Ad & Iona's Wedding Cake


It's flattering to be asked to make a wedding cake but I usually decline as my baking skills can be a little hit or miss. I made an exception for our friends Ad & Iona because they are lovely and I was confident they wouldn't disown me if it all went horribly wrong and I turned up with a Battenberg.  

Surprisingly I was pretty relaxed on this one (at least that's how I remember it). There were no dramas, no meltdowns and it came together perfectly. Maybe it helped booking a week off work and planning every little detail - or maybe I just got lucky!


I tried my best to give Ad & Iona the wedding cake experience. We talked about ideas, had a cake tasting and I even managed a sketch despite the fact I can't draw. 

So the bottom tier was always going to be a vanilla sponge. The other flavours we tried were coffee, chocolate with a dark chocolate ganache and carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. My first ever carrot cake!

My smallest tin is a 6 inch round, so I baked a fairly rustic 6 inch cake for each knowing they have plenty of friends and family to share them with. 


With the flavours picked Iona got busy pinning cakes and highlighting what she liked most about each one. I took all those favourite bits and came up with a design (complete with spelling mistakes)...
and here's how it turned out...
In Ad's words "exactly like the drawing" - I'm not sure if that's a compliment?!


Chuffed with my sharp edges! Ironically, I was most worried about stencilling the middle tier and this turned out to be the quickest and easiest job. On the other hand the silver leaf should have taken 5 minutes but required a lot of patience. It was
McGreevy Cake's tutorial that led me in to a false sense of security. She made it look so easy but no matter what I did the leaf just didn't want to stick. I wouldn't say I mastered it in the end, I just persevered and tiny tiny bits at a time, I eventually got the effect I wanted/settled for. Good thing I was going for a vintage patchy look.

The beautiful cake topper almost didn't make it. It literally turned up as Ad was leaving on the day of the wedding. I'm so glad it did because it completes the cake, although I'm certain the reserve made by Iona's mum would have looked just as lovely.


The bottom tier took several years to complete - at least that's what it felt like it. Those petal ruffles seemed to go on forever but I love how they turned out. Originally I had baked three layers for the bottom tier so I was glad I'd only opted to use two of them by the time I got to those ruffles!


Unfortunately my second ever carrot cake wasn't quite as good as my first. For some reason it didn't rise as much as it did for the taster so I had to bake another and make the top tier 4 layers to get the height I wanted. I also replaced the cream cheese frosting with an orange flavoured buttercream. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to risk the cream cheese knowing it would be out of the fridge all day in June weather.

Thanks to Kara Couture Cakes for her wonderful sugar rose tutorial. My petal veiner is a bit rubbish but I was really pleased with how they turned out. The centres were beautifully delicate and spiralled but my fat fingers squashed them as I attached them to the cake. They might have been easier to handle if they were wired but I wanted to avoid poking posy picks in to the cake.



There are no progress pictures for this one because I decided to capture it all in a time lapse video - I thought Ad and Iona might like to see their cake in the making. Despite being an IT bod I had no idea how to go about this. Lucky for me the Go Pro has a time lapse setting and Movie Maker is easy peasy. 
So here it is, 5 days in 12 minutes!

Chris is 30!



As Chris was about to turn 30 I was super super busy in my new job (still finding my feet and all) and starting to worry I wouldn't have time to make him a cake. Then out of the blue he said he didn't want one... 

WHAT :O?! 

He said he didn't want me getting stressed and tired because I'd spent hours on a cake, and he'd rather we just spent the day together... awww 😍 ... but who doesn't have cake on their birthday, especially the big 3 0! So I came to a compromise...

My original plan was to have a cake with all of Chris' hobbies around it, but as he is a man of many talents (astronomy, astrophotography, guitar, running, snowboarding, basketball, pro lego builder - just to name a few) this would have taken an age!

So instead I focused on one hobby. I picked astronomy because I thought it'd be fairly straight forward to paint some star constellations on to a black cake. Then I remembered Chris sitting in the garden for hours on a chilly winter night taking pictures of a nebula. Searching for more pictures, I stumbled across this tutorial: http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2016/04/black-velvet-nebula-cake.html.


