Monday, 28 November 2011

Cake failure and triumph

I love trying my hand at various crafts, most successfully knitting, least successfully cake decorating. I'm determined not to let the cakes defeat me, so I thought my first story would be about a disaster that turned to a triumph this summer.

I try to be helpful at my daughter's preschool, so another mum and I organise the cake sales (there's one tomorrow, note to self: spend less time blogging, more time baking). Because of this the staff asked me if I would bake a retirement cake for the preschool leader. First thing to know about me (and please don't take advantage of this) is that I do tend to agree to help without thinking it through first. The other cake sale mum is obviously more sensible and avoided being given this job because when I thought about how many people it would have to feed I nearly passed out.

The second thing to know about me is that I do have a tendancy to look at a picture of a craft activity and think "I can do that". I will throw myself in at the deep end and try to make the most complicated things with only a basic knowledge of how that might work. So when I saw this lovely cake on the Martha Stewart website I knew it was the one. I liked it because 1) it looked nice and sophisticated for a retirement party 2) the kids at the preschool would love it and 3) I really have very little understanding of my abilities.

To give you an idea of how little ability I have here my first practice attempt was a little flat and biscuity, which seemed odd as I've done that recipe before, all I added was food colouring. Then I found the butter still in the microwave from being softened a little.

Second attempt was more successful. Not only did I remember to add the butter, but I also found gel food colourings are much more vivid, so I was really geared up for the actual cake being a huge success......but then I had to decorate it!

Two nights before the big day I towered my six multicoloured layers of sponges on top of one another, glueing them together with unbelievable quantities of buttercream. All was looking good. I had read about (thats it, read about, not ever used before) pourable fondant icing and what a lovely smooth finish this would give. I mixed the powder with the amount of water it said on the packet and poured - but it was so thick it stayed in the jug. So I added the teeny tiniest amount of water possible, poured, and watched as the icing poured down the sides of the cake, over the table and onto the floor.

That night I discovered the "Icing Hangover". You will not feel good at 3am if you eat a sizeable amount of the icing intended for a cake for 50 people to cure your depression at not being able to ice it.

Next day after a quick dash to the supermarket I had 3kg of royal icing ready to roll. It was the best bicep workout ever rolling all that out. It was so big I couldn't lift it and had to fashion a carrying device out of greaseproof paper and sellotape, but it covered the cake. It wasn't all that pretty, but it was done. All I had to do was take it to preschool the next day (another great bicep workout - if the icing weighed 3kg you can imagine how heavy the rest of it was).

rainbow cake

At the party I could see the other mums were a bit disappointed, it was just a very large white cake with a plastic "Happy Retirement" sign on it. But the moment the cake was cut was one of the best ever. The "Ooohs" that reverberated around the room made me realise that all the practice cakes and icing disasters were worth it.  I've never seen anyone pose for a picture with a slice of cake before!


  1. Welcome to blogging!! That cake is pretty awesome if you ask me :) xx

  2. Looks fab! I tried a practice layer today and went a bit wrong need to invest in paste I think although I am not as organised as you timewise - making mine the night before!

    1. The paste colourings are so much brighter, I really wouldn't do this cake without them. Good luck with yours Bex

  3. oh wow i love how high you have managed to get your layers! mine were a little flat to be honest. i think the white frosting def has more of a wow factor but i knew my boy wouldnt try it unless it was covered in milk chocolate !!
    thanks so much for linking up x

    1. I had to feed so many people I made 4 times what I would usually make for a normal cake. I wish I'd put a bit more buttercream in between the layers for a bit more impact, but hey, first attempt

  4. Replies
    1. It really did become the talk of the party


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