Birthday, wedding, baby shower, ordinary Tuesday night — no matter what you're celebrating, a layer cake is always a good idea.
No dessert has received more attention lately than the cake that will be on display at the May 19 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. All we know is that American expat Claire Ptak, owner of Violet bakery in London, is making a lemon elderflower cake that will be decorated with buttercream and fresh flowers.
I smelled a challenge. Could I come up with my own version of the royal wedding cake for us commoners?
Using recipes that I adapted from Ptak's 2015 cookbook, the answer was a resounding yes. Even better, I adjusted the elements to create a layer cake that even less-experienced bakers could conquer. (Sometimes a celebration calls for a little extra effort.)
One adjustment I made for my own sanity was baking three thin cake layers rather than the tall single cake Ptak says to make in a 3-inch-deep pan. First of all, I don't own one of those, and second, I've never been good at slicing cakes evenly. Bonus: Thin cakes bake and cool faster.
You could certainly make the cake and the frosting — a simple confectioners' sugar and butter combination — put them together, and call it a day. (If you don't own one, a small offset spatula will earn its very cheap price for frosting and filling this cake, not to mention many other kitchen tasks.)
For an amped-up filling, use lemon curd (homemade, if you're up for it) instead of frosting. Or go up one more level by mixing it with whipped cream.
You can decorate this cake as much or as little as you want. A pristine white cake is timeless. No fancy cake tools? Grab a spoon and spin a swirl into the top, or cut the corner of a food-safe zip-top bag and pipe dollops around the edge. Use store-bought candied lemon slices or peel for added pizzazz.
In the spirit of the actual royal wedding cake, I decorated this version with edible flowers. Be sure you source flowers that have been specifically grown for culinary use. You can also sometimes find them in the produce section of grocery stores. I crystallized some of the flowers and combined them with other fresh ones, gently pressing both types into the top and then in a cascade down the side of the cake. If you just want to use fresh flowers, that would be lovely, too.
A note on ingredients: I found Belvoir Fruit Farms elderflower cordial (nonalcoholic), used for brushing the cake layers, at World Market. It can also be ordered from various sites online. (The company's products are carried at stores such as Whole Foods, Mom's, and Fresh Market.) Ikea sells an elderflower syrup as well. For additional elderflower flavor in the cake and frosting, I used St-Germain liqueur, but you can leave it out or use the cordial instead.