So mine didn't turn out quite as good but it was really fun to make, armed with a little sea sponge splodging food colour here and there, flicking the paint brush to make lots of little stars, and it took no time at all! I think the trick with this is to step back often and know when to stop. I got a little carried away and it probably looked better several splodges earlier. At least Chris recognised what it was.


Taste wise, this is my favourite cake to date. Almond sponge with amaretto chocolate flavoured buttercream. These are the same flavours I used for Chris' basketball cake but on that occasion the cake was a tad dry. This time it was perfect, even if I do say so myself :)

The sparklers did not live up to their warning label but added a little bit of fun....

                        


BB8 in 24 hours!

The time leading up to my nephews birthday was manic. The organisation I worked for was closing down, I had two job interviews to prep for (both wanting a 10 minute presentation) and a trip to Chicago looming. Nevertheless, Louis had stressed on more then one occasion his desire for a BB8 birthday cake and I didn't want to disappoint, even if it was a couple of weeks late. In the end I only had one day available to make this and I delivered... eventually.



For any perfectionist one day is not nearly enough! I had zero time to be my usual indecisive self, faff about or fixate on all those tiny little details. I could look at this cake and focus on BB8's missing aerials or question if his head is out of proportion, but on this occasion I'm going to let it go. I made this cake in less then 24 hours and I couldn't have done anymore in that time.


BB8s body was baked in a ball tin and his head in a small pyrex bowl. I used the CakeFrame I bought for my standing minion cake to help keep him steady. The CakeFrame goes through the centre of his body and protrudes out the top, then his head sits on a 4 inch board and is slotted on. The head is so small I don't think he really needs an internal structure but it's an hours drive to my Brother's and I wanted that stability... I can cope with an aerial-less BB8 but not a headless one! I'm pleased to say he didn't budge on route and we all got to enjoy the journey with no fears of him rolling away.


BB8 made his appearance after a tasty Sunday Roast and he was well received... brownie points for Aunty Chel :)

Inside he is a yummy chocolate cake filled with chocolate buttercream icing. I removed his head to slice up his body and Louis wasted no time tucking in! :D



Rainbow Cake

A rainbow cake inside and out to welcome another gorgeous niece to our family :)

My sister wanted to make a rainbow cake herself for Lissie's first birthday but couldn't find the time, hence a rainbow cake to welcome little Florence instead.

A couple of mistakes on this one but no major tantrums :D

The rainbow topper was super easy to make, there is a Krazy Kool Cakes tutorial to show you how. Squashing a flower cutter to make a cloud cutter... genius!

                    













A few people have asked how I baked the sponges and if I have a special set of tins for rainbow cakes. Er... no. I have two tins and this is all I can fit in my oven, so I baked two layers at a time. I usually divide my cake mix in two but as the layers could be thinner, I divided it in to three. I then coloured two parts and got them straight in to the oven to bake while I coloured the third. As the layers were thinner, they only took 20 minutes to bake and the third mix was fine covered with some cling film until it could go in. While the third layer was baking, I then made another batch of cake mix and repeated the process. 


If you're making a rainbow cake, you'll need to use gel paste food colouring. These are highly concentrated to give that rich colour and a little goes a long way. The set I have is by Rainbow Dust and I got them from The Cake Decorating Company.

The filling is a white chocolate ganache. This was actually my second attempt at a white ganache, my first was on Fred's 70th cake and it ended up in the bin after it split. The same almost happened to me again; I guess it's easier to do with white chocolate because its fat content is high? Anyway, I must have had my calm head on this time because I decided I'd try to save it. All those people that say you can't recover ganache once it's split... you lie! I managed to save mine by warming up some left over cream, adding a little at a time, and mixing continually until hey presto, it was back! I caught mine quick so maybe that helped. Some say to drain any excess oil first and and if you're out of cream, apparently warm milk also does the trick.

To be honest, I thought the white chocolate ganache was disgusting and I don't think that has anything to do with the fact it split. I don't know what I was expecting considering I don't like white chocolate but for me it was horribly sickly sweet. I know ganache is only as good as the quality of the chocolate you put in it but I didn't skimp there so I think it's just yuk. My sister said it was fine, and Lissie still wanted seconds but I don't think I'll be making it again.

