The Great Cake Conundrum! The battle of taste versus aesthetics

The Great Cake Conundrum! The battle of taste versus aesthetics

Cakes. The fundamental of any novice or know-it-all baker’s repertoire. The first bake for many, myself included. They have been my default bake for dessert when visiting friends and family, but until a year ago I never considered taking the plunge and going a step further by branching out into the vast world of decorating.  For many years, my focus was naked, classic cakes, for which flavour, texture and the sheer joy of consumption spoke volumes and brought the most rewarding sense of accomplishment! but  then came the need (more on this in future blogs) to expand my skills  and decorate, admittedly this was a huge challenge at the time, those who know me will attest to my love of simplicity but slowly, as I begin to venture into the world of decorating, I am actually getting the hang of it and unearthing my own style which has laid latent all these years, I am actually improving. When it comes to decorating cakes like the Victoria sponge below (find the recipe at the end of this post), I like to keep it simple yet beautiful, something that will produce a flurry of -ooos and -smmms from an audience yet stand out amongst a table of other bakes.

Take the classic wedding cake, (and I have been to a lot of weddings). In my view there have on occasions been an indirect relationship between taste and aesthetics, to the eye the cake looks amazing, but take the first bite and it is sometimes utter disappointment, dry, bland and forgettable. I remember my wedding cake being a total horror story because by the time we got round to eating at our leisure after the wedding, it had actually gone off!   All that being said, our natural bias towards aesthetics must not be diminished in its importance, after all it is what draws the eye and gets us salivating as the we imagine the world of goodness under that coating of butter cream or royal icing. All in all, in order not to disappoint the consumer’s expectation, aesthetics must deliver on the promise of ‘yummy’ and the quality of the bake.

Image: Classic Victoria Sandwich sponge

I believe decorated cakes should speak for themselves, I always find it disappointing when a cake looks amazing and the first bite seems as though it is a different cake altogether, hence my reservations in the past about taking my cakes to the next level. A beautiful cake should be replicated both in the flavours and the taste – the proof of the pudding should be in the eating! As we take this journey together, I am hoping that you will be able to see how my presentation skills progress and how I’m able to achieve moreish flavour combinations accompanied by aesthetically beautiful, and delicately decorated bakes.

Coconut Cake

Image: Freshly-grated Coconut cake

I cannot wait to take you on a visual step-by-step voyage of my caramel chocolate cake once my kitchen studio is up and running. I’ve been told this cake scrumptious and a taste adventure on a plate.  I hope I can use this experience and the challenges presented to make many other tantalising-tasty showstoppers and hopefully in a year’s time, review how far my decorating ability has come!

Classic Victoria Sandwich Sponge Recipe

This recipe makes a Victoria sponge enough to serve 15 to 20 people. You’ll need two 25cm cake pans, however depending on the size of your oven, you can divide the cake ingredients in 2, baking each cake for 30 minutes. If you need a smaller cake just divide the cake ingredients by 8, using the proportion you require.

Cake Ingredients

  1. 450g self-raising flour
  2. 450g caster sugar
  3. 450g magarine (softened at room temperature)
  4. 8 medium eggs
  5. 5 tablespoons milk

Filling Ingredients

  1. 120g strawberry jam
  2. 400g double cream
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  4. 60g caster sugar

Finish

  1. Icing sugar

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius (If the oven is too hot you’ll create a doom shaped cake not suitable for the sandwich)
  2. Grease two 25cm cake pans and line the base of the pans with parchment paper
  3. Put the flour, sugar, margarine, eggs and milk in a single bowl and use a hand mixer to combine the ingredients (do not over mix)
  4. Divide the ingredients equally into the 2 cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
  5. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack after 5 minutes and allow to cool completely
  6. Lightly whip the double cream adding the sugar and vanilla, then transfer the whipped to a piping bag
  7. Once cooled remove the parchment paper and spread the strawberry jam over the top of one of the cakes
  8. Pipe the cream on top of the spread jam as shown in the image below and sandwich the cake together by placing the other cake on top
    Victoria sponge
  9. Dust with icing sugar and serve
  10. Keep the cake in a cool area or in the fridge if it will not be served immediately to prevent the cream collapsing.
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