1.To make peony. Make a small hook in one end of the 18-gauge wire using pliers, don’t fully close it. Fold the bunch of stamens in half, pull the centre of the stamens into the hook, close the hook by twisting the wire together with pliers. Secure stamens to wire with florist’s tape.
2.Tint modelling paste ivory. Knead paste on surface dusted with a little cornflour until smooth. Roll paste on cornfloured surface until thin enough to be rolled through a pasta machine set on the thickest setting. Cover paste with vinyl mat.
3.Using petal cutters, cut 3 small, 5 medium, 5 large and 7 extra large petals from paste, cover with vinyl mat.
4.Using wire cutters, cut each piece of 26-gauge wire into 3 even lengths. Work with one petal at a time, keeping remaining petals covered with vinyl mat. Thread one petal onto one piece of wire by dipping one end of wire into flower glue and gently pushing wire into pointed end of petal, one-third of the way into petal.
5.Dust patty pans lightly with cornflour. Dust petal veiner with cornflour, press wired petal in petal veiner. Place petal onto flower mat, frill edge of petal by gently rolling ball tool over edge of petal. Place petal into patty pan to dry overnight. Repeat with remaining petals.
6.To colour petals, combine a pinch of petal dust with a pinch of cornflour. Using paint brush, brush dust into centres of petals and stamens.
7.To assemble peony. Gently bend wire on a small petal to a 45 degree angle, hold against base of prepared flower centre (with stamens), secure by wrapping florist’s tape once around wires. Repeat with remaining small petals, spacing evenly around centre of peony.
8.Continue wiring the petals in the same way using medium, then large, then extra large petals, placing each layer of petals evenly around flower centre slightly below the previous layer of petals.
9.Trim cakes. Secure 25cm cake to largest board; secure remaining cakes to same-sized boards (page 209). Prepare cakes for covering with ready-made icing (page 209).
10.Knead ready-made icing on cornfloured surface until icing loses its stickiness. Tint 500g (1 pound) icing very pale yellow, 700g (1½ pounds) a slightly darker yellow shade, and the remaining icing a darker shade again. Enclose, separately, in plastic wrap.
11.Roll pale yellow icing on surface dusted with cornflour until large enough to cover small cake. Using rolling pin, lift icing onto cake; smooth with hands then smoothing tools. Trim icing neatly around base of cake.
12.Knead pale yellow icing scraps into medium-yellow icing; use to cover medium cake in the same way as small cake. Knead icing scraps into darkest yellow icing and use to cover the large cake in the same way. Dry cakes overnight.
13.Push 4 trimmed skewers into centres of large and medium cakes to support the next tier.
14.Assemble cakes, securing each tier to the tier below.
15.Divide royal icing into 3 bowls; tint each to match colour of the cakes. Half-fill piping bags to match cakes; pipe around bases of same-coloured cakes. Use fingertip to blend icing into any gaps where cakes join the boards (page 212). Dry overnight.
16.Trim ribbon to fit around bases of all tiers. Secure ends neatly with glue.
17.Gently push stem of peony into top of cake just before serving.
Equipment: 12cm (4¾-inch) length 18-gauge floral wire long-nosed pliers white florist’s tape pasta machine vinyl mat small, medium, large and extra large peony cutters wire cutters 7 lengths x 26-gauge floral wire flower glue 2 x 12-hole round-based, shallow (1 tablespoon/20ml) patty pans peony petal veiner flower mat ball tool fine artist’s paint brush 35cm (14-inch) square wooden cake board (page 208) 20cm (8-inch) square wooden cake board (page 208) 15cm (6-inch) square wooden cake board (page 208) smoothing tools 8 wooden skewers 3 paper piping bags (page 221) craft glue The petals can be made by rolling the icing out thinly to 2mm ( ¹ / 16-inch), rather than rolling through the pasta machine, however, the machine gives great results. The flower can be made months ahead; keep it in an airtight container at a cool room temperature. Using pliers, make a small hook on the end of the piece of 18-gauge wire. It should be barely large enough to hold the bunch of stamens. Fold the stamens in half and pull the centre of the stamens into the hook. Twist wire with pliers to hold the stamens securely in place. Firmly wrap the florist’s tape around the stamens to secure them to the wire. Only wrap the base of the stamens to the wire. Roll the modelling paste through the pasta machine. Cut out 3 small, 5 medium, 5 large and 7 extra large petals from the paste. Using a piece of 26-gauge wire, dip end of the wire into flower glue, push wire a third of the way into the pointy end of the petal. Dust the petal-veiner with cornflour; working with one petal at a time, press the wired petal in petal-veiner to create veins in icing. Place petal on the flower mat, frill the edge of the petal using the ball tool. Place petal in cornfloured patty pan to dry overnight. Use equal amounts of combined petal dust and cornflour, and brush lightly onto petals, graduating the colour from dark to light. Bend wire on a small petal to 45 degrees, tape onto wire holding the stamens. Wire all petals in the same way, from small to extra large. While making the cake is easy making the peony rose is not, it is an advanced technique. Once the petals are made, it’s a matter of carefully assembling them. It would be wise to buy all the bits and pieces listed, to make the challenge easier.