I love the little hands in this photo waiting patiently for her slice of cake
The biggest mistake I made with this cake, and I'm not sure how I haven't experienced this sooner, was to cover it with fondant right after it had been in the fridge overnight. I believe as the cake warmed up it caused condensation to form on the fondant and this made it impossibly sticky, so I struggled to smooth it. Apparently this problem is amplified with marshmallow fondant which explains why mine was so bad. I've read the trick is to chill the cake long enough to harden the frosting/ganache, but not chill the cake all the way through so I'll be more aware of this next time. Fortunately the clouds managed to disguise most of the imperfections.


The clouds are airbrushed on. I'm really enjoying my airbrush now I'm getting the hang of it. This was a really easy affect. I just cut a cloud shape out of some paper and held it against the cake, moving it around as I sprayed. My practise run on some paper actually looked better but I'm still pleased with the result. I should have worn some gloves as I had nice blue fingers after.

So I've probably waffled on long enough. I think that's about all I have to say on this one :D

Fred's 70th Walkers Cake

Just as I'm thinking I've got the the hang of this cake malarkey I'm put back in my place. This cake was a nightmare from start to finish, one disaster after another... fondant tearing, arms falling off (not mine), ganache splitting and so on.

I'll admit it was too much for me this time, I had a meltdown and Mr Chris came running because he thought the world was ending. When he realised it was just my cake, he sorted me out with a little pep talk and I was back on my feet refusing to be defeated! What would I do without him?! 

 Fortunately it came together in the end...



I can't take credit for the design of this cake as it was a Cakey Cake creation. I always search the web for inspiration before starting a cake but I'm determined to start coming up with my own designs - searching for inspiration on the theme as opposed to other cakes that match the theme.


The hills are airbrushed following Cakey Cake's tutorial. This was the part I was most expecting to go wrong but it was the only part that went well. The only mistake I made was creating too much variation in the height of my hills, so when I raised my template to spray again, I couldn't position it without overlapping what I'd already done. The solution was simple, although it took Chris and I an embarrassingly long time to realise it. I made a mark on my template above the highest hill so I would be able to line it up again. Then I drew a new set of hills just slightly above the first ones and running in to the highest one, cut the template again, and placed it back on to the cake. I think it worked well as it makes the hills in the background disappear behind the ones in the front.



Inside is a vanilla sponge and my first attempt at a strawberry swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) filling.  This is a lot lighter, fluffier and not as sweet as normal buttercream icing. It passed the taste test but my recipe made a very small amount. It was only just enough for the filling so I ended up making a dark chocolate ganache to frost the cake, which I think overpowered the SMBC. Not to mention I overheated my first batch of ganache and it ended up in the bin. At least I know to increase the quantities for my SMBC next time.

Again this cake is covered with my home made marshmallow fondant. I think I made a mistake this time as the fondant was quite dry before I'd finished adding all the icing sugar. I probably didn't melt my marshmallows enough but I was able to save it by kneading in some store bought fondant to give it more stretch.


As you've probably worked out, I did not enjoy every minute of this cake but the reaction it got made it all worthwhile. I get frustrated when a cake is not going to plan because I want it to be perfect, but when you see how much someone appreciates it, that is what makes it perfect. 

When Fred, my father-in-law to be, "got something in his eye" and the rest of us struggled from a similar affliction, I forgot all the disasters and mishaps with this cake and in that moment it became one of my favourites. 

Standing Minion

Probably my most successful cake to date, I am super proud of this one! 

Ruth: "Would you be interested in doing a minion cake for Kitty please?... it could be as simple as a plain yellow cake with one eye".
Me: Pfft, simple cake... ok google 'how to build cake structures'

I don't think they were expecting this and to be honest, neither was I. I was half expecting it to fail miserably.



Firstly, credit to Ann Reardon at How to Cook whose tutorial largely guided me through the process. 

Whilst I was looking for materials to build my internal structure, I stumbled across something called CakeFrame. It's basically various plastic tubes and joints that click together to create any structure you like. It was ideal, and as an added bonus they sent me a free minion tutorial after I'd purchased the starter kit. I didn't actually follow their tutotiral as part of it involved rice crispie treats but that's the good thing about CakeFrame, you can put it together as you please.

