Today I look back at the previous weekend and the cake I made for my brother’s birthday: a pineapple upside-down cake. And believe me, on that day, cake was needed.
I’ve said before about my father being terminal, and though doctors gave him this year, we’ve really no idea (experience tells me you never really know). The cancer caused an infection in his hip, damaging the bone enough that it needed to be removed. Not replaced. Removed. And thanks to Covid, this was not a night of family getting together in the hospital. Instead it was an evening of waiting by the phone to see if he’d pull through the Hail Mary of an operation. To cut the tension, he did make. I remained glued to my phone, only to wake Saturday morning to news from my uncle, not about Dad, but Grandma. Taken to hospital during the night with heart failure. Ringing my brother to give him the update, and fitting in a Happy Birthday, was not easy. But the week has seen the situation improve, with my grandma able to return home, and my father managing to walk around his hospital room with a zimmer frame.
Oh, and because bad things come in threes, my brother had a reaction to some bug bites and had swollen and blotchy legs the whole day. He rated it his second worse birthday, so apparently, it could have been worse.
Now to move on from the trauma of the day, lets get to the cake. Like me, Little Bro is a huge It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan. How does that link to a pineapple upside-down cake? Loosely at best! But link it, I did. Those familiar with the show will know of Rum Ham, Frank’s alcoholic snack he’s forced to bid farewell to Wilson style.
See the comparisons? Yeah, I did say it was loose, but the pineapple went down a treat on the hot day. And the fruit basically made it healthy, right?
As I’ve just finished the busiest period of the year for birthdays in my family, I thought I’d take a look back at the second busiest month – January. And I’m going way back, back when Covid was just something on the news that would probably just blow over (yeah right…). So we’ll travel back to early 2020, to my oldest son’s fourth birthday, when the only thing he had any interest in was Frozen.
Absolutely everything was Frozen. Frozen bouncy castle, Frozen decorations, Frozen dressed, and of course a Frozen Cake. My son lived in the Elsa dress he’d gotten for Christmas, and with his friends coming dressed up too, we had Elsas everywhere!
As a Frozen cake had been requested, I set about coming up with ways I could make the cake look icy. In the end I went with the geode cake, using sugar crystals and food colouring to create the frozen look. I must admit I wasn’t completely sure what to do about the top of the cake, and the candle arrangement always makes me think of the Iron Throne, perhaps if the Night King claims it.
My son talks non-stop about the idea of having another birthday party. This year we were able to blow out candles with the family over Zoom, so we’ll have to wait and see what next year brings. He’s moved on from his Frozen phase, but if his current likes are anything to go by, I’ll be making either a rainbow cake, unicorn cake, She-Ra cake, or a cake that encompasses all three!
Who remembers last week’s cake? The spectacular beauty that was the Spider Spunk Cake? It turns out I made double the amount of low sugar buttercream for that one, and I hate waste. I was faced with two options: I could eat buttercream icing from a piping bag till I vomited or I could bake something else to use it for. As I’ve not yet had a heart attack brought on from consuming a brick’s worth of butter, it’s fair to assume I baked more cakes. And I had the perfect occasion for it. Here they are, my red velvet cupcakes.
My sister-in-law had organised a couple of her bridesmaids a hair trial (myself included), which was to be hosted at my house. So with the help of my son Dara, who loves weddings and baking, we made cupcakes for the occasion. I gave decorative icing a good old try and for the most part, they looked okay.
This cake was named by husband Alex. After letting my three-year-old decorate it, Alex remarked it looked like Spider-man had bust a nut over it… Beautiful.
For todays’s cake I finally made the perfect buttercream: it didn’t take me ages and was perfectly white. I fudged the recipe and I whipped the butter for a full ten minutes. Delicious! And I’ve enough of it left over to make cupcakes! You’ll be seeing those next week no doubt.
At my brother’s request, ’twas his birthday, it is a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling. I wanted to put Reese’s Pieces in it, but couldn’t find any in my local Sainsbury’s. Huh. So never mind.
