…that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many–perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the newly married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.

from Jane Austen’s “Emma”

Today, myself and three other wonderful bloggers, are taking on a culinary treat from the book “Emma” by Jane Austen and I decided to try making a two tier wedding cake.

FULL DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a great baker, or even a mediocre baker. In fact, part way through this process I truly had to come to terms with my thought process and why I ever thought I could take on a wedding cake. I felt like I could understand Emma and her belief that she was a great matchmaker and then her realization that she was not.

It was at that point in time last night, that my husband made the fateful mistake of coming into the kitchen as my two tier wedding cake was looking like a large lump, with the top portion uneven as I tried to even it out by layering more and more icing on the top. Sensing my mood, he did the logical thing and left quickly.

Next up was my poor son, who cannot lie to me and he said it was looking “good” but his lack of enthusiasm told another story. Little did he know that I was fighting back tears. It had been a tough week and this flop of a wedding cake was literally the cherry on the top.

But alas, I have a secret!

Even if your cake looks like a blob, I will show you how to make it look good and presentable. The only necessity is that it tastes great. The recipes for this cake and the frosting are delicious.

Two tier wedding cake - view from the top

If you even have the slightest bit of talent I am sure you will be able to make this cake look great even without my tips for covering up a mess!

So get ready for some not so pretty but delicious wedding cake making.

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Before, we jump into the recipe, I wanted to circle back to the quote above to provide some context. Mr. Woodhouse is the father of Emma, and he found wedding cakes a detestable food. They brought Mr. Woodhouse such pain and discomfort that he could not understand how anyone could like them.

Now let’s dive deeper. Was his discomfort really caused from the actual cake, or was it the realization that once the cake was eaten, his lovely daughter would leave his home and move in with her new husband? I would say the second option rings more true and as a mother coming up on the wedding of my daughter, I certainly understand Mr. Woodhouse’s feelings.

First, a little history about 1800’s desserts

As referenced in the book, apples were available and they often had baked apples. Rout-cakes (kind of like a cookie or biscuit with currants in it) were also a favorite. Custards were also on the menu, however, the movie version suggested that they weren’t that great. Lastly, pound cakes seemed to be a real favorite.

I found that sometimes they were not referred to as a pound cake but rather a 1-2-3-4 cake. That stood for 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. That certainly is an easy recipe to remember.

1-2-3-4 cake ingredients

Rather than just stick with the cake common for the time, I found an improved version that did incorporate those ingredients and amounts, but it had a few extras. I can tell you, that this recipe is delicious.

Below are the recipes for the cake and frosting with instructions. Once you have both done, I will share my tips for making them 1800’s appropriate and how to cover up a mess if you make one!

**IMPORTANT NOTE** If you want to make a two tier wedding cake (really 4 tiers: 2 – 8″ rounds on the bottom, followed by 2 – 4″ rounds on top), you will need to times the ingredients by 1.5. You will also need two extra 4 inch round pans.

Two tier wedding cake with white roses and sugared grapes

Improved 1-2-3-4 Cake

A delicious pound cake from the 1800's with a few extra ingredients to make it delicious!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 32 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people

Equipment

  • 1 Mixer
  • 1 Spatula
  • 2 8" or 9" round cake pans
  • 1 set of measuring cups and spoons
  • 2 4" round cake pans Only if you wish to add third and fourth layers of cakes

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two pans with butter or shortening, then flour lightly and place a piece of parchment or wax paper on the bottom, cut to fit.
    Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a large bowl or in your mixer bowl, beat butter until soft and smooth. Add sugar and mix until light and smooth. Add egg yolks, one at at time.
  • On low speed, now add 1/3 of the dry ingredients mixture, then 1/3 cup of milk, mix well. Repeat until all dry ingredients and milk are well mixed.
  • In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.
  • Add half of the egg whites to the batter and stir. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
  • Pour half of the batter into each of the pans, and smooth out so the tops are flat.
  • Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the tops are springy and a toothpick comes out clean.

