Category: Cake decorating

How to make a Lego Birthday cake

Beau is really into Lego. I mean REALLY into it. It’s all she want’s to do first thing in the morning. We bought her Olivia’s House for her birthday a couple of weeks ago and she has been dressed and ready for school by 7am every morning so she can play with it until it’s time to leave.

She’s always liked the regular ‘old school’ stuff that Tim used to play with when he was kid, but since the prettyLEGO Friends  girly Lego came out she has a new-found love. What was a collection of red, white, brown and black bricks has now been added to with pinks, lilacs, purples and oranges. So much more femme.  She creates houses, hotels, beds, kitchens. You name it for a house and she has probably fashioned it out of Lego. So for her 9th birthday it was no brainer what she wanted her cake to be.

The Lego cake

I decided that as there weren’t too many friends coming along to her cinema trip birthday celebration I would do what I did with her cake last year and make individual cakes for all the guests. One large purple Lego brick was for Beau and each friend had their own smaller (but still decent size) mini cake to take home.

How to make a Lego cake

The Cake Board

For this cake I decided the best way to set it out was to have one large rectangular drum board (16″x 14 “) for all the small thin boards (4″x4″) to sit on. I only iced the top half of the board so that the smaller ones would sit perfectly alongside each other without moving around too much.

To get the Lego look on the cake boards I tried out a few techniques but the one I had the most success with was using the top of a Lego base board to imprint divits into the sugarpaste. Ideally I would have liked to have had those little Lego dots sticking out on the top but the sugarpaste just wouldn’t come out of the board evenly and it just looked messy. So I used the reverse look. No-one seemed to mind- not even Beau.

Once the icing was rolled out and adhered to the board with a damp sponge I placed the largest Lego base board I could get my hands on and pressed it into the sugarpaste. (I should mention here that I did give it a really good clean first. You know how mucky kids can be!) I measured 8” from the non-sugarpasted side and cut a straight line across, removing any excess before leaving it to dry out.

For the smaller boards I used the same method only I placed the cake board under the sugarpaste and smoothed it with my hands. The excess was only removed after the Lego imprints were made as the sugarpaste tends to squidge out at the sides as you press or roller the divits in. 

To shape a Lego cake

I started off with two square cakes, which were leveled and sliced into even rectangles. 

When shaping chocolate cake it can be a bit of a nightmare. My recipe is so fresh that it just crumbles as you touch it. I often try to leave a chocolate cake over night before I shape it or add buttercream to avoid the crumb nightmare that usually ensues!

But I made this cake in the morning and had to decorate it in the evening. To combat the crumbling effect I placed the shaped cakes in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes to let them firm up a little.

I made sure that the chocolate buttercream was softer than usual by adding a little extra milk. This makes it easier to apply to the cakes with a pallette knife. I didn’t worry too much about making it neat. I just covered each cake and popped it in the fridge to firm up.

In hindsight I wish I had placed a layer of buttercream in a middle layer but I have a sneaking suspicion that the cakes really would have ended up as mush! 

Once they have been chilled cover each cake with sugarpaste. Smooth each side and make each corner as square as possible. Remove the excess and set to one side. 

To make the tops of the bricks I used my circle plungers and ‘stuck’ each one down with a touch of Royal icing.

Each Brick was positioned onto it’s baseboard with some Royal icing. Some facing front, some to one side to add a little interest. 

Names were added to each cake.

I then positioned the mini boards onto the large one, again using royal icing to hold them in place.

At the very last minute I decided that the cake needed something else so I made a Lego Beau. She loved it and she is sitting on our kitchen window sill right now.

After we sang happy birthday each cake was individually wrapped up and given with the goodie bags.

I like doing these individual cakes for birthday parties. It feels extra special for everyone to have their very own cake. Don’t you think?

EmmaMT

The dinosaur birthday cake

Last week I had a reader asking if I had ever made a dinosaur cake and if I had any advice on how to approach one. It took me back to one of the very first large cakes I ever made. Now I know that I keep saying that “this was one of the first cakes that I made” but this really was! I checked the date and I made it in September 2009!

