I have been really busy trying to eat healthy and get fitter so baking has been put on the back burner for a little a while. So I was over the moon when I was asked to make a birthday cake and some cupcakes. Not only did this give me an opportunity to get back into the kitchen, but I got to try some new things with my piping nozzles and the whole task went really well.
I was able to plan both the main cake and cupcakes and the only thing I was told was that the birthday girl was a complete chocoholic! So straight away my head was filling up with every possible and sweet and how I could make it look nice. I went for the look of a chocolate shop and this is a really common design at the minute so I could get loads of inspirations. The cake itself was to feed around 30-40 people so I made 2 large rectangle chocolate cakes, which was then sandwiched together with chocolate ganache and then is that wasn’t enough I then smothered the cake with the remaining ganache. That was the easy bit really, I then had to work out how to make it look good. I stated by using biscuits to split up the top of the cake into sections, then started to fill the sections with a selection of Smarties, Malteasers, M and Ms and White and Milk Chocolate buttons. I should also say that this was made on a very hot night and chocolate and heat does not mix!! But the end product was a success!
I have never seen so many sweets on a cake.
To go along with this cake I also offered to make some cupcakes just incase the cake wasn’t enough, or if someone didn’t like chocolate cake (which would never happen). I went for vanilla cupcakes with some buttercream piped on the top, I got to play with some of my new piping nozzles so this was my first real attempt at flowers. I coloured the buttercream with some pastel colours and I think they turned out ok. I didn’t go for any specific flowers as this was just a test run but I will definitely be trying these again and maybe the flowers will be recognisable!
For my next little challenge I offered to make 2 birthday cakes and after a little trip to the library I decided to test myself a little and try some new decorating techniques. From the library I got a cake decorating book by Juliet Sear and I would recommend this for anyone who wants to try to decorate cakes and needs step by step instructions like me!
The first of these cakes was for a lovely lady I work with and I as it was only going to be a 7 inch cake I thought I would do the lace piping technique on this one. In theory this doesn’t look tricky to do, but if like me you struggle to draw a flower let alone pipe one then it is indeed difficult. Firstly I made a vanilla cake, a recipe from the same book and I was very happy with the texture and shape of the cake, although the cooking time took slightly longer. I do think this is down to my oven and not the cooking instructions. I had an idea in my head that the cake would be covered in pink fondant icing and then I would pipe the white pattern all over the cake. The first hurdle I had to overcome was that all I had was white fondant icing and some pink food colouring. At this point I should also advise that I had never attempted to colour fondant icing of any size let alone a piece that needs to cover a cake. So I had 2 immediate thoughts, how am I going to get the colour even and how much of a mess is this going to create. Thankfully it was much easier than I thought. I made sure the icing was pliable and I began to add dots of the pink food colouring to the lump. There was some bleeding of the dye onto the surface but I found that the more you blended it in the less mess there was. After a good 10 minutes the icing was finally looking like the right shade of pink and I was impressed with how even the colouring was. Once I filled the cake with some yummy raspberry jam and covered it in a thin layer of buttercream I rolled out the icing to the right size and covered the cake. I can honestly say that was the easy part of this cake done.
Whilst the royal icing was mixing I decided to have a coffee and read the instructions for piping again. I got my piping bag ready with the number 2 nozzle and filled it with the icing, paintbrushes were all ready to go and then after a little break I went for it. Right in the centre of the cake I was to pipe my first flower. Although it didn’t look perfect I was lucky that the next stage was to the feather the icing slightly with the paintbrush to give the lace effect so the shape wasn’t worth worrying about. The only tip I could give when doing this piping would be to work quickly as you don’t want the royal icing to set before you feather it with the brush. As more of the pattern was piped on it did start to look better and. Once I had done the top and sides I took a step back and I was amazed with what I had achieved.
Although it wasn’t perfect I could see that I had got the effect I had gone for and I knew what to do next time to make it better. After all practice makes perfect! When the cake was delivered the birthday girl was happy with it and it did taste pretty good. In fact one of my colleague’s sons gave it 9 out of 10. Now that is a result!!