Do you know what we love in our house? Quinoa. And tofu, and green veg. But do you know what else? Sugar. I won’t lie. I have a desperate sweet tooth. Every now and then though I take a figary and make some fabulous date-based treat from Susan Jane White’s Extra Virgin Kitchen book, then I promptly eat a row of Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut directly after. My willpower is not strong in this regard.
So I love cake, making, baking, and eating. It was my own birthday last week (25 again, yada yada yada) and my lovely colleagues got me a cake from a bakery near work. Never again will I feel bad about my presentation efforts. These people make cakes for a living. I had a right aul LOL at this piping effort – whoever wrote this must have been out the night before. Anyway, my husband is many (good) things but a baker isn’t one of them, so as my official birthday cake it was much appreciated and also tasty, despite it’s wacky appearance.
Earlier this year I shared my Pirate Ship Cake made for Dominic’s 4th birthday, then I followed it up with an Octonauts theme for Ted’s 2nd. It was decided that dapper undersea explorer, Peso Penguin of the Octonauts was going to be the star of the show. This was, surprisingly, simpler than the ship cake for two reasons:
1: No crumb coat required with roll out icing.
2: Peso Penguin is made up to two very simple shapes – a circle, and a rectangle.
It’s amazing what some ready to roll icing, a few gel food colours and some sharp knives can yield. It took time, like a big long art project, but it wasn’t hard.
HOW I DID IT
I baked three lemon Madeira sponges – two round sandwich tins, and one larger rectangle which I cut in half and stacked. This recipe from Odlums very handily includes the different quantities needed for different shape and size tins.
Madeira is great for making in advance, it actually gets more moist over a few days, so you can bake the cake a day or two before the party and leave yourself plenty of time for decorating. It’s also firmer than a regular sponge, so easier to decorate too.
I made a lemon buttercream frosting to sandwich the cakes together which I dyed an aquatic blue colour.
I had toys to hand as my models, and used a Peso penguin printable to get the shapes and features right for the face.
I have a few basic gel food colours in my baking cupboard – mostly from Wilton. Making themed cakes can get a bit expensive if you buy every colour of roll out icing you need, so I just bought black and white, and dyed the white where necessary. I had my gel colours in stock since last years Rainbow cake – I cannot emphasise enough how important they are for intensity of colour – I get mine in Decobake or Homestore & More for about €2.50 but they’re stocked in big Super Valu supermarkets too now.
Covering the cakes in black icing was easy – I just rolled it out, cut the shapes out and patted them down.
I really didn’t need too much pure white, so had plenty left over to dye for the extra bits. To finish off Peso himself I did a small amount of yellow for the beak and flippers and blue for the hat and collar.
After that I decided to create a bit more of an undersea ‘scene’ with some of the leftover icing. If I’d had more time on the day there probably would have been a ridiculous amount of detail but I had to get onto making rice krispie buns so once I’d made a Vampire Squid, Peso’s medical bag and a few sea creatures, it was time to stop. No adult wants to eat large amounts of black icing, but wouldn’t you know it, those lumps of pure sugary paste were exactly what the kids fought over.
Now, I have exactly two months before I need to create another character for the future five year old. You heard it here first: my money is on a Minion request.