It was back when Tim suggested that I offer to make cakes for any birthday parties the girls were invited to. I didn’t really plan my cakes back then. I just baked and hacked them into shape. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes Dinosaurs had wonky mouths! Up until this point all the cakes I had made were pretty small. This one just grew and grew, but it is a dinosaur so it should be pretty big! Don’t you think?

I decided that the easiest way to get the shape and have lots of cake to eat would be to have the dino lying down. I made the red spines and left them to dry over night. After shaping the Stegosaurus (just in case you can’t tell that’s what it is!) and covering him in green sugarpaste I tried to attach the spines. They just wouldn’t stick in place. So I had to use tons more royal icing than I had planned just to get them to stick and stay upright. In the end I used long pieces of scrunched up cling film to position the spines and keep them in place while the royal icing dried. I taped the cling film to the table at each end and left it to dry over night. When I lifted the film out of place I held my breath. It worked.  Phfew!

All that green royal icing kind of spoilt the look, so I used a cake decorating paint brush and brown food colour to draw on scales all over the beast. This gave him a more rugged look. Then all I had to do was add his eyes and mouth.

When it came to the cake board I wanted him to be sitting in a kind of forresty nest, so I cut up some ivy leaves in sugarpaste with plunger cutters in two or three different shades of green and laid them so it looked like they were sticking out from underneath him.

I also made a nest complete with marzipan eggs. I did this by creating a ring of marzipan which was covered in ivy leaves. Then the eggs just sat in the centre.

It’s funny when you look back at cakes you made at the beginning of your learning.   I see lots of things I would do differently now. But, that’s hindsight and a whole lot more experience for you isn’t it?

EmmaMT

My rainbow birthday cake

Last week was my birthday and in true Emma tradition I got so crazy busy with work and kids and other stuff that I was  running out of time to make the ‘Dr Pepper drink can’ shaped cake that I’d dream of making for my party? (I’m addicted to the stuff – but that cake will have to wait till next year!) So, what did I do? In a word (or two)  I kept it simple!

I decided that as time wasn’t on my side I would just make a really tall Madeira cake with different coloured rainbow layers inside. It was inspired by Dahlias 1st  birthday cake. When each cake came out of the oven it looked just like the one before! The outside had browned and I had no idea what the colours were going to look like on the inside. I just hoped that they would be pretty different. As it turned out they were, but, when you’re adding the food colouring you never know!Once I had stacked the cake and given it a layer of buttercream I covered it with the pale blue sugarpaste and added dots all over it with a few ’40’s’ for good measure. I got these circle cutters at the Bake show earlier in the year and I can’t stop using them. They’re great for jazzing up a plain cake in a jiffy and are so easy and fun to use.

The cake sat on the food table all night until the “Happy birthday” chorus began.  When I cut into it there was such a great reaction from the crowd. It really made me smile! Gasps of “Look at the colours/layers/size!” came from my friends.  Well, I couldn’t have the cake completely plain, now could I? Thank goodness the colours worked and actually turned out much prettier than I expected!

The slices were so tall that each piece had to be cut in half. And guess who didn’t even get a crumb? Yep me! It’s a good thing that my Mum made me a cake for my family celebration meal the following night. I had plenty of that cake and as I’ve said before. My Mum’s Madeira cake really is the best in the world, but mine looks pretty good too!

So, who knows what’s in store for the year ahead? As they say life begins at 40, so watch this space!

EmmaMT

Twitter and the horse birthday cake

Horse birthday cake
Sometimes when I  look back at the cakes I’ve done, I can’t believe how many I’ve made. Today when I was looking through my cake pictures trying to decide which one to write about I found this horse cake I did for the Editor of Elle magazine.

