I was really pleased to be asked to make this cake by Clair, who wanted a special cake as a surprise for her partner's Alison's 40th birthday. A few weeks ago I met up with Clair for a consultation with a few ideas in mind - I thought it would be cute to have a sand beach at the bottom, with crabs, starfish, oysters and a chocolate wooden fishing boat on top. But after speaking to Clair, I realised that I had been rowing down the wrong river, as they love to fish in their white Hampton boat on the Norfolk Broads, where at the bottom the river is nothing but weeds! So a couple of dodgy sketches later (luckily my cake decorating skills are better than my drawing skills) we had the design nailed and I was really looking forward to making the cake. This is how it turned out:
The cake started with an 8" round zesty lemon madeira cake, which I filled and covered with lemon curd buttercream and left to firm up in the fridge for an hour or two.
To create a water effect for covering the cake, I mixed pieces of white, dark blue and green sugarpaste into some pale blue sugarpaste and kneaded it together. I didn't knead it too much so that when I rolled it out it had a nice marbled effect:
Then covered the cake, smoothed the sides with a polisher and trimmed off the excess:
I then left the covered cake in a cool dry place while I made the boat. I made this out of Rice Krispie Treats (recipe here) and carved into a boat shape:
I covered with a thin layer of buttercream and then with sugarpaste on all sides to finish it off:
I did the same with the cabin and fixed to the cake:
At this stage I did worry a little that the boat was oversized, but it needed to be this big in order to take the figure and it matched the proportions on my sketch so I carried on and added the keydetails to match Clair and Alison's own boat:
You can also see in the background the 3D '40' I made out of orange modelling paste. I added some nylon thread for a fishing wire to the 4 and left a long end for it to be attached to the fishing rod later.
Next up was making the figure, which I decided to make straight onto the cake itself. The figure was deliberately out of proportion with the boat as this makes a stronger design for the cake as a whole. I find that often when designing cakes it's better to take key elements to give the essence of what you are portraying, rather than sticking rigidly to exact dimensions.
Using modelling paste (which is simply sugarpaste with some gum tragacanth added and left overnight) I started with the legs. These are made from a long sausage shape, with a notch cut from the middle and brought together. Further notches are cut from the back of each leg so they bend at the knee:
I made a body from a cone shape made out of pink modelling paste and secured the legs and body to the boat with a piece of dry spagetti straight down the middle:
The shoes were added with short pieces of spaghetti and edible glue and the star design on for the t shirt was also attached with edible glue.
I then added arms and sleeves with my favourite spaghetti and edible glue trick:
Ooh I love it when sugarpaste figures start to come to life!
Next I added the head and hair, which was made by pushing sugarpaste through a garlic press and cutting to length.
I sprinkled pearl lustre dust on the orange 3D '40' and cut at an angle to make it look like it was being fished out of the water. I secured these to the cake using lengths of dry spaghetti.
The fishing rod was made from a length of floristry wire covered with chocolate sugarpaste. I made sure the wire had an extra inch or two at the bottom to fix straight into the boat between the legs of the figure. The tricky thing was securing the end of the fishing wire to the top of the rod and keeping it taught. Sometimes gravity just doesn't like me.
And to finish it off, I added river weed details all the way round the sides of the cake and a wooden sign reading "Happy Birthday Alison" made out of chocolate sugarpaste.
Fishing boat cake - done!
The cake was collected the next day by Clair's sister in law and kept under wraps for a big surprise at the party, so I had to keep my fingers crossed that both Clair and Alison would like it. Later that day I got a text from Clair to say "The cake has been unwrapped and it was fabulous, absolutely perfect, Alison loved it and it tasted so nice, a great success, thank you so much."
I can't really ask for much better than that.