Tiered Marie Antoinette’s cake

Tiered Marie Antoinette’s cake

Bake and Decorate
80 small pieces
Laura Edwards

Whether she did or didn’t actually say ‘let them eat cake’, I choose to think that she did! Inspired by the exquisite costumes and dazzling confections of the French court at the Palace of Versailles, this beautiful cake is fit for a queen, with its adornments of ostrich feathers, pearls, ribbons and rosebuds. Ideal for a wedding or special birthday party.

The nuts and bolts


Quantity Ingredient

For the cakes

Quantity Ingredient
1 20 cm diameter, 7.5 cm deep round tin
2 25 cm diameter, 7.5 cm deep round tins
3 quantities Orange drizzle cake, batter only, with the orange zest and juice replaced by lemon zest and juice

For the lavender sugar

Quantity Ingredient
550g icing sugar, sifted
12 dry, unsprayed lavender flower heads, in full bloom

For the buttercream

Quantity Ingredient
450g unsalted butter, softened
2 unwaxed lemons, finely zested
550g lavender icing sugar, sifted
1 lemon, juiced

For the boards and drums

Quantity Ingredient
1 20 cm diameter, 1 cm-thick round cake drum
1 25 cm diameter, 1 cm-thick round cake drum
1 30 cm diameter, 1 cm-thick round cake drum
1 25 cm round thin board
1 30 cm round thin board

For the sugarpaste

Quantity Ingredient
3kg white sugarpaste
1 pot sugarflair claret food colour paste

For the construction

Quantity Ingredient
icing sugar, to dust
200 silver dragees
6-8 tablespoons white royal icing
4 dowelling sticks

For the roses and rosebuds

Quantity Ingredient
1 pot sugarflair eucalyptus food colour paste
1 pot sugarflair caramel/ivory food colour paste
1 egg white
1 pot clear edible glitter
70g white royal icing, using no. 1 nozzle

For the base drum

Quantity Ingredient
100cm 1.5 cm-wide braid or ribbon
1 roll 12 mm-wide double-sided sticky tape

For the bottom tier

Quantity Ingredient
90cm pale pink satin ribbon
90cm thinner braided ribbon, ideally in pink and pale green

For the top tier

Quantity Ingredient
70cm pale cream and pink ribbon
70cm pearl beading
1 flower pick, or small plastic tube from a florist
1 ostrich feather
1 spray pearls on wires


