Saturday, 26 November 2011

Spooky halloween Ghost Cake

I was recently asked to make a Halloween themed joint 30th and 29th Birthday cake. I love anything spooky and the chance to make a spooky cake filled me joy and excitement. I jotted down a few ideas and made a few sketches and presented them to see which cake would be made.
I was really pleased when they chose the ghost cake as this was the first idea that came to me and I have always wanted to make a comic style character cake. The idea itself is based on the drawing you make as a child and I think everyone when asked to draw a ghost would probably draw something similar to what I did.
The cake itself is a classic sponge but I added a little more flour so that it could handle the weight of being stacked and also the fondant icing. To begin with I baked five 7" round cakes and stacked them on top of each other with a layer of vanilla buttercream in between.
To get the dome I used my trusty 1 litre Pyrex bowl, the same on I used for my Stormtrooper cake. To get a perfect dome I cut the bottom and placed it on the top of the dome with buttercream and cut it to form a more dome like shape. This then went on top of the stack of 7"ers. It was now beginning to take shape.
Whilst baking the cakes I also baked a few cupcakes and I attached these with skewers to the sides of the cake and sculpted them slightly to form arms/hands.
I then added a crumb layer of buttercream (500g) and allowed to dry for a few hours. I then added another fine layer of buttercream and smoothed over with a wet pallet knife. This then was lightly wet with a pastry brush, ready for the fondant.
Firstly I covered the top two thirds of the cake with black fondant then I just wet the top of the dome with water. I now rolled out 1kg of white fondant icing to about 3-4mm thick and quickly layered it over the cake.
I smoothed down the top half of the cake with a cake paddle to create a smooth finish, but the bottom half of the cake was left. This gave the illusion of draping and floating. All I did extra was trim the excess fondant with a pizza cutter.
To make the eyes and mouth I used a cookie cutter and squeezed it slightly to form the mouth shape, and because I had put the black fondant underneath, once you cut the white fondant away the black was still there. I think this is a better look rather than sticking black on top of the white as it give the cake more depth and a more professional look.
Finally I made the small pumpkin which was basically 2 cupcakes fixed together with buttercream and shaped.
I added a layer of butter cream all over then a layer of chocolate fondant followed by a layer of orange fondant. I created the number by cutting out the numbers with a craft knife and using the end of a wooden spoon to form the grooves of the pumpkin.
I finished i of with a speech bubble, which I made few days earlier so that it had time to dry and go hard. This was fixed with a couple of lollipop sticks.
The only mistake I made was that I bought a 10" cake board especially for it, but when I came to put the cake on the board it didn't fit.....eek. Luckily I had a black thick tray which I turned upside down which fit just right.
I was really chuffed with this cake and I would definitely make it again, maybe even bigger next time.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mini Mouse cake

I must admit I was not the biggest fan of Disney and thought that it was over commercial and enticed children into believing that life is one big fairy tale. That is until I had my son, and then I got it.
There is something magical about sitting watching a Disney film with a young one and seeing their little faces as the magic unfolds on the screen in front of them.
So when I was asked to design a Disney themed cake I was full of ideas and wanted to encapsulate the essence of Disney is icing (if there is such a thing).
I first of all drew out a few ideas and passed them by the person I was making it for. They consisted of a castle, a fairy crown (with lots of sparkle) or a mini mouse cake. They settled on a Mini Mouse cake which I was really pleased about as this was the one design that I really wanted to make.
I worked out how much ingredients I would need to make the cake and off to the supermarket I went to stock up on my magic ingredients.
A couple of days before the cake was due I made the ears by cutting out 4 circles out of black sugar paste and sandwiched 2 lolly sticks in between 2 circles. I left them in a cool dry place to harden for a few days so that the would be easier to insert later on.
The main cake was 2x7" cakes (she wanted it a little smaller than my original design) and the head was made using a 1 litre Pyrex bowl that I greased well.
I used my tried and tested Madeira cake recipe that I have used loads and I know that it keeps well and is great as a stacking cake as it can handle a little weight.
I covered the base cake in 2 layers of vanilla butter cream and smoothed really well then covered with red fondant icing and white spots.
The Head was done in a similar way but I used a black fondant and spent a good 20 minutes smoothing out the bubbles and bumps so that a perfect dome was created.
Finally I added the ears and placed a plaque on the front.
I am quite a font freak and love a great font and I wanted to write her birthday message in the Disney font. So I found the font online and worked out a hand written version.
The result was spectacular and she was over the moon with my creation. This is a cake I would love to make time and time again.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Nigellas Chocolate cake

