Archive | January, 2011

Spiderman Cake

22 Jan

Hello!  Me again.  This is the cake that I’ve been working on this week.  Bit of a labour of love as it turned out to be a lot more work than I think it looks 

The face shape was carved from a 10″ by 12″ vanilla madeira cake using this template (which, incidentally, I think is based on this colouring page).  I made the template bigger by 1.3 ish which brought it in just under the cake size.  The cake was split into three layers and filled with buttercream and raspberry jam and then covered in buttercream to crumb coat and finally, red sugarpaste.

I created the webbing using my craft gun.  This was the fiddly, time consuming bit as I kept refilling the barrel and it took every effort on my usually-slap-happy-part to use the edible glue sparingly and keep it in a straight line but I got there in the end and it took shape. 

I cut the lettering at the bottom myself as my newly acquired cutters wouldn’t play ball.  Enough said on that one but I am looking forward to improving my freehand technique, as they say.  Incidentally, the space to the right above the name was left for the candle.

I hope you like the cake.  I think the combination of the red, blue and yellow is very reminiscent of superheroes, and is suitably striking.



The Cost of Cake

12 Jan

I have been really thrilled recently to receive growing interest in the cakes I make and to get some repeat orders.  This has set me thinking about the price of my cakes in a way that is fair to the consumer but which also values my time and commitment, and the final result.  I used to think £60+ was a lot to pay for a celebration cake made especially for you, but now I am not so sure.  I have a growing idea of the time, effort and expense it takes to come up with something befitting the occasion.

I pride myself on making each cake from start to finish.  This takes time as the whole process is a bit stop-start.  You cook the cake and let it cool and ‘set’ before any cutting or trimming.  You more often than not ice in stages, letting each layer harden before you continue work.  In between there is lots of washing up and scrubbing down!  If I am doing a new cake or even something a bit different from what I have done before, I research and test recipes and the equipment for it.  I have to be sure of the quality of the end result and that the cake will keep well so that there is time to decorate and enjoy it.

As a passionate home baker, I do not have the overheads of running a commercial premises as such, but I do not have the greater bulk purchasing power either.  I mostly use the supermarket for ingredients but I do utilise local suppliers where possible.  I use prime ingredients such as butter (instead of margarine) and free range eggs, as well as good quality flour, dried fruit, cocoa, chocolate and vanilla extract.  The chocolate cake recipe I typically use for a square 9” cake (serving 35+ portions) uses half a kilo of chocolate and twelve large eggs.  When I make buttercream I use a high proportion of butter as I think that gives it a really great flavour and lusciousness, which is what it is all about.  As well as the ingredients there is the cost of water and fuel to think about, the purchase and replacement of sometimes specialist equipment, and the packaging and presentation of the cake itself.

Of course, you can buy a birthday cake in the supermarket for around a tenner.  These cakes serve a purpose and provide choice but they can vary in taste and finish.  This is not to say that I have never enjoyed or admired a slice of supermarket birthday cake, but a cake made especially for you is in a different league.  For a start, a bespoke cake usually serves more people, something often missed when a simplistic price comparison is made.  The cake recipe can also be tailored to particular tastes.  Most importantly, a bespoke cake is absolutely unique and special to the recipient. Something to be oooh-ed and aaaah-ed over and remembered fondly for a long time to come. The cost per portion is probably similar to a slice of cake in a coffee shop.  Has that ever made a truly lasting impression?

Princess Cake – The Video

8 Jan

This is the video I did of the princess cake in my previous post.  I must apologise for the background noise and general visual quality!  I have already been told off by Chief Tester for leaving his hands in.  My description of the video to my friend made her compare it to the famous scene in Ghost which made me giggle.  A lot.  Now don’t get excited.  It couldn’t be less like the famous scene in Ghost….I thought I would pop it up anyway as I spent so much time on the details all around the cake and I also treated myself to the cake decorating turntable this week to so that is getting it’s screen debut too.  Now I’m off to find myself some clay…


Cake for a Princess

8 Jan

This is the princess cake that I made this week, for the birthday girl’s party today.  It is a vanilla madeira cake sliced into five layers with alternate seedless raspberry jam and rich vanilla buttercream coloured pink.  I made the cake in a tiffin tin using a recipe for a 9″ round cake which took around two hours to cook at 170 degrees.  I would recommend filling to just around where the tin flares out at the top.  There was a little mixture leftover and I made a 1lb madeira loaf with this which I iced as an extra cutting cake for the party.  (There are two because I made one as a result of my trial run with my new tiffin tin too.)
Anyway, back to the main cake.  As you can probably tell, the princess herself is a Barbie doll.  You can buy doll ‘picks’ (legless) from cake decorating suppliers but I don’t think the finish is as good as a Barbie and there isn’t much use for it afterwards unless you are inclined to make a loo-roll holder.  Having also heard a friend’s trauma at discovering an amputated Barbie in her childhood birthday cake, I left the old girl intact and set about wrapping her in clingfilm.  This is for food hygiene reasons as the plastic is not food grade.  Whilst assembling and icing the cake I also clingfilmed her hair to reduce the risk of that ending up everywhere.  I do find new Barbies a little alopeciac so this required quite a bit of care to get rid of loose hairs and to make sure the remainder was intact in the clingfilm, but time well spent I think.  The resulting slight helmet-head was unavoidable really and I didn’t think this was a job for straighteners!  The cake was iced on a 12″ board and presented in two 12″ boxes.  My last tip would be to use a 13″ board and box as this should accommodate the cake’s height better.  

I am going to try and post the video I took separately so watch this space and thanks for looking.

Last 2010 Christmas Cakes from me

2 Jan

These are some vanilla cupcakes I made which were to be given as a work’s present using my favourite vanilla extract which I bulk bought in the Tesco three for two baking offer last year.  They have my new favourite sparkle on them – pastel blue.  It’s such a shame the camera doesn’t catch the sparkle fully.  Sparkle is great for Christmas but I think it is important to be discerning as it is so easy to get carried away with it.  There are cupcake books out there with sparkle on every cake featured.  Less can be more. 

So, these are the last of the Christmas-sy cakes I made for 2010.  I am now on to my next project – a princess birthday cake for a third birthday.  I am really looking forward to 2011.  I have some ideas for this blog and I’ve also got some projects planned in the house.  I also got a raft of new baking and cook books on my birthday last year so I am going to look through those more thoroughly and try out some new recipes.  I also think it is time to go back to my old favourite Red Velvet Chocolate Heartbreak after all the over-indulgence at Christmas.


Happy New Year! But, is it still Christmas?

1 Jan

We are before twelfth night so it is still technically Christmas, in my cake book at least.  I thought I would show you the Christmas cake I completed in my cake decorating class towards the end of last year, as it now is;  

I think the ‘style’ is probably a bit different from one I would chose to do (I kept this cake for our Christmas) but it was fabulous to go outside of my comfort zone and learn some new skills.  I think the swags and bows lend a ‘wedding-feel’ to the cake, but it certainly makes a grand seasonal statement with the holly providing the festive tidings.  

The fruitcake recipe I used in all my Christmas cakes was based on Delia’s recipe.  I have now cut and tried our cake and also the cake I made for my gran, and they have both come out really well.  Although I like it, I don’t usually find fruitcake that more-ish but I am finding our Christmas cake very more-ish indeed.  It is cutting beautifully and is really moist and fruity with just the right amount of brandy.