  1. You need to make 3 cakes, as the 2 larger cakes, sandwiched together, form the bottom tier. Follow the instructions for making the orange drizzle cake, baking the 1 smaller, deeper cake for 40–45 minutes and the 2 larger, shallower cakes for just 35–40 minutes.
  2. Tip the icing sugar into a food processor and add the lavender. Process until very fine, then store in a sealed container for a week to allow the flavour to develop. Sift and store in a dry, airtight container.
  3. To buttercream the cakes: In an electric mixer, cream the butter and lemon zest for 1–2 minutes until fluffy, then add half the sugar. Mix for 5 minutes, then add the remaining sugar and the juice and mix for 1–2 minutes. Trim the tops of all 3 cakes with a serrated knife just until level. The cakes should be about the same height once filled, so fill the smaller cake with more buttercream than the larger, and fill in any holes or cracks as well.
  4. Slice the smaller cake in half and place the top half upside down on to its 20 cm drum, securing with a little buttercream. Place this on the smaller thin board. Spread buttercream on the cut surface, then top with the other half. The flat base now forms the top. For the larger cake, place 1 cake on the 25 cm cake drum, again securing with buttercream, and lift on to the 30 cm thin board. Spread buttercream on, then top with the second cake, inverted so its base forms the top. Smooth the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of both.
  5. To colour the sugarpaste: Cut off 100 g of the sugarpaste and place it in a sealed polythene bag at room temperature. This will make the roses and rosebuds. Colour the remaining sugarpaste with the food colour paste, aiming for the pale pink shown overleaf. Divide into 3 – 1 part for the base drum and 1 part for each cake – place into separate polythene food bags and seal. Rest it overnight at room temperature.
  6. To cover the base drum: Dust the 30 cm drum with icing sugar and sprinkle with water. Knead a third of the pink sugarpaste until pliable, then, on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll out into a circle slightly larger than the top of the drum and about 3 mm thick. Wrap it loosely around the rolling pin and lift on to the drum. Smooth with your hands. Trim away any excess overhanging the sides and reseal it in the bag. Leave at room temperature overnight before decorating.
  7. To cover the cakes: Lightly dust a clean, flat surface with icing sugar. Roll out both the remaining pink sugarpaste blocks, one at a time, into circles about 5 mm thick and slightly larger than the diameter of each cake, its sides and drum. Wrap each circle loosely around the rolling pin, place it over the cake and gently smooth with your hands. Do not stretch the sugarpaste, and work quickly, as it will dry out. Cut away any excess at the foot of the drums and reseal it in the bag. Take a large knife and roll it gently along the top surface of the cakes, scoring lines to form a criss-cross (each line about 1 ½ cm apart) to resemble quilting. Push a dragee in where the lines meet. The centre of the bottom tier will not be seen, so no need to use dragees. Leave overnight.
  8. To build the cake: Spread 3-4 tablespoons of royal icing into the centre of the base drum. Ease the larger cake and drum from its thin board with a palette knife, and place it in the exact centre of the base drum. Now insert the dowelling sticks vertically into the cake, spacing them out to form the corners of a square just within where the smaller cake will sit. Push down each stick until it hits the drum, and mark with a pen about 1 mm proud of the surface. Remove each stick, score with a knife at the mark, then snap and discard the excess. Replace each in its hole. Spread 3-4 tablespoons royal icing into the centre of the larger cake, remove the smaller cake and drum from its thin board and place on top, resting the drum on the dowels and using the royal icing as ‘glue’.
  9. Decoration: No cutters are required for this cake and, if piping swags seems too difficult, just pipe simple dots around the edges. Fresh flowers could be used on top instead of the sugarpaste roses, if you prefer. You should find a good supply of beading, braids and feathers in a haberdashery department.
  10. To make the roses and rosebuds: Turn to the reserved white sugarpaste. Tint about 40 g of it green and 60 g off-white, using a tiny amount of eucalyptus and a pinprick of caramel/ivory pastes respectively. Tint about 300 g of the pink sugarpaste reserved from covering the cake a deeper pink, using more claret paste. Reseal all colours in separate polythene bags.
  11. Make a few rosebuds at a time. On a board dusted with icing sugar, roll out a little deeper pink sugarpaste to 1 mm thick. Cut into strips of 10 cm x 1 ½ cm and roll each into little buds. Cut away surplus at the base. Repeat to make 16. Make the leaves with the green sugarpaste. Take a little ball at a time and shape into a tiny leaf. Score with a knife to resemble the central vein. Make 3 large (4 cm) leaves and pinch to make the veins. Dip into glitter. Allow all rosebuds and leaves to dry, preferably overnight.
  12. To make the larger roses, forming one each from ivory, lighter and deeper pink sugarpaste. When dry, paint the edges of the petals with egg white, dip into the glitter, then shake off excess.
  13. The finishing touches: Apply all the ribbons, braids and beading by sticking them at the back of the cake using a little royal icing. Use the double-sided tape to stick the braid to the side of the base drum. Stick on the rosebuds and leaves with royal icing, spacing them out at 7 cm apart on the top tier and 10 cm apart on the bottom tier. Each tier will have 8 rosebuds.
  14. Push the flower pick into the centre of the cake. Stand the ostrich feather and pearl spray in this, using a little sugarpaste inside the tube to support it if necessary. Use the royal icing to adhere the 3 large roses and leaves around the base of the feather.
  15. Finish the cake by piping half-circle swags between the rosebuds, then dots. This is easier if you gently tilt the cake up towards you by placing a book under the board. Simple tiny randomly piped dots, about 25 mm apart, all over the sides will look just as effective.
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