Sweet Pea Wedding Cake

Fluttery sweet peas, made with gum paste, grow up the sides of the tiers of this elegant wedding cake. Fondant is also wrapped around the base of each layer; the green ridges are our interpretation of an orchid's vertical striations. A small nosegay of sweet peas and orchids serves as the cake topper.

  • Servings: 90

Photography: Victor Schrager

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2003


  • 1 pound gum paste
  • Cornstarch, for rolling
  • 3 ounces large French pearls
  • Gel-paste food colorings, in avocado and moss green
  • 1 each 5- and 8-inch round cake tiers, each set on corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam-board round, trimmed, split, and filled to a 3-inch height
  • 15 1/4-inch-diameter-by-3 1/8-inch-high wooden dowels
  • 2 each 7-inch round cake layers, each set on corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam-board round, trimmed split, and filled to a 3-inch height
  • 1 each 6- and 8-inch round cake tiers, each set on corresponding-size 3/16-inch-thick foam-board round, trimmed, split, and filled to a 4-inch height
  • 1 10-inch-diameter-by-3-inch-high Styrofoam round
  • 16 pounds rolled fondant
  • 1/2 recipe Royal Icing
  • 10 1/4-inch-diameter-by-4 1/8-inch-high wooden dowels
  • 1 1/4-inch-diameter-by-23-inch-long wooden dowel (optional)
  • Plastruct patterned plastic sheet
  • 1 dozen fresh white sweet peas
  • 1 three-inch caged floral foam
  • 3 striated orchids (lady's slipper)
  • Fondant amounts (approximate): for the 10-inch Styrofoam, 2 1/2 pounds; 8-inch cake tier, 4 pounds; 7-inch tier, 3 1/2 pounds; 6-inch tier, 1 1/2 pounds; 5-inch tier, 1 pound


Prepare Gum Paste

  1. Knead the gum paste until it is soft and pliable. (When working with white gum paste it is important to work with very clean hands and to check for any fibers that may become attached to the paste, which cause discoloration.) Pinch off a 2-inch ball of paste. Cover remaining paste with a large glass or bowl to prevent it from drying out while you work. On a clean surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll small ball into a paper-thin disk. Using a 3/4-inch gum-paste cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Place rounds on a sheet of plastic wrap; cover with another sheet to prevent them from drying out before they can be shaped.

Make Sweet Peas

  1. To create inner petals, place a round on the foam pad. Working quickly and using gentle pressure, run a metal ball tool around edge until it begins to curl; be sure tool is positioned half on the round and half on the foam pad. Lightly moisten the center of the lower portion of the shaped petals with water, using a fine paint-brush. Nestle a French pearl in the center; gently fold two of the petal's edges together, leaving part of the pearl exposed. Gently pinch the petal together beneath the pearl. Repeat this process with remaining gum-paste rounds. To create outer petals, pinch off another 2-inch ball of paste; roll and cut out another batch of rounds. Curl edge of each round with the ball tool, and brush with a line of water down the center, and attach to one of the inner rounds. Gently pinch the lower edge of the flower together to adhere. Repeat with remaining petals. Place flowers on a clean baking sheet; set aside to dry 6 hours or overnight. You should have about 140 sweet peas.

Make the Tendrils

  1. With moss-green food coloring, tint a 1/2-inch ball of gum paste pale green. On a clean work surface, roll out ball into a very thin vine. Dust a wooden dowel or wooden-spoon handle with cornstarch, and wrap vine around the handle. Allow the paste to dry on the dowel, 4 hours or overnight. Remove tendril from the dowel; carefully break it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces. Flowers and tendrils can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use, up to 3 months.

Prepare 7-by-6-Inch Tier

  1. Thinly coat both 7-inch cake layers with desired frosting, smoothing sides and top to seal in crumbs; chill until set, 30 minutes. Into one 7-inch prepared tier, insert five 3 1/8 -inch-long wooden dowels in a circle about 1 1/2 inches from edge. On a work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll about 1/2 pound rolled fondant to 1/8 inch thick; cut out a 7-inch disk. Center and place disk on top of cake layer with dowels. Trim any fondant that may hang over the top edge with a sharp paring knife. Set remaining 7-inch cake layer on top. Coat this new tier with frosting, smoothing the sides, and refrigerate.