I have previously blogged about chocolate cake and I must admit I became a bit obsessed for a while finding a great chocolate cake recipe that wasn't too dry and was a great versatile recipe that you could use for a variety of cakes.
I the stumbled upon the goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson's Devils Chocolate Cake recipe.
At first when I read the recipe I was a little intrigued on how so much liquid could be transformed into a cake, but I wasn't put off. I decided that I was just going to make the cake and not the frosting as I wanted to decorate the cake my own way, and too be honest I couldn't make her frosting without dipping my fingers in it and doing a really bad Nigella impersonation.

the first cake I made was 21st biryday cake with choclate fondant icing and a Malteser trim around the base.

The recipe is as follows;

Ingredients
  • 50g/2oz best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
  • 100g/4oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 250ml/8fl oz boiling water
  • 125g/4½oz soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
  • 150g/5oz caster sugar
  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 free-range eggs
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line the bottoms of two 20cm/8in sandwich tins with baking parchment and butter the sides
  • Put the cocoa and the dark muscovado sugar into a large bowl and pour in the boiling water. Whisk to mix, then set aside.
  • Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a separate bowl, beating well until pale and fluffy; I find this easiest with a freestanding mixer, but by hand wouldn’t kill you.Stir the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together in another bowl and set aside for a moment. Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar – mixing all the while – then crack in one egg, quickly followed by a scoop of the flour mixture, then the second egg. Keep mixing after each addition.
  • Incorporate the rest of the flour mixture little by little, then finally mix and fold in the cocoa mixture, scraping the bowl well with a spatula.
  • Divide this fabulously chocolaty



On a scale of 1 to 10 for difficulty (1 being easy, 10 being expert level) this cake is probably a 3 (yes a 3!) it is such a great recipe and I have used it on numerous occasions now for various jobs.
I have made celebration cakes with it and also cupcakes, it truly is a great chocolate cake recipe that I am sure I will be using for many years to come


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Voodoo Emo Cake

My niece was recently 16 and I offered to make her a cake to help celebrate her birthday.
I have watched her grow up over the years from a little girl who liked princesses and pink to a full blown teenager who loves her music, piercings and individuality.
I knew that she would like a cake that was a little off the wall and know that she loved her Nightmare before Christmas inspired cake that I did for her a couple of years ago.
I came up with the idea of an Emo Voodoo cake, even though she IS NOT an Emo, it is just easier to say that the cake is.
The cake itself is a chocolate chip sponge cake with a butter cream filling in between the two layers used to make it. I covered it in white ready to roll icing which I got from the supermarket in the clearance section because it was going out of date at the end of August (this was bought in June)? and some black sugar paste icing which I cut into squares and made a checker board effect over half of the cake (Two Tone Records inspired)
I used the same icing to make the voodoo doll which I was quite proud of and finished him off with real pins and a badge of love, just to show that he isn't that evil.
The detailing was finished off using a great bit of kit in the form of an icing pen. It looks like a felt tip  pen and also writes like one. My tip for using it though would be to let the icing dry out as it makes it easier to write on.
Overall I loved making this cake and it gave me a little more experience in making figures out of icing. Something which I hope to do a lot more of in the future.
My niece Aimee blowing out her candles

