Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Baking an important cake - lessons to be learnt!

I love baking, but I wouldn't say that I'm particularly talented at it. I guess I would describe myself as a fairly confident, but safe baker. I can do a mean chocolate brownie and I like making cupcakes, but I'm certainly not the kind of person who would get approached to make an important cake. But when it came to Bobble's first birthday, I knew that his birthday cake had to be homemade.

I've made plenty of birthday cakes in the past, usually for my husband or another member of my family. But I've always stuck to a simple chocolate cake, which I know that I can make and I know that will be wolfed down appreciatively. For Bobble's first birthday, I set my sights a little higher. I wanted the cake to look the part. After all, Bobble will have no memories of his first birthday, there will only be photos and videos. Decoration was to be key, so I set about some research. After browsing through several pages of Google Images I decided that a lion cake would be achievable and within my limited experience of cake decorating! Further research led me to discover that I couldn't just bake a basic Victoria sponge - it would collapse under the weight of the icing. I needed to make either a Madeira cake, or some other more solid 'celebration' type cake that could support the icing.

On Baking Day (the day before Bobble's birthday and 2 days before the party) I ran up an impressive catalogue of disasters which included...

  • Cake #1 (Maderia cake) - recipe didn't provide oven temperature guidance for a fan assisted oven and I forgot to make allowances. End result = 1 overcooked and barely risen cake. Number of eggs used so far: 4.
  • Cake #2 (Easy vanilla sponge - receipe to follow) - I got distracted and rather than putting in two separate quantities of plain and self raising flour, I only put in plain flour. End result = Pancake. Number of eggs used so far: 9
  • At this point I ran out of the key ingredients eggs and butter.
  • Cake #3 (Easy vanilla sponge second attempt) - there were tense moments as I wasn't sure how long to cook the cake for due to using 2 round tins rather than 1 square tin. End result = Finally! A cake that I can use. Number of eggs used in total: 13.
My day of disasters wasn't over yet...before I went to bed I also encountered the following:
  • Assumed garage burglery that turned out to be a case of me failling to lock the garage door. Twice.
  • Assumed oven breakdown that turned out to be a case of me accidentally turning the oven on to timer.
  • Hands that made me look like a Simpsons character due to their yellow hue (food colouring to blame).
After all that, I'm not sure that the cake could ever have been as perfect as I hoped, but it looked the (homemade) part. And I hope that when Bobble is a bit older, he'll look at it and know that it was baked with love, and a whole lot of eggs!

The recipe

This receipe calls itself an Easy Vanilla Sponge. I'd question the use of the word easy, but it did taste good.

View the recipe on the BBC's Good Food website 

So, if you've got an important cake to make, I reckon you can learn a thing or two from me!

  1. If you're making a cake that you've never made before, and you've got the time, do a trial run.
  2. Leave yourself plenty of time! Baking and icing on the same day whilst looking after an 11 month old isn't ideal.
  3. Have spare ingredients to hand... just in case.
  4. Concentrate! So many of my mistakes were down to rushing and not paying attention. Just pretend you're back at school.
  5. Remember that homemade is not just made at home, it's made with love. And it doesn't have to look perfect.
Happy baking.

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