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Cotswold baker Paul Barlow-Heal was an apprentice pastry chef under the guiding hand of legendary chef, Michel Roux Snr, at the Waterside Inn at Bray. After three years at The Waterside Inn, having risen to head pastry chef, he left to travel for a year and gain more valuable baking experience. On his return to the UK, he became head pastry chef at Cliveden House Hotel, Berkshire, before taking up an eight-year residence as head chef and manager of the Falkland Arms in Great Tew. He set up his own online, mail-order patisserie business, Cotswold Baking, in 2011. Here, Paul talks to Your Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wedding about the latest trends in big-day bakes and the recipes that stand the test of time...
A traditional tiered fruit cake finished with a covering of satin smooth white icing remains classically elegant, though many couples these days favour a more decadent showstopper that not only looks sensational but tastes fantastic too. A tiered cake is still a popular choice as it gives height and will satisfy a large crowd. I'm often asked to create a variety of flavoured sponge layers, such as white chocolate, chocolate brownie and red velvet and finished with a top tier of traditional iced fruit cake.
Marbling effects are popular right now as are naked and semi-naked sponge cakes which not only looks stylish, but you can get experimental with flavoured buttercreams and decorations. These are great cakes to also serve as dessert.
The demand for vegan and gluten-free cakes has grown massively over the past year or so. I use my own recipes, including gluten-free Great Taste award winners: Tunisian orange and almond cake and carrot and cardamon cake and have just launched a range of vegan cakes including banana and pecan, mocha and walnut, vegan red velvet, jasmine tea fruit cake and ginger and lemon cake.
For something classic like victoria sponge, I use a reduction of raspberry puree rather than a jam filing as the puree provides an intense hit of flavour which contrasts well with the sweetness of the sponge. My buttercreams are always made with an Italian meringue, which is smoother and less sweet. With all my bakes, I use as much local artisan produce as possible including flour from local mill, FWP Matthews, free-range eggs, Cotswold cream and walnuts and hazelnuts grown on the farm where my kitchen is based.
Some brides request a cake decorated to complement their wedding dress using sugar pearls and ribbon and flowers that tie-in with their bouquet design. A cake finished in a very smooth snowy white or ivory icing or white buttercream can be pepped up with big bold flavours that pack a punch even though the cake looks cool and serene. I use different coloured and flavoured icings, buttercreams and decorating effects such as spun sugar, gold leaf, macarons and chocolate work finishing with a mix of hand-made edible and real flowers that work with the themes and colours of an individual wedding.
For something more formal, a smooth white iced cake with a band of gold leaf or ribbon and subtle ruffles of buttercream create an elegant finish suitable for any time of year, but for a more contemporary look, I might create a ruffled metallic buttercream finish in pink, copper or bronze.
Reflecting the season in which a wedding is held has increasingly grown in popularity more recently. For a summer wedding with an informal rustic feel, I might add a delicate wreath of grape vines and wild flowers to the cake or edge it with layers of frothy gypsophilia, wild strawberries and touches of evergreen or mini citrus fruits, edible flowers and herbs. Metallic finishes also make a wonderful backdrop to old-school tea roses and their petals in pastel shades. For a spring wedding cake, cascading blooms and spring blossom work beautifully, while autumnal leaves in coppers and reds intermingled with small fresh fruits and berries on their stems perfectly evoke the season. A white winter wedding cake looks fantastically glamorous finished with piped pearls of buttercream and mini meringues or marbled macarons teamed with evergreen fronds and set on an icy cool mirror base.
Another great choice is to have a large cake that doubles up as dessert, such as the traditional French Croquembouche. This tower of choux pastry buns dipped in caramel and filled with creme patissiere and skilfully built into a towering cone shape held together with caramel and decorated with spun sugar, nibbed almonds and sugar pearls. I'm one of the very few bakers in the Cotswolds that still makes this traditional French dessert.
For more information or for ordering, please call 07939 058 759 or visit Cotswold Baking, and for more top tips on big-day bakes and check out the June/July 2019 issue of Your Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wedding for our special feature on wedding cake trends,
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