Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating

As some of you know, I started my cake decorating career while I was living in England. By the time I moved back to Australia, I was well practiced in the basics of covering a cake with my home made fondant and I could do it reasonably quickly. When we came back to Sydney, I had to start the cake business up again pretty much from scratch and build up a new client base. But that wasn’t the only thing that had to be started again. I practically had to re-learn everything I knew about covering a cake!

What I hadn’t realised is that there is a definite difference in the style of cakes in Australia vs the UK. And the methods to achieve that Australian look are very different to what I was used to. There are some cake decorators here in Oz that do use the British style, but the more high profile ones such as Planet Cake or Sweet Art make their cakes in what I think of as the Australian style. And to be quite frank, I love the Australian style of cake decorating and I much prefer it to the British way. So I was determined to learn this new art.

So what are the differences between Australian and British cakes? One of the most noticeable differences is that the cakes in Australia are taller. In England, a standard cake is 3 inches high. In Australia, the industry standard is 4 inches! This made quite a difference to my recipes and costs, as I had to increase the amount of cake batter I was using per cake to achieve that extra inch. This changed cooking time as well. There was quite a bit of experimenting to find the right ratios for ingredients to get to 4 inches and the correct cooking time and temperature to cook the cake all the way through without over baking or creating a thick crust.

Another big style difference (and this for me was the biggie) is that the cakes in Australia tend to have a sharp edge. Cakes in the UK have rounded edges. What do I mean by this? Take a look at the image below.

Sharp edge vs rounded edge on cakes

The cake on the left has a sharp edge (Australian style), the cake on the right has a rounded edge (British style)

See what I mean? To achieve this sharp edge, there are several things that are done. Firstly, instead of a buttercream crumb coat underneath the fondant, a generous coating of chocolate ganache is used as it is much firmer and stronger than buttercream. Secondly, a much thinner layer of fondant is used to cover the cake. Thirdly, after covering the cake, two fondant smoothers are used to push the top edges of the fondant on the cake out to make a nice sharp edge.

So I had to learn how to ganache a cake. Ganache is great instead of butercream under fondant as it gives a beautifully smooth finish without the lumps and bumps. However, it is quite tricky to use! You are supposed to create a very sharp edge with the ganache coating as a base for your fondant’s sharp edge, not an easy process. It was a pretty steep learning curve for me, especially since I was so used to buttercreaming cakes. It takes me a lot longer to ganache a cake than it ever did to do a buttercream crumb coat. And chocolate ganache is a lot more expensive to make than buttercream! To get a good consistency you really need to use couverture chocolate with 50-60% cocoa solids, which is quite pricey compared to compound or cooking chocolate, and lots of pure cream.

Ganched cake with sharp edge

One of my ganached cakes. Perfectly ganached cakes are essential to achieving a sharp edge with fondant.

The thin layer of fondant wasn’t such a big deal to me. In the UK a pretty thick layer of fondant is used to cover cakes to help hide the lumps and bumps as it is much harder to achieve a smooth surface on a cake with buttercream. But I have always rolled my fondant much thinner than the industry standard in the UK as I got reasonably good at achieving a fairly smooth buttercream crumb coat. A lot of cake decorators who use buttercream don’t spend as much time trying to get a smooth finish and compensate with a really thick layer of fondant. I find cakes taste much better when less fondant is used, so I worked at my buttercream crumb coating so I could use a lot less fondant. Despite already having a pretty thin layer of fondant on my cakes already, to achieve the sharp edge I did have to go a bit thinner.

I did end up having to switch to a ready made commercial fondant. The icing sugar available here in Australia is made from cane sugar. The icing sugar readily available in England is made from beets. They have quite different textures and consistencies. My tried and true fondant recipe just would not work with cane sugar. The humidity and heat in Australia didn’t help matters. I finally had to concede defeat after several months of experimenting with my fondant recipe. It was taking up way too much of my time and was fast becoming commercially unviable. After trying out several different brands of ready made fondant, I chose the one that tasted the best and was reasonable to work with. I was actually quite surprised this fondant tasted as good as my home made one!

Another thing I found was that I had to use a lot more fondant to cover my cakes, as now they were an inch taller. So for some of my larger cakes of 10″ or more, I found my non stick rolling out board wasn’t big enough anymore. I ended up investing in The Mat by Sweet Wise (more on that in another post very soon).

It takes a lot more time to cover a cake when using ganache instead of buttercream as a lot of setting time is needed, up to 3 days. Ideally you make the ganache on day 1 and leave it overnight to set. Day 2 you do your ganache coating on the cake then leave it overnight to set again. Then on day 3 you hot knife the surface and the edges for a perfect finish, then leave it to set for yet another night. With buttercream, it was pretty much a case of making the buttercream then slapping on your crumb coat straight away then covering the cake with fondant all on the one day. I do cheat a little and cut the ganaching process down a day by putting the ganached cake in the freezer for 10 minutes then doing the hot knifing.

It took me aaaaages to learn how to create the sharp edge once the fondant was on the ganached cake. I eventually worked out that you have to kind of pinch the the edge of the fondant with one smoother on the top and one on the side.

So now it takes me longer and costs me more to cover a cake. But I do feel the look of my cakes is more stylish and sophisticated since adopting this style. I love the results, like this cake below!

