Last week was my niece and nephew’s second birthday and they where having an insect themed party. Wow can you believe it’s been two years since these little critters joined us? – so to celebrate and make my sister’s life a little easier I volunteered to make them a ladybird cake. Yes, this probably was a completely bonkers idea as I had never made a proper birthday cake before. By proper cake I mean one with fancy icing and shaped like a something, as opposed to the run of mill round choccie cake I have made many a time before.
My plan was pretty straight forward – Youtube was to be my baking instructor and if all else failed I would dash off to Charley’s Bakery and buy a backup conventional cake as a substitute.
And so my adventure as a #nervousbaker began. First I watched a bazmillion Youtube videos and read a ton of forums and blogs on cake making, crumb icing and fondant covering, then I set about making my cake. The Buttermilk Cake recipe I chose was from this nifty website called Craftsy, they have all sorts of great tutorials and videos (some of which you have to pay for) but the bits I needed where all part of a free online course, so I signed up and got going.
After backing all my cakes I left them to cool in the fridge overnight, as this makes the cake much easier to work with and sculpt. So far, so good!
Next morning I made my buttercream icing – beginning of problem number one (eek!)
I followed the recipe precisely, in fact I watched the necessary video 3 or 4 times, but for some reason my egg whites did not whip up like marshmallow fluff, as in the video… oh dear! What had I done wrong?
I tried googling it again, looking at loads more Swiss Buttercream recipes till I came across good old Martha Stewart’s recipe where she said to let the eggs whip for 15-20 minutes… a lot more then the recipe I was following, they said whip for 5 minutes.
So I decided to just let the mixer go and see if anything happened. Well, after staring at the whites being sloshed about in the mixer bowl for at least 15 minutes, the egg whites finally started to look a little thicker and after 20 minutes of whipping the egg whites turned shiny and thick… yippee! Problem number one solved! I then continued to follow the recipe and successfully made the buttercream icing.
Next step was to assemble the cake, sculpt it and them crumb ice the outside. The twins chose a lady bird as the shape they wanted for a cake so off I set to make these 4 round cakes into the rough shape of a lady bird. This step was surprising easily, thanks to the fancy cake cutter and handy palette knife I bought -it always pays to have the right tools.
The neatly iced cake required lots of resting and cooling in the fridge in between layers of crumb icing, thus making sure the edges where all beautifully smooth and ready for the coloured fondant. So after another night in the fridge, my little naked lady bird was ready for her red and black outfit.
Here the real fun began. I had bought red and black fondant from Woolies so I didn’t have to mess about with food coloring, so I got stuck in straight away.
Working with fondant is fiddly and thanks to the endless tutorials I had watched I had lots of tips and tricks to fall back on. Before you knew it, the cake was looking like the real deal and I was having so much fun!
I could almost not believe my good luck, thus far there had been no problem number 2 (don’t tempt fate Jo!)
I opted to make the feelers for the lady bird out of air drying clay, so I whipped those up. I then cut up all the dots her back and made some eyes and a mouth and of course 6 little feet. WOW -the cake was was looking more and more like a success, I was so surprised!
On Saturday morning I carefully nestled my lady bird in a box in the back of the Landy and off we set to the twin’s party. This was the bit I was dreading the most and I think poor Alexis was sweating all the way there. Each corner we went around I cringed and he apologized, but all went well and all three of us survived intact.
When we got there I popped Miss Ladybird’s feelers in and she was placed in the middle of the birthday table.
WOW – I could not believe it, this was too good to be true! The cake was a success, we did not have to move to plan B and the twins where ecstatic. Oh and I had a blast! Who would have thought making cakes could be so much fun! If asked, I think I would happily do it again.
Just goes to show, if you put your mind to it (and you watch a Youtube video or two) you can do anything.