Secrets to being a good baker. Top tips for perfect sponges. Handy hints for creative cupcakes. You can be a cake decorating dream! Whenever I read those words I think, “Sure, sure. It’s just practice, experience and time. Anyone can do it”. But that’s not exactly true. And on the other hand, it sort of is true. Allow me to explain…
Matilda’s fifth birthday is coming up soon and I’ve got my heart set on making this rainbow birthday cake for her, from one of my favourite foodie blogs Oven Love. It’s been doing the rounds for quite a while and I’m sure everyone has seen it. Visually, it’s dynamic. I would decorate this one differently to the one in the picture. I think I will use smarties to cover it completely and utterly in rainbow coloured smarties over the top of the white fondant. Naturally, you’re thinking what I’m thinking. And no, I’ve never worked with fondant in my life and I understand it’s quite tricky. So, yes, I’m a little nervous. Luckily, I have a dear school friend who is a cake queen and makes extraordinary cake creations for a hobby. So I’m turning to Cathy in my hour of need for her tips and tricks for working with fondant.
I’m not a great baker, but what I lack in skill I certainly make up for in enthusiasm. I will happily tackle things that are out of my abilities range, figuring if you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know. And in doing so, I often learn plenty, which helps the next time I tackle a project. That’s how we all learn, right? For Matilda’s fourth birthday, I attempted my very first Ladybug Cake, which is pretty simple but was a step up for me.
I buy lots of baking cook books and while I rarely enjoy making dinner, I do enjoy making cakes. I guess this makes my skill level an advanced beginner. I think I’m verging on intermediate level with my ladybug creation (see right) that I made for Matilda’s birthday, taken from the awesome Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake bestselling recipe book. It looks like a ladybug, doesn’t it!?!
I’m going to get plenty of practice in ahead of Matilda’s big day (November 9) so will have a crack at it this weekend.
And I think, if I can conquer the rainbow layer cake, I might tackle this awesome pirate face cake for the boys’ birthday next year. The pirate face cake recipe is on Kidspot.com.au. Or, if the rainbow layer cake is a disaster, I’ll just buy them a Spiderman cake from the shops! But the pirate face looks pretty simple, right? Just a round cake covered with fondant. No cutting or shaping involved. Will keep you posted!
Here are Cathy’s top tips for tackling the rainbow cake:
- Use a cake mix that is fairly white. The planet cake white choc mud cake recipe is pretty good – or go a vanilla type cake. Yellow buttercakes will make it hard to get the colours right.
- I would use good food colouring (Wilton or Americolor) gels/pastes – not the watery supermarket food colours.
- Fill your cake pan to about the height for each layer. It is really important to line your tins properly, and place baking paper on top of the cake batter too. And never bake a mud cake/butter cake above 150C. You want slow baking so that it stays moist and cooks evenly. It takes longer – but is worth it.
- Trim the tops of the cakes, to get level layers of the same height. Bruce and I use a large sharp knife resting on a small measuring cup, and turn the cake as you cut.
- Fondant and ganache is tricky when you don’t know how, so I would use a yummy buttercream to sandwich the layers and coat the outside. My favourite is Italian Meringue Buttercream – happy to give you a link to the recipe. For kids cakes I do half of it, and half standard buttercream mixed together.
- Don’t use too much buttercream between the cake layers, or else things might start to slide.
For more on Cathy and her awesome cake creations, check out my profile on her, found here.
And finally, in newsagents now is the magazine series from DeAgostini: Cake Decorating – Learn how to create beautiful cakes. This series comes with a sensational set of freebies to help you build your cake decorating mad skills and it really does reveal secrets to becoming a better cake maker. Also, they give you the idiot’s guide to making fancy-pants accessories to put on your cake masterpieces. It’s great.
I’ve got two sets to give away. Just leave a comment below describing your greatest baking triumph, or your greatest baking disaster for a chance to win. Sorry, this competition is open to Brisbane readers only.