The last time I knitted a cake I received an overwhelmingly positive response. This increased even more when I shared a photograph of the lady who received the cake seeing it for the first time. Not only did her delight come across as utterly genuine and heartwarming, but her vitality for a woman who had just turned 90 was clear for all to see. Clearly, finding delight in everyday things is the secret of youthfulness.
So I was delighted to be asked to make another cake with a knitting theme. I was asked by a friend of my partner, who also happens to be the parent of one of my pupils (how positively mortifying for my poor pupil). Tracy wanted me to make a knitting themed cake for her mum’s 70th birthday. Her mum has recently had a serious health scare and lives a few hours away from the family, so it’s been an anxious time for them all. She wanted a bespoke cake to surprise her with on her special day.
The cake had to be pink and blue to represent both grandsons and granddaughters. I have to say it took me a while, some Google and YouTube searches, and some suggestions from my ex-Navy partner with details of his knowledge of knot work before I discovered how to create this two tone knitted effect. For the record, he found the solution, so all credit to the fancy rope training of our Merchant Navy!
I have made a short video of how to plait with two colours and four strands to create this effect. Let’s just say that the good people of YouTube need not lose sleep worrying over my video skills. Apologies for the quality of the video, but I felt it only fair to include some visual instructions about what to do, so here goes.
I used fondant rolled out into long, thin sausage shapes, pinched together at one end. Try not to use too much icing sugar on your board as it will dry out the fondant and you won’t get the required traction to roll out as easily. Because it is fondant, it is obviously very soft and not very strong, so you have to work quickly but gently. The more you do, the better rythym you’ll find and your speed will pick up. It’s also more important to ensure the pattern matches up as it’s more obvious with two colours when it doesn’t.
The other tricky element of this design is getting the plaits to meet in a neat central point on the top. I achieved this by making every three or four plaits whole and tapering the ones in between with a sharp knife. If you have any flaws on the top you can always use your balls of fondant wool to cover them. I made these from balls of icing, left to firm up overnight, with long, rolled out sausages of icing placed over them.
I placed the plaited icing directly onto a chilled buttercreamed cake, brushing it with a little vanilla vodka to ensure it adhered.
The knitting needles were made from flower or gum paste. They need to set firm, so they are also best made the day before. If they were very firm you could always insert them into the balls of wool for a more realistic effect.
When I delivered the cake to Tracy she was so thrilled that she embraced me. This was such an important and significant family occasion and I was deeply touched by her gratitude.
And this is one of the things that I love about making cake for other people. To help someone prepare for an important family gathering can be exciting (coming up with the design and talking through flavours and so on) and often feels like a privilege. It is moving to hear someone plan for their loved one in such a detailed fashion. When they tell me the background story of why this person is loved and precious to their family, and deserving of being treated, it warms my heart and spurs me on to design, bake and decorate something unique and worthy of them.
Tracy said her mum loved her cake, and that she was going to take some of it to the local knitting group to show them. I was delighted that I was able to help the family mark this birthday in their own way.
If anyone tells you that food is all about nutrition they’ve missed the point. Food, essential to life, *can* be about nourishment, but it also about love, sharing, communication, community and family and, is so often the case with cake, celebration. And *that* is why I love to cook and bake. I love to do that for my own family and friends on a daily basis and to be part of those more memorable occasions in life when we come together to share joy and happiness.