So for everyone dying to see the inside, or wondering how the hell those little legs are supporting that cake, keep reading :)

I baked 3, 6 inch chocolate sandwich cakes, so 6 layers of sponge altogether. I levelled and stacked 5 of them, then placed the 6th on top and carved it in to a dome to shape the minions head. 

A plastic tube runs through the centre of the cake, and collars placed in-between those tubes support two cake boards and the weight of the cakes. The structure gets built as cake gets added, starting with a 4 inch cake board at the bottom.



I cored the centre of 3 cakes and slid them on to the structure adding ganache between each layer. After the first three cakes, I added a collar (the little white ring you can see in the picture below) and more tubing. This collar supports the next board and cakes, and effectively makes two 3 layer cakes to give a normal sized portion when it all gets sliced.



Next I added a 6 inch cake board and the remaining cakes. The top cake does not need to be cored as the tube only goes part way in to it. 

After all the cakes were on the structure, I carved the bottom cake to soften the edges and make it more rounded.

Once I was happy with the shape I iced it with ganache and was pleased when it just about fitted in to my fridge (next to tomorrows lunch). 

I had covered my cake board days earlier so it had time to harden and I wouldn't have to worry about marking it. It was wrapped in cling film to keep it clean.

                        


I was planning to cover the cake in one go with one piece of fondant but thankfully Mr Chris talked me out of that - it would have been a nightmare trying to smooth all those pleats with a cake so skinny and tall. So similar to Ann's tutorial, I covered the top of the cake with one piece, then wrapped the rest of the cake with another. I ended up with a seam around the top, positioned where I could use the goggle strap to cover it, and a seam down the back that would be mostly covered by his dungarees. 


The yellow fondant is the last of my home made marshmallow fondant from Connie's Frozen cake. Using home made and store bought fondant side by side really highlighted their differences. The store bought is much much sweeter and doesn't taste as nice, and the home made is much easier to handle; it has plenty of stretch but doesn't tear easily. The marshmallow fondant can be stored for months. It was very hard when I unwrapped it but a quick 10 seconds in the microwave softened it enough so I could then kneed it.

My cake was roughly A4 size in height so I used an A4 picture for scale. 
As well as witnessing how messey my work area gets, you can see the small lolly pop sticks inserted in to his head that help to support his goggle, and cocktail sticks I used to support his arm until it had dried enough to stay in place on its own.



"How long did it take?".... 

Keep in mind I work full time (not making cakes), I usually get home from work around 6.30pm, and I would work on the cake from 7 till late... 10, 11, even 12 one night.. and don't forget I have to stop for dinner too! So this is how I broke it down:

               Monday - Covered cake board and made decorations (goggle and streamers)
               Tuesday- Baked 3 chocolate sandwich cakes and made chocolate ganache
               Wednesday - Carved and stacked cakes, then iced with ganache
               Thursday - Coloured fondant and covered the cake
               Friday - Added decorations and detail and completed cake
               Saturday Morning - added ribbon and name to cake board and boxed for delivery

Planning is key! If you plan it well, you give yourself time to enjoy the whole process or fix anything that doesn't go quite to plan. I'm getting better but there's even more I could have done earlier, like making the ganache and colouring my fondant the weekend before.


The delivery was terrifying as we had a 45 minute drive and although he was pretty solid, he had a good wobble going on. Mr Chris manufactured a box for me and we strategically placed bits of card to wedge him in place. One of the streamers was a little damaged but he made it in one piece.

                       





 







I think it's fair to say he made an impact. At one point I thought there might be tears when we had to cut him but thankfully Ruth held it together and we devoured his head in no time :)




Home-made Creme Eggs

What to do when you pop to the shops for an Easter egg and all that's left is one sorry looking smashed egg?

Go home... sulk for a bit... then make your own creme eggs :D

Ingredients:
170g Liquid Glucose or Golden Syrup
55g Butter (at room temperature)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
375g Icing Sugar
2tsp Water
Yellow food colouring
200g Chocolate



1. To make the filling mix together the glucose or syrup with the butter and vanilla extract until it's creamy, then add the icing sugar and water. The mixture should be quite thick.


