Friday, October 02, 2009

Man cake: DONE!

We've had babycakes, now it's time for mancakes. Tim's dad is celebrating his 70th birthday tomorrow night and this cake is what 80 of his nearest and dearest will be nibbling at one of North Somerset's premier village sports clubs, with a pint of Butcombe on the side.

It's much easier to produce something pretty and cute for a christening or girl's birthday than it is to come up with a manly cake which doesn't rely on a comedy golf theme, so I went for simple and colourful. Even this required a visit to our local cake decorating shop for supplies, and apart from eating the sponge offcuts slathered with raspberry jam, this might be my favourite part of the process.

Sugarcraft shops, where they bake on site and decorate behind the counter as well as selling bits of specialist kit, have a lovely sweet smell and a language all their own. You can have a half-hour conversation about guide sticks, edible glue, drums and dowels, and charmingly, everything still seems to be calculated in inches.The staff tend to be highly skilled and very helpful, and if they're not, you just go somewhere else next time. I could have spent hours looking through the spools of ribbon and little pots of glitter, but I had a cake to make.

If you have a fancy for cake fiddlings but don't know where to start, have a look at Peggy Porschen's website and her first book, Pretty Party Cakes (the new one, Cake Chic, isn't nearly as good). Her designs are ridiculously chic and accomplished, so much so that I've never attempted more than a few of her decorated cookies. But her recipes and quantities for good base cakes and instructions on filling, stacking and icing are immensely useful, right down to the boring stuff like covering the cake board (which I didn't do properly for this one. Fule!).

PP, as I like to think of her, has also let me into one of the professional cake decorator's biggest secrets. Even under a thick mantle of icing, there's no way a sponge cake is going to stay fresh and moist for the many hours between baking, filling, decorating, transportation and the big do. The solution is to give the sponge a liberal soaking with sugar syrup, flavoured with vanilla, lemon or booze, before you put it all together. It's this discovery that means I'll be able to hang around at the party rather than scampering off, shamefaced, while everyone wonders why that nice-looking cake tastes like sawdust.

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