Cake designer Steph Longbottom shares some of her amazing creations and offers her tips on how to create the perfect celebration cake
Steph Longbottom, 25, from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, was always more interested in eating cakes than making them. As someone who always used packet mixes to make her sweet treats, Steph fell into baking when she made her son’s first birthday cake almost three years ago. Now owner of cake designing business Betty Buttercream, she tells us how to create the perfect celebration cake.
Create the perfect celebration cake, flavour versus design
When creating a celebration cake, it’s easy to get carried away with the look of your final design. But it’s important to focus on the flavour as well as the fondant.
“You need to think about the way your cake looks and tastes. For me, one without the other makes the whole process a waste of time. It’s all about getting that balance exactly right.
“I like to really focus on the flavours. I actually wrote all my own recipes because I wasn’t happy enough with existing cake recipes,” says Steph.
When it comes to creating your own recipe, you’ve got to put in the hours to achieve perfection – as Steph knows all too well. You will need to put in love and attention if you want to create the perfect celebration cake.
“I baked every single day until I perfected each recipe. Before I went into baking professionally I used to love packet mixes. I really thought about the elements that were in my favourite mixes and looked for similar recipes online to take certain aspects from those as well.”
Pictured above: Steph’s ‘Tutti Fruiti Cupcakes’ – Madagascan vanilla sponge with a sweetie filled bubblegum and tutti frutti frosting.
“I made these for a young lady who wanted to surprise her sweet-toothed friend,” says Steph.
She describes her baking style as eclectic and creative rather than practical and organised.
“Because I use my own recipes, I tend to alter them every time. I’m quite eclectic in that way. People say baking is an exact science, and it is to an extent, but I will change things to suit what someone has asked me for.
“If I think a tiered cake should be denser, I might alter how much flour I use, or if I think a particular cake would suit a more gooey texture I’ll change my recipe accordingly.”
Pictured above: ‘The Farm’ – a quirky spin on a traditional wedding cake using green fondant and a tractor topper.
“This cake was chosen by the bride as a surprise for her husband to be. The design features the whole family plus a cheeky sheep.”
I Can’t Live Without My KitchenAid Mixer when I need to create the perfect celebration cake
Pictured above: Steph’s mixer proudly displayed on her kitchen worktop.
As a professional baker, Steph knows how important it is to have the right tools for the job – particularly for something as important as a celebration cake.
“I have a gorgeous baby pink KitchenAid mixer, which I won at a baking competition. It was great because I’d been using a wire whisk until then, but since having the mixer I’ve realised how important they are in baking.
“They make the process so much quicker, and it’s all about quantity as well – I can make larger amounts. If I ever needed to replace my mixer I would do it straight away, I don’t think I could live without it now.”
Steph was surprised to find out how easy it is to use a mixer.
“I was shocked to find how simple it is to use them. It’s got a mechanism to drop the whisk up and down and buttons to control the speed, that’s all there is to it.”
Essential Tools if you are to create the perfect celebration cake
Steph’s electronic scales are equally as important when it comes to baking her next masterpiece.
“I couldn’t live without my electronic scales either. If I halve my ingredients, I like to see the amounts exactly, so I have some standard kitchen scales which I actually have a spare set of just in case anything happens to them.
“You need some really good baking pans as well. I generally stick to the big-name brands as I’m more inclined to think the equipment is going to work well.”
‘Keren’s Rose’ – a wedding cake made using polystyrene dummies. Only the bottom is edible – a Victoria sponge with Madagascan vanilla pods and sweet raspberry conserve.
“The bride wanted a floral look but was allergic, so I hand crafted each rose and all the foliage too. A very traditional and elegant creation.”
Making Your Luxury Cake on a Budget
Baking a cake doesn’t have to be a costly process. Even for a luxury wedding cake, Steph says there are still ways to achieve it on a budget.
“Naked cakes are quite big at the moment. They’re basically just a cake without any fondant. People are starting to use them for weddings and I think they’d be really nice for birthday parties too.
