The recipe I use is based upon one in Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet And Chocolate Heartache, which uses finely grated courgettes and carrots as key ingredients in the cake batter. As well as being gluten free, it has the added bonus of only having about a third of the usual amount of sugar and also being dairy free, the only fat in the cake coming from the egg and ground almonds, which are much better for you than butter. When you describe the cake on paper you'd never believe how delicious it actually is, plus it has the huge advantage of being a cake that is actually good for you!
The only trouble with this cake, is that it can be slightly temperamental as the water content in the vegetables can vary hugely, depending on the season, their size and how fresh they are. This batch turned out to be extra moist and the cake took double the amount of time to cook than it should have done. Polly had given Brighton Bakery a mention in her party invitation and lots of my friends were going to be there too so there was really nowhere to hide if the cake turned out badly. I was worried.
The problem is, you can't cut a slice out of the cake to try it until it's too late. I had to have faith in my judgement and carry on with decorating the cake and at least this could redeem me if the inside turned out dry. Polly didn't want a cliched Mexican design with 3D cacti and sombreros so I had to think a little more abstract. My first thought was to try and replicate a Mexican cut paper design that my friend Laura used on a stunning cushion she made:
|(c) Laura Tovey|
But alas I think this would be too intricate to do justice to the design in freehand, and I'm really trying hard not to keep buying new cake tools and cutters (honest Melissa!). I did like the idea of including birds, as it was a nice symbol for Polly and Michael flying away on their adventure. So I did a search on Google Images and came across the most fantastic Mexican bird design:
(NB If this is your image please let me know so that I can credit you!)
I knew I couldn't recreate the exact intricacies of the design but I used it as my inspiration and this is what I came up with:
The two birds have slightly different designs, all cut free hand from sugarpaste (and with the help of two piping nozzles to cut the circles).
I finished off the design by adding some colourful flowers round the outside and some added details in the same colours used on the birds. As always, it took me longer than I thought it would as all the individual cut out pieces are quite fiddley but I was really pleased with the result:
Melissa and I dropped the cake off at lunchtime and Polly and Michael really seemed to love it. Polly said that she's the smaller bird - I'm still trying to figure out which one that is, considering they were cut from the same template...
We left for a few hours to take advantage of an afternoon in the capital. We took a walk round Borough Market then along the South Bank to the National Theatre to look at the landscape photography exhibition and a quick look into the Tate Modern. There's few things I miss about London, but those are probably my top 3 favourite places that I used to enjoy going to. All the while we were enjoying our afternoon of culture, I had a niggle in my mind and a worry in my belly that the cake was going to be dry which meant I could never fully relax. Melissa and I went back to the party at about 6pm and two thirds of the cake was already gone. That had to be a good sign but I was still worried. I had to try a slice for quality control.... luckily it was still lovely and moist and really tasty. If I was really nitpicking the very edges were just a little too browned but it didn't seem like anybody else noticed, and by the time we went there were only 3 slices left. Hurrah!
So Polly and Michael - it was a great party, we loved catching up with everyone and will really miss you. Stay in touch and roll on 2014 for when you return :o) xx