Artemi had given a clear brief for his birthday cake – an elephant with three balloons.
Like a good designer, I quizzed my client about his vision.
What colour for the elephant, I asked the soon-to-be three boy? And the balloons?
I paid a visit to a rare place (but lucky me on my very own high street): a traditional sweet shop, Scrumptiously Sweet, where the staff are trained to be kind and patient while customers agonise about icing, marshmallow fluffs and liquorice boot straps.
I baked the sponge in two circular cake tins, one bigger than the other.
I researched elephant cakes on Pinterest, then sketched my own elephant, first on paper, then with food icing gel on to the top of the cake – then carved out of sponge. I felt like Michaelangelo.
I stuck faithfully to tried-and-tested cake and icing recipes (see below).
Melted blue chocolate drops melted covered the elephant. Balloons were almond drages; eyes were white sweets with a blob of gel.
The elephant struggled to look like a proper elephant but none the less, he makes me smile.
Certainly Artemi said ‘elephant’ (or “éfant”) in recognition when I showed it to him.
A week later, I had my next commission, from Tayda.
Soon-to-be-six Tayda wanted a rainbow with clouds and a sun.
She clearly detailed the seven colours. Help, I thought – this is going to take up most of my weekend. I baked one large rectangle sponge to split, and a smaller round one (sliced off at one end) to be the rainbow.
We scoured the sweet shop, and returned with booty. And cheated with the rainbow strips (only five colours!).
Tayda relented on rainbow quality control and pronounced herself pleased. Phew.
Last year I made a Peppa Pig cake, and that deserves to be recorded too.
I drew the shape, then cut round the sponge.
Looks nothing like a pig, does it? The icing (in next pics) add pig-like detail.
Here are the utterly foolproof recipes from my Hello Kitty cake – they made the above three cakes possible.
No need to cream butter and sugar. Instead, sieve the flour and mix in the other ingredients. I used organic ingredients for health of people and planet, and butter not marge. It seems strange to cook a sponge for a whole hour – but it works. Brilliantly.
340g (12 oz) self-raising flour | 280g (10 oz) caster sugar | 280g (10 oz) butter (or margarine) | 5 eggs |3 tablespoons milk (or soya milk) |
1. Grease and line two 20cm (8 inch) square or round tins and set aside. I used an 8 inch square tin and an 8 inch round flan tin, and did not skimp on the greaseproof lining paper.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 C / Gas 2, or 140 C for fan ovens.
3. Sieve self-raising flour into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter, then the eggs. I used my electric hand-blender, adding one egg at a time, blending after each one, until all ingredients were amalgamated. Once blended, some extra fast whizzes. The result: a thickish smooth batter.
4. Pour into the tins, place in centre of oven and cook for about 1 hour 15 mins, to 1 hour 30 mins. All Recipes says test with skewer: if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
250 g / 8 oz butter | 500 g / 1 lb icing sugar | 4 teaspoons milk
For base (not Hello Kitty face), we carefully added drop-by-drop red colouring for a pinky effect, and mixed before adding the next drop.
PS There was a bit of drama last night when I realised I had only 300g (not 500g) of icing sugar and it was too late to get to the shops. But if you don’t experiment, you never learn, and now I know that 300g + about 150g butter and 1.5 milk/plant milk both fills (thinly) and covers a cake fine – in fact now I think of it I do always icing sugar left over…