“I do a lot of dummy cakes, where you add polystyrene tiers which are covered with fondant and placed on your cake for decoration. That can be a cheaper option too.
“If you want a six-tier cake, just have one or two tiers edible. The price difference is huge. Once you start to understand how many people a six-tier cake will serve, you’ll probably realise you’d have to invite a lot more people or have loads of cake left over.”
Pictured above: ‘The Marquise’ – a traditional Victoria sponge encased in delicate ivory ruffles, pearls & flowers.
“This cake travelled from Lancashire to Gretna Green on the bride’s knee! It was named after the bride and groom as he had lots of input in the design too.”
Although amateur baking has become popular, Steph wouldn’t advise people to make their entire wedding cake.
“Personally I wouldn’t like that pressure if I was a novice baker. I think something like a wedding cake is such a huge responsibility. You might be able to make a naked cake, but I wouldn’t like to teach myself how to use fondant a few days before my wedding.
“If you have some cake design experience, sourcing a standard cake and decorating it yourself is a cheaper option and way to add your own style and flair to your wedding.”
Make Your Wedding Cake Unique
In recent years, the cake industry has become more fashion orientated.
“Traditionally with wedding cakes you’d get a three-tier fruit cake with white or ivory fondant and piped designs. A lot of the more experienced bakers are amazing with piping, but newbies like me don’t know much about it because we don’t get asked for it these days.
‘Ebony and Ivory’ – A selection of the cupcakes created for a large black and ivory inspired cupcake tower. Flavours included fudge chocolate, white chocolate and vanilla.
“The bride wanted to incorporate roses and lace, which created an elegant vintage theme, proving that cupcakes can make a big impact at weddings,” says Steph.
“I think it’s just more fashion orientated now. For me personally and a lot of people, it’s as big a deal as the dress is.”
When it comes to flavours, Steph also says it’s important to find something that’s right for you rather than your guests.
“People often include a vanilla sponge in their cake if they’re having a few tiers, as that generally appeals to everyone.
“I think it’s more important to find something that represents you and what you love. If it’s a really good-quality cake it will get eaten. I don’t think there are many flavours of cake that loads of people dislike. Find something that you want rather than thinking ‘oh but nanna won’t like that very much.’ It’s your cake.”
Out-of-the-Box Wedding Cakes
If you’re looking to create something a bit quirky, there’s nothing wrong with going for something totally out of the box.
“I once made a cake with an Xbox design. It was a traditional ivory three-tiered cake with cascading flowers, but the second tier was a black Xbox and the top tier was a stack of games.
“The bride took the designs of popular games and changed them to things like ‘maid of honour’ and other things that represent getting married. I put those on to edible paper and included figures on the top with the groom holding a controller.
“It was actually a surprise for him. He saw the cake for the first time at his wedding, so that was really nice to be a part of.”
For her own wedding, Steph’s chosen some of her amazing cakes as centre pieces.
“I have so many different cakes that I love, I’ve decided that for my own wedding, instead of centre pieces and table decorations I’m going to have a different cake at every table. That way I can have lots of different styles and flavours.”
Steph often gets her three-year-old son Frank involved with creating new recipes.
Pictured above: Frank posing with the gingerbread house and caramel shortcakes he and Steph made for Santa.
“I generally try out new recipes with my little boy who’s three. We’ll bake them together and I’ll decide whether or not to put them up on my Facebook page. Frank loves helping me and has his own little pinny and chef hat.”
She believes there are lots of plus points when it comes to baking.
“Just seeing how happy people can be over something that’s come out of your oven is amazing. People get so emotional over the final design, quite a few of my customers have actually cried. It’s just phenomenal. It keeps your house smelling really nice too – that’s a major plus point.
“Baking is a cheap and fun family activity. It’s been around for hundreds of years and will always be with us. Anybody can give it a go, so what a wonderful thing to share with your children, friends or relatives.”