Sunday, 15 January 2012

Number 6 road cake

My friend jointly hosted a birthday party for her son and another child on Saturday and when at the last minute the other mum changed the cake plans, my lovely friend asked if I could make her son's cake at short notice.

I said yes. My first thoughts were to do a number 6 shaped cake with a road and cars on it but I didn’t have a ring tin, so the next idea was a magic related cake as there was going to be a magician at the party. I asked for inspiration from the ever helpful members of Fans of Cake Baker on Facebook and one lovely lady suggested a top hat with a rabbit coming out and even posted a photo for inspiration. This was perfect and well within my capabilities!
I decided to experiment with the sponge (with permission from my friend) and added purple colour to the victoria sponge mix. From this point on it all went horribly wrong! My oven is very old and really doesn’t bake well, so I should have learnt by now that I can’t bake a double height sponge (ie putting the cake mix in one tin with the intentions of slicing it in half horizontally rather than baking the two layers in separate tins of the same size which I don't have). Instead of taking the 25 - 30 minutes my oven normally takes to bake a sponge, it took over 50 minutes and then sunk in the middle. In the meantime, I should have been collecting Sophie from school and taking her to ballet, so a frantic last minute call to a friendly school/ballet mum gave me a slight breathing space. Then a dash to ballet to drop off Sophie’s ballet clothes then dash back home to bake the other sponge (I needed height for the magician's top hat), which went even more wrong! Another lesson learnt: that you can't mix cake batter and leave it for 40 minutes before baking ... the sponge looked perfect in the oven after about 50 minutes and hadn't sunk in the middle like the last one but when I turned it out the middle was a gooey mess and totally uncooked!

I then went through a whole range of ideas as to how I could make good a cake with a hole in the middle of it: from filling the hole with sweets (I thought Minstrels might work best as they wouldn't be as affected by the moisture from the sponge as, say, Smarties which would bleed colour) as a "magic" surprise; to baking a whole other cake (which didn't happen as I had run out of sugar!).

To cap it all my local cake supplies shop (only my second visit and equally as disappointing as the first time) didn't have any ready coloured black fondant. I didn't want to colour the fondant myself as I know from experience it is virtually impossible to get a proper black from colouring white but I ended up buying ready coloured grey as at least this was half way there!

I then reached a point on Thursday night where I had had enough - I scraped the green fondant off the cake base board and the fondant I had managed to colour very dark grey off the cake board that was going to be used as the brim of the hat and called it a day. I would look at it with fresh eyes on Friday.

Friday morning I realised that I had a cake with a hole in the middle which would suit my original idea of a number 6! I was disappointed not to be making the magician's hat and rabbit but relieved that I did at least have a solution. I didn't have enough fondant to cover the whole cake but decided that I could buttercream the sides and put a fondant road on the top.

My lovely friend volunteered to help: we carved the stick bit of the number six; sliced the cakes in half horizontally and filled the cakes with "white" buttercream; coloured some buttercream bright green and covered the sides and top with the green buttercream; cut a grey fondant number 6 and placed this on top; and decorated with some plastic cars and road sign kindly loaned by Justin. The fondant ripped in one place when I was placing it on the cake but we covered this up with some white marshmallows that were cut into quarters and placed the road sign over the top. I then piped some grass around the bottom edge of the cake, in various places around the road and added the birthday boy's name in grass. We added some more marshmallows as the white lines on the road and some fondant blocks for some indoor sparklers and for the candles. Hey presto it was finished!

For something that threatened to be a car crash (pun intended!) the cake turned out okay. As a perfectionist, I had to accept that there were a lot of things “wrong” with the cake that, had I had more time, I could have fixed/ taken more care over. But the most important thing was that my friend was pleased with the cake and I heard lots of children at the party saying they preferred the car cake to the other cake!

And the purple sponge? It did turn out purple with a (bizarrely) green outer-edge. I will definitely be trying different colours on future sponges. I hope that the children all got a nice surprise when they opened their party bags!

© 2012 Nicola Noble

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