Notes

**IMPORTANT NOTE** If you want to make a two tier (really 4 tiers – 2 8″ rounds on the bottom, followed by 2 – 4″ rounds on top), you will need to times the ingredients by 1.5. 

Egg whites whipped stiff by not dry

Cream Cheese Frosting

Delicious cream cheese frosting that will be perfect for many desserts
Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • 1 Mixer
  • 1 Spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 2.5 cups Powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tsp milk (more if dry)
  • 8 ounces ✞ream cheese (softened)

Instructions
 

  • Add the butter and cream cheese and mix until creamy.
  • Add the powdered sugar and milk and mix until creamy.
  • Spread on cooled cake.

Notes

If you are adding the extra third and fourth layers on, then you will need to make another half batch of frosting or times the original recipe by 1.5 to have enough to frost all four layers.

Assembly of cake

Once all of the cakes have cooled, start by placing one of the 8″ or 9″ rounds on your cake plate. Frost the top of the cake.

Then place the second 8″ or 9″ round on top of the lower layer and frost the top and sides.

If you are adding the 3rd and 4th layers – center a 4″ inch layer of cake on top of the two bottom layers and frost the top of the cake. Add the 4th layer on top and frost all sides.

Wipe the cake plate where any frosting may have spilt.

Decorating the cake or in my case, turning the lump of cake and frosting into a beautiful two tier wedding cake!

For this you will need:

  • 1 bunch of faux white roses or you could use real ones if you have them
  • 1/8″ thin white ribbon
  • grapes, egg whites and sugar

First cut off all the flowers off the stems.

Place a good amount of the roses on the very top layer.

Then cascade the flowers down the side and kind of swirl them to the bottom layer.

My bouquet of roses, had many extra leaves, so I cut them into single leaves and placed them around the base of the cake.

Place white roses around the base on top of the leaves, spacing them every two inches.

Two tier wedding cake with white roses and sugared grapes

Sugared Grapes

Take your grapes and fully cover them in eggs whites and then roll them thoroughly in the sugar. Let dry.

Once dry place them in groupings of 3 or 5 in between the white roses.

Sugared grapes in between white roses

Ribbon tendrils

Cut 2 pieces of ribbon that are 30″ long. Tie one piece in a bow and place in between some roses on the very top on the right hand side. Allow the ribbon ends to cascade down the cake winding in and out of the roses. Repeat on the left.

Two tier wedding cake with white roses and sugared grapes

Easy Extras

First, my cake server was not pretty at all but with a little gold ribbon and some pearl ribbon, it is wedding ready.

Cake server with gold and pearl ribbons

If you want to make it more of a garden cake, try to find these lace butterflies and place them in a couple of spots.

Lace butterfly on two tier wedding cake

Lastly, surround it with a pretty mirror to catch it’s reflection, add some candles and champagne glasses and you are set!

Two tier wedding cake with vase of flowers, candles and champagne glasses in front of gold framed mirror

Thank you!

I understand this post is not like most recipe posts by seasoned bakers or chefs, so I thank you for sticking around to the end. I hope you enjoyed the humour!

Next up…

The fun certainly is not over, so please check out the rest of the ladies as they take on a culinary treat from “Emma”. To get to their posts, click on the link below the photo.

Lynn from Living Large in a Small House

Cindy from Reinvented Delaware

Erin from Erin Evolving

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Two tier wedding cake with roses and sugared grapes

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4 Comments
  • Lynn
    February 27, 2023

    Your cake looks beautiful! I’m not a baker either so I’m really impressed with your cake. Loved your post and pinned.

    • Crystal
      February 27, 2023

      Thanks so very much Lynn! Glad you enjoyed the post. It was such an amazing book and movie! Can’t wait for next month!

  • Cindy
    March 1, 2023

    Your cake turned out lovely Crystal! I’m not much of a baker either – you came up with some great tips to make the cake look beautiful in spite of ‘bakers’ like me 🙂 So thank you! This is a fun collaboration! Pinned.

    • Crystal
      March 1, 2023

      Thank you so very much Cindy! This was a fun one, even though I had a fail. I am really looking forward to the next one. Always a pleasure to work with you!