Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I'll have a pint of cake please

I get a few unusual requests for cakes sometimes, which actually suits me down to the ground as I love flexing my creative muscles to make a cake that is a bit out of the ordinary.  Over the last week I have made two cakes on a tipsy theme - a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and a packet of Marlboro Lights for a 40th birthday cake, and a giant pint of Guinness cake which I made for Melissa to celebrate St Patrick's Day on Saturday.

As I'm writing this post I'm getting hungry again and might just have to cut myself another slice of the Guinness cake before I tell you how I made the cakes....
I've made the vodka bottle cake before, so it was quite handy that I already had the label prepared.  Usually I can find a suitable picture on Google Images but in this case I had to make it up from scratch which took more than 2 1/2 hours that I hadn't budgeted for - oops.  Luckily after some good searching I was able to find the Marlboro images I needed, and with a bit of photoshopping I sent the pictures off to be printed into edible images at a local company in Newhaven.  I got some slightly strange looks when I picked them up and had to assure them it wasn't a cigarette flavoured cake!
The cake itself is a vanilla madeira cake made from two 5" round cakes that I filled and cut in half to create the main bottle shape:
Then it just needed a small amount of shaping with a sharp knife to create the domed top and to make sure the sides were smooth and even.  Once carved, the cake was then covered in a thin layer of buttercream:

The neck of the bottle was made from a sausage of marzipan, then I covered the whole thing in grey sugarpaste and trimmed neatly:
The cigarette packed was made from a rectangle of cake cut to just smaller than the image and covered in white sugarpaste.  I've learned the hard way to always use plenty of icing sugar underneath so that when you come to move it to the board the sugarpaste doesn't stick to the surface.
The surface of the sugarpaste is dampened with a little water before fixing the edible image (see my Monkey Street Art post for top tips on using edible images):
The bottle label is added to the cake in the same way and the cigarette packet is secured to the board with a little icing.

A few finishing touches and a happy birthday message in royal icing and the cake is finished:

I think making this cake gave me the inspiration for the Guinness cake, and I instinctively knew that the recipe I had to use was Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake.  I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cakes, but this one is a little bit different - moist and dark, with a hint of bitterness coming from the Guinness and then lashings of cream cheese icing really makes it a special cake.  Nigella's recipe is for a 9" round cake, which I split between a 5" and a 6" tin to give the basis of the famous pint glass shape.

This is quite a damp cake and not really suitable for carving, but I had my heart set on making this cake work and just took shaping the cake very slowly, glueing crumbs back on with a little more icing to fill in any holes.  Usually you can freeze cakes before carving to make it easier, but I didn't want to risk the cream cheese icing in the freezer.   I also stuffed cake crumbs on top of the layers of icing to make as stable a surface as possible for the sugarpaste as the icing isn't as firm or stable as buttercream (so also not really suitable for a carved cake like this!).  Before I started carving I placed strips of greaseproof paper just under the edges of the cake which protect the board from crumbs and smears of icing.  It doesn't look very pretty at this stage, but it's now got just about the right shape:

Then for a thin layer of icing so that the sugarpaste will stick and once that's smooth you can carefully remove the greaseproof paper and you will have a nice clean board underneath:

And then time for the sugarpaste - I like to use Renshaw Chocolate Sugarpaste which has a lovely chocolate flavour.  I covered this up to nearly the top, then covered the top part with white sugarpaste for the head of the pint.  I then cut through both layers of paste and removed the excess to give a nice clean line:

All that was left was to add the logo using some edible gold paint and some superwhite mixed with a dash of water to create the white for the writing.

And it just so happens that this is excellent timing as I am celebrating my blogiversary this week - one year of writing the Brighton Bakery blog.  Thanks to everyone for reading, and I hope you all have a pint of cake to celebrate with me!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wedding fever

Now that spring is here, there must be the smell of romance in the air as we've been getting lots enquiries for wedding cakes.  It's one of the few occasions where people get the chance to go all out for a fantastic cake, and I love working with couples to help come up with a design that fits in perfectly with their day.
A few weeks ago, Melissa and I attended our first wedding fayre in Burgess Hill, which went really well, although we did learn a few good lessons from the day:
1. Don't stay out late the night before - wedding fayres and hangovers are not a good combination;
2. People love free cake, but not as much as you might think - I made two 10" square cakes for tasters, thinking 100 portions each of two flavours would be about right for about 250 brides (plus their fiances, bridesmaids, mothers, kids...).  We brought back over half of each cake and even I can't make my way through that much cake before it goes off.  Luckily we knew a few people that could help us out...
3. Invest in a screen to put up behind the table - we thought these were provided so felt a bit foolish when we had nothing to hang our sign on!
Still, you only learn by experience, and we had a great day, generating lots of interest in our cakes.  Here's a photo of yours truly waiting for the crowd of brides to arrive:
I was really pleased with how the show cakes turned out -  I think they reflect our quirky style and also show a range of designs to appeal to different tastes:

