I'm currently getting up to about 110-120 emails a day from angry readers asking me "where's that floral cake you said you were gonna make us back in 2003?". I am extremely sorry it's taken me quite so long.
The truth is not because it's such a very special cake - actually, it's a pretty ordinary fruit cake. The reality behind my long delay is decorative, because for some reason I decided to eschew the easy route of just putting real flowers on the cake and instead decided on the utterly fiddly and time-consuming strategy of making them entirely out of sugar.
In the all-new-to-me but nevertheless bonkers world of floral
sugarcraft, the normal laws of the universe, productivity and stuff are
suspended. How long would it take to arrange some real flowers on a
wedding cake? Maybe an hour? Hey! But how long would it take to make
the same flowers out of sugar? About three weeks you say? Excellent!
Let's do it!
The king of the time-and-motion-bloodbath that is floral sugarcraft is one Alan Dunn; you won't be surprised to learn that he is American because they do take cake-decorating to a whole other level over there.
He doesn't confine himself to cakes - he does table arrangements and even bouquets. (Why would you want a wedding bouquet made out of solid sugar flowers? I can't answer that.)
My fellow friend-in-cake-baking Amanda gave me Dunn's book, and then we spent some time in the pub gawping at the illustrations. We were ever so slightly disappointed to discover that the carving of individual blooms and fernery doesn't rely on artistic skill, but on possessing a full set of the appropriate tools - such as Solomon's Seal leaf veiners, Holly Petal Dust,
or a Zimbabwean eight-petalled Jasmine cutter. In fact there's an individual cutter for almost every flower in the book. I feel a bit cheated.
Anyway if you know anyone who has a lot more time than sense, this is definitely the new hobby for them. After the end of about 160 hours of labour, the best compliment they can hope for is "wow, they look almost like real flowers from about five feet away."