Although I’ve been baking for a long, long time, my baked goods lack a certain…finesse. As I have mentioned before they are decidedly rustic looking and I’m always a bit jealous of people you see on TV who effortlessly make beautiful cakes, iced to perfection. Many years ago I made a cake for my ex boyfriend’s friend who was moving back to Northern Ireland after living in England for a long time. For him I decided to make a Guinness cake. I didn’t think it would be too hard and was delighted to find you can buy black fondant icing ready made. Being a total cake decorating novice I thought I’d use a Guinness box as a template for the text as you would find on a Guinness glass. The trouble was the text was pretty big and it didn’t occur to me for one second to try and make it a bit smaller. Instead of which I made an ENORMOUS cake. It was a bit pants if I’m honest, because I’d had to make the cake in several parts it dipped in places and I hadn’t quite mastered the buttercream for the middle so it slipped too. Oh well. As far as I was concerned that was the end of my foray into cake decorating, I was just too rubbish at it.
But then a couple of years ago it was my lovely Nanny’s 80th birthday. My mum very kindly volunteered me to make her cake, I’m not quite sure why and told me it needed to be big enough for about 50 people. Or was 100? Either way, a LOT of people. I was a bit concerned, Nanny makes beautiful cakes, what if my one wasn’t up to scratch? We hired a huge square tin and I made a gigantic Victoria sponge, which thankfully turned out intact and light. But it was the decorating that concerned me. I don’t remember if it was what Nanny had requested but it was decided that the cake would be covered in icing flowers in varying shades of pink. I’d never made an icing flower before but the internet showed me how to make roses, fairly simply. What the internet failed to tell me, however, was just how long they would take: flipping AGES.
But I persevered with them and that little lot there took me DAYS. I was pretty pleased with them, however. Then I had to get onto the scary business of covering it with icing, something I had proved to be rubbish with before. I had experienced similar slippage as before with the jam and buttercream filling and rolling out a giant bit of icing to go over it didn’t go well. It was too thin in places and too dry. The cake didn’t seem to be level either, there was a small dip in the middle and I didn’t have a knife big enough to cut bits off – not that it occurred to me to do that at the time anyway. All in all it looked worryingly rubbish. Luckily though I had loads of icing roses to cover all the bad bits up and I set about doing that and made a load of tiny ones to cover up the rips in the sides. I had to pipe an 80 on it too, and had never used a piping bag in my life. Stupidly (I really am dense sometimes) I made buttercream for it, not royal icing and it didn’t come out very well, especially as all the fat squirts out of the bag onto your hands, which is very, very unpleasant. But the end result was OK and Nanny loved it. It wasn’t until we got to that party that we realised my mum had got the numbers wrong, there were only about 20 people there. Nanny kept the cake in her freezer and is probably still eating it now.
As far as I was concerned that was the last cake I was ever going to decorate and I fully intended to go back to making only rustic cakes. And then this year, just before Hattie’s birthday, I couldn’t get a Peppa Pig cake in the supermarket. I seriously couldn’t be bothered to drive all the way to another supermarket to see if they had any so bizarrely decided to make my own, expecting it to be a disaster but thinking it would be far less hassle than a traipse to ASDA. I stocked up on white and coloured fondant icing and took the plunge. Peppa Pig is a very simple shape so I thought it might have a fighting chance of looking a bit like her if I printed off a suitable enough template from tinternet. Although the end result wasn’t well covered at the sides and was a bit lumpy on top, I was really quite pleased with the results, and best of all the girls knew who it was meant to be.
And after the success of this I thoought I’d try something even more ambitious for Poppy, a Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom cake. No pressure. The Peppa cake had been simple and quite quick to make but the Ben and Holly one took HOURS. It was much more complicated. Like before it was pretty lumpy, I really have no idea how to do the icing so it doesn’t layer but Poppy knew who it was meant to be and that was all I cared about.
And now I’m making a cake for the 5th birthday of the film company I used to work for. Asking for ideas earlier on it was suggested that I make a rainbow cake. I found a simplistic picture of a movie camera and decided I could easily make that in black fondant icing until it was suggested I make a royal icing plaque. I really like the idea of having a black and white cake and then opening it up to the surprise of the rainbow cake inside. I’ve never made royal icing before and had to go on a hunt for glycerine as none of the supermarkets had any pre-mixed royal icing sugar but it seems to be OK. Who knows if it will turn out well or not but it’s fun to try something new.