakes through quite often. Good to know!
Through security and on board the plane, the Aer Lingus crew couldn't have been more helpful if I'd paid them to be. I ended up keeping the cake under the seat in front of me where I could keep a close eye on it.
Everything went fairly well, that is, until I landed and had a peak at the cake in the airport in Edinburgh.
I hadn't managed to get a good sturdy box for my tier so had just a regular flimsy one. This flimsy box didn't stop the cake inside from getting bumped so it was looking a little dented in a few places.
Not only was it slightly dented, but there seemed to be a rather large bulge on the one side.
But, nothing I could do about it there in the airport. So we got our car and headed on down to Melrose.
We arrived without incident and I assessed the larger cake. It looked pretty good considering. But the top tier was now in quite a state. The only thing I can think of is that there must have been a small air bubble under the surface, and with the change in air pressure, that bubble expanded. Have you ever opened a tube of cream or something after flying? Most times it'll explode or burp a blob of cream right in your eye 'cause of the pressure build up. So there was my bulging cake, looking like it needed a good fart. I literally had to deflate it. With a pin. Of all the tiers that needed to be unmarked and perfect, it was the top one.
I managed to mostly smooth it out and decided where I'd strategically be placing roses and which part would be the "back" of the cake.
Then, after hauling the bottom two tiers off the board and re-covering the drum with a new layer of fondant, everything was looking good.
I got the lace on the bottom tier, painted the pearls with lustre. Placed the top tier and positioned the roses. My word. It actually looked like a wedding cake.
Cat was absolutely thrilled which more than made up for any new grey hairs that I'd sprouted that week. And when it was finally revealed to Eoin the next day he couldn't stop hugging me! Well, at least two really big hugs.
I must admit though, I was a little heart sore to see it getting cut into. After everything I had to do to keep it in one piece, it was cut up in a matter of minutes! But, such is the life of a cake.
As for the actual eating, I lost count of how many people told me how delicious all three layers were. My favourite was definitely the carrot cake, but then, that is my favourite cake flavour.
Dinner itself turned out to be rather massive, so when tea and coffee was set out later in the evening, not much of the cake got touched. But then came Sunday, and I swear, I was constantly seeing people nibbling on a slice. Every time I walked past the table where the pieces were laid out, there was less and less, until it was topped up again.
Come the Monday, Cat wrapped up a bit for themselves, and a few other pieces were stowed away by mums and brothers and sisters, but that was it. Completely finished. I definitely took that as a compliment! A wedding cake should taste as good as it looks, in my opinion, and it seemed like mine ticked all the boxes.
From trying to find spelt flour, to travel mishaps, to a late night repairing and an early morning decorating, I actually really enjoyed making this cake and was so proud with the way it turned out. And better yet, so happy that both Cat and Eoin were thrilled with it.
Phew! Longest recipe post ever! All I'm going to say about the rest of the wedding is that it was incredible in every single way. The house, the food, the people, the dancing, the weather, the day after - it was just amazing. I'll leave my photos to tell the rest of the wedding story.
A few words about the cake recipe itself.
You know when you're trying on clothes and you squint and tilt your head a bit to get an ideal angle so you can convince yourself your butt doesn't look that big in it? Well, this cake is similar. On a cake-scale it is fairly healthy. Spelt flour; both plain and wholemeal. Olive oil; a healthy fat. Carrots; obviously good for you, or so our mom's would have us believe. Pecan nuts; more good fats. Eggs; a very good source of protein. Yup, it's looking pretty darn good.
But then there's the sugar. And the cream cheese. And butter. And more sugar. Starch + sugar + fat... well. Yeah. Ho hum...
At the end of the day, this is still a cake.
So squint as hard at your slice as you need to convince yourself it's not that bad, if that's the way you roll. Or, just accept that it is a delicious treat that happens to contain some good stuff and some bad stuff, and just scoff with abandon and enjoy it thoroughly! You'll be in gym tomorrow, right?
So here it is, the recipe for what I'm now calling Cat's Carrot Cake.
Spelt Flour Carrot Cake
Serves up to 12
|300g||10½oz||1½ cups||Golden Granulated Sugar|
|250ml||9fl oz||1 cup||Light Olive, Sunflower or Canola Oil|
|1 tsp||1 tsp||1 tsp||Vanilla Extract|
|190g||7oz||1½ cup||Plain White Spelt Flour|
|90g||3oz||¾ cup||Wholemeal Spelt Flour|
|2 tsp||2 tsp||2 tsp||Baking Soda|
|2 tsp||2 tsp||2 tsp||Baking Powder|
|2 tsp||2 tsp||2 tsp||Ground Cinnamon|
|½ tsp||½ tsp||½ tsp||Ground Nutmeg|
|1 tsp||1 tsp||1 tsp||Salt|
|270g||9½oz||3 cups||Grated Carrot (about 4-6 medium carrots)|
|250g||9oz||1 cup||Pecan Nuts, roasted & roughly chopped|
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted) / 350°F
- Line two 9" (23cm) round cake tins with parchment paper
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil & vanilla. Set aside
- In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients
- Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and stir to mix
- Fold in grated carrot and 200g/7oz/¾cup of the pecan nuts
- Divide batter evenly between the two prepared baking tins
- Bake for 35-40mins until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
- Leave to cool in tins on wire rack for 15mins before turning out and leaving to cool completely
- To finish once cool, carefully peel parchment off cakes and place one layer on your serving plate
- Spread half of the cream cheese frosting over the layer, then place the second cake on top
- Spread remaining cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
|450g||16oz||2 pkts||Full Fat Cream Cheese, chilled|
|115g||4oz||½ cup (1 stick)||Unsalted Butter, softened|
|250g||9oz||2 cups||Icing Sugar, sifted|
|2 tsp||2 tsp||2 tsp||Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste|
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla then beat on low just until icing sugar is mixed in, then increase speed to maximum and whip until frosting is thick enough to hold its shape
- Tip: I find cream cheese in Ireland is quite different to back home, it seems to actually get sloppier after you've added the sugar, and adding more sugar doesn't help. But, after experimenting, I've realised, all you need to do is treat it like it's cream. Keep the cream cheese chilled to start with then beat/whip it on high and it ends up thickening up beautifully just as it should
- Follow instructions above to finish off cake
This cake will last longer than a butter based cake because of the oil, simply keep it refrigerated in an airtight container, it will be good for 5 days if not more. If it lasts that long...
You can make this cake using regular flour, simply replace the plain and wholemeal spelt flours with plain and wholemeal regular flours