2. Take about a third of the mixture and colour it yellow to make the yolks. Then place both mixtures in to the freezer until they're hard.


3. When solid, remove the yellow mixture and form lots of little balls. Place each yolk on to a tray lined with greaseproof paper. They get very sticky as they get warmer so once all the yolks are formed place them back in to the freezer to harden again.


4. Once the yolks are set cover them with the whites. Take some of the white mixture, flatten it in to a circle, place the yolk in to the middle, then wrap the white around and roll it in to an egg shape. Place the eggs in to the freezer to harden again.


5. Melt the chocolate and dip the eggs. I found it easier to keep the eggs in the freezer and take one out at a time so they don't get too sticky to handle. Skewer the egg, dip it in to the chocolate then place it in to the fridge to set (just like a cake pop). Alternatively you could use an egg mould to create the chocolate shell and place the filling inside.



And the verdict is....

Mr Chris says it tastes just like a creme egg but has eaten several to be sure. I think you can taste the golden syrup and they need a thicker layer of chocolate but they were good enough to satisfy my Easter chocolate binge :) 

Frozen

I've seen so many Frozen cakes and at last I get to make my own contribution.


This was the cake of many firsts for me.

The first time I've made my own fondant...

I followed Artisan Cake Company's recipe for marshmallow fondant. The process is a little messy but it's really not difficult and it's worth trying. It tastes good and it's nice to work with. I probably have enough left over to cover two more cakes but you can half the recipe if you need less.



The first time I've made chocolate ganache and iced a cake with it....

And I'm converted! I think ganache will always be my preference over buttercream now. It's very easy to make, not as sweet as buttercream, and personally I found it easier to get a smooth finish and clean edges on my cake. If you're new to ganache, check out this three part tutorial from Inspired by Michelle. It's all you need to get going.




The first time I've airbrushed a cake...

My airbrush was a birthday gift from my Dad. I love it but I definitely need more practice. I learnt the hard way that an airbrushing booth is essential! I practised on some paper and had no idea how much everything around me was getting covered in a fine mist of blue. My oak table now has a blue tinge to the wood grain so a cardboard box became my makeshift booth. 

I'd also wear a face mask next time. I know cake professionals don't but it freaked me out having blue snot the next day. Even Mr Chris had blue snot and he only passed by briefly while I was spraying. Call me paranoid but I don't reckon that's good for your lungs. 

Anyway, I think the key to airbrushing is to build up light layers and allow them to dry in between. I was a bit heavy handed. I was going for a patchy icy feel but it ended up mostly blue. Also it was still wet the next day and Steve got blue fingers cutting it.



My first time playing with isomalt...

Another tutorial from Artisan Cake Company, this was lots of fun. It's not a free tutorial but it was a great introduction to isomalt for me. I used clear ready tempered isomalt then coloured it with a touch of teal. Silicon cupcake holders were perfect for melting and pouring. It took me a few attempts to create the castle pieces but if it goes wrong you can melt the isomalt again and again until you get it right. The only downside is the more times you melt the same piece, the cloudier it becomes so you lose a bit of that cold icey feel.



The first time I didn't make the figures...

Ok, so that's not really a good first as I was looking forward to making them. This cake was actually very well planned but I sacrificed the models to make some birthday treats for my sister - I can't have her feeling neglected! I knew Connie would be kind enough to lend me her figures and she placed them perfectly on the cake :)














The lights are called balloon lights. They're just resting on the cake behind the castle. In hindsight I should have added a bit of icing to hold them in place as Steve had to walk very slowly to ensure they didn't roll off the top.


My first Dutch chocolate butter cake....

I used a recipe from Artisan Cake Company's book. It was tasty and gooey like a chocolate brownie but it cut cleanly and held together well. The ganache might be a bit thick on the sides but I'm chuffed with those straight edges and that thin layer of fondant. Mr Chris liked the marshmallow fondant so much he actually wanted a thicker layer on the cake!



It might be a bit risky trying so many firsts on one cake but that's what families are for :) I'm happy with how it turned out and loved seeing Connie and her friends so impressed with it :)
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