To celebrate the launch of our final Modern Cultural Curators documentary on cake designer extraordinaire Lily Vanilli, the London-based baker has kindly let us in on one of her most visually striking recipes – a shattered glass cake. Vanilli never makes the same cake twice yet she frequently employs shattered sugar glass in her creations – puncturing deliciously iced cakes with dangerously tactile shards – so that, like her brilliant bleeding hearts, the technique has become somewhat of a trademark. So why not get your aprons on and whip up an alternative delight to impress your friends this festive season!
Shattered Glass Cake
Find a cake recipe you like and bake 2 x 8" layers and 1 x 6" layer, make up some frosting (I used vanilla) and a batch of sugar glass in any colours you like (recipe below). Leave the glass to cool, then crack to form shards. When the cakes have cooled completely, use a palette knife to spread the frosting between the layers as you stack them up. Then ice the outside, starting from the centre of the top, spreading the icing out, then down and around the sides of the cake. Press shards of the sugar glass all over the cake so they are jutting out.
Sugar glass is what they use in films whenever you see glass being smashed – it’s hard and transparent, more brittle than glass. Because sugar glass is hygroscopic, you should smash it into shards soon after it is fully cooled or it will start to absorb liquid and soften, losing its brittle quality. If you want to make different-coloured sugar shards, you will need to make a fresh batch for each one – don’t try to split the mix and colour it separately, as you have to work quickly with the liquid before it sets.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
785g granulated sugar
A few drops of gel food colouring (optional)
250ml liquid glucose
¼ tsp cream of tartar
One shallow baking tray, lined with foil, with no gaps
Spray your prepared baking tray all over with the oil spray at least 30 minutes before you want to use it. Place the water, sugar, food colouring (if using), liquid glucose and cream of tartar into a pan with a sugar thermometer attached and stir to combine. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, until it reaches 150°C – approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to 130°C – approximately 10 minutes, then pour the mixture quickly and carefully into the oiled baking tray. Allow to cool completely. Pop the sugar sheet very carefully out of the tray, then, using a meat tenderiser, hit the sheet carefully in the centre so it cracks into shards.
Want more baking inspiration? Check out our Lily Vanilli Pinterest board here.