Friday, 24 November 2017

Fusion cookery

By popular demand*, here comes the post about The Birthday Cake. This year's cake, as ever, was of a general dinosaur-esque theme. But it was heavily influenced, in LittleBear's mind, by a rather more sophisticated cake that he'd seen in a book. Somewhat further back in time, I made a cake for GrandmaBear's birthday, and I made the rather rash decision to consult the male bears in the household about the design of the cake, using a cake decorating book as reference. BigBear did not have strong views, but LittleBear certainly did, and what is more, he felt inspired to make Helpful Suggestions regarding a design for his own cake.

GrandmaBear's cake turned out reasonably well, despite my misgivings about my ability to pipe royal icing with anything approaching a smooth flow.

GrandmaBear's cake

However (and you knew there was going to be one), LittleBear spotted this cake in the book:

Chocolate box cake

That's right - a beautifully constructed cake designed to look like a beautiful box of chocolates. This would, in itself, have constituted a Challenge Too Far for my decorating skills, but then LittleBear didn't exactly want a cake like that. He wanted a cake that had a lid on, with chocolates hiding inside, but he wanted the chocolates to be dinosaur eggs, and the box to be camouflaged and disguised with leaves and twigs so as to look like a nest, and there needed to be dinosaurs marching round the outside.

Obviously, the correct answer at this point would have been hysterical laughter followed swiftly by "not on your life, sunshine."

I suspect you've already guessed that this wasn't the answer I gave, which is how I ended up making nearly a kilogram of chocolate icing early this month.

Step one in the cake-making saga was relatively straightforward. I made two layers of chocolate cake, and one layer of chocolate cookie (to be the lid).

Basic elements

This rapidly became less straightforward when it became clear that a large slab of chocolate cookie is not structurally sound. In fact, it wasn't possible to pick it up, let alone use it as a lid for a cake, so I resorted to re-baking it until it was teetering on the brink of burnt, at which point it became reliably crisper and more rigid. Surprisingly it was still tasty, though with two days till party time, I was prepared to accept an inedible lid just to complete the challenge.

While I was busy worrying about the structural integrity of the lid, I was also contemplating how to create the recess in the top that would allow the concealment of the eggs. Having used a cake mixture that used 3 eggs to make the two slabs pictured above, I decided that I needed to make a rectangular perimeter with a 1-egg mixture, thus occupying one third of the area of the above slabs. For geometrical reasons that I won't go into, this resulted in me lying awake at 3:30am trying to calculate the square root of 32 in my head.

Fortunately, working in an engineering firm allowed me to knock up a modification to one of my cake tins during my lunch hour, allowing me to make a perimeter cake:

Perimeter prior to baking

Perimeter fresh from the oven
And thus I was liberated to start making industrial quantities of icing, and building The Cake of Doom.

Industrial quantities of chocolate icing

Layer one

Layer one iced

Layer two added

Layer two with perimeter icing

Perimeter layer added

Plastered in chocolate

I was then able to fill the cake with chocolate eggs, and insert a little extra structural support just in case the twice-baked cookie wasn't up to the job of spanning the top.

Egg-filled, reinforced cake

What I should have mentioned at some point was that for the week prior to making the cake, I'd spent most evenings tediously lovingly crafting sugarpaste leaves in various semi-convincing shades of green. These I was then able to stick down all over the outside of the cake and the lid, thus rendering it brilliantly camouflaged against any predators hoping to steal the dinosaur eggs.

They'll never find the eggs in here

Which most people would think was more than enough cake, but LittleBear had been quite clear about the need for dinosaurs as well. Which is how I ended up with six individual dinosaur cakes standing around in plastic cups with icing dripping off their feet.

Which also then allowed me to (re)discover that the T.rexs in this particular set of dinosaur cake moulds are unable to stand up, and therefore need artfully arranged "logs" to lean against.

I could stand up if I wanted to, really I could
And then I forgot to take a picture of the completed cake. Because I had a party for 25 small children to finish organising.

And though this all sounds like a stupid amount of effort to have made, my boy not only loved his cake, and loved eating it, but he also joined in making it, and it became an opportunity to have fun together.

Making his own cake

I do find myself saying the same thing this year as I've said on previous years however, which is that next year I won't ask LittleBear what he wants, or if I do I'll rein in the wilder excesses of his imagination. But I know myself. So I can more or less guarantee you'll find me doing something equally daft next year.

* OK, one person asked about the cake. Frankly, that's as popular as I get.

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