At the start of this year I made a resolution that instead of buying birthday presents for my friends and family I would make them cakes instead - it would give me a chance to practice different cakes for my portfolio and also I would be able to give people something handmade with a personal touch, something I always appreciate in a present.
It was my dad's birthday yesterdat and Melissa and I were hosting his birthday party for 10 of our family at our new house. It went without saying that I was going to bake Dad a cake for the party and I wanted to bake something that looked and tasted really impressive so that everyone could see that I had the skills to make our new bakery business a success.
I had already asked my dad his favourite cake flavour but didn't realise his request would be so specific - he wanted a plain victoria sponge cake, with buttercream filling and fudge icing. I've done a plain sponge with buttercream loads of times before so wasn't worried about that, but my big worry was how I was going to make this cake look elegant and special - fudge icing isn't known for being forgiving when it comes to looking good.
I had my thinking cap on about this one for about 2 weeks until I walked past the window of Patisserie Valerie in Soho and was inspired by one of their amazing gateaux which was decorated using chocolate cigarellos round the outside of the cake. This was just the thing I needed to elevate the design of Dad's birthday cake. To fit with the fudge icing I decided to add some chocolate ganache piped writing and chocolate covered strawberries to the top to complete the cake.
After some searching I found a fudge icing recipe on the Waitrose website (I doubled the quantity in this recipe) and Melissa discovered a great cake supplies wholesaler Cavalier of Brighton just up the road in Rottingdean for the chocolate cigarellos.
As sponge cake doesn't keep very well I had to make everything on the morning of the party and as usual we were up against it getting everything done before everyone arrived. It's never a good idea to try and rush icing a cake and I was cursing my dad trying to get the fudge icing smooth with 5 minutes before everyone was due to arrive. Then the chocolate cigarellos didn't want to stick to the icing so thinking on my feet I added some ribbon to hold them together and it actually finishes the cake off really nicely. Luckily everyone was running late so I had a few minutes to quickly grab a picture of the the cake before anyone arrived:
I know my piping technique needs a bit more practice but overall I was really pleased with how it looked. If I'm completely honest it was a bit sweet for my taste, but it was exactly what my dad had asked for and he loved it.
And there's no rest for the wicked as it's Melissa's dad's birthday tomorrow so I'd better get the apron back on to bake him a cake too!