September is here.
Autumn is around the corner, school has started and we are in the last quarter of the year.
September is also the month of birthdays and it is just beginning! My lovely little niece, who is turning 4 this year, had requested her birthday cake last month “rainbow cake with sprinkles and butterflies”. I had thought that this might not be too difficult to achieve. Her twin brothers (turning 2, this year) had not made any special requests so I thought a simple Victoria sponge cake topped with fruit would probably be OK.But what I hadn’t factored in was that I might be quite tired and leave everything to the last minute before trying to bake such a cake! Therefore for the first time (I made her 1st birthday and 3rd birthday cake with a few practice runs) I made a birthday cake (well 3 cakes), the night before for a party the next day. I put myself under an incredible amount of pressure which was in retrospect quite ridiculous and perhaps next time I will plan it better as I have done in the past. However I don’t think the result was too bad but it was an interesting journey.
I started cooking the cakes when I arrived home from work, work which was particularly busy as I had 2 child protection medicals in the afternoon. I had to stop off at Tesco to get some ingredients because at that point I had not even decided what type of sponge cake base I was going to use. This year I have been given specific instructions about ingredients because of the allergies of the younger brothers. So there I was in the Tesco car park at quarter past seven in the evening Googling ‘vegan Victoria sponge recipes’. Luckily for me I found a really good one on this website. I had already earlier last month looked up how to go about constructing a basic rainbow cake so that was not an immediate problem. I went into Tesco and I bought some raspberries, blueberries, vegan butter (Pure – made of sunflower oil), oat milk (organic Oatly), a candle (the number 4), icing sugar, a block of pink fondant icing and a bottle or organic apple cider vinegar.
I had dinner and then started baking at 9 o’clock in the evening, crazy. So the making of the cake batter was actually pretty simple. However I soon discovered that the water-based icing that I had bought last month was simply inadequate, the red icing turned the batter into this disgusting brown colour. Luckily I also had a supply of gel icing, covering the other colours in the rainbow so I was able to make an orange layer, red layer, and violet layer. However I didn’t have a decent blue or green colour. So what did I do? I got back in my car in the dark and the rain and drove back to Tesco at quarter-past eleven in the evening. I bought a couple of gel colours green and blue and also used the opportunity to buy another bottle of vanilla bean paste as the one I had, had run out.
In the end after much shenanigans (falling asleep, not hearing an alarm and waking to smell of overcooked cake, the blue and violet layers just didn’t work), I ended up with three decent layers to make the cake with. A red layer, an orange layer and a green layer, therefore more like a ‘traffic light’ cake rather than rainbow.
Then I experienced the drama that is placing a flat bottomed cake layer on top of a domed cake layer. And I watched with horror as the top layer slowly and silently split apart. I had by that time made up my butter icing and creatively used it to ‘fill the gap’. I was still, rather distraught and remembered again the benefits of a ‘practice run’.
This was sometime after 1 o’clock in the morning (and yes I was feeling more than tired). I then realised that the fondant icing sugar I had purchased contained a warning may contain peanuts or nuts. Sigh. So of course this had to go to the curb as this was one of the ‘forbidden ingredients’. The fondant icing was for the butterflies that had been requested, so I therefore I needed to improvise. At that point I couldn’t think of anything to do but print off some Google images and cut them out and think about how I was going to arrange them on the cake. So that I did.
And I realised that I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do with the sprinkles. The most obvious answer at 2 o’clock in the morning was to sprinkle them into the shape of a number four on top of the butter icing. So that is what I did.
It was all a bit too much for me and I quickly realised nothing more could be achieved by staying awake, so at quarter to three in the morning I climbed into my bed and fell soundly asleep. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, quite important, that as well as doing this cake, I was making and ‘designing’ the cake for the twins.
The next morning I woke up, got out of bed at 8 o’clock quite tired. I was also mindful of the fact that 8 o’clock was the time that I said we would be leaving to get to the birthday party destination, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen. I took my cake out of the fridge where it had set “overnight” and I stuck on the butterflies that I had cut out carefully a few hours before. And voilà here was the finished piece.
By no means the standard of cake, in terms of appearance, that I feel like I am used to producing but all things considered I guess a good effort (I’m being kind to myself).
The cake was packed away in a cardboard cake box that I had bought years ago from Hobbycraft but have not used. And it made its way safely (with the two other cakes) to Lancing.
The celebrant was quite happy. When I showed my lovely little niece a picture of the cake on my phone, she got very excited and a did a happy little dance. She really liked her cake when it was finally brought out of the kitchen by her mother (my lovely little sister) to the chorus of “Happy Birthday”. And the parents (Gloria and Tom) seem to like the cake. My sister kept asking me when I was going to open my own bakery. I think for now perhaps I will just keep this my little thing on the side but who knows.
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