Where have I gone?

8 Apr

Hi all, to those who are worrying about why there have been on cakes on this blog for a while, it’s because I’ve moved!

Find me here: www.piecesofcakeblog.wordpress.com!

Time for kick off

30 Dec

Andy's football cake

After a bit of a break doing many other things, here is the latest cake offering. This one was for Andy’s 25th, resplendent in the yellow and green of his beloved Norwich.

To begin with I baked a very large sponge in my new expandable cake tin set to its biggest. Then I simply iced with pre-coloured green fondant icing, including the board.

Next up, the icing – unfortunately I didn’t have the royal icing quite thick enough (I should have added a touch more icing sugar), but I’d started so I was going to finish! Having said that, I was pretty chuffed at my ability to ice in a straight line – which was probably the hardest part about this one.

After that I made a football out of white icing and drew the classic hexagons on with a black edible pen, made candle stands out of more white icing and little corner flags from red icing and cocktail sticks.

The final task was to locate the players – genuine Norwich Subbuteo men from the ’70s – don’t they look just spiffing?

Subbuteo men on the football cake pitch

And the final task? Blowing out the candles…

Candles lit

No, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it… this cake was pretty simple, so the Cake-O-Graph skill level line has plummeted quite significantly. But I do think it was also pretty effective so you can see that the quality line is flattening out…

Cake graph

Christmas comes but once a year…

5 Nov

What with it being close to Christmas, I thought it was reasonable to bring in the festive cakes from years gone by.

As with all good Christmas parties, food is always high up on the menu, and at my old house this couldn’t be more true. So, following an excellent dinner of Pieminister pie, mash and gravy it was time to bring out the mini cakes. But let’s go back to when I decided it would be a good idea to make ten cakes in one sitting…

First on the list were the fruit cakes (which I’d made much earlier, and obviously according to instructions from ‘Saint’ Delia) – these had to be decorated in a fairly ‘standard’ way. I went for classic icing on three, and then decided to attempt the old royal icing again.

This is number one, with normal white fondant and festive fondant decorations. Quite a standard cake, but enjoyably tasty nonetheless!

Fruit cake number two is the one you see right at the top of this post, on a rather large cake board because I’d sort of run out of the fetching holly ones you’ll see in the rest of these. For this cake I covered the cake in green, then white and then cut out the holly shapes. Then I went to town with icing cutting and sticking, as well as getting the classic silver balls to add extra Christmassy joy.

Finally, I made Ruth a present. Here it is!

Finally, on to the dreaded royal icing. My plan was to create peaks, add some snowmen and, as if by magic, there’s a snow scene! This went OK, although again my icing was a touch too runny so slightly see through and not as large and peaky as I might have hoped. Also note the fact my cake looked a little sad so I added a tree and some presents… as well as Santa’s sleigh!

And so on to the sponge cakes. These allowed me to try out some more exciting skills (I know you’re dying to know what that’s done to the Cake-O-Graph but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait). First I tried some cake carving and icing – making a snowman (with quite an oversized hat), a Christmas tree and a stocking. And here they are, in all their glory:

The snowman with large hat (still keeping the red and green theme running…)

And so to the Christmas tree (decorated  with red piping icing and lovely silver baubles!)

Finally, of the three carved cakes there’s the stocking with a white top, which was kept until set with tin foil.

To take a twist on your classic dessert, I decided to make a Christmas pudding – from sponge. I put the cake mix in a pudding bowl, cooked for much longer than usual due to the unusual depth of the cake, tipped out and iced:

Seeing the success of the pudding bowl baking, I took it one step further to make an igloo for a little penguin friend I’d made in the cake shop (no, I’m not at the whole character making stage yet). I’ll admit that my lines may have preferred a steadier hand, but all in all the idea come across, but he doesn’t look to upset at his new home!

And for my final trick… I decided to reincarnate ‘Fat Steve’ (see my previous post “In Deep Waters”), but this time as Father Christmas in a chimney. I made a square cake, iced and designed in a similarly haphazard way to the igloo and the set about getting Santa stuck in the chimney. He has got a slightly mucky face, which will teach us all to wash our hands when handling different colours of icing. A life lesson if ever I heard one.

So there they are. Ten cakes – three made over a month, all decorated over the course of a day and eaten during the following week (depending who they belonged to…!)

But what has that done to the Cake-O-Graph?! Well, it was a challenging day – sheer volume of cakes, some were simple, some were more intricate, but I’ve taken that into account to give the Christmas Combo quite a tough skill level. As some were a great success, and some were not amazing I’ve averaged them all to give an overall cake quality score. I think the graph is taking shape nicely…

In deep waters

27 Oct

Canoe cake

And so we begin cake number three.

Having taken a bite out of the burger of success, I was sure that this cake making business was plain sailing. I couldn’t have been more wrong – I was just about to hit troubled waters…

With this cake I was challenging myself, not only was I going to attempt the infamous royal icing, I was also going to attempt to carve and ice a ‘non-standard’ cake.

My friend Steve kayaks, so the obvious cake was a kayaking cake (although I do believe this is more like a canoe). “Easy!” I thought, “Just cut down the sides, then slide the icing on. Bob’s your uncle.”

Bob, however, is most definitely not my uncle. This was hard. Cutting the cake was shockingly hard and crumbly (I should have left it to cool for longer really, but patience is not my strong point!). Icing it was also a little taxing, but I got there in the end and, using one of the most tried and tested methods of cake decoration, I set about covering my mistakes with various adornments.

Namely rocks and water. As you can see, my first attempt at royal icing wasn’t quite thick enough, so I didn’t get the true choppy effect. But it was OK….

