Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let them Bake Cake....

I enjoy cake decorating, I suppose it is a bit of a creative outlet for me. I loved art at school but it is difficult to fit it into my everyday life, at the moment, so cake decorating will have to suffice. I think my enjoyment of it stems from the happy memories I have of the cakes my Mum used to make for me as a child. YouTube and the Internet have alot to answer for by way of encouraging me in my icing endeavours. There are some very talented and inspirational people in the world and seeing their creations keeps encouraging me to try new techniques and ideas. My family are more than happy for me to pursue this interest as they always end up enjoying the results.

My husband phoned me from work one afternoon to ask how my day had been and suss out what we were having for dinner. I told him I had been on YouTube for the last hour. This made him very curious as I usually do not scour the Internet for jokes or images of people injuring themselves in weird and wonderful ways. He asked me if someone had emailed me a link to a joke, but I said no, there was something I wanted to research and that I thought,perhaps, YouTube may hold the answer. When I told him what I was researching the resulting peels of laughter could be heard for miles around. What is wrong with wanting to know how to make those fabulous icing roses, I ask you!

YouTube has some wonderful instructional videos on how to create icing (buttercream) roses. I am afraid I am one of those ridiculous people who, quite often, makes a new recipe when people are coming for dinner. So naturally my first attempt at icing roses would be for a retirement party for one of the teachers from my children's school (pictured above). They turned out 'alright' but I had made a white chocolate ganache to ice the cake and this showed how truly yellow Guernsey butter is as the butter in the roses seemed to make them look a little more like primroses than the white roses I had hoped for. The cake looked a little too like a wedding cake in the end, but live and learn. The teacher who was retiring said she liked it.

My next attempt were these cupcakes. I never realised how tricky it is to get the cake to stay below the top edge of the paper case so you have a flat work surface. There was rather alot of trimming involved but I had plenty of willing helpers to eat the off-cuts.

We held a Rainbow themed birthday party and this teddy's rainbow bow tie suited the theme wonderfully. I even managed to find (purely by chance, not by skill or design, I assure you) some rainbow teddy party bags. This teddy cake can be found in The Australia Women's Weekly 'Party Cakes for All Occasions' cookbook (published 1990) although they have included it in some of their more recent cake books as well.

What Princess Party is complete without a pink and purple princess cake. I did not own a dolly varden cake tin so rather than buy one (as, lets be honest, how many of this type of cake are you going to make to warrant purchasing a specific tin) I made four smaller cakes, stacked them on top of each other, refrigerated them overnight and then cut them into a skirt shape. I have included a photo of before this regal miss was 'dressed', as when my husband came home, opened the fridge door and saw this cake he said he felt our children were a tad young for a stripper party!

When my son announced he would like a Pirate party I was racking my brain for cake ideas. He had had a Pirate Party once before when he was very small and I had made him a pirate ship cake. I looked at treasure map and treasure chest cakes but nothing really inspired me until I was flicking through The Australian Women's Weekly 'Party Cakes for All Occasions' cookbook (published in 1990 with the clown on the front, in case you want to look for it)and there it was, the perfect piratey cake - Skull and Crossbones. Once again the Australian Women's Weekly comes through. In Guernsey you can buy these particularly disgusting eyeball lollies (sweets). They come in their own individual hard plastic shell, which is probably just as well or otherwise, you would be in danger of being overcome by their pungent aroma. They do have one redeeming feature; they make fabulous Skull and Crossbones eyes. Sadly this poor chap has a slight squint.

We were invited to our first Halloween party and I offer to help with some of the food. Here is what I came up with. The ghosts are white fondant icing, cut with a scone cutter and rolled thinly on the edges, to give that floating appearance, then draped over a chuppa chup lollipop. The icing underneath is purple but I decided that it did not blend well with the other Halloweeny colours so I just made sure the ghosts' hems covered it. The eyes are just dabs of icing gel. One more thing, make sure you use icing sugar (powdered sugar) on your work surface to stop the icing from sticking. A friend of mine uses cornflour to the same effect.

Last year our school held an end of year BBQ with a Fourth of July theme so I baked these.

These are from another Australian Women's Weekly cookbook, 'Kids' Parties', published 1991 with some children in fancy dress on the cover. They were quite simple to make as you just pipe on the lines, put the cakes in the fridge to let the icing harden a little and then smooth them over for nice clear stripes.

Two of the teachers from my children's school were celebrating a joint, surprise 60th Birthday Party. I was asked if I would mind making the cake. I was more than happy to but I always get stressed when I make cakes for other people as if I somehow stuff up the recipe and the cake tastes like the bottom of someone's shoe my friends and family will tease me about it ruthlessly but I will know that there was a problem. If I make a cake for someone else I always worry that I will be whispered about in dark corners as the woman who makes those truly revolting cakes. Fortunately this time there were plenty of off-cuts with leftover icing so my family was able to assure me of the acceptability of this particular cake. I had never made numbers before so the '6' ended up a little short so I could fit it on the board.

So there you have it, a few of my icing endeavours from the last year. Some worked, some did not but all were eaten, which is the main thing after all.

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