The lively architectural flourishes of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries inspired the design of this romantic cake. Buildings of that era were characterized by a dynamic interplay of color and ornamentation. Here, swags, friezes, and cartouches in fondant and gilded royal icing bring life to an otherwise static structure.



Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare cake boards: Thin two recipes royal icing to flooding consistency. Working with one board at a time, coat 9-, 11-, and 16-inch foam boards and 22- and 24-inch cake boards by pouring 2-inch-wide band of icing around it near the edge. Using a small offset spatula, gently and quickly spread icing to meet edge of board, then smooth in toward center. It is necessary to cover only the outer 3 to 4 inches, since the cake tier will obscure the center. However, there will be enough icing to cover the entire smallest board, which is easiest. Set the icing covered boards aside on a flat surface to dry overnight.

  • Make fondant leaves: Lightly dust large curved plastic trays with cornstarch; place side by side on work surface so first curve is concave and second is convex. Using about 1 1/2 pounds rolled fondant and two sizes of leaf molds, make 29 long leaves and 21 medium leaves following mold manufacturer's directions. Place each leaf, patterned side up, on a plastic tray to dry: Long leaves must straddle two trays; medium leaves should be placed within large plastic trays. After leaves have dried for 1 to 2 hours on the plastic trays, transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet to finish drying. Use trays to continue to shape leaves. Allow leaves to dry overnight.

  • Make fondant ovals: Lightly dust a clean work surface with cornstarch. Lightly dust a rimmed baking sheet with cornstarch, making sure cornstarch is completely even and free of bumps. On work surface, roll out 1/2 pound rolled fondant, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a fluted oval cutter, cut out 8 ovals. Set on the baking sheet to dry overnight.

  • Make gum-paste fruits and leaves: Lightly dust two rimmed baking sheets with cornstarch. Thoroughly wash and dry hands, and dust them lightly with cornstarch. Using 1/2 pound of gum paste, shape 16 small pears, 16 small apples, and 16 small pomegranates. To keep sizes accurate, begin each fruit with about 1/3 ounce, or a 5/8-inch-diameter ball, of gum paste. If gum paste begins to feel sticky, wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Transfer fruit to prepared baking sheet; let dry overnight. For gum-paste leaves, roll out half the remaining gum paste paper thin. Use an oak-leaf-shape cutter to cut 25 leaves. Slightly bend leaves to give them the effect of movement. Using a rose-leaf-shape cutter, repeat to make 25 rose leaves. Transfer leaves to other prepared baking sheet; let dry overnight.

  • Make royal-icing grapes: Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and a #4 tip; fill bag two-thirds full with thick royal icing. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper; pipe seventy 3/4- to 1-inch-long clusters of grapes onto it. Change to a #3 tip, and pipe twenty 1/2-to 5/8-inch-long clusters. Set aside to dry overnight.

  • Decorate the cake boards: Place dry 11-inch cake board on waxed-paper-covered baking sheet that is larger than the board. Fit pastry bag with coupler and a #104 tip; fill bag two-thirds full with thick royal icing. On exposed edge of board, working right to left, pipe slightly overlapping petals in a continuous pattern. Keep thin side of tip facing out, so petals will have more definition. If you notice that petals are not well defined, it is because icing is getting soft. Empty icing from bag back into icing container, stir well, and refill bag. To embellish edge of the 24-inch round cake board, place it on the 20-by-30-inch foam board that has been covered with waxed paper; two sides of board will hang over the edge. Using #104 tip, pipe slightly overlapping petals of icing over exposed edges of board, moving from left to right. Set aside both boards; let dry overnight. Place the dry 9- and 16-inch round cake boards on waxed-paper-covered baking sheets or flat surfaces that are larger than the boards. Change the pastry tip on the bag to a #14 tip; on the exposed edge of the 9-inch board, pipe angled S shapes close together in a continuous pattern. Then, change to a #3 tip, and pipe dots inside the loops at the top and bottom of each S. Let dry overnight. For the 16-inch round board, use a #4 tip to pipe slightly overlapping pearls around the board. For the 22-inch cake board, use a hot-glue gun to attach the gold ribbon around the edge of the board. Let dry overnight.

  • Prepare the separator: Lightly dampen 6-inch round Styrofoam with water. Lightly dust a clean work surface with cornstarch. Roll out 1 pound rolled fondant into a disk about 1/8 inch thick. Lift fondant, center, and lay it over Styrofoam; smooth it with your hands until it adheres to Styrofoam. Trim away excess with pizza wheel. Set separator aside.

  • Gild the ornaments: In a small glass bowl, mix 1 teaspoon Gold Sparkle dust with about 2 teaspoons of lemon extract. Paint apples, pears, pomegranates, ovals, and leaves using a 1/4-inch-wide natural-bristle paintbrush. Stir mixture each time you dip brush into it because color separates from extract quickly. Add more color or extract as you go, because the color will be used up quickly; do not mix large quantities, as it evaporates quickly. Do not oversaturate the pieces. Let dry on rimmed baking sheets. In another mini muffin tin or small glass bowl, mix 1 teaspoon Super Gold dust with 1 teaspoon lemon extract. Using another 1/4-inch-wide paintbrush, paint grape clusters (do not remove from waxed paper; it is easier to paint them while still attached), and let dry. Using same color and brush, paint the leaves; let dry. Make more Super Gold paint mixture, if necessary; paint piped royal icing on edges of prepared cake boards (icing must be thoroughly dry). On 9-inch cake board, use a fine, round-tip paintbrush to paint only the S shapes; leave the dots white. On ovals that have already been painted, brush Super Gold paint mixture from the outer edges almost to the center.

