I’ll keep this post short and sweet, but I want to share with you the cake that I made for my friend’s 40th birthday party last night.
You see I don’t just make bread, and cakes with chocolate running down the side. In fact, cake decorating with fondant and royal icing was probably my passion for many years, though I did love to bake the cake inside.
I think I can blame the Generation Game on television when I was a very young child for the early interest in cake decorating. Sometimes the contestants on this 70’s game show would be handed a huge piping bag, filled with icing, and a tiered cake, and charged with the task of decorating the towering confection in minutes few. Of course, a professional with a tall chef’s hat on would first demonstrate with the ease and calm of a gliding swan for these amateurs and the audience at home. But when the hopeful father and daughter teams made a start, what followed was usually very messy and always hilarious.
For some reason I thought to myself: I would *love* to do that and convinced myself that I would be a natural. Of course, piping is far from easy and takes so much practise, but the decorating of celebration cakes did become my “thing” and I have made countless cakes for friends and family over the years to mark special occasions in their lives.
Anyway, when my friend asked me to make her 40th cake for her she struggled to choose an outer design, though she knew that she wanted fresh fruity flavours inside. She wanted something that incorporated the things that are important in her life and that represent who she is: music (she is an amazing singer, like her mother; in fact, the whole family are musicians and they played a set at her party); travel; her beautiful daughters; and birds, stags, horses and nature. What she, nor I, wanted was to make a disney like themed cake with wee models of all the things she loves dotted about it. I suggested silhouette representation (I *love* silhouette cakes). She loved The Night Circus cake that I made a few years back, then I showed her a picture of a cake made by a New York cake called Kate Sullivan from Cake Power. She fell in love with it.
I began to research the Cake Power design and found that it was based on the work of Dutch light and ceramic designer Tord Boontje. So, I set about sketching the things that my friend likes with a view to putting them together around the side of the cake in the way that Kate Sullivan had done with Tord Boontje’s images.
I cut out the silhouette shapes then used these paper templates to cut out the red flower paste silhouettes that were attached to the cake with some edible glue. All of this was done using a sharp craft knife (that I only ever use for cake decorating).
The cake itself was three 8″ Victoria sponges with lime zest through the mixture. Each sponge was levelled off then halved, then all six sponges were soaked with a lime sugar syrup. These layers of cake were stacked with a lime buttercream and fresh raspberry purée, then the whole cake was crumb coated with a thick layer of buttercream. I actually put a thick cake dowel down the centre of the cake as it felt too unstable for my liking and this did the job of holding it straight whilst it chilled down and firmed up in the fridge overnight.
In some ways the cake looks quite Nordic or that it would be suitable for a Christmas celebration with the combination of red and the stags, but when you take time to look around the cake and see details of a horse with its mane flowing or three fluttering and flying books that represent my friend and her daughter’s passports and travel, then you might think it less festive and more personal to an individual and what makes them who they are.
Which takes me right back to why I bake and why I make celebration cakes. I love to bake for others. I love to make them happy with cake and to help a party swing with a sweet attraction that is crowned with candles or sparklers; that is especially for that person on their special day. I want them to love the flavours that I have created and be delighted with the details that I’ve included. I want them to feel special.
Happy Birthday, Kirsten. ❤