And so I continued with constructing what lovingly became known as “Half Ton Steve”. He is a little fat in this cake. For the sake of Steve I would like to confirm it isn’t in any way to scale. This was the first person I’d made, and to all accounts I didn’t do too bad a job. He looks a little like he might benefit from some extra tuition, but good on him, he’s made it into the canoe and is paddling away in shockingly shallow waters.

There you have it – happy EXTREME birthday Steve! I need to improve my cake writing as well…

As you can all see this wasn’t the most successful of my cakes, but I was happy I’d tried out a few of the more difficult ‘caking’ techniques. I thought a good way to show my progress at this point was with a Cake-O-Graph:

Here, we see that although the overall finished quality of the cake has reduced, the skill level required has increased. There is also a definite improvement in both quality and skills since the bowling cake. This is an entirely self-rated Cake-O-Graph and I will happily take comments and ratings in these categories. If you would like to see more categories please let me know, the Cake-O-Graph is a (semi-)interactive product. Watch out for it in all future blog posts!

Baking Burgers

15 Oct

fininshed burger cake

And so for cake number two: the burger. This one was for Debs’ birthday BBQ, and it seemed fitting to make a burger. This one was inspired by one of my mum’s many cake books.

Now, time to begin. I was feeling confident – I’d made three thin, round sponges, and iced them with pale brown (for the bun) and dark brown (for the burger). This time I managed to get pre-coloured icing, which pretty much removed any chances of a speckled burger. I made some lovely lettuce using green icing, left to set on scrumpled up tin foil to give it that wrinkly effect; some tomato slices with dark and light red icing, a cheese slice and some accessories. These were a spatula (effectively glued to the board as it was a rather delicate affair and fell apart on tra) and a napkin, which was given ‘realistic’ folds by wedging tin foil underneath the corners.

Let the layering commence!

Napkin, bun, lettuce, burger, cheese slice. Note the army of tomatoes preparing for assembly.

burger cake with cheese slice

Next to add the mayo (just royal icing tinted beige). This was actually a really useful glue throughout the whole process, so there’s a layer of mayo at every stage – just not always this much!

And then another layer of lettuce and the tomatoes (something you would not find on any of my real burgers)…

Finally the bun ‘lid’ was added on top (this was another sponge covered in icing), I used my spare extra tomatoes for the candle holders, decorated the napkin and painted the spatula silver…

And for one last finishing touch – no burger is really a burger unless it’s in a sesame seed bun…

There you have it, I’d say it looks good enough to eat!!

My First Cake

10 Oct

 

 

Sponge cake designed into a bowling alley

My very first cake!

 

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my first cake was for my housemate (Rachel)’s 23rd birthday. She was having a very retro bowling party, so the obvious cake was a bowling alley!

I began by baking a lovely sponge (Delia Smith’s all-in-one is always a winner) and filling it with some scrummy buttercream and jam. Then to the task of icing the cake, and the start of what one might class as a comedy of errors. I only had white rolling icing, so I had to colour it brown (for the alley), but this was not as easy as I’d hoped – the icing was pretty hard and I didn’t get a very even coverage. (see above). Why not? Apparently, I wasn’t massaging the colouring into the icing enough.But it all adds to the effect of wood I told myself. Then I realised (just a little too late) that I’d iced the wrong side of the cake – you wouldn’t get very far bowling down that! As my mum informed me later, I should have flipped the cake over so it had the smooth bottom as the top. Rookie mistake.

Carrying on in the face of cake adversity, I moved on to the lanes – drawing the markers and lines with my best freehand. Those who knew me in art class can vouch for my prowess (or lack thereof) in this form of artistry. Nevertheless, I separated my lanes with a gutter made from two ‘sausages’ of black icing and created some amazing bowling balls to try an disguise some of my mishaps. Finally, I made some smashing bowling pins using a mould which I wedged firmly into the cake with cocktail sticks.

As you can see, I had no cake boards, and so made excellent use of my bread board. The lessons from this cake? A lot of ‘What not to do’s! But it went down well, and tasted great (even if I do say so myself)… Here’s to the next one!

Sponge cake, side on, in the style of a bowling alley

First cake, from the side

 

Beginner Baker to Distinguished Decorator?

3 Oct

Welcome to Pieces of Cake, and my very first blog post! By way of introduction, here’s a bit about me and how I got into the business of baking.

My first experience of a homemade, home decorated cake was my christening cake – okay, I may not remember it, but it’s where this all started. That was my mum’s first ever cake, and it was the beginning of her journey into the sometimes extremely stressful, but very rewarding, world of cakes.

As I grew up she had plenty of opportunities to make cakes – not just for my birthdays, but for friends and other family members. And not just birthdays anymore – for any event that could have a cake, she could make a cake. I loved watching her make and decorate these amazing cakes – normally being ‘chief advisor’, and when I was old enough having the immense responsibility of holding the cake en route to its destination. On her first cake decorating evening class, mum took me along – I spent all night perfecting my first ever cake. Frankly, it was a mess. But it was to be the start of something beautiful…

Admittedly, it was a long time before I tried the decorating out on my own, but I had the cooking bug after I moved to university. On my housemate’s 23rd birthday I decided, this was it: I was making and decorating a cake for her.

And from there it grew – it can be stressful and frustrating but it’s also massively enjoyable and a real challenge to try and make each one better than the last (that doesn’t always happen!)

So, my blog will unfold my making and decorating cakes of all shapes, sizes and colours. There may even be some of your common-or-garden baking thrown in for good measure. Everyone loves cookies, muffins and cupcakes, after all!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.