  • Prepare the tiers: Trim tops of cake layers to be level, fill as desired, and coat with a thin layer of icing to seal in crumbs. Both 8- and 18-inch tiers should measure 3 inches high, and 10- and 14- inch tiers should measure 4 inches high. Transfer all tiers to the refrigerator.

  • Cover the tiers: On a clean work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll enough fondant to cover the respective tiers (see fondant amounts, below). The fondant should be rolled into a large disk approximately 1/8 inch thick. Working quickly, lift fondant, center it over tier, and gently lay it onto cake. Starting from center, smooth it onto the cake with your hands. Neatly trim excess fondant from bottom edges using a pizza cutter. (Excess may be reused as long as it is free from crumbs, filling, or icing.) Repeat until all four tiers have been covered. Tiers do not need to be refrigerated once they are covered with fondant.

  • Glue cake boards together: Once edges on 22- and 24-inch cake boards have dried, glue the smaller board to the top of the larger board in the center using thick royal icing or a hot-glue gun. Leave 24-inch cake board on the large foam board to move the cake about easily.

  • Stack the tiers: Smear a tablespoon of royal icing onto center of 22-inch cake board. Center and place 18-inch tier on top. Using a toothpick, lightly mark 14- inch circle on top of the cake tier. Insert 12 of the 3 1/8-inch-high dowels into this circle: 8 in a circle, 4 in a square within it. Smear a tablespoon of royal icing in center of circle; then place 16-inch prepared cake board on top. Add another dab of royal icing in center of board; center and place the 14-inch tier on top. Using a toothpick, lightly mark 9-inch circle on top of 14-inch tier; insert 8 of the 4 1/8- inch-high dowels just within this circle. Smear a tablespoon of royal icing in center of this tier; center and place 11-inch prepared cake board on top. Add a dab of royal icing in the center of this cake board; center and place 10-inch tier on it. Using a toothpick, lightly mark a 5-inch circle on top of 10-inch tier, and insert 5 remaining 4 1/8-inch-high dowels just within it. Smear a tablespoon of royal icing in the center, and center and place prepared separator on it. (The 9-inch cake board and 8-inch cake tier should be placed once the cake is on the cake table.)

  • Decorate the cake: Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and a #104 tip, and fill the bag two-thirds full with royal icing. On the top edge of the 8-inch tier, pipe the same petal motif used on the cakeboard edge (piping from left to right this time). Allow the icing to dry, and then, with the 1/4-inch-wide paintbrush, paint the petals with a mixture of Super Gold Dust and lemon extract. Change the tip on the pastry bag to a #3 tip, and use a small amount of icing to attach the ovals to the 14-inch tier, spacing them evenly. Then pipe small clusters of grapes around the top of the ovals. Once grape clusters have dried, paint them with Super Gold Dust mixed with lemon extract as before. Change the tip on the pastry bag to a #352 tip; pipe small leaves among the grape clusters. Change tip to a #3 tip; pipe small trailing lines to simulate grape tendrils. Change the tip to a #14 tip; in between the ovals, pipe fleurs-de-lis. Allow them to dry. With a #14 tip, on the 10-inch tier, pipe equally spaced garlands. Change the tip to a #3 tip; add small dots randomly around the garlands as decoration. Where the ends of the garlands meet, attach 1 large gold grape cluster and 2 small gold grape clusters on either side of it. Allow the garlands to dry, and then with a round, fine paintbrush, carefully paint them with the Gold Sparkle mixture as before. Change the tip to a #4 tip; pipe a small pearl border around the lower edges of all tiers except the 10-inch, and around the lower edges of the separator. Allow the piping to dry, and with the fine paintbrush and the Gold Pearl Dust mixture, paint all pearl borders, as well as white leaves in grape clusters on the ovals and garlands; the dots around the garlands and the 9-inch separator plate; and, finally, the dot on the bottom of the fleurs-de-lis.

  • Finish the cake: At the reception site, place the cake on the cake table. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a coupler and a #4 tip, and fill it two-thirds full with thick royal icing. Attach the gilded medium leaves, using the icing as glue, just to meet the top edge of the 6-inch separator (do not place them on the top edge, as the cake board will sit there). Squeeze some icing onto the top of the separator, and then place the 9-inch prepared cake board, centered, on top. Using more icing in the center of the board as a glue, center and place the 8-inch tier on top of the 9-inch board. Pipe a small pearl border around the lower edge of the 8-inch tier. Let the border dry, and then paint with the Gold Pearl and lemon extract mixture. Change the tip on the pastry bag to a #352 tip; glue long leaves, in groups of 3, around the 18-inch tier, spacing clusters equally apart, just below the ovals. Change the tip on the pastry bag to a #4 tip; arrange and glue clusters of fruit and leaves on top of the long leaves.

  • Fondant Amounts: 8-inch tier, 2 pounds; 10-inch, 3 pounds; 14-inch tier, 5 1/2 pounds; 18-inch tier, 7 1/2 pounds.

Cook's Notes

You will need to prepare most of the decorations for this ornate, gilded cake a few days in advance because they will need enough time to dry thoroughly. Once the decorations are finished, you can cover them loosely with plastic wrap and keep them on the sheet pans until they are needed. You will need leaf molds, curved plastic trays from a gum-paste flower-making kit, cookie cutters, and gum-paste cutters, as well as brushes.