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Method: Cakes and buttercream Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.

Put the chocolate, milk and a third of the sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat. Stir until the chocolate and sugar have melted, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla and salt, then whisk in the chocolate milk. Sift the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in gently.

Divide the batter between your cake pans and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes (20 minutes for 15cm tier, 25 minutes for 20cm tier), or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cakes to cool in their pans, set on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream, whisk the butter for a few seconds until pale and creamy, then sift over half of the icing sugar and whisk again until all combined. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and whisk through before sifting over the remaining icing/confectioners’ sugar. Whisk for a few minutes, adding a splash of milk to slightly slacken the buttercream, if you need to. Repeat process for each tier.

Covering with marzipan Knead your marzipan until soft and mould into a ball.

Dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan to a thickness of around 5mm.

Check your sheet of marzipan is big enough by using a piece of string to measure your cake, making sure you include the sides in the calculation. Then smooth the surface with a cake paddle.

Lift the marzipan off the surface with the rolling pin and gently roll it off the pin onto the cake.

Using your hands, smooth over the top of the cake and then with a cupping motion, pat down the sides of the cake ensuring the marzipan has stuck down and all air has been expelled.

Smooth over the top of the cake in a circular motion with the cake paddles and then work around the sides of your cake in forward circular motions.

Trim off most of the excess marzipan with a small sharp knife, then lift the cake onto a turntable and use the paddles to go around the side of the cake to ensure a smooth finish.

With the knife angled horizontally, flush with the underside of the cake board, trim away any overhanging marzipan, moving the turntable around as you cut.

Leave the cake to ‘crust’ for 8 hours or overnight before covering with sugar paste.

Covering the cake with sugar paste

Knead sugar paste icing until soft and mould into a ball. Brush your marzipan covered cake with jam, alcohol or cooled boiled water before you start rolling.

Roll out the sugar paste on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll out the sugar paste to around 5mm thick. Ensure that the sheet is large enough and that you have a good few inches of excess at the edges so you can avoid folds. Smooth with a cake paddle before picking it up with the rolling pin and carefully unfurling over the cake.

Smooth the flat of your hand over the top of the cake, then working in small sections, smooth the sugar paste onto the sides of the cake, working downwards.

Trim off most of the excess, then lift the cake onto a turntable. Glide cake paddles around again to ensure straight edges.

Use a very sharp knife to trim off any extra icing that has been drawn lower than the cake board edge. Run the paddles over the cake one last time and then leave the cake to ‘crust’ for 8 hours or overnight. Repeat for each tier.

Covering the cake drum

The cake drum is the decorated board that your three-tier cake sits on. Knead your sugar paste until soft, then mould into a ball. Roll out the sugar paste on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and smooth over it with a paddle to make sure there are no lumps.

Preparing the cake for icing

Level the cakes, if necessary, then attach one of the two 25cm cakes to the cake board of the same size with a small blob of buttercream.

Spread the top of the first cake with half of the buttercream with a palette knife before sandwiching the second cake on top. Make sure you have positioned the cakes so the sides are straight.

Transfer the cake to a turntable and spread the remaining buttercream over the top of the cake ensuring you create an even surface.

Cover the sides of the cake by positioning the flat edge of a palette knife, slightly at an angle, onto the side of the cake and turn the turntable as you smooth the buttercream neatly around the edges of the cake.

Pop the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes to set. Repeat this for each tier.

24 Life Begins

Working quickly so your paste won’t dry out, brush the cake drum with 40% proof spirit or cooled boiled water. Lift the sugar paste by draping it over your rolling pin and lay it over the cake drum.

Smooth over the cake drum with a cake paddle until you have a smooth and polished top.

Place the cake drum on a turntable and use a small, sharp knife to trim away the excess sugar paste. Leave the iced board to dry overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Royal icing

The royal icing acts as a glue between the base tier and the cake drum and is also used to make the pearl decorations.

Put the egg white in a large mixing bowl and remove any stringy pieces.

Sift over half of the sugar and whisk on a low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated. Sift the remaining sugar and whisk again. The mixture will start to resemble breadcrumbs.

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