Is there anything more quintessentially British than a warm cup of tea, several pieces of beautifully designed cake, and some brilliant chat?

This is probably the most straightforward recipe for creating custom cake toppers you’ll ever find, but it’s a technique that’s worth learning. All you need for this project is:

  • A toothpick
  • A cutting board
  • White cake mix
  • Red food coloring
  • Yellow food coloring
  • A pastry brush
  • A bag or container of marzipan
  • A rolling pin
  • Tiny candy buttons or decorations
  • A baking sheet
  • A pizza cutter
  • A bottle of eau de cologne or perfume

The basic idea is to start with a simple white cake, then add in some buttercream to make it more realistic (or as realistic as a cake can be, anyway). Next, you’re going to color some of the buttercream red, and add yellow on the other half. Once you’ve got those two colors, you can simply cut out shapes with your cookie cutters and decorate your cake to make it more personal.

Step one: Make the cake

For this recipe, you’ll need to start with an ungreased 9-inch cake pan. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and make sure it’s a standard temperature so there are no strange transformations when you bake your cake.

Add the white cake mix and eggs to a bowl, and mix well using a handheld electric mixer. The key to a fluffy cake is to underbeat the mixture so there are still some tiny air spaces left inside when the cake comes out of the oven. This will give you an extra-light, fluffy cake that just melts in your mouth.

Now, take a small taste of the mixture and add in a bit of red food coloring. Mix well and add in more coloring if you’d like a deeper hue. Add in the vanilla extract and stir to combine everything well.

Step two: Pour the cake batter into the pan

Once your oven has cooled slightly, pour the batter into the pan and level it with a spatula. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then check to see if the cake is cooked through. If it’s not quite ready yet, return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the buttercream. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s steaming hot, remove it from the heat. Add in the butter cubes, margarine, and vanilla extract, and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. If you’d like a richer flavor, you can infuse this cream with real vanilla beans by cutting them in half, gently scraping out the seeds, and adding them to the cream. Your buttercream should look smooth and rich, with no lumps whatsoever. Taste it and see if it meets with your approval.

Step three: Assemble the cake

Once the cake is baked, remove it from the pan and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, and gently pull the pan away from the cake. Now, get ready to layer your cake. You can either stack the cake layers on a plate or serve them individually. It’s rather like the old-school technique of having a layer of sponge, a layer of lemon cake, and a layer of strawberry cake, but the layers don’t have to be of the same size. Just make sure you put the largest layer on the top, and make sure to ice the cake (this page has tips on how to do this).

For the red velvet cake I made for my wedding, I started with two 9-inch cake layers that were about an inch and a half thick. I then put an icing layer on the top, and it was so easy to do! It took me all of 10 minutes to put the cake together. So, don’t get discouraged if your cake doesn’t look perfect the first time you make it. You can always add more layers, or try a different technique to give your cake a makeover.

While you’re at it, why not give your cupcakes the same treatment? It’s the perfect way to add some personality to your desserts, and give your guests a memorable experience. You can find step-by-step instructions for putting together a simple yet classy cupcake decorating kit, which contains all the products you’ll need to make the job easy. Simply go through the motions once you’ve followed the instructions, and you’ll be able to transform any cupcake into a stunning work of art. Your guests will be able to take a bite out of the culinary artistry that is British baking, and you’ll be able to bask in the glory of your own talent.