Aidan wanted a Minecraft cake again this year, specifically a Witherstorm. If like me you have no idea what this looks like it’s one of these loveable looking creatures:
On the plus side I should be able to get away without having to make anything float and without making hundreds of green and brown squares.
A full 3D model was clearly out of the question here as the whole thing would be far too top heavy. Instead I went for a square cake with just the three heads modelled in 3D. The cake was also decorated with Aidan’s name and age in appropriate script plus just a few squares to maintain the theme.
At least one of his friends immediately recognised what it was supposed to be which was a relief but I think next year I will try to persuade him to something a little more recognisable.
For the third year running Liam requested a car themed cake. This year it was Hotwheels. I aimed to make something reasonably simple for reasons of time and the colours etc were all predetermined by Hotwheels branding. The biggest challenge was the car and track to decorate the top.
Liam’s favourite Hotwheels model is Bulletproof so I attempted to model it to scale which was trickier than it looks. I also wanted to created a loop the loop track. I used orange fondant icing and wrapped a wide ribbon of it around a glass and left it to dry. Unfortunately I think Imover did the gum trag and the icing became brittle and shattered under its own weight. I resorted to Plan B, the flat track.
All in all I was happy with it and Liam recognised Bulletproof. Success!
Aidan’s favourite character from The Force Awakens was definitely BB8. He was far more concerned by the little droid than the fate of any of the human characters. This made him the ideal subject for another hemispherical cake.
I didn’t want a particularly big cake, this was just for a small family party, so I decided to just make the head. White icing with orange, grey and black fondant for decoration and some details drawn on in edible pen.
Aidan is very big on Minecraft at the moment and it seemed like a fun theme so I was quite pleased when he requested this one. He specifically requested an ocelot and an Enderman on it and after a bit of research I was fairly happy. Then he requested a ghast. Brimming with confidence I agreed at which point he told me that they float and die if they touch the ground. Excellent.
I put this to one side to concentrate on the actual cake. Internet research showed me a number of different ideas for decorating the actual cake. The Minecraft world is based entirely on cubic blocks so I knew I wanted a square cake and I was drawn to this image:
This is an earthblock (apparently) and I’d seen a few slightly simplified versions online. I had a small square cutter. How hard could it be?
Initial measurements suggested I needed a total of 405 small squares in assorted shades of green, brown and grey. Having found 3 each of brown and green pre made I mixed some grey and set to work figuring it would be easiest to have a stock of squares made in advance. More on this later.
Next the figures. This started well. As mentioned before everything is based on cubes so it’s just a case of mixing the right colours and getting the scale right. Steve and the ocelot were relatively easy, especially with the addition of a little gum tragacanth to harden the fondant and a few props to hold everything in place while the edible glue dried. The Enderman was trickier as they are tall and thin and therefore unstable. He was left headless to allow the body and limbs to dry out as much as possible. The ghast was the last creature to tackle. The actual creature was quite simple, a grey cube with black eyes and mouth and painted on tears (I still don’t know why they cry all the time, I don’t think I want to) plus nine dangling tentacles held on by sugar flower wires with some edible glue for reinforcement.
Now to the actual cake. Naturally this also had to be a cube and I used a 7″ square. I knew I would need either two or three layers depending on how much the cake rose. As it turned out 3 layers of three egg mix sponge cake made a cube of near perfect proportions and also a really quite huge cake especially when there were only going to be fifteen children at the party. To make it a bit more interesting the layers were different colours, one chocolate and two different shades of green. If I’d had more time I could have cut and rearranged the layers to form squares inside. The cakes were filled and coated with chocolate buttercream. This was relatively firm to prevent it from squeezing out between the squares as they were stuck on.
I’ll be honest, sticking on the squares was a real headache. While making 3D figures in advance to allow them to dry is a good idea it’s not such a good idea with squares as they got very brittle and hard to manage plus some had stuck together. Next time (ha!) I’ll make them as needed and let them dry on the.cake. As it turned out the cake was a fraction smaller than anticipated so I did have a few spare squares. Aidan’s verdict: “Oh. It doesn’t look like an earth cube. You’ve used too many light colours.” So I accidentally trod on his foot.
The cake had to be transported to the party venue so the figures were hastily arranged on top when we got there together with Aidan’s name in Minecraft font cut from grey fondant. I had hoped to be able to dangle the ghast over the cake but it was just too heavy so I stuck it on a skewer instead. The Enderman was very unstable. I had attempted to anchor it with wires through the feet but it wasn’t enough. He sat on the side until it was time to sing Happy Birthday and lasted just long enough before nosediving into the candles as we got to the last line of the song. Aidan seemed pleased that it had helped him blow the candles out.