I used icing left over from the Marble Whale Cake. It had gone a bit hard in the fridge, but I microwaved it and chopped off the bad bits. I wouldn’t do that normally, but I don’t like waste and thought my brother would appreciate how grim it looked. And he did. Before three-year-old Dara piped icing over it, it looked like some sort of weird alien tomb.
And then Dara decorated it and it looked like the aftermath of a good night in for Spider-man. And we all enjoyed eating it!!!
So who’s excited for another Saturday Cake Day? My tastebuds a salivating at the thought.
Today’s one is a special cake, but one that comes with all my usual whoopsies and kerfuffles. So to begin, I’ll set the scene.
Way way waaaay back in 2011, I married Alex. And being the economical skinflints that we are, we had a team of friends help throughout the day with tasks such as photography and the band. Enter Alex’s friend Gary on the drums. And Alex’s sister (also my bridesmaid) Gabby had a falling out with her plus one a day or two before the wedding, so instead she brought best friend Claire. After a touch of meddling from Gabby and I, a relationship began and in December 2018 the pair were married! They’re now expecting their first baby in November.
Following the new trend of a Baby Gender Reveal (I’m sure this wasn’t a thing when I was pregnant–last year!) Claire asked me to make them a cake that would either be pink or blue when they cut it open, revealing the sex of their baby. Is this a thing to everyone’s tastes? I don’t know, I suppose I was sceptical when I saw hints of this trend appearing on the internet, but actually it was lovely. The perfect excuse to gather all your family together and celebrate the coming of a new baby. With delicious cake!
So here’s my fun journey…
If you read my previous cake blog–the Practice Cake–you’ll have seen that my first venture into cake dying wasn’t the best. This time I bought super powerful dye, the kind so strong I can confirm it will change the colour of your poop. Had my baby, who’d had a few cake offcuts to much that morning, decided to soil himself mid party, guests would probably have had a fairly good indication as to the mystery colour inside the cake. So, yeah, this dye worked.
This cake was to be two layers, the biggest I’ve made yet. To give some indication of the size, I used 1kg of flour and 16 eggs. And it turns out this may have been too much, as I had a little mishap in the oven…
So I wanged a baking tray under it and snacked on what spilled out! Oh and that little cake tin is what I scraped off the spoon after Alex told me he was hungry!
As a topper for the cake I decided to try dying four white roses (two pink and two blue). How hard could that be? I’d watched loads of youtube tutorials… Well, after ordering the flowers, apparently rain and a bank holiday in Holland meant my roses didn’t arrive. But luckily the florists were really helpful. Advised me on nice white flowers for a cake topper and I came home and put them in coloured water for 24 hours.
(Side note, last time I used this florist when making the bouquet for Gabby’s wedding, the woman I dealt with there was really unhelpful. Quite grumpy and did not even act sympathetic when I explained the reasons for a last minute wedding. Maybe she was cheesed I’d decided to make the bouquet myself? Either way, I’m glad I gave them a second chance. The different woman this time was so nice.)
But they remained white. Worse things have happened.
Icing this cake I went back to the Culpitt brand icing I used on the Pink Marble Cake. I figured it had creased because I was inexperienced, and as my second cake–the Marble Whale–had been a success I decided to revert to the cheap stuff. Mistake. It really creased. Luckily the design I used was forgiving and I was able to hide the cock ups.
And so here’s the cake…
Inside, the cake was Victoria sponge with my less sweet buttercream and white oreo cookies (because cakes aren’t cakes without biscuits stuffed inside them!). I keep modifying tough cookies buttercream recipe to see if I can get it working for me. Still not completely successful. I decided to do it as accurate to the recipe as possible… well that 12 minute recipe took me two hours… something’s not working. And to top it off, even using the exact same amounts as the Marble Whale Cake, which resulted in me throwing away half the mix, I almost didn’t have enough. No idea what happened there.
Claire and Gary did an amazing job of decorating the party. My boys were pretty wild with the amount of sugar they got at, especially the three-year-old who was at prime height to reach up to the counter and steal cakes and biscuits!
And for those who want to see, here’s a video of the happy couple cutting a slice!
Exciting news, I’m making a baby gender reveal cake. Two friends who actually met at my wedding, got married in December 2018 and are expecting their first baby in November 2019 (which coincidentally is about a week after sister-in-law Gabby’s wedding, which this friend will hopefully be a bridesmaid for. Unless she pops on the day).