I should back track a little first.  I first got into Twitter after a much needed lesson from the Web team at Woman and Home magazine! I sat directly behind the lovely web girls and would listen to them all day talking about who was saying what and I got hooked. I followed who they followed and one day, just as I was about to start planning my Christmas interior features – which was my craziest time, we saw that the editor of Elle magazine (the only non home interest title I subscribed to and completely love I might add) had put out a tweet asking where she could get a cake made for her daughter’s birthday in the shape of a horse. Now although I was getting quite confident at decorating and shaping a cake, a horse really would be a huge challenge. I mean the head would have to stand up and stick out without toppling over! And I had already said that I wouldn’t do anymore cakes till after the Christmas issue was finished.

 A friend, who is also a huge Elle magazine fan said “You can’t pass up an opportunity like this” and messaged the editor directly saying how I made cakes and to see my Flickr pics. The editor got in touch and the rest as they say is history. Lorraine Candy told me about her daughter’s love of the horse she rode at her riding lessons called Megastar and we arranged a date for delivery.

Around this time there were back to back episodes of ‘Ace of Cakes‘ on TV, which I was totally hooked on. One of the cakes they made had to be top heavy and to overcome the problem they used a combination of Rice Krispies and melted Mars bars. You simply mix the two together and they become a mouldable and edible shape. So I had my answer to the horse’s head problem. I only wish I had taken step photos of it to show you, but this was before I started blogging.

Once the head was shaped and had set hard in the fridge I covered it with brown sugarpaste icing and smoothed it all over. The cake was cut into a horses body shape and the head was  secured into position then the whole thing was covered in the tan coloured icing. Megastar is a Palomino so the cake would be a lovely light colour. I would have hated to make a black horse. People in general don’t like to eat a black cake!

The legs were shaped from solid sugarpaste and were secured to the body with a little royal icing. The mane and tail were also made of thin strips of sugarpaste.

For the cake board I decided to make it a green field, complete with pretty flowers so  Megastar looked like she was resting.

In all I was pretty pleased with this cake. I could imagine being very happy to have it as an eight year old girl. The horse looked friendly and was just the right size. When I delivered it I found out that Megastar belonged to Noel Gallagher! Which was just the icing on the cake! (sorry- I couldn’t help myself)

EmmaMT

Squires Kitchen ‘BAKE School’ magazine review

Have you seen this magazine on the shelves yet? I got my hands on the second issue this week and it’s really, really good. I don’t buy many baking magazines – if I started I don’t think I’d stop and what with all the interiors titles I buy for work I’d be drowning in piles and piles of paper!

Squires kitchen, for those of you who don’t know, is a baking shop/school/ haven. It’s based in Farnham in Surrey and has people coming from all over the world to learn how to master the art of decorating cakes and cookies, modelling, sugarcrafting and much, much more. Their baking ingredients and equipment are so readily available the chances are you already have a ton of it in your baking cupboard without even realising it. They have had a fantastic  Wedding magazine for a while but this new ‘Bake school’ is right up my street and so probably yours too.

So what’s in it?

Recipes to start with, and lots and lots of them. Most are by the Squires tutors but there’s also a few experts thrown in for good measure, Mary Berry, Edd Kimber and Carlos Lischetti to name but a few. There are also tons and tons of tips. Really simple things that make a difference to being a successful baker. How to line a cake tin, how to colour icing, how to pipe a cupcake, which nozzle give which effect etc

The features in this issue

Biscuits

There are loads of recipes as well as beautiful decorating ideas from stencilling and embossing to flooding and stained glass effects

Cupcakes

Recipes including very vanilla, triple chocolate and some basic how to’s on piping buttercream to more complex designs. I love the butterfly cupcakes with the iced cookies in them and the cupcakes that really look like roses. They’re incredible.

Cakes

Raspberry Victoria Sponge anyone? Or a pretty layered cake, like the one on the cover? Yes, please!  There are also some dairy free, wheat and gluten cakes as well.

Chocolate

Well what can I say. You will want to make all of these recipes from Mud cake to chocolate chilli cupcakes, Chocolate fondant puddings to chocolate and walnut brownies to name but a few.

Dessert

I love desserts. In fact I nearly love them more than cakes – but don’t tell anyone! This is one chapter that I have folded down the page corners on every page! Swiss Meringues that are so pretty, Eaton Mess Meringue cakes, Mango tart, yum, yum, yum!

