Scotland Sketches: Baking with Flora Shedden

In anticipation of the Great British Bake Off final 2021, we tasked Flora Shedden, former contestant and owner of ARAN Bakery in Dunkeld, to decorate a cake inspired a painting in our collection. In this blog, learn about Flora's source of inspiration, and find her recipe for a chocolate cake with Italian buttercream.

We want you to sketch your own cake designs inspired by your favourite artworks. Share them on social media using the hashtag #ScotlandSketches. Happy sketching/baking!

Samuel John Peploe Iona Landscape: Rocks About 1925 - 1927

Flora chose Iona Landscape: Rocks by the Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe as her source of inspiration for the cake. The texture of the brushstrokes, along with the autumnal colour palette, made this painting a compelling choice to translate into icing. 

Peploe was particularly fond of the rocky northern end of the island and its views towards Mull. Fascinated by the artistic possibilities of the island’s light and dramatic, changeable weather, Iona became a favourite motif for Peploe, as he painted it in all weathers and abandoned the warm colours of his still lifes for a palette of cool greens and blues. 

Flora's Scotland Sketches Cake

Ingredients (makes 1 tall 20cm cake)

  • 175g cocoa powder
  • 275g boiling water
  • 75g milk
  • 300g butter
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 400g light brown sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 500g self raising flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder


  • 6 egg whites
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 600g butter, very soft
  • Food colouring


  • Preheat the oven to 170C FAN. Grease and line 2 x 20cm loose bottomed cake tins.
  • Whisk together the cocoa powder, milk and water until smooth. Set aside to cool down.
  • Whisk together the butter and sugars in a freestanding mixer on a high speed until light and fluffy (roughly 4 minutes).
  • Add the eggs, flour and baking powder and mix again. Pour in the cocoa mixture. Whisk until smooth and well combined.
  • Divide between your two tins and bake for 50-55 minutes or until cooked through (a knife will come out of the centre clean). Allow to cool completely.
  • For the icing, add the egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl of a free standing mixer. Place over a saucepan half filled with water. Bring to the boil and whisk the mixture regularly.
  • Once the eggs are smooth and the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the pan and whisk on a high speed for 5 minutes or until the mix has tripled in size and thickened.
  • Slowly add the butter in small pieces at a time whilst still mixing. If it splits dont worry too much just keep mixing and it will come back together. Once all the butter is added you should have a smooth spreadable icing.
  • To assemble, trim the top of the cakes until flat. Cut in half evenly. Place the first half onto your plate or cake board and cover with icing. Repeat with the remaining three pieces of cake.
  • Cover the sides with a little icing and use an offset palette knife to smooth the edges. This is called the crumb coat. Place in the fridge for half an hour. Once firm, cover with another thin layer of icing to hide any crumbs or messy bits. Again use a palette knife to neaten the edges. 
  • Once you're happy with the finish, return to the fridge for half an hour. Use any excess icing to mix your colours - Flora recommends the little pots of food colouring paste as opposed to liquid colouring as they are a lot more intense. Once the cake is firm again, decorate to your heart's content!
22 November 2021