Last time I dyed icing was the fateful third birthday cake that looked bloody awful. So best I practice. And… well it’s a good job I did.
I bought the bog standard food colour dye from Asda. Mistake. The blue sponge and icing were green. The pink sponge didn’t change colour. The only successful part was the pink icing, and that still wasn’t a strong colour. Lesson learned, I’ve purchased top quality dye for the actual cake!
The icing is the less sweet buttercream I’ve mentioned before. As it took so bloody long to make before, I tried to improve on the recipe by boiling the milk before hand. Another mistake, the flour burned instantly. Brown bits everywhere. Solution? I mixed in some rainbow sprinkles and you couldn’t tell.
My three-year-old Dara helped decorate this one. And we squirted the leftover buttercream into each others mouths, because… parenting. It was delicious. Next Saturday I’ll show off the actual baby gender reveal cake, and it looks so so sooo much better than this!
For any interested, sister-in-law Gabby and I have started up an Instagram featuring these cakes, along with all our other favourites treats and drinks.
So if you’ve spotted a theme, yes I like marbling icing. I’m making my sister-in-law’s wedding cake (she’s put a lot of faith in me, this is all my practising), and she wants grey marble.
One criticism myself and others had of the last cake was that the buttercream icing was too sweet. My child self would be appealed at me for saying that. But it’s true. So I scoured the internet and found a recipe for a less sweet buttercream. And it is soon much more involved than regular old buttercream. It says prep time 10 mins, make time 12. I have no idea what wizard achieved that feat. You have to cook milk, sugar, and flour at such a precise temperature for so bloody long to thicken it. And don’t get impatient like I did and turn up the heat, or the flour burns and you end up with brown lumps. So it’s an absolute pain in the arse to make, but wow does it taste good. A lot of that icing did not make it to the cake!
I’ve discovered that a cake is not a cake if it’s not filled with biscuits. So I blended up a few packs of oreos and mixed this with the buttercream, and because that wasn’t enough I then layered whole oreos in there, softened by milk. Delicious!!!
This time I decided to try Renshaw icing. It went on the cake so much better, no tearing, no creases. But it really stuck to the rolling pin and mat. I was dusting down constantly with icing sugar, and it still stuck. Nightmare.
Practicing for a layered wedding cake, I went for two layers. The cake tins were different sizes, God knows how a managed to make two layers practically the same. Whoops.
This cake was made for my son Walt’s first birthday. I doubt he appreciated the design, but he certainly loved eating it! And there was approval all round. I expected to be eating this cake for days (it had two layers after all). But nope, the whole thing was gone!
Recently I’ve been throwing myself into a new hobby. And that hobby is cake making.
I’ve always been able to make a tasty cake. But one that looks good? Never. And this has always felt like quite a failure, given that I’ve worked in design however many years. After a truly atrocious birthday cake made for my oldest son’s third birthday, I decided to rectify the situation. Both Dara and I have become a bit addicted to Man About Cake, and we’ve been baking nonstop. Disclaimer, I decorate it by myself, save from sticky fingers eating all the icing before it makes it to the cake!
One thing I’ve really taken from Man About Cake is to have fun with the filling of the cake, so for this one, we have a red velvet cake with a cheesecake filling. Yup. Cheesecake filling. Because I’m too lazy to read a recipe, I bought a cheesecake, scraped off the yummy topping, whipped it up, and banged it in the cake. And ate the bottom of the cheesecake, ‘cos you know… I get hungry.
I nipped to Hobbycraft and bought Culprit icing. It was on offer and pretty cheap. I found it didn’t stick much to the rolling pin or mat, but was impossible to get onto the cake without creasing it. Perhaps someone better than me could manage, but I found it ripped and creased, so not too great. I spent quite a while making some icing flowers to cover up the creases, up till bloody midnight!!!
This cake was made for Mother’s Day, a gift for my mother-in-law, who wanted to host the day. Those who’ve read my blog about her will know that this came not long before we found out she had but weeks to live, and I’m so glad she brought us all together to celebrate.