Inspired. That’s what I am. This year we threw caution to the wind and outsourced the birthday party to a play centre. No more tidying the house pre-party, being anxious about all the people arriving and being all squished in our tiny house with it’s tiny living room and tiny kitchen. Then no trying to calm down overexcited kids after it’s all over so we can clean up the mammoth mess. Well, not til next year: there’s no way we can afford to do play centre for every party, but it was nice to push the boat out for once. I didn’t wake up stressed with a list as long as my arm the morning of the party. I had one job for Dominic’s birthday, and I didn’t fail. *High-fives self*
I’ve given him a small bit of leeway in cake choosing, but steered towards where I know my skill set isn’t going to be massively stretched. A small bit of carving, dying icing and cutting out shapes.
I went with the same recipe I used for Teddy’s Peso Penguin cake, and made the Odlums Madiera cake – I used a big rectangular pan (23xm x 33cm to be exact), used the quantities for the 23cm square tin in the recipe and cooked for 90 minutes. Make no mistake this was a big cake – nine eggs, and half a KILO of butter. It cuts into about forty servings though, honest.
Having made a few of these showstopper cakes (my word, no-one else’s…) I now have the fool proof fancy-looking cake method down. So, without further ado:
My Steps For Successful Kids Birthday Cake Making Endeavours:
1. Find out where toddler has hidden sieve.
2. Finally get a handheld mixer from your sister after years of making every cake with sheer elbow grease and willpower. How can someone who actually enjoys baking not own one of these already? (I think I own it now though, in exchange for birthday cake making favours)
3. Make a madeira cake if you’re going to be sculpting the cake – it’s good and firm for carving. It also keeps really well, in fact the moistness improves over a couple of days, and it gives you plenty of time for decoration. I made it Friday night for serving Sunday.
4. Give the basic cake a little flavour with good quality ingredients. I use this vanilla extract. It makes a difference.
5. Ditto the buttercream icing – I used some lime juice to give it a little zingy kick. Don’t use a frosting recipe with milk in it if it’s going to be sitting out for a bit (like overnight in my case).
6. Kick everybody out of your house when it come to decorating. I thought it would be a good idea to “involve” Dominic in the making of his cake. He threw a fit when I tried to explain that a large rectangular boring cake wasn’t going to become a green platypus with a hat in any way quickly. Suffice to say the kids ate very basic pasta with pesto for dinner and we adults had takeaway when the masterpiece was complete due to complete kitchen annihilation by me.
7. Have more ready roll icing than you think you need and buy gel food colours not liquid. I bought 2 x 450g boxes of Shamrock Ready To Roll icing. I usually buy from a cakey-shop but I just picked these up in the supermarket and I have to say I think they tasted a bit nicer than ones I’ve used before. I used 600g of icing for the teal, but really could have done with some more. Then 100g in brown (hat) and the rest split between the smaller elements: orange (tail and mouth outline), black (eyes and hatband), yellow (feet and mouth) and white (eyes). I should have bought 3 boxes and had leftovers – it was very tight.
8. Get yourself a box of those medical use/fake tan-applying latex gloves and use a pair for every new colour you need to make. I discovered too late I didn’t have any and it took me a good bit longer using spoons and forks to try and mix the blobs of dye in before I used my hands. You really want to be able to get in there and knead the icing so the gloves are great for that. I went to the party with yellow, blue and brown streaked hands.
9. Do all the messy dying for your features before you start assembling. Store each coloured bit in an airtight container in case you need to take a break. This will keep them from drying out. If the icing is overworked and sticky (like with black which takes a good bit of kneading to get past grey), put the container in the fridge for a few minutes to firm it up for rolling out again.
After all that, well it’s just like modelling clay really. We’re all parents here – I know we have them mad skillz. No fancy tools are needed: I used a rolling pin and a few sharp knives. Choosing a template, and getting your basic cake the right shape and covered is the trickier aspect I reckon.
Although I love to make and eat cake, I still get a bit on edge when I think the kids have had too much rubbish in one day. So, what do a cake-fuelled birthday kid and younger brother eat for their dinner post-party? I craved something healthyish, and it seemed like they did too. Phew! All is not lost. I staved off their snack-begging with raw carrot and red pepper strips. Then I made some potato wedges (I always use rooster spuds), kale chips and quorn pieces baked in tomato pesto. The fact that Dominic adores kale chips is my big parenting win. I had tried to make them a few times to mixed reactions until I made them the NomNom Paleo way (except I use rapeseed oil and dry the leaves in a tea towel) and they’ve been a hit every time like this.
Now don’t worry. We had some more birthday cake for dessert.