It’s December and in this house that means planning the birthday cake. Of course B doesn’t remember her 1st and 2nd birthday cakes, and she’s too polite to tell me if she doesn’t remember last year’s but this year she will be 4 and she’s very excitedly asked me for a Princess Cake (much to my dismay), and so the planning begins. But first a look back on the last birthday cakes, and whether i’m learning!
Birthday number 1 – The Owl Cake.
This cake was loosely designed around some wallstickers she had in her bedroom. It was a plain sponge cake with jam and buttercream, covered with ready-made, fondants. I bought a packet of pre-coloured fondant. It was my first ever attempt and actually I was quite pleased it didn’t turn out too badly. My name piping definitely had room for improvement but as a first go, not so bad.
Birthday Cake number 2 – The Monkey
By Age 2 Bella was very attached to her Monkey soft toy, having taken it to nursery with her every day since starting there at 1 year. Monkey was her best friend and so I decided a monkey cake it will be. Instead of going down the fondant approach I decided to make this an all chocolate affair. I used a cake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery book – the most choclatey cake I found(!), and added two cupcakes for ears. I practised the cake beforehand, though on the day the ganache didn’t quite go to plan and was lumpy. So another attempt it was and here is the result..
And so the 3rd birthday – The Animal Cake
This was trickier as we were planning to move to Germany and so I wanted to throw B a party before we went – and so this meant a cake in October and another in December. By then I’d been inspired by colleagues at work and also by the local cake shop and decided to invest a bit more time.
The cake needed to link with a party theme and the bouncy castle was an underwater scene, so I changed the theme to just animals – any sort to include the jungle animals I wanted to use. I bought white sugarpaste and coloured it myself for this cake, except for the blue sea fondant and the picnic table cloth which the lady in the shop sold to me for a good price.
I used Mexican modelling clay to build the characters and the picnic set and whatever tools I had to hand – playdough tools, a sharp knife and the flower cutter I bought when doing cake 1 – it’s amazing how a petal can be shaped for ears or plates.
I made the lion, elephant and monkey, before my daughter insisted she also wanted a horse and so I had to add a fourth character. I left these to dry in a cardboard box. I then made the cake- again chocolate. I used the base of my Lazy Susan to have a swivelling stand I could use when decorating. I used the yellow coloured fondant first to make the sandy island and then the blue fondant around the sides. I learnt quickly that I should have done the yellow all the way as it became a bit stressful trying to have no gaps between the two – admittedly there was a “patch job” on the side. I positioned the characters and the picnic blanket, and then made all the cups, saucers and cake – a fiddly but fun job. For the fish I had a mould and for the dolphins my child’s playdough cutter. I used silver balls for bubbles and added smarties around the bottom like underwater pretty stones. I just use water and a fine paintbrush for sticking the bits onto the cake and this worked fine. I also used a bit of water to help smooth any lines when smoothing the surface. When it came to piping B’s name, I decided I could make some driftwood, pipe it onto that and then if it was okay I would use it and if not I could try again. Actually I managed it okay the first time and so I could stick the driftwood on too.
I learnt a lot making this cake – it was a big job but I was very happy with it. Still room for improvement though.
The other 3 cake – the Polar Bear
This was probably my neatest looking cake – see, I’m learning! After embarking upon a challenge for the one in October I wanted to keep it simple. When we first visited Munich, the zoo had two polar bear cubs that entranced me. B and I would visit the zoo often after the move whatever the weather and I would always love to watch the cubs springing into the water and playing rough and tumble with each other. Such a delight. I thought immediately of these as I also realised I hadn’t yet checked out cake decorating supplies. I had some of that gorgeous blue sugarpaste left from the last cake and knew I could buy white at the local supermarket. I again modelled the bears and left them to dry.I bought a ribbon from the Christmas markets and my piping again had improved. I was very happy with this cake, as was my little girl.
However, now she is 4, B is much more involved in choosing the theme and so of course princesses it will be… I have a plan, I have ordered the sugarpaste online and watch this space… each year what really goes through my mind is whether it will be worthy of the Cake Wrecks site (http://www.cakewrecks.com/) or whether I will pull of something my girl can be proud of.