I was never bitten by the baking bug. Occasionally when we have 4 manky bananas I will throw them into a gloopy muffin mix. But I have only made approximately 4 cakes in my 35 years and each for love.
- When my intended and I first moved in together I tore a page out of Grazia mag and made my 1st Subtext: I can bake, you must forgive my short-comings and buy me a sparkly ring.
- The bear’s 2nd birthday – a chocolate feast that was so roughly ‘iced’ (we had no electric whisk) I turned it into a field that needed to be ploughed. A ‘farm cake’.
- The bear’s 3rd birthday – a chocolate feast covered liberally with a packet of ‘emergency vehicles’ and some edible paper flames that jazzed it up right nice.
- The bear’s 4th birthday – a family tradition, I went for another messy chocolate feast but dressed it up as a ‘treasure chest’, covered in jewels (sweets) and with gold (chocolate coins spilling out). This one was my closest to an actual kid’s birthday cake, the mum’s seemed impressed.
You may notice an absence of cakes for my littlest treasure, her ladyship gumdrops. Simply put – 2nd child. I bought cakes for both of their first birthdays when they were too young to have a clue what was going on. Her second birthday just sort of slipped by in a haze. I’ll make it up to her now I’ve made friends with the ways of the fondant icing.
Every year the build up to the big ‘Cake vs Mummy’ beat down begins around January with a bit of light Pinterest fumbling. It’s followed in early Feb with the mild tingling’s of anxiety and feelings of failure “I can’t do this, I wasn’t built to bake”. A few flirtatious moments with Amazon and we have some gaudy candles to at least cover what I make. The room-pacing and twitching set in the day before cake-day. When the day arrives, I’m on edge – it’s similar to the feeling I had waiting to take my driving test. As I get out all the ingredients, lay them on the surface and take stock I am a General preparing to take his troops to battle (I imagine). Then the sweats. Oh b@lls, I don’t have one of those bloody silver foil boards to put the thing on. Bark at cable-boy to dash out and buy one now. Oh and maybe a new cake tin and possibly a bigger cooling rack, cos you know I bake a lot. And then, scrape hair up, roll sleeves up and tall-ho. This is love.
This year my nearly 5yr old (how?) requested the Scooby Doo haunted mystery mansion for both his present and his cake. I think he may still be living under the illusion that I have traditional wifely/mothering skills? Have I not done enough to convince him otherwise?
Mystery mansion, no. But loose Scooby Doo theme with the aid of a few giant candles and plastic toys, yes.
I used this clever 1 bowl cake recipe for my last two chocolate cakes: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/8420/1-bowl-chocolate-cake.aspx
And this for the chocolate buttercream: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_buttercream_11918
I chose Renshaws fondant icing – my Mum recommended it: https://www.renshawbaking.com/gb/fondant-icing
The making of…
6 hours and a couple of glasses of wine later I’m done. My hands shake, but I’m so pleased I keep popping back to look at it. When the small bear came downstairs this morning to see the fruit of my labours, it felt like Christmas. He gave me lots of cuddles – perhaps he knows this was me climbing my Everest, all for the love of a bear.
- Springform cake tins and I don’t get on well (the first one leaked, the second one wouldn’t release)
- I love this one bowl recipe. Using digital scales and re-setting to zero after each new ingredient means 1 bowl, 1 scale and pour.
- There seems to be divided opinion on whether to use apricot jam or buttercream as your ‘cement’ for covering the cake and securing the fondant. I would probably use jam for a more smooth finish.
- You CAN use too much cornflour in your fondant prep – my cake looked like a winter scene
- You need the right equipment to bake. I watched a very informative tuition video but have no turn-table or set of ‘smoothers’ – I swivelled my cooling rack and used my hands!
- You can cover any cracks or manky gaps with clever moulded designs and some jam, hurrah!
- I am not well suited to working with perfectly smooth cakes and fondant icing, but I love the modelling – it’s like plasticine!
And now I can rest, until May when I’m sure I’ll be asked to make Queen Elsa’s Frozen Palace with Elsa and her ‘plait’ and Ana as well. So a blue cake with some glitter and white stars then!