Bread

I’ve only recently discovered the fun of baking bread. I have loved making pizza bases this week. They are so much better than shop bought ones. George Thomopoulos, Squires expert bread baker, shares his tried and tested recipes for brown malted loaf, bloomer and rolls and Focaccia – this is what I’m making next.

Also worth checking out ….

  • Susanna Righetto’s sugarcraft flowers. You could sell them in a florists shop they look so real.
  • The interview with Edd Kimber, winner of the first series of The Great British Bake off.
  • Plum chutney and a jam recipe to accompany other recipes.
  • In the kitchen with Carlos Lischetti – this man makes models from modelling clay that are incredible. They are so beautiful you could put them on a shelf as an ornament. They are the epitome of perfect.

Bake school is available from WHSMith, Sainsbury’s and selected newsagents for £5.99 or you can buy it directly from the Squires on line shop, but beware, you’ll come away with a lot more than you bargained for if you let yourself loose in the shop. It’s a treasure trove of baking goodies!

Do you buy baking magazines? Which ones are your favorites and why? I’d love to know what to look out for.

enjoy!

How to cover a cake in sugarpaste, and make it really smooth!

Last week I made this really big (and really heavy) wedding cake. I have been asked a few times now how I cover cakes with sugarpaste and get it looking so smooth, so,  I took some snaps as I went. My poor camera is now covered in icing sugar! I started with each cake covered in marzipan. It gives a really smooth base coat. (To cover a cake in marzipan you do the same proceedure as with the icing-  you just use jam or buttercream to attach it, not alchohol) I found out whilst making this cake that if you buy a 5kg box of sugarpaste you get 1kg free. It’s so much cheaper to buy in bulk! I buy from here by the way. Just look at the size of that sugarpaste! It’s massive and really heavy. I break off big chunks and knead them until soft and pliable, then add the next chunk of sugarpaste, till I have enough to cover the whole cake. I use spacers when rolling to make sure that the icing is level throughout. This was a 12″ Madeira cake so the sugarpaste needed to be rolled out to a really big circle. In order for the sugarpaste to stick to the marzipan you need to make it damp. For this use either cooled boiled water or brandy. You can guess which one I used! Well, it was a wedding cake! Use a damp pastry brush and cover the whole cake especially around the base.

 

If you are sugarpasting directly onto a cake  (ie with no marzipan) add a thin layer of buttercream to the top and side of the cake for the sugarpaste to stick to. The smoother you can get teh buttercream the better the sugarpaste will look.  Carefully lift the rolled  out sugarpaste over the cake. Support it from underneath as much as you can as it will stretch very easily- making it very thin in some areas. Use a cake smoother to gently force any trapped air bubbles out and smooth the top layer of the cake. I have this pink spirit leveller just for using with cakes. It’s an essential tool when stacking cakes, as if you get the bottom two tiers wonky it will throw the whole cake off. Most of the time you can keep using the smoother to get the level as good as perfect. Keep smoothing in a circular action and checking the flatness till it’s good. Once the top is nice and flat gently use the palm of your hand to smooth down the sides. Avoid creases at the bottom by holding the lower piece of sugarpaste out away from the cake while you smooth it gently towards the bottom with your other hand. (It’s impossible to take a photo of this action when you are home alone on a Tuesday afternoon!) Hope it makes sence. Once the whole cake is covered use the palm of your hand to smooth the edges of the icing securely onto the cake. There is always some excess to cut off. I use a pizza wheel to cut away the extra sugarpaste. Don’t lean the cutter in towards the bottom of the cake. Keep it at a right angle and leave about 2mm sticking out. Use a flat smoother to tuck in the excess 2mm of sugarpaste all the way around the cake.  Use the inside part of your palm- between your thumb and first finger, and smooth the top corner until it’s really soft and there are no bumps. The last action is to finish off with a cake smoother all over the top and around the sides till it’s perfectly smooth.

enjoy!

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