Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Great British Bake Along: Tennis Cake

So next up in the technical challenge was that well-known family favourite of tennis cake. This recipe is a mammoth one. I think, and this is no mean feat, that it may have won the award for most ingredients of any of the technical challenges, but at least all of them were readily available in a normal supermarket. No obscure only-available-online products this week. Having said that, I did need The Husband to do an emergency shopping trip part way through making the recipe. I ran out of gelatine and liquid glucose, having made two batches of fondant that went wrong. In what can only be described as a rookie error, I realised it was because I hadn't soaked the gelatine before using it. It resulted in bizarre plastic stringy bits scattered throughout the fondant, kind of like icing and dental floss in one, which while ingenious, is not necessarily a winning combination.

Third time lucky and I got lovely smooth fondant. The fruit cake was a beautiful recipe and definitely one I would make again. It was quite light rather than a typical dense fruit cake, and I loved the addition of pineapple to the mixture. It was a good job really, as this made a lot of cake. I ended up sending it into The Husband's work, as it wasn't really something we could have between us for dessert, it needed a crowd of people to even begin to make a dint into it.

Rather than buy a cake tin purely for the purposes of this recipe, I just used a deep square tin and then cut it to size. Having not quite thought it through, it meant that one side of the cake was not finished as nicely, being without the golden crust of the outer edge, but it did give me off cuts that I used to make mini cakes so pros and cons I suppose! The mini cakes also meant I could try the cake without cutting into the large one, so I didn't have to send a half deconstructed cake to The Husband's office.

Once I'd learnt how to use gelatine, the fondant and the almond paste went quite smoothly (no pun intended, but I couldn't resist pointing it out). The rest of the icing was less successful. I don't know what happened between the pink and the orange icings but as you will see from the pictures the pink held its shape fairly well, while the orange seeped and ran repeatedly. I kept putting it in the fridge and trying again, and every time I just ended up with another layer of collapsing rosettes pouring down the edge of the cake, so I gave up.

Even more frustrating was the white icing. The icing on top of the cake was fine, went on nicely, set hard, and looked fine. I did need an internet reminder to check what the lines of a tennis court should look like, but I think in the end I did a reasonable job (except for that awful orange stuff).

When it came to the nets, and the racquets, it was a completely different story. They piped well enough, and I even did spares, just in case (the horror of the Spanische Windtorte still haunts me). But they just would not set. They went in the fridge, they went in the freezer, I didn't quite go for Mat's approach of putting them in the oven but I was tempted. No matter what I did, or how long I left it (and I literally left it for hours, the cake was done, we went out, we came back), they were still mushy whenever I touched them.

I must have iced ten nets, without exaggeration. I thought it was the mix. As the icing on the cake had set beautifully, I tried to ice one just using that bag (it had a thicker nozzle on it), but that went the same way. I can only assume it was something to do with the paper I had iced it on, but goodness me if I know why. Every single net that I made, no matter how long I left them, or how much I froze them, invariably ended up like this.

So in the end we played net-free tennis. I iced a few racquets onto the top, so it looked slightly less like a randomly striped green cake. They weren't as neat as the original ones, but by this point I had rather had my fill of tennis. As far as Victorian cakes go, it seemed like rather a bizarre one to pick, and I have no clue what pineapple has to do with tennis, but none of this series seems to be about making well-known favourites!

The odd thing about this cake was the fact that there was nothing to bind the layers together. The almond paste, despite the name, was a dry marzipan that could be rolled out. So the cake had a layer of the almond paste, then a layer of the fondant, and they just sat on top of each other. The minute you tried to cut into it, or take a bite, the layers came apart. Having said all of that, it apparently disappeared quite quickly when The Husband took it into work so I don't think anyone minded too much! I was glad of the mini versions too, they were perfect for with a cup of tea as an afternoon treat.

Tennis Cake
Reproduced from BBC Food

Serves 12-16. Prep time 30 minutes to 1 hour. Cooking time over 2 hours.


