While we have been obsessed with the Olympics, some people have been getting on with their lives and getting married. Wedding season is upon us and I have been meaning for a while to tell you about a fantastic cake maker we have living in Harpenden. I often get asked about who I recommend to make special occasion cakes, and I have found a gold medal winning gem. Queen of Herts (a.k.a Liz Thompson) makes the most beautiful and delicious bespoke cakes from her home in Harpenden, and this April won a gold medal at the Cake International Show in the Excel centre.
Liz makes every cake herself and works closely with her clients to make unique cakes that says something about them. Whatever your theme or occasion, whether a wedding, birthday or exam celebration, Liz can design a cake that will be a real centrepiece. Liz told me that she “eat, sleeps and lives cake” and she makes sure that every cake she makes tastes as good as it looks. She makes a range of cakes that can be decorated including white chocolate mud cake with white chocolate buttercream, apple cake with butterscotch buttercream (using organic spelt flour) and rich fruit cakes. Liz is also asked to make egg-free, gluten-free, wheat-intolerant, and dairy-free cakes so she can make anything you need. The cakes are made with local eggs from Jelley’s and she uses Redbournbury Mill organic flour for some of her cakes, particularly the fruit and egg-free.
Traditional fruit cakes are really difficult to get right, particularly as most of us only bake one once a year at Christmas so it can make sense to go to someone who makes them all the time. Lots of people now favour sponge for wedding cakes as they think they don’t like fruit cakes, but I wonder how many have tried a really good one? Liz’s fruit cakes take several weeks to mature and the result is a surprisingly light, juicy and moreish cake. She includes apricots, figs, cranberries and whole hazelnuts. My mouth is watering at the memory of it! Liz explained to me that as the run-up to a big occasion can be a busy time for her clients, her recipes are all chosen and tested to improve with a little time, so you can pick up the cake a day or two before the big day and know with confidence that it will taste great.
Liz showed me photos of her prize-winning cake. The theme this year was Jubilee and Liz designed a street party cake, with a table on top, bunting around the edge, and rows of British houses around the edge, ranging from Coronation Street to a row of beach huts. She won the top prize in her first attempt! It shows what Liz could make for you, so if you are choosing a cake for someone who loves a particular sport, garden, colour, a love of fashion, books… anything you like can be put on the cake. Prices are very reasonable for the quality of the ingredients and design: a 3-tier sponge wedding cake for 100 guests with simple decoration would be around £160 and a birthday cake for 25 people decorated with hand modelling would be around 50. A rich fruit cake for 50 with sugar flowers would be around £95.
If you would like to meet Liz and try some of her cakes, she is hosting a charity open day in Manland Avenue on 9th September. You will be able to decorate your own biscuits and cakes and buy cakes, and help choose the winner of our cake competition (see box). Last year Liz raised nearly £800 for the MS Trust and this year she is also fund-raising for Help for Heroes. For more details visit visit queenofhertscakes.co.uk or call 07784226608.
COMPETITION! Win your own bespoke cake!
Know your lemon drizzle from your Missisippi Mud? Have a big birthday or event coming up? To win your very own cake (worth up to £50) simply suggest an inspirational, delicious flavour combination for a cake. You need to choose one sponge flavour (eg chocolate) and one buttercream flavour (eg cherry). Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Monday 27th August. I will help to shortlist the best combinations then at Liz’s fundraising event on 9th September visitors can try the Top 2, and choose the winner. The runner up will get six cupcakes. You only have this weekend to enter, so go for it!
My column on gluten-free food generated lots of interest and I was told about Angel Bakes (a.k.a Louise Zadok) who specializes in gluten-free baking. Also based locally, Louise supplies gluten-free cakes to Jay’s Deli in Southdown. You can pop in there for excellent Monmouth coffee and now try Louise’s fab macaroons and cakes. I have yet to try her dark chocolate and orange cake or banana and maple syrup, but they sound amazing! Angel Bakes are looking to expand further and sell in more independent cafes and coffee shops and at the farmer’s markets so look out for them.
photo of Louise Zadok by Lindsey Brook Photography