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Sunday, April 29, 2012

BIRTHDAY CAKE DISASTER



My baking took on a whole new level of disaster this week. Fuelled by a new confidence because I have had several successes with bread making, I’ve been told this is quite hard to achieve by hand – which just gave me an even bigger boost.

I decided that with my husbands Birthday today, 29th April, I would make him a cake. My original plan was to make him a Newcastle United themed, cake as it is his favourite football (soccer) team. This idea was short lived, all things considered not a bad thing. I couldn’t find any black food colouring. Since black and white are the main colours, I couldn’t do it.

So I needed a change of plan and decided, on the Washington Capitals, his favourite Ice Hockey team, well ours I love Ice Hockey too.

I had all the bits I could foresee needing, red food colouring, fondant, vanilla essence and icing sugar, I had also bought these sugar gel pen things, although in hindsight and at the suggestion of a friend butter icing would probably have been less tacky looking.

So the fun began, with an idea of how I wanted this cake to look like:

  • Chocolate cake (admittedly Betty Crocker, Devils food cake mix)
  • Homemade Vanilla butter frosting, liberally spread between cake layers
  • Bright red fondant LIKE THIS BRIGHT RED
  • White fondant disc with the Capitals eagle in the middle of it, also in white but with red bits on the wings and a red outline.
  • White fondant lettering, because it was going to be on the red fondant, spelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUSBAND


In my mind this was going to look amazing, but in reality this is NOT what happened. So I started by making the disc and eagle. It was my first attempt at anything like this so I felt quite proud, although not perfect, I was genuinely quite pleased with my effort.

On Thursday the ‘mess’ began. I made the cake, easy enough out of a packet, Glen says it’s not cheating, because I still have to mix and bake it! I’m going to live in denial and agree with him, because it makes me feel better.

Whilst the cake was baking, I coloured the fondant – PINK – so I added more red and got – PINK – by this stage I had added as much colour as the bottle advised – apart from red hands because my gloves had split and I hadn’t noticed, I could only get PINK - so I decided, that if he was to enquire about the colour, I’d tell him he ought to go see a doctor about possible colour-blindness.

By this time the cake was baked and cooling, so I made my vanilla butter frosting. Butter went into the mixing bowl and using a mixer I beat the butter into a smooth silky texture, then added my icing sugar – confectioners sugar – a smart person would have carefully folded in the powder, instead with a huge amount of gusto, I stuck my mixer straight into the middle and whacked it onto full speed, next thing I know the air is thick with a fine white powder. Once the ‘smog’ had cleared, settling all over me and my counter top, which was dark blue and at this point grey, I had to clean up before I could continue.

So with the mess all cleaned up I started again, by adding more icing sugar to the mixing bowl, this time carefully folding in the sugar, before using the mixer. With my little mishap, the cake had cooled completely (for a change, I normally get bored waiting and frost before it’s cooled, then the butter melts and soaks into the cake, also not very bright.) I smothered the cake with the frosting and then place the second one on top, to make two layers, then carefully spread more of the frosting into the gaps and over the top and sides, to make a kind of ‘glue’ for the fondant.

By this time I was on the phone to my mother, I needed advice as to the best way to get the fondant to fit snugly to the cake. With my mother on hand (although she did give me some good advice, love her for that,) fat lot of use she turned out to be. I began the rolling process, she said to use a light sprinkling of flour on a clean surface to stop it from sticking and also a little on my rolling pin, by this point she was already laughing at me because it was sticking to my surface rolling pin and hands, she said “Use more flour and put some on your hands,” which was fine for like three seconds and it started sticking again, so more flour, at this point it was working, until the fondant got thinner and then split.

I’d worked it so much by this point that it was much too soft and sticky – that’s when it started sticking to everything in sight and my mothers hysterical laughter just got louder and louder, just as well she’s not incontinent I think she may have had an accident otherwise!

It was a hopeless situation and I ended up in tears, I was desperate to do something nice for my husband’s birthday and it was all going horribly wrong and I was miserable. I tried using icing sugar to stiffen the fondant a little, but that didn’t work so I threw it out in the end and started again, with white fondant.

I was going to paint the fondant, once it was on the cake, using a brush and the food colouring. Honestly though by the time I had finally managed to cut out the fondant, although easier, I still had issues rolling it out. In the end I didn’t paint it.

I’d lost my enthusiasm, I won’t be beaten but I’m clearly not in the right frame of mind to be taking on such a challenge of this magnitude, I possibly need some more specialised kit, to help me in my endeavour, perhaps a non-stick rubber mat, for starters? That will have to wait though until we are in our new home with a bigger kitchen.

Ultimately it wasn’t a bad start but it wasn’t brilliant either, and the end result,  certainly wasn’t what I had in mind.     

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