I don’t usually bother with tricky fondant icing for fairy cakes but when school announced a cake sale I thought I’d go for a repeat performance of the cakes I’d made for Aidan to take to Tumbletots on his birthday (pic shoehorned into Ben 10). This was mostly an experiment in a. cutting an intricate shape as I swapped Superman for Batman mostly to avoid the sticky gooiness of writing icing and b. a different colour web for Spiderman. Results are mixed:
The webs are OK (they look better in real life than in the photo) but I do prefer the sparkly silver. The main advantage of using black was that for some reason it came out of the tube with a finer line so the webs are neater. The bats were hard work. Individually they look OK but when they’re all lined up like this you can see how much they vary. The main thing I must remember for next time is use card for a template! Paper is just too flimsy and seems to allow the icing to stretch too much. Still, I think they are recognisable enough to appeal to the scavenging hordes of 4-11 year olds who will be let loose with pocket money tomorrow.
This particular run of birthday cakes is drawing to a close with Aidan’s actual birthday on Wednesday and for the grand finale the theme is Ben 10. Naturally this should be really easy, a round cake with some green and grey geometric shapes and Robert’s your mother’s brother, the Omnitrix. But of course this is Aidan and he will be hugely disappointed if there are no actual aliens. I have ascertained that his 3 favourites are Fire Guy, Four Arms and Rock Head (not sure they’re the correct names but I know who he means) and armed myself with a selection of ready to roll fondant, how hard can it be?
The answer is of course stupidly hard. The characters have a lot of detail and they tend to be quite tall and slender whereas the material properties of fondant icing lend themselves to short and squat. It’s the difference between Kate Moss modelling a fabulous dress and then seeing yourself in the changing room mirror.
I’m now downgrading my expectations to recognisable in context once they’ve got faces drawn on.
Now for the actual cake, I’m determined to perfect the ice-able chocolate banana cake so taking heed of the previous 2 versions (Superman and Lego) which were domed to the point of nearly needing to be scraped off the top of the oven (maybe just a little exaggeration there) I’m trying original temperature but conventional oven. It’s looking good so far, it’s definitely cooked but the top is smooth and only slightly rounded. Obviously there is still the taste test to come but I’m hopeful, very hopeful.
So it’s all done, I think the cake might be slightly stodgy but time will tell. It’s all assembled for the photo shoot, I take a single photo and fire guy falls off the cake, losing his head in the process. Then Diamondhead’s arm falls off. This is all going swimmingly. Still, I think they and the Omnitrix are recognisable, I will have to rely on very quick singing of Happy Birthday and possibly some strategic cocktail sticks.
If all else fails I’m pleased with the accompanying Superhero fairy cakes.
Update All is well. The cake wasn’t stodgy. After some strategic use of cocktail sticks through the feet there were no casualties. Aidan recognised them (although they now appear to have different names and apparently Diamondhead should have a black and white suit). I am counting this as a success and I can have a break before the next round of baking. Except I’ve just got a text, school cake sale on Friday. Excellent.
Liam’s party cake and what could be more appropriate for a 7-year-old boy than Lego? Google finds a multitude of images for inspiration and I went for a construction themed square cake.
Further googling, with a bit of eBaying, means I am now the proud owner of a silicone mould to make perfect Lego bricks and I also plan to make as many of the decorations as possible in advance letting them dry out thoroughly in a cardboard box (not airtight). As an additional challenge I am going to try to make the decorations 100% edible. Because this isn’t tricky enough.
Liam has helpfully left a small army of Lego men next to the box to help me achieve that authentic facial expression.
The cake is a chocolate and banana cake at Liam’s request, more of a pudding than something designed to be decorated but ultimately it has to taste nice so I gave it a whirl. This cake usually has chocolate glacé icing on top so I’ve used that as a filling instead. Having learnt from Superman I cooked it at a lower temperature but it still domed really quite impressively, (note to self: try conventional rather than fan assisted next time), so it required some jiggery pokery to get a reasonably flat surface. I cut off the domed section and used it to build up the corners, sticking them back on with a bit of extra icing. Then I cut out a corner ready to hold the Lego bricks before covering the whole lot in marzipan.
Actually assembling it after all this wasn’t too bad, it just needed careful measuring of the white icing to make sure it overlapped the edges of the bricks. The decorations are very nearly 100% edible. It’s primarily fondant icing, the arm of the crane is a liquorice stick held on with a cocktail stick, the only non edible thing is the string allowing the brick to dangle from the crane.
Update: The birthday boy has given his opinion. “Hmm, that’s quite good actually”
Aidan has asked for a Superman cake for his party, not surprisingly given his current obsession with Superheroes. “Great” I thought “Round cake. Blue icing. Badge, belt and cape. Job’s a good ‘un”. No. That has been entirely vetoed by small boy who wants actual Superman on his cake. The saving grace is that he doesn’t care about it being 3D so I’ve found a reasonably simple picture (on a learning to draw superheroes website*) to make a template. Superman will soar above Metropolis in cake form!
The cake was a chocolate banana cake which domed badly (note to self: next time try reducing the temperature) but rather than flatten it I left it as I hoped the extra height would add to the illusion of flying. Having covered it in blue fondant icing I moved onto Metropolis. Aidan liked a cake we found using GIS which had houses around the side but I decided we needed a whole cityscape cut out of strips of black fondant to be stuck round the sides of the cake. It would probably have been better cut with a proper craft knife (something else for the shopping list) but it’s OK. Section 1 (it had to be done in sections or it was too fragile to handle):
Cutting round the Superman template would also have been easier with a proper knife, especially his badge but I like the overall effect and yes, he is off centre on purpose. I actually remembered to leave space for a candle.
So Liam is 7 and his latest thing is climbing. See?
But how to make it into a cake? The first question was horizontal or vertical? Horizontal i.e. on top of a flat square cake would be much easier so of course I ruled that out almost immediately. I went with a square cake sandwiched with buttercream cut in half and sandwiched again to create a vertical face. Importantly it still had a big enough footprint to be stable (lesson learnt from Ghost!) It was initially covered in blue fondant. Mistake #1: No marzipan. I should have used a base layer of marzipan to smooth out the lumps and bumps at the joins of the different layers. The overhangs were moulded from yellow fondant. Mistake #2: Fondant icing is heavy (clearly I learnt nothing from Peso) and it should have been anchored with a cocktail stick. I just stuck it on with water and the weight gradually started to unpeel the blue icing from the cake. In the end I left it to dry on its back which helped with the weight issues but didn’t do much for the state of the icing on the back. (Photos are all taken from the front, right?)
The actual decoration I was happy with. Different coloured blobs of fondant to mark different routes up the wall and I was pleased with the figure although next time I’d make it in advance and let it dry before attaching it. It just makes it easier to handle without squishing out of shape.