“This year,” said Liam “I’d like a Top Gear themed cake please.”
“Oh? But you had cars last year. Don’t you want something different?”
“I’d like it to have the people on it. Jeremy Clarkson, Hammond…”
This was going to be a challenge.
Where to start? I’ve never really made human figures before, certainly nothing which had to be identifiable as a real person but I soon realised that the Top Gear crew were quite identifiable as a group. You’ve got a tall bloke in jeans, another tall bloke in jeans but with long hair and a flowery shirt, a much shorter bloke in jeans and a person in white overalls and helmet with his arms folded. I set to work.
I started with Jeremy and created a fairly nondescript person. Blue legs. Check. White shirt. Check. Grey hair. Check. This was the standard by which all the others were created. James May initially looked remarkably similar until I added some longer hair. Richard Hammond was pretty much identical but comically short. The Stig was all in white. I painted on some further distinguishing detail (and I admit James’ flowery shirt looked much more like leopard print by the time I’d finished) and I was actually pretty happy with them.
Now, it wouldn’t be much of a Top Gear cake without a car so it had to be Liam’s favourite car in his favourite colour, an orange Lamborghini Murcielago. Luckily it’s a very distinctive body shape and after version 1 was abandoned for reasons of scale (Richard Hammond wouldn’t even have fitted inside) version 2 was successful. I used black food colouring and silver edible glitter to add the relevant details.
The cake itself was covered in green and grey fondant to become the test track, with detail added with white writing icing and the final touch was Liam’s name and age added to a number plate made from yellow icing.
As is now traditional Liam had a cake for his actual birthday as well as his party even though they were only two days apart. This year’s surprise theme was geocaching. If you don’t know what this is you could go and have a look at Geocaching or you could just take my word that it’s using multi million dollar satellites to look for tupperware in the woods.
This was a relatively simple cake to plan. The most popular containers used for geocaches are lock’n’lock boxes, a clear plastic container with a light blue lid which has snap down catches on all four sides. I also wanted to be able to put things inside, specifically a log book and pencil (edible) and a real travel bug for Liam to find and set off on its travels. The cake started off as a chocolate and banana flavoured square sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream. I then cut a small square out of the top before adding a chocolate buttercream crumb coat and then covering the whole thing with white fondant. This almost went disastrously wrong as my first attempt involved covering it in stages in an attempt to create sharp edges. This ended up with buttercream squooshing everywhere and a total mess. Luckily it was easily salvaged with a single sheet of fondant.
The next stage was the lid. I wanted Liam to be able to lift this off to find the contents of the box so I added a substantial quantity of gum tragacanth to light blue fondant and cut out a square. This was where my latest technique (stolen shamelessly from a YouTube video) came into its own. Need to cut a straight line from fondant? Knife pulling at the edges of the cut? Easy, use a pizza wheel. Genius! The lid was finished off with a green label and rested loosely on top of the cake
Inside we needed a pencil and a logbook, the bare minimum required to log a find on a real geocache. These were straightforward to model out of fondant and there you have it, an edible geocache!
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional Royal iced fruit cake but the small weirdos in my house refuse to eat either fruit cake or Christmas pudding. Naturally this was a perfect excuse to make a substitute cake, especially as I was itching to make a fully spherical cake with the hemispherical tin. A little browsing on the Lakeland website suggested the obvious design in the circumstances, a chocolate Christmas pudding.
As with the Angry Bird I used a recipe designed for a conventionally shaped tin, in this case a 3 egg teatime chocolate cake mix. I did one half at a time, I’d like to say this was to properly test the temperature and baking time but actually I only have one tin.
The first cake was not a total success. I knew not to use fan assist as I really didn’t want it to dome but I experimented with bottom heat only at 150deg. An hour later and the top wasn’t even close to cooked, the tin had rolled slightly sideways and the oven was a mess of overflowing cake mix. I added top heat and after another 30 minutes or so it got there. Luckily it rose sufficiently that the lost cake mix was not a problem and the cake release spray did its stuff like actual magic. After cleaning up the oven it was onto round 2, this time with top and bottom heat from the start. It looked done and passed the skewer test after about 1h 15m and had risen spectacularly (but evenly).
I sliced it flush with the tin and decided another 10 minutes was necessary.
The decoration was simple but effective. The cake was sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream and then covered in a crumb coat of softer buttercream. To cover I used 2 packs of Renshaw’s chocolate flavoured fondant icing. It’s not easy to cover a spherical cake evenly but I was eventually happy with it. The decoration was finished off with a “splat” of white fondant icing and some holly leaves and berries. Voila.
Note to self: don’t order a Yule log this year.