Prepare the 8-by-7-Inch Tier

  1. Thinly coat both 8-inch tiers to seal in crumbs; chill until set, about 30 minutes. Into the 4-inch-high layer, insert 6 of the 4 1/8-inch-long dowels in a circle about 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Roll out and cut fondant into an 8-inch disk; place on top of this layer. Place the remaining 8-by-3-inch layer on top. Coat this new tier with frosting; refrigerate until set.

Cover Tiers, Including Styrofoam Round

  1. Thinly coat remaining tiers with desired frosting; chill until set. Lightly dampen top and sides of Styrofoam tier with water. On a work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll fondant to cover respective tiers (see amounts at bottom of ingredients list; work with one tier at a time). The fondant should be rolled into a large disk about 1/8 inch thick. Working quickly, gently lay fondant on cake. Starting from the center, smooth it onto cake with your hands. Trim excess fondant from bottom edges with a pizza cutter. (Excess may be reused if it is free of crumbs, filling, or icing.) Set tiers aside, preferably in a cool room; do not refrigerate.

Stack Tiers

  1. Spread 1 tablespoon royal icing onto center of the 10-inch round; place the 8-inch tier on top. Insert 6 of the 3 1/8-inch-long dowels in a circle about 2 inches in from edge. Spread 2 teaspoons icing on center of this tier; place 7-inch tier on top. Insert the remaining four 3 1/8-inch dowels into this tier, in a circle about 2 inches from the center. Spread 2 teaspoons icing on center of tier; place 6-inch tier on top. Insert the remaining four 4 1/8-inch dowels into this tier, in a 3-inch square. Spread 1 teaspoon icing on center of tier; place 5-inch tier on top. (If the cake is to be transported by car to a reception site, it is advisable to secure the stacked cake with the 23-inch-long dowel. To do this, make an angled cut at one end of the dowel with dowel cutters. Center dowel over the top tier, and push it straight down into tier, angled end first. Use a small hammer to help dowel pierce the foam board. Dowel should be flush with top tier; if necessary, pull out and cut to fit, then push back into place.)

Make and Attach Ribbons

  1. Tint the remaining fondant pale green with avocado and moss-green food colors. For the Styrofoam tier, roll fondant 1/8 inch thick, making a long strip at least 3 inches wide and slightly longer than the Plastruct plastic template. Lightly dust template with cornstarch, and lay fondant strip on top. Using gentle and even pressure, roll fondant onto the strip with a small rolling pin. Roll only once. Turn template over, and gently pull it away from fondant. (If the template is difficult to pull away, reroll the fondant, and dust the template again with cornstarch.) Using a pizza cutter, trim sides of strip to be even. Working quickly, brush the side of the tier at the base with water. Center the band on the front of the cake, and wrap it around the cake. Repeat to make more 3-inch-wide bands, attaching them to the tier so that all seams are aligned. Repeat this process for the ribbons on the remaining tiers. The ribbons should measure the following widths: for the 8-inch tier, 1 inch wide; 7-inch tier, 3/4 inch wide; 6-inch tier, 1/2 inch wide; 5-inch tier, 3/8 inch wide.

Decorate the Tiers

  1. Pinch off enough of the remaining pale-green fondant to form a 1-inch ball. On a clean work surface, roll fondant into a long, thin vine. Cut into lengths ranging from 1 to 6 inches. Working quickly, use a fine paintbrush dipped in water to moisten the area on the side of the tier where you would like to place a stem; immediately secure one of the fondant stems. Repeat to attach as many stems as desired. To attach prepared gum-paste flowers, fit a 10-inch pastry bag with an Ateco #2 round tip; fill it halfway with royal icing. Pipe icing onto flowers and tendrils, and attach them to the cake where desired. Pipe small dots near some of the stems.

Decorate with Fresh Flowers

  1. Moisten caged floral foam; wipe away excess water. Wrap with plastic (including point) to keep it from touching cake. Center and insert into top of the 5-inch tier. Stick flower stems into foam. As sweet-pea stems are fragile, you may want to pierce holes in foam with a skewer first.


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