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Stormtrooper Cake

When I started to make cakes it was initially because I was to tight to buy a birthday cake for my sons 1st birthday. I thought I can make one cheaper and better and so I set about making one. £70 and one stressed out chef later I realised that cake making was no easy (or cheap) feat. But that didn't stop me and so my passion for cake making began.
As you have seen from my blogs over the past year I have become better and better at making cakes and now have the confidence to call myself quite a good cake maker.
That time of year had come around again though when all the family were looking at me and wondering what I was going to do for my sons 3rd birthday.
Being a bit of a geek I have introduced him to one of the most important films ever made.....Star Wars, and he loves it. He asked me few months back if he could have a Stormtrooper cake and immediately my mind went into hyper drive and thoughts of a helmet shaped cake haunted my dreams for weeks. Finally I plucked up the courage to attempt to make it. I didn't tell anyone what I was making as I wanted the unveiling to be spectacular.
I looked at loads of pictures and photos of Stormtroopers and actually found that there are many variations on the classic design but I decided on mine and so I began to bake.
I baked 4 individual cakes which would make up the helmet shape. The base was a 9" square topped with two 7" circles (sandwich style). The dome of the helmet was a 1 litre Pyrex bowl which I just greased so that it wouldn't stick.
I assembled them with a butter cream filling, placing the circles and domes towards the back of the square. Then using a cheese knife, which I found really good to sculpt with, I shaped the base of the helmet and used the off cuts to form the nose cone.After about 15 minutes of some more sculpting I finally had something that resembled the classic helmet shape.
I added a crumb layer of butter cream and let this dry for an hour or so before adding another fine layer of butter cream and smoothed over with a wet palette knife.
To ice the cake I opted for ready to roll icing and used a 1kg block rolled out to about 4mm thick. With one foul swoop it was over the cake and I spent about half and hour moulding it into shape using both my hands then smoothing down with a icing paddle.
The rest was quite simple as all I had to do was cut out the shapes of the eyes and detailing from some black sugar paste.
I hid the cake so that he didn't see it and all of his friends came around for a classic 3 year old birthday party. Complete with a sing song on the guitar from yours truly.
Then the time came to unveil my creation, I stuck some indoor sparklers in his head along with a candle and made the entrance to a spectacular rendition of Happy Birthday. The look on his and everyone else's face was priceless and he couldn't believe that it was his cake. At one point after he had blown out his candle he even gave the cake a hug, declaring it was his best friend.
I was quite chuffed with myself but can't help but think how do I beat that next year?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Alf's Shed Cake

I have become quite good at baking cakes and wanted to move to the next stage of baking a novelty shaped one. I was then approached by a friend of mine who wanted a cake for her dads 60th birthday. Having met her dad quite a few times I knew that one of his favourite things was to sit in his shed (which by the way is the size of a small house), so I instantly thought of a shed cake. I accepted the challenge and began designing and planning the creation.
I knew that a Madeira based cake would be best as it holds itself better when carved and can take the weight of other layers and icing.
I decide to make a traditional looking shed rather than a copy of his own as that would involve me having a degree in structural engineering, which I didn't really have time to get.
On the day of baking I set work by baking 2 large rectangular Madeira sponges, cut them in half and stacked them on top of each other, fusing the layers with mixed fruit jam and vanilla butter cream.
I then carved the roof which was a bit tricky, but with the help of my ruler and a steady hand I was able to achieve a good looking roof.
Now the fun bit could begin so I began by adding a crumb layer of vanilla butter cream all over the cake and smoothed over using a wet palette knife. I allowed this to dry for and hour or so then added another thin layer of butter cream making the surface as smooth as possible. This then went in the fridge over night to harden.
The next morning I set to work in covering the cake in ready made sugar paste icing. I bought this online which I would highly recommend if you don't have a good cake supplier nearby.
I chose to use chocolate flavoured sugar paste as this matched a wood look the best and normal coloured sugar paste for the rest. Rolling out a large amount of chocolate sugar paste is not as easy as it looks especially on a warm day as it starts to stick and melt. I got there in the end and managed to get a large enough disc to cover the cake. I then smoothed the edges with a cake smoother, which is a little like a plasterers tool.
I made the roof by mixing a little black and white sugar paste together to make a grey coloured icing, something which I had never done before and was quite surprised on how easy it was.
I then added all the other little details such as the windows and doors and drew on planks of wood with my new swanky icing pen, which was fab.
I place the whole cake on a rolled out piece of green icing and added little flowers using a flower shaped punch.
I then remembered that he had a tractor and decided to add one of my sons toy tractors (which he cried about, even though he had not played with it in over a year), and some sugar paste tools.
Voila, my creation was complete. That afternoon my friend came and picked up the cake. Her dad was over the moon and the best thing is that everyone agreed that it tasted delicious. 
(Alf cutting his cake)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Yo Gabba Gabba Birthday cake

This not really a blog but more of a chance to show off my handy work.
I recently made this for my niece who was 3 years old and her favourite TV show is Yo Gabba Gabba.
It was a basic sponge cake which I flavoured with lemon. The icing and decorations are sugar paste which I bought from a local cake supply shop.
She absolutely loved the cake and the adults couldn't get enough of it.
Working with sugar paste is not easy. You think that it would be the same as using Play-Doh but it it is completely different. You don't anticipate it stating to melt in your hands, so I advise that you have cold hands and the ability to work quite fast.
Maybe with a little more practice I will get better, but for a first attempt I was quite chuffed with myself.