Gosh its late. Why am I starting a blog post at 11.30pm? I’m not honestly sure as to the answer of that…
Anyway, I’ve had a fairly hectic week, what with being ill and then returning to work, planning yet another birthday cake for a friend and then organising the snack food for the evening too. Even today hasn’t been a chance to breath, with another friend’s 40th birthday BBQ taking up most of the day and an evening filled with Ebay auctions ending and helping my partner write a CV. Tomorrow is busy too and so instead of procrastinating about when I’ll get this post done, I figured I would just do it… now!
My friend Tom, who is the partner of one of my best friends Nat, turned 25 on Tuesday. For his birthday we had a games evening and instead of it being at my house as they usually are, it was at theirs. This is because they have a newborn baby boy (who is adorable) and I didn’t want to uproot them and have to bring everything they needed with them. As such I organised all the food, making it as disposable as possible (limit afterwards washing up and cleaning) and of course decided to make a cake.
First of all, let me just say, deciding on a cake was a nightmare to even begin with. Tom likes Star Trek, Doctor Who, politics and… no wait, that’s pretty much it! However I finally settled on a random idea of a british theme, because he is one of the most patriotic people I know. I’m not sure if the british food theme occurred to me first, or if the cake idea did, but either way the idea rolled into a massive hassle (as these things do) and so his theme was set!
My british food plan was to be a secret – so I also decided to make it a secret within the cake. Basically, the outside of the cake would look fairly simple, but to cut into it you’d get a very patriotic surprise. As such I ordered an icing topper – a private joke shared between all our friends – of Rupert Everett dressed as a woman, from the St Trinian’s movies and figured a simple white iced cake would be fine for putting it on.
|Slight spoiler as this is the finished cake!|
I won’t get into the private joke, I doubt its funny to anyone other than us, but the cake pictured above is the icing topper in place. Anyway, the complicated part of the plan was to actually make the inside of the cake look like a Union Jack when it was sliced open… Can you say bad idea? Yes.
I began the cake at the beginning of the week, after collecting my new baking tray from Asda Living on Monday. My first attempt at red sponge came out a dodgy purple colour (turning almost brown on cooking) and it turns out Sainsbury’s food colourings aren’t bake stable (not that it was the right colour before baking anyway). I trekked out to Asda Living on Tuesday and tried again that evening. Again I got purple so I tipped it all away without even bothering to bake it. I tested the blue instead and got something resembling green. I baked this but it cooked green too – I gave it to my partner to take to work the next day. Thursday I headed out for more food colouring (and more ingredients by this point), this time buying Dr Oetker food colouring. I came home to test it out, thinking I’d got a good result but realising I would need more red colouring and probably more blue. I headed back out again, finished off the cakes and began work on the final product.
|Pic 1: My new tray. Pic 2: strange purple coloured mixture. Pic 3: Dr Oetker red. Pic 4: Dr Oetker blue|
Sadly, this was not to be the beginning of a wonderful cake. For a start the cakes came out the wrong colours again. The red actually baked orange and the blue just wasn’t dark enough to be the Union Jack blue. In fact when it was cooked, the blue actually looked more turquoise anyway. Trying not to be disheartened, I attempted the cake anyway. I went with the logic of “its the thought that counts” and knew Tom would appreciate the effort put in. However in my frustration and tiredness, I made a pretty poor attempt of the cake. I forgot the additional red icing I needed for the X of the Union Jack and in all honesty the buttercream I made was just too runny, especially with such a soft and fluffy cake that was falling to pieces at every end and turn. At around 8pm I called it a night and figured I’d ice it the following day after work. However when Chris got home I moaned about everything I’d done wrong, what I should have done and so on. He suggested we tried again but I told him I didn’t have time, nor the inclination.
|Midway through cake attempt one – orange and turquoise cake|
The next day I was back to work. It was a quite day as Sports Day got cancelled and we didn’t have much cooking to do as everyone was having packed lunches. I spent far too much time thinking about the cake and what I should have done, till eventually I text Chris and asked him to pick up more ingredients. On the way home I called at a specialist cake shop to get more food colouring and also a cake tray. By 3.30pm I was home and ready to start on The Cake v3 (or maybe 4…5… who knows?).
Now I told Chris, that I would mention him helping me, on my blog. So here is my noteable mention to him…. “thank god for Chris”. In all honesty, no way I’d have got it done. No way I wouldn’t have just broken down in tears without him. For the next 4 hours we cooked 3 more sponge cakes, along with topping some other cupcakes I’d made (pics below later), making cornish pasties, cooking sausage rolls etc. etc. The food colouring I bought this time was amazing – and so they should be for £2.20 a pot. Either way though, I ended up with three very nicely coloured sponges.
Finally it was on to piecing it all together again. This time I thought I had a few better ideas, though even now I still know there were things I could have done better. I halved the cake, to make it smaller to work with, but the plan to put it back together as I needed the final surface area for the icing topper. I started on the bottom blue layer, making all the diagonal cuts, filling them with white and red and then putting them back together. The bottom layer was done and the red fitted into it and then made up layer two. Each step I had to double check myself, making sure all colours were in the right place so that the overall effect worked when it was cut. Finally came the duplicate of layer one, to make layer three. It was messy but overall it worked and it was clear what it was – and the right colours!
Then came the rolling of white icing, enough to cover the whole cake. Sadly I’d run out of icing sugar by this point and couldn’t make any buttercream for covering the cake. It really was a bad throw together at that point. The icing went on and the topper was added. It looked pretty awful up close but I’m always grateful for a phone camera at these times…
Half an hour late leaving, petrol still to get on the way and all other food bundled into the car, we set off! I was feeling pretty excited but also a little worried that it wouldn’t work out when cooked. When we arrived, I set out all the food and I was actually a little proud of my (cheesy) british themed food.
Food included; Cumberland sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, “fish and chipsticks”, Tetley tea loaf, “Ploughmans” (which was really Camembert…shhh, with pickled onions, bread etc.), Bakewell tarts, Apple pies, peanuts, marmite twiglets and ice cream cake cones (close up later).
However I held my breath almost as we sang Happy Birthday and I insisted Tom cut into the cake. I was so pleased when it worked out – as well as I could hope anyway.
Tada! My Union Jack cake! The colours were awesome and vibrant, the general just of the cake was obvious. Its not a very good close up but you could definitely make out the X, not just the +.
Anyway, its now half past midnight and I’m dying to get to bed. I’ll leave you with a picture of my awesome ice-cream cake cones (self-named), which are basically cupcakes baked in ice-cream cones, topped with buttercream to look like ice-cream and then decorated with sauce, sprinkles and a flake! Enjoy!