I haven’t felt much like baking or writing about it for the past couple of weeks. I blame two things:
- Brexit – I didn’t realise I was a such a staunch Remainer until I almost cried on the morning of the 24th. I may have been a tad over-emotional, having stayed up way past my usual bedtime (10.00pm) for the results (I made it to 3.15, just after Wales went), but there I was, lip wobbling and everything. Writing about making cakes when the UK was leaving the EU with no plan for how seemed far too frivolous. I went back to bed.
- Too much sport – armchair variety. There’s football, tennis and the Tour de France. How does anyone manage to do anything?
I did make a lemon tart for my mom’s birthday
I used the lemon tart recipe from Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple. It starts with pâte sucrée, sweet pastry. The recipe uses flour, ground almonds, icing sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt mixed with butter and brought together into a dough with egg yolks and, if you need it, cold water.
The pastry didn’t cause any problems until the tart tin I’d lined with it slid out of the fridge when I opened the door. Serves me right for balancing it on the top of age-old pickle jars rather than doing the sensible thing and taking the jars out, throwing them into the bin, and putting the tart directly on the shelf. I rescued the pastry – it hadn’t spent that long on the floor – put it back in the tin and baked it blind for the 25 minutes set out in the recipe. I think 25 minutes was a bit too long for my oven, and my pastry case was a bit on the dark side.
The filling was a lemon-curd type cream made from eggs and extra yolks, sugar, butter and lemon juice. The recipe called for 150ml of juice. Not very helpful if you’re getting your juice by squeezing lemons – I got around 150ml from six. I heated everything except the butter until my thermometer beeped at 80°C, I strained it into a bowl and let it cool for a while before whisking in the butter. It was very runny. I covered it and put it into the fridge, and hoped that it would thicken up. It didn’t, so I put it back onto the heat and stirred until I’d got something that was thick enough to stay inside the tart.
The ladybird I made for Naomi’s third birthday. I think I said this when I made the stegosaurus, but I’m hopeless when it comes to being artistic with cakes. I don’t have the knack, the patience, the attention to detail, or any of the skills you need to make loveable looking characters from sugarpaste. They end up looking either a bit shifty or downright evil.
I made a spherical chocolate cake using a recipe from The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible by Lindy Smith, and followed the instructions for the ladybird from Debbie Brown’s 50 Easy Party Cakes.
To make the cake, I melted some dark chocolate, creamed butter and sugar together, whisked egg whites to soft peaks and added some icing sugar. I added the chocolate to the butter and egg mixture, then added alternate spoonfuls and flour and egg white. Everything went into a tin (which had been liberally coated with Cake Release) and into the oven. I made the cake in a 2 litre tin and it was cooked in one and a quarter hours at 160° fan. I had a bit of a panic five minutes into cooking time, when I looked into the oven and saw my cake listing severely to one side. I put the tin onto a small round dish to steady it, and crossed my fingers that all my fiddling around with the oven door open wouldn’t lead to a sunken cake. It came out looking a bit cracked but, on the whole, OK.
I let the cake cool completely in the tin before I put my faith in the Cake Release and turned it out. I wrapped it in foil and left if overnight. You have to start these birthday cakes a couple of days in advance to allow time for the cake to settle and sugarpaste to dry. They’re certainly not something you can do on a whim.
I lined my cakeboard with green sugarpaste (I did have a go at making my own sugar paste once. Something to do with a Bake Off challenge. Once was definitely enough). I didn’t have quite enough. I Should have read the recipe more carefully before heading off to Tesco. The layer on the board was a bit on the thin side and had a couple of holes. I decided that I could live with them, wrapped the board in clingfilm and left it to dry.
On cake decorating day I:
- Made a mad dash to Tesco – I hadn’t got enough red sugarpaste either,
- Leveled the bottom of the cake, taste testing on the way,
- Made buttercream with butter, icing sugar and vanilla,
- Spread the buttercream over the cake,
- Rolled out my red sugarpaste and covered the cake with it, using a cake smoother to get rid of the wrinkles,
- Put the cake onto the cake board, covering as many holes in the green sugarpaste base as possible,
- Pressed the back of a knife into the cake to make an indentation for the ladybird’s wings,
- Made a ladybird head and eyes and stuck them onto the cake with sugarglue,
- Made antennae out of licorice allsorts and watched them droop as soon as I stuck them onto the head,
- Made six ladybird spots and stuck them onto the cake.
- Stuck a number 3 shaped candle onto the board to finish it off, and
- Made myself a (rather large) gin and tonic.I could have done a better job with the base, the licorice antennae didn’t really do their job very well at all, and the head fell off – but only after Happy Birthday was done and dusted thank God. Despite all of this, I was relatively pleased. The cake was very chocolatey and Tesco’s red sugarpaste had a surprising hint of black cherry about it which gave the cake a Black Forest tang. As I said with Stegosaurus though, I’m glad I only have to do this kind of thing twice a year.