Dominic’s Engagement Cake

I made this cake for my cousin Dominic’s engagement party tonight. My twin sister has made lots of wedding cakes and when Dominic’s fiancée rang and asked me to make their engagement cake I thought she might have got the wrong person but I didn’t want to say that in case she thought that meant I didn’t want to do their cake whereas I was delighted to be asked.

Trying to design a engagement cake suitable for a party of 150 guests which doesn’t look like a wedding cake but does look special and romantic was a bit of a challenge. Also I don’t have a great deal of experience making sugar flowers and flat icing. I did know I wanted to make a two layer stacked heart shaped cake using the cake tins my mother had used for my wedding cake 24 years ago.

Bernadette suggested using butter icing and cigarillos around the side. It’s an expensive option but looks good and is relatively easy. She also suggested I use this wedding cake recipe from bbc good food magazine . It’s a very rich chocolate cake. I made up the quantities below and it was just slightly too much for the two cake tins (26.5cm wide an 15.5cm wide) I’d decided to use. When the cake was baked it came up over the level of the cake tins which was good as it made it very easy to cut the tops level. I then turned the cake over to get a perfectly level surface for icing. I nearly forgot to cut the cake in half to put icing in the middle. Cutting the large one was a bit scary but went very well. I then covered the cake in a rough coat of butter icing and started putting cigarillos on and…

The cake is now too tall for the cigarillos, it’s hard to see in the picture but there’s a gap at the bottom. The only way I could think of around that was to pipe butter icing around the base – except the only time I’ve ever piped icing was as a teenager – 30 years ago! I Fortunately I could keep trying until it was reasonable and scrape away the piped borders that didn’t quite work. It ended up not the best piped border in the world but most was covered by the cigarillos so I didn’t worry. I smoothed the top, piped the border, put the cigarillos around then sat up for ages to check they didn’t fall off. Next morning I looked at my ‘smooth’ top and realised it was a bit naff. Fortunately there is a cake decorating shop in the village so I popped over to ask about smoothers for butter icing. Lovely lady in the shop, asked me about the cake design and suggested sprinkling crushed cigarillos on the exposed surfaces.

Jon cut me 3 wooden dowels to support the top layer cake so I carefully positioned that and carried on placing cigarillos with Aidan’s help. We then positioned some chocolate roses *, crushed the cigarillos and sprinkled on top. I am so pleased with this cake, I’ve never done anything nearly as ambitious as this – I just hope I get it to Essex tonight without mishap.

*My nephew Andrew was going to make chocolate roses for me, but last w/e there was a bit of a health scare for my sisters FIL and Andrew went out to France with my sister to check on his granddad – fortunately he was ok. I had a backup plan and bought ready made chocolate roses, I’m sure Andrew’s would have been more beautiful as he is very good at this sort of thing but he made the right priority call.

Now the cake is finished I have an hour to grab some lunch, change and get to the boat club with elder son for our first official skiff race. There is a very strict ranking system from novice restricted through several grades to senior which is apparently olympic rower standard. It will be a bit of a shift in gear as right now as I can smell is chocolate cake  and vanilla butter icing and my hands feel slippery.


  • 650g unsalted butter
  • 650g plain chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 100ml very strong coffee- espresso is ideal
  • 3 tsp vanilla essence
  • 650g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 950g light soft brown sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 x 284ml/9.5 fl oz soured cream


  1. Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 4. Butter, double-line and wrap the sides of the 30cm cake tin as before.
  2. Put the butter and chocolate into a medium saucepan, then stir over a low heat until melted and smooth. Stir in the coffee and vanilla.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the biggest bowl you have. Add the sugar, breaking down any lumps with your fingertips if necessary.
  4. Beat the eggs and soured cream together in a jug or bowl and pour into the flour mix. Pour in the melted chocolate mix as well, then stir with a wooden spoon until you have a thick, even chocolaty batter.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 2½ hrs – don’t open the oven door before 2 hrs is up, as this will cause the cake to sink.
  6. Once cooked, leave in the tin to cool completely.

Note The unfilled cake will keep for up to four days, wrapped as before, or frozen for a month.


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