Anemone wedding cake in the Sydney style

One of my Sydney style cakes with 4 inch high tiers and sharp edges

 

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13 Responses to “Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating”

  1. Arnold says:

    Hello Charmayne,

    Your cake decorating styles are simply amazing! By the way, if you are looking for cake decorating supplies, http://www.couturecake.co.au has a lot to offer. Visit our site or contact us at (02) 8764 3668. we are located at 3 Haig Avenue, Georges Hall NSW 2198

  2. This is the post I have been looking for!! Thank you. I’m British and I’ve been living in America for the last 14 years. I learnt the “British way” using marzipan and sugar paste, then had to adjust to using buttercream in America. Americans really really love buttercream. I had a really hard time with it. Especially as the sugar paste isn’t the same. About a year ago I discovered these amazing sharp edges and every time I saw these cakes immediately I would say “it’s made in Australia” and sure enough it was. I love the look so much that I just had to learn this art. I learnt a lot from Inspired by Michelle cake designs. I love using ganache and now will very rarely do a buttercream cake. I still have a ton to learn. One of my problems is still with the fondant. I seem to always get the elephant skin look on the side of my cake. I have just purchased “the mat” and used it once, but still got the elephant skin look. I love using the mat and now I’m wondering whether it’s my fondant. I use Satin Ice. Do you use Pettinice? I can’t get Regal Ice here in America, it’s just way to expensive. Also I wondered what is the best white chocolate to use? I have problems with the white a lot as it seems very greasy. Do you use white chocolate ganache on sponge cakes with a strawberry filling? Or are all your cakes filled with ganache also. I so want success and just when I think this cake will be different it’s not. Your cakes are gorgeous and you really have mastered the Australian style well. I think one of you guys should come to America and teach me! 🙂
    Thanks so much, going to find your Facebook page, if you have one
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah,

      Thank you for your comments! To answer your questions, I use both Bakel’s Pettinice and Satin Ice with The Mat. I prefer Satin Ice, it is a bit more forgiving and less likely to give me elephant skin. I’m not too sure why you are having elephant skin problems, perhaps over kneading before rolling out? Generally the wrinklies occur when the fondant is too dry.

      I don’t fill my cakes with ganache, I use buttercream filling and ganache coating. The brand of chocolate I like to use for my ganache is Callebaut, it’s a fantastic couverture chocolate in milk, dark and white (it can be a little pricey though!). I’m sure you already know this, but the ratio for chocolate to cream using white chocolate is not 2:1 as it is with dark, but 3:1 as white chocolate is much softer than dark. I prefer to use dark chocolate whenever possible as it’s much more stable and firmer so better for achieving those sharp edges.

      I would love to come the States to teach a class, maybe one day lol.

      Good luck!

      Charmayne from Delicious Cake Design

      • Thanks so much for your reply. As you mentioned over kneading, perhaps that is what I am doing wrong as I knead it for a really long time. About 8-10 minutes! Thanks for the advice. I’ll let you know when I get success. Over the summer I’ll be experimenting. I think my kids will love to eat the results hee hee.

  3. charlotte says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for your post. I would really like to try to use ganache instead of buttercream but am unsure about how well the cake will keep. When You have covered your cakes in fondant, how long do you think it will then keep for?

    Many Thanks
    Charlotte

    • Hello Charlotte,
      Sorry for the lateness in replying, for some reason I didn’t receive an alert about your comment. Cakes typically keep for a fair amount of time after being properly covered with fondant as it protects the cake itself from the air, around 5 days on average I would say. This also depends on the type of cake.
      Charmayne from Delicious Cake Design

  4. Trisha Chyr says:

    This blog about Sydney vs London is very insightful. I am a self-taught hobbyist, started in London a few years ago, and since moving to Sydney 2 years ago, I haven’t really continued this hobby as much. Partly because I don’t have many people to make cakes for and I have found it difficult to seek out/experiment the Aussie way, eg not sure how to manage the temperature in the summer or even trying to buy wilton vs pme.

    I have recently tried the planet cake way of ganaching and hot knifing and I do love it too. The only thought is that you can’t possibly use choc ganache for all flavours of cake. Would you then suggest to continue to use buttercream?

    I really admire your courage in starting a business – your cakes, attention to detail, and running a business with such a passion (it shows from your website!) is inspiring. (I especially agree in disagreeing on the “look good but taste awful cakes”).

    Thanks – I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog & website tonight and look forward to more of your posts.

    • Hi Trisha,

      Thanks for your comments and kind words 🙂

      Regarding cake flavours that do not go with chocolate ganache, I often use the white chocolate ganache instead in those instances. However I see nothing wrong with using buttercream if the taste calls for it, the edge of the cake will be rounder but can still look good.

      Charmayne from Delicious Cake Desigb

  5. Lucy says:

    Thanks for the lovely blogs, I’m still a bit of a beginner but I do like the sophisticated look of the Sidney Style. 🙂

  6. […] I had made the adjustment to 4″ high cakes instead of 3″ high cakes (see blog post Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating). I couldn’t find a board any bigger than the one I have, but after some Googling I came […]

  7. cakes design are really good. Done a good creative work. These cakes looks delicious, i am a big fan of cakes. Thanks for this this beautiful blogs.

  8. Caz says:

    Truly impressive cake designs,
    I want one.
    Love the blog. x

  9. However I don’t prefer designer cake but these cake are looking so yummy. I would really wanna taste it. Smooth surface of this cake is also astonishing me.

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