For the cake
  • 350g glacĂ© cherries
  • 1 x 225g tin of pineapple in natural juice
  • 350g ready to eat dried apricots
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 350g sultanas
  • 2 lemons, zest only
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds

For the almond paste
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tsp almond essence

For the royal icing
  • 3 egg whites
  • 675g icing sugar
  • pink gel food colouring
  • orange gel food colouring

For the fondant
  • 4 leaves gelatine
  • 4 tbspn liquid glucose
  • 1 1/2 tspn of glycerine
  • 500g icing sugar
  • green gel food colouring


  • Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan. Grease a 23x15cm cake tin and line with a double layer of parchment.
  • Rinse the cherries in a sieve. Drain and chop the pineapple. Dry the cherries and pineapple well, using kitchen paper.
  • Quarter the cherries and roughly chop the apricots and blanched almonds. Place the fruits and nuts into a bowl with the lemon zest and gently mix together.
  • In a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. In a separate dish beat the eggs lightly. Add a beaten egg to the butter and sugar, followed by a spoonful of the flour, and repeat for all five eggs. 
  • Fold in the remaining flour and ground almonds. Fold in the fruit and nuts and pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Level the surface. Bake for 2 hours, covering with foil after 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the mixture comes out clean. 
  • When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven, cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out, remove parchment and place on wire rack until cool.
  • While the cake is cooking, make the almond paste by combining the ground almonds, caster sugar, and icing sugar in a bowl. Add the egg and almond essence and knead to form a stiff paste, but don't over-knead. Wrap in cling film and set aside.
  • Make the royal icing by whisking the egg whites until they become frothy. Sift in the icing sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking slowly as you do. Beat until the icing forms stiff peaks and cover with clingfilm.
  • Make the fondant by placing the gelatine (already prepared as per the packet instructions!), 2 tablespoons of water, glucose and glycerine in a bowl. Place over a small pan of simmering water and heat gently until the gelatine has dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  • Sieve half of the icing sugar into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the gelatine mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix it together. Sieve the remaining sugar onto a work surface and tip the mixture onto it. Knead until it forms a smooth, pliable fondant. Reserve a small, thumb sized piece, and wrap with clingfilm. Gradually add the green colouring to the fondant, and knead until it is pale green and evenly coloured. Wrap with clingfilm.
  • Roll out the almond paste into a rectangle and cut to 23x15cm to fit the top of the cake. Place on a silicon sheet that you have dusted with icing sugar. Roll out the fondant and cut to the same size and place on top of the almond paste.
  • Divide the royal icing into three bowls. Colour one bowl using the orange gel colour, one using the pink gel colour and leave the remaining bowl white. Place most of the white icing into a pipping bag fitted with a number 3 (large) writing nozzle and pipe the outline of a tennis court onto the fondant, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge.
  • On a silicone mat or greaseproof paper, pipe the outline of two tennis racquets, and an outline of a tennis net which is the same width as the tennis court you have piped onto the fondant. Place the remaining white icing into a bag fitted with a number two (small) writing nozzle and use it to pipe the strings onto the racquets and net. Leave to dry until they can be peeled off the paper.
  • Place the pink icing into a bag fitted with a number 8 star nozzle and the orange icing into a bag fitted with a number 7 nozzle. Pipe a decorative border around the tennis court using the two colours of icing. 
  • When the cake is cool, place the almond paste and fondant on top of the cake. Pipe white icing across the middle of the tennis court and place the net upright on the centre of the cake. Place the two racquets onto the cake, and use the reserved piece of white fondant to roll into a tennis ball and place along side one of the racquets.


  1. I have a feeling that while I might be tempted by the actual cake, I would not be doing the tennis bits! Sounds as though you gave it an amazing go though and the icing looks really great!! xx

  2. thanks Amy! I'd definitely recommend the cake, it keeps really nicely too, but I think I'd go with shop bought fondant, even if Mary would disapprove! I've been having issues with blogger tonight, I tried to comment on your lovely post about Little Moreton Hall but I couldn't get it to load properly, I loved the gardens! xx

  3. I think you did a great job of the icing, but being from Yorkshire I always think fruit cake should be served with a nice chunk of cheese instead of icing anyway!

  4. You have so much patience! I like to bake for quick results, I wouldn't know where to start with this, I am so impressed!! Hope you are doing ok xx

  5. Like Jane, I also like quick and easy bakes.
    I enjoyed making birthday cakes when the children were younger, but I seemed to lose the patience for it as they got older. This looks delicious though, I adore marzipan and wish I could've tried a slice. x