Special equipment: 3 to 6 graduated glass cake stands 12 Victorian cake pull charms Vari-colored ribbons to tie around cup cakes Flowers, for cake top Regular or silver cupcake paper liners Several muffin tins
Make the White Buttercream: Put the sugar in a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer and pour the water down the walls of the pan to moisten the sugar without letting sugar crystals wash up on the walls of the pan. Run your finger through the center making an X to allow the water to seep into the sugar if it hasn't already. Bring the sugar to a boil over high heat and continue cooking to the "softball" stage (234 degrees F.).
Meanwhile, in a standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites to soft peaks and hold them on low speed until the sugar is ready. When the sugar syrup is has reached the softball stage, turn the mixer up to high and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixer. Let it continue to whip to cool down. When it's feeling somewhat cooled but still a little warm, start adding the butter a few pieces at a time until you have a smooth, whipped butter cream. Add the almond extract. Use right away or cover and chill. Re-warm or let sit out to warm up to room temperature to use.
Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixer with a whip attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to cream. Gradually add the vanilla and eggs and mix in well. Sift together the dry ingredients; then mix into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Pour batter into cupcake paper-lined muffin tins filling them 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and firm in the center and light golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool. (Freeze at this point, if necessary.)
Decorate and Assemble the Cupcakes: Using a small spatula, frost the tops of the cooled cup cakes with the buttercream. Decorate each with a few pearls of fondant.
Tie the cake pull charms to the ends of the ribbons.
Arrange some of the cupcakes on the largest cake stand, leaving the center empty for the base of the next cake stand. Tuck some of the cake pull charms under some of the cupcakes, dangling the ribbons off the edge of the cake stand. Place the next cake stand in the center and repeat. Make as many tiers as you need. Finish the top with flowers, if you'd like.
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand