Lego Ninjago

Another year, another request for a Lego cake. This time Aidan wanted a Ninjago themed cake. After a few tense moments including the phrase “Oh, have you already ordered it?” I resorted to Google for inspiration. I eventually determined on a square cake topped with a circle. The top layer was to be a Lego Ninjago head and the whole thing would be guarded by the Ninjas, not forgetting Sensei Wu.

I started with the Lego figures, wanting to give them enough time to dry out (more on that later). i made them to scale so they were fiddly to make, particularly the hands, but edible glue was very helpful for sticking things together without having to squash them too much. I used a combination of icing pens and edible silver lustre with a very fine brush for the details and I was pleased with the result (although apparently it didn’t look like Jay’s face).

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Onto the main part of the cake. This was a simple sponge mix in a 7″ square tin for the base layer and a 6″ round for the top sandwiched with buttercream and strawberry jam and covered in a buttercream crumb coat. The bottom layer was covered in white fondant with circular emblems of each element (I am very briefly an expert on Ninjago) on each side. The top layer was first covered in yellow fondant (sides only) and then wrapped in green forming the ninja mask. Lloyd (the green ninja’s) eyes were then painted on with black food colour.

Assembling the cake was a mixture of highs and lows. I was pleased with the positioning of the figures, Sensei Wu and Lloyd stood on top with the other four ninjas* on guard at the four corners (I should mention that Jay’s eyebrows had by now been thickened and pronounced suitable). I used the Lego mould I bought last year to make a few Lego bricks in appropriate colours and placed them on top, just to reinforce the theme.

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Now for the lows. You remember I mentioned letting the figures dry out? I then put them on a freshly iced cake and put it in an airtight container. Fool! I took the lid off in the morning of the party to add the candle only to discover that the figures had absorbed moisture from the icing and gone all droopy. Jay had hurled himself into the abyss although this may actually have been a reaction to the unsuitable eyebrows. It was all more or less cobbled together with more edible glue but it’s a big lesson for next time. Either be less organised so nothing gets made in advance or assemble nothing until the last moment. Oh, and invest in a non airtight cake cover.

Final verdict? A bit wobbly but it went down well. We’ll gloss over the fight over who got which ninja in their party bag…

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*Kai, Cole, Zane and Jay. I see no reason why you shouldn’t have this knowledge inflicted on you as well.

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Ninja Turtle

Aidan’s first cake this year and I went for simple again, mostly due to lack of time. He has recently acquired a TMNT fancy dress outfit as well as a love of ninj-ing so I decided to go for a turtle based on the mask which goes with his costume.

Helpfully Sainsburys sell pre coloured fondant in just the right shade of green and with the mask to use for inspiration it was a relatively simple process. I started with an 8″ round sponge and trimmed the sides to make the face shape. The offcuts were used to buildup the jaw to give the cake a 3D feel. It was sandwiched together with buttercream and jam and the extra bits stuck on before covering the whole thing in a soft buttercream crumb coat.

The decoration was quite simple. A layer of green icing all over. The mouth was cut from white icing with a craft knife. Likewise the mask from red icing. Eyeholes were cut from the mask and the offcuts used to cut eye shapes from the white. Once it was all stuck together there was just a small amount of detail to be added with icing pens. All in all, an unusually smooth process!

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Race Track

Another week, another party. This weekend was Liam’s birthday party with his school friends and he requested a cake with racing cars on it. As luck would have it he’s 8 this year, providing an ideal shape for a race track. Helpfully my local kitchen and cake decorating supplies shop rents out cake tins so for the bargain price of £1 I had 24 hours use of a no. 8 tin.

It’s a slightly odd style of tin which doesn’t actually have a proper base to it so the preparations involved a lot of foil and greaseproof paper

Preparations

The next question was about quantity. There was a difference of opinion in the shop as to whether a 4 or 5 egg sponge mix was appropriate. I went with 4 and hoped for the best. As it turned out it was pretty much perfect.

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Once it had cooled it was onto the decoration, I was a bit nervous about trying to slice and fill it but it held together well. Sandwiched together with buttercream and jam and covered with a soft buttercream crumb coat it was time for the fun bit!

I started off by turning the cake into a track with green fondant (grass) for the sides and grey (tarmac) for the top. The small circles were fiddly to cover but with a bit of faffing about it was eventually done. Now for the cars. There were going to be 7 children at the party who would obviously want a car each, preferably all different colours. The cars were fairly simple to make, if a bit fiddly due to their small size. Edible glue (bought from Lakeland) was very definitely my friend here. It requires very little pressure to stick so allows the tiny pieces to stick together without being squashed out of shape. A slightly flattened pear shape made up the main body of the vehicle with a block on the back for a spoiler. Small but thick black circles made up the wheels with tiny white hubcaps. Then a small ball of icing in a different colour made a helmet and a white circle on each bonnet ready for a number. After they had dried overnight I used a black icing pen to write on the numbers and draw visors onto the helmets.

The track didn’t need too many details. I used white chocolate writing icing to draw a white line all round the edge of the track and also a start finish line. The bends were marked with crescents of white icing with stripes painted on in red food colouring. That just left positioning the cars and securing them in place with more edible glue. Cue the checkered flag!

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Angry Bird

Liam’s 8th birthday and a very simple cake for his family birthday tea. After the Alice in Wonderland challenge I decided that the Lakeland hemispherical bowls were a must have and particularly well suited to Liam’s current Angry Bird obsession. This was just for a family tea of 6 people so I went for a medium bowl sized cake and just a single hemisphere (rather than making the fully spherical bird). As advised on the Lakeland website I used a 3 egg Victoria sponge mix baked for about an hour at just 150deg and plenty of cake release spray. This was actually very effective. I also tried the often recommended approach of buttercream as a crumb coat under fondant icing which also worked well.

The decoration as usual used pre coloured fondant in the main. I had enough tan coloured fondant left over from the dormouse to make the bird’s breast and there was a tricky moment when I realised that I didn’t have any black but I improvised with food colour and a paintbrush and there you go. Simple yet effective.

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He does look very, very angry.

Alice in Wonderland

After a quiet winter cake season has rolled around again. An early start this year as I saw mention of a local charity event for PAC (Positive Action on Cancer) which included a cake decorating competition. The event was a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and the cakes all had to be designed on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. Having checked this was an entirely amateur event (I wasn’t fussed about winning but I didn’t want to be embarrassingly outclassed) I was good to go.

Now, what to do? There are so many brilliant images in Alice in Wonderland. I thought about the caucus race but thought it might be a bit obscure. I had almost decided on making a dormouse in a teapot on a table decorated with other characters and images when a last peruse of Google images for inspirations led me to the idea of a teapot cake with a dormouse on top and images from the book decorating the teapot. I decided to make fruit cake rather than sponge as it would keep better giving me longer to do the decoration and made it in 2 pudding bowls to get nicely rounded cakes. I hoped it would rise enough to let me trim it using the edges of the bowl as a guide and it surpassed my wildest expectations.

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I sandwiched the two halves together with apricot jam and covered in marzipan, now for the interesting bit. As I have said before, life is too short to colour fondant icing and Sainsburys do a fabulous shade of purple so that was the base colour. The cake was covered in a plain layer of purple with a trim around the bottom and a rim around the top.

The next step was the dormouse and I have to credit Sadbiscuit for some brilliant instructions which I have only modified very slightly.

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Procrastinating hard on the difficult bits (spout and handle) I moved onto the decorations. I estimated 6 pictures would be necessary and chose the Top Hat, the Cheshire Cat, the “Drink Me” Bottle, the Mock Turtle, the Pocket Watch and a pair of playing cards. This sounds fiddly but was probably the most straightforward bit. The pictures were made of thinly rolled fondant which could just be stuck on with water and the fine detail was drawn with a combination of writing icing and icing pens.

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There was a small disaster with the top hat succumbing to gravity but this was overcome with some propping up.

Onto the trickiest bit, the spout and handle. The picture above shows the final version but this was the second spout and third handle. The key to getting these to work was a balance of weight v. strength plus solid attachment to the body of the teapot. The first effort used dried spaghetti as dowels but this turned out to be completely ineffective. As shown here cocktail sticks worked well together with royal icing as glue.

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The royal icing was a bit messy, particularly as matching the purple wasn’t easy. I tidied it up with ribbons of the purple fondant wrapped around the joints and finished off the whole thing with a lid propped against the side. (I had planned to put it on top but it obscured the mouse too much). Ta daa!!!

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On the day competition was tough and I was pleased to come third. Just look at the well deserved winner with its fabulous attention to detail.

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Champagne

I was 40 last year but for various reasons didn’t get round to having a party. Ditto my husband 2 years earlier so when we got our building work finished and the garden sorted out and decided to hold a garden party not being 40 seemed as good a pretext to celebrate as any. We invited about 60 people and decided to let the pub take the catering strain (and a fabulous job they did too, thank you Karen and Nick at www.bellatbuckland.co.uk ) but a party isn’t a party without a cake.

60 people needs a big cake so I embarked on my first attempt at tiering. Nothing too structurally complicated, it started with a 9″ square dense fruit cake covered with ivory fondant (should have been white but my 4 year old was being particularly distracting while I was shopping. Hey ho.) On top of this went a 7″ square sour cream lemon cake, also covered with fondant icing. I’ve never made sour cream cake before and I was particularly impressed with it, very easy to make but a lovely moist cake. I didn’t assemble this until the morning of the party so no need for any dowels or other scaffolding.

So far, so simple but what to decorate it with? I ruled out making figures, I was fairly sure that would have ended in tears and decided on a champagne bottle. My plan was actually a half bottle lying down across the lemon cake using mini chocolate cakes cut in half to make the bottle and marzipan to form the shape of the neck. Naturally events conspired against me. I started running out of shopping time due to 4 year old’s school settling in sessions and baking time due to the entire village losing power for an evening after a silaging mishap took out a power cable. I was left making the cakes in an old chopped tomato can which made it too big for the top of the cake. Roll on Plan B.

Plan B meant making a complete, if slightly scaled down, bottle to stand on top of the cake. It started well. I made a simple chocolate cake mix and baked 3 mini chocolate cakes which I sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream.

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I completely covered this with marzipan before starting on the bottle neck. Of all the things I have had to do late night dashes to the supermarket for (calpol, milk, bread) marzipan is possibly the oddest but I’d completely underestimated the size of a bottle neck. On my return, armed with another 500g of marzipan, I had a reasonable stab at creating the right shape. Even the perfectionist I live with agreed the proportions were about right so I left it to dry. I hadn’t factored in the weather. It’s been hot for the last week or so, positively tropical for Somerset, and the marzipan softened and flowed under its own weight. My nicely proportioned champagne bottle was starting to resemble Newcastle Brown.

The following day I had another go at moulding it to the proper shape before covering with bottle green fondant. By this stage the sides were starting to flow a bit too although the extra fondant layer did contain it a little. I was running out of time so I decided to press on as I had more confidence in my abilities to actually decorate it than improve the shape. The decoration probably was the high point. Dr Oetker gold spray was perfect for the “foil” and I used black fondant icing for the labelling with a combination of writing icing and gold flakes for the detail. It was the shortest squattest champagne bottle ever seen but I found it quite endearing.

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On cutting the chocolate cake I discovered why everything had rippled quite so badly. The buttercream had also melted in the heat and squished out of its layers forming a new layer between the cake and the marzipan. I think I will wait for a cold spell before I try anything like this again.

Superhero Fairycakes

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:

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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.