And thanks to the success of the day and our recent marketing efforts with Your Sussex Wedding Magazine orders are now starting to fill up for later on in the year, which is great.
Meanwhile, here's a cake I delivered back in February, which I was really pleased with.  It was for a lovely Brighton couple, Julia and Chris, who had their wedding at the stunning Newick Park near Lewes.  They chose a chocolate cake with chocolate Italian meringue buttercream filling and with Grand Prix red roses cascading down the side - the scent of the roses was stunning.

Congratulations Julia and Chris, I'm so pleased to have been a part of your day, and thrilled that you loved the cake.

If you like the look of any of these cakes and would like me to make a cake for your upcoming wedding or special event, please email brightonbakery@hotmail.co.uk - I love to create bespoke designs so feel free to send me any ideas and we will come up with a fantastic and unique cake to be the centrepiece for your day.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I'm back... although unfortunately this time it's on the wrong side of 30

Hello again dear readers, sorry for the radio silence over the last couple of weeks!  Thanks to my lovely wife Melissa, I seem to have been able to drag out my big 3-0 birthday celebrations for way longer than I deserve - the highlights of which were an amazing trip of a lifetime to San Francisco and an 80's theme birthday party last Saturday. 
There was much debate on my part, and speculation on the part of others, as to what type of cake I should make for my 30th birthday.  I had some grand plans for a topsy turvy 3 tiered Alice in Wonderland cake, but with only 25 people coming to the party there would have been way too many leftovers for my waistline to handle (and if there is cake in the house, I can't help but eat it).  We also had a few friends coming down to stay with their little ones and I didn't want to spend all my time decorating, so I scaled my ideas back to something simple, but iconic, that would fit in with my 80's party theme.
I had the idea of incorporating an 80's computer game, and really wanted to do the NewZealand Story which was my brother's and my favourite game growing up, but I decided that was a bit too obscure and instead went for the classic 80's arcade favourite that everyone would know, Pacman.
Of course this wasn't just any plain old cake, I wanted to try something a bit different and have a more unusual flavour that maybe people hadn't tried before.  I adapted one of my favourite loaf cake recipes for cinnamon and courgette Cake into an 8" square tin.  Scaling up recipes can be a little tricky, and I was a bit worried how it would turn out as sometimes it doesn't work quite how you expect it to.  Luckily, it baked into a lovely moist cake, although it was a little bit too dome-shaped so I had to trim a lot off the top to make it level.  Next time I'll use less baking powder and either line the outside of the tin (like you would for a Christmas cake) or else I might invest in some of those bake even strips.  Needless to say that the leftover cake trimmings didn't go to waste....
I decided to fill the cake with my favourite icing - Italian meringue buttercream laced with lemon curd.  The 45 minutes it takes to make it is SO worth it, I can't get enough of the stuff, and it was the perfect combination with the cinnamon and courgette cake which has lemon zest running through it. 

I covered the cake with a light grey sugarpaste, followed by a very thin square of black sugarpaste and a grey button to make it look like an 80's computer monitor:
Next I rolled very thin sausages of blue sugarpaste to make the lines.  I know that to be 100% authentic, these should have been double lines, but sometimes it's better to capture the essence of what you are recreating rather than an exact copy.  Well that's my reasoning anyway!
 Next up was my favourite bit, the monsters!  I cut these freehand and added tiny circles of white sugarpaste for the eyes, finished off with edible black pen for the pupils.  I love how they look in the direction they are moving:

Then to finish the cake off, I needed to add the dots.  I had originally planned to use royal icing, but I find it really annoying to make and I had also uncovered some silver dragees in my decorating box and thought they would be perfect.  And very reminiscent of 80's party cakes.
I have to say that the cake went down really well at the party (although maybe that's due to the amount of homebrew people had consumed...), in any case, the birthday girl was very pleased with it, and I've saved the final piece for my 11 o'clock treat tomorrow.
I'm also very happy that although I may have turned 30 and should officially have grown up by now, I can still have a big kid's birthday cake :o)