Category: How to…

The Black Forrest Gateau decorated cake

Best Black forrest gateaux Do you ever have one of those days when you just get a brainwave? A stroke of cake genius that you just can’t stop thinking about till you’ve baked it / tried it / tasted it? Well that’s what happened last month with the big birthdays in my family.

Tim was born on his mum’s birthday and this year it was a double whammy of BIG birthdays. Let’s just say that they are both staying 21 forever!

Tim’s mum invited us to go out for lunch to celebrate at The Bottlehouse which is an amazing pub with the most fantastic food. I made the cake – of course! Now I know I have mentioned that Tim’s favorite cake is black forrest gateau before but my dilemma was that Tim’s mum had requested a Whisky cake!  I decided to kind of mix them both up and make a very boozy Black forrest gateau in the same kind of way that I made the Whisky cake. That basically meant adding a ton of alcohol. That was my brainwave.

I used the recipe from this post and added more kirsch and cherry brandy at every chance I could. I thought this would put my girls off. Nope! I do believe I am going to have problems with Darcey when she’s a teenager! She loves the alcoholic cakes and she’s only 7!

The challengeRenshaw

It was about this time that I decided to enter the Renshaw birthday cake challenge. Perfect timing you might say. I don’t enter into competitions or challenges very often but when the challenge is something you’ve planned to do anyway you just think “Let’s go for it!”. T that and “fingers crossed!”.

I selected my Renshaw colours. Have you seen their website? I hadn’t before the challenge. I just bought my sugarpastes from the local cake decorating shop, but they do tons more colours and products than I was aware of. Thirty six colour to be precise.  Jade green or tropical coral anyone?

For this cake I used:

  • Duck egg blue for the cake board. I wanted something that would look good for boys and girls and duck egg blue looks so good with brown.
  • Chocolate brown This tastes really good. It’s probably the best tasting ready roll out there.
  • White for the cream topping
  • Poppy Red for the cherries, but I could have chosen Ruby red.


How to make the decorated Black Forrest Gateau cake

The cake recipe

  • 225g butter, at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 160g  self-raising flour
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp kirsch
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease 2 x 8 inch round tins and line the base with baking paper. You can use two tins and cut the cake in half through the middle, or if you have enough tins bake four separate ones.
  2. Blend the butter and sugar together.
  3. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and eggs and blend until smooth.
  4. Add the kirsch
  5. Divide the mix into the cake tins and smooth it flat.
  6. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the cakes start to come away from the sides.
  7. Leave them to cool for 5 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Make sure you remove the baking paper so the cake doesn’t ‘sweat’.

The filling recipe

  • 340g jar of morello cherry jam (any cherry jam will work)
  • 3 tbsp kirsch
  1. Place the jam in a saucepan on a low heat with the Kirsch until it melts. Set aside to cool then place between each cake layer.

The chocolate cherry ganache recipe

  • 50g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cherry brandy
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk to soften if neccesary
  1. Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a low heat until they are completely melted. Stir continuously. Add the Cherry brandy then set aside to cool for a few minutes. 
  2. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl then add the chocolate mix. Whisk until combined then add a little milk at a time. The ganache should look glossy. 
  3. Leave to cool for a few minutes before covering your cake completely with a crumb coat and then a thicker coat. Chill the cake in the fridge in between each layer of buttercream. 

The Black forrest Gateaux cake

Cover the cake in chocolate sugarpaste, smooth and remove the excess.

The cherries

To make the cherries: roll out some red sugarpaste between two spacers. This will give an even thickness so when you cut out circles with a cutter and then roll them into balls each cherry will be exactly the same size.

I wanted the cherries to be a darker shade on one side making them look more realistic. So I got my air brush gun out. This was it’s first outing and I have to say it was really, really easy to use and I pretty much got the desired effect straight away. It was good fun too. I’d been avoiding using it for ages as I didn’t know how it worked.  Now it’s all I want to do.

The Black forrest Gateaux cake

I sprayed the sides of each cherry with a mixture of red and a drop of black food dye until they looked darker and glossier. I then left them overnight to harden up and dry up. 

A few days earlier I made the cherry stems and stuck them in the dips in the cherries before the cherries dried.  Make the stems by rolling out some green and brown sugarpaste. Squidge them together and roll until the stem is the desired length. Add a tiny bit of brown at the tip and leave to dry.

Create swirls of cream with rolled out white sugarpaste. Don’t make the ‘cream’ too tall or it won’t look quite right. I used royal icing to ‘glue’ the cherries in place.

The Black forrest Gateaux cake

To make the cream topping I rolled out the white sugarpaste into a rough circle then used a circle cutter to create some dribbles. Smooth the edge of the cream with your fingers then place over the chocolate sugarpaste. If the cream needs securing brush the underside with a little water.

Add the cherries and swirls of cream and you’re done.

The Black forrest Gateaux cake

This cake turned out really well. It was really moist and rich – which Tim loved and I think his mum liked it too! Darcey definitely did! black forrest gateau

Happy Birthday gorgeous bloke. x




5 things I learnt making a Lego man birthday cake

Lego man birthday cakeSometimes cakes go wrong! Sometimes they go REALLY wrong and other times, if you’re lucky, you can get away with it. Like when it’s a cake for your 6 year old nephew!

Asher is mad on Lego and wanted a Lego Policeman birthday cake this year. “No problem” I said. Anything for the other man in my life. I thought. And then he gave me his little Lego policeman and I had to make it! What was I thinking? I was completely stumped. How was I going to get the proportions right? How would I make him stand up without falling over? There were endless questions and not all of them were answered.

How I made a Lego man birthday cake and where I went wrong

Lego man birthday cake1. The arms were too heavy

I started off with four Madeira cakes made using almond rather than vanilla essence (try it. You won’t go back) One square 6″ cake was for the legs and feet, one 5″ square cake for the body. One small 4″ pie tin  for the head and one loaf tin (half filled) for the arms. This was mistake number one! The arms didn’t need to be made from cake covered in buttercream and sugarpaste. They should have been thinner and made just of sugarpaste. That way they would have stuck to the side of the cake better.


Lego man birthday cake

Each cake was cut to size and shaped.

Lego man birthday cake

And was then covered in a buttercream crumb coating and then a top coating of buttercream which was smoothed as much as possible.

Lego man birthday cake

I thought that covering a square cake in sugarpaste when it was turned up onto one side was going to be impossible but it wasn’t too difficult. I made sure that the sugarpaste was really thick when it was rolled out so that when I picked it up to smooth it over the cake it moulded perfectly without cracking or tearing.

Lego man birthday cake Lego man birthday cake

Next the legs were covered in blue sugarpaste. I made a neat line in the cake for the crease in the trousers.

Lego man birthday cake

2. Where’s the support? 

I used one plastic dowel to support the top half of the cake and keep him upright – which didn’t actually work! I thought that if the dowel went from the cake board right up to his head then that would be enough to keep him sitting – not slouching. It didn’t work!

What I should have done was placed a thin cake board underneath the body part of the cake and supported him from underneath in the legs. Then had another small cakeboard under the head cake and supported through the body. Cake is heavy, especially when there’s a ton of sugarpaste on top.

Lego man birthday cake

The head was cut to size and shaped then the face was added.

Lego man birthday cake

PC Legoman is a  cheeky chappy complete with stublble.

Lego man birthday cake

3. I added stubble

Now I wanted to make the little Lego figure’s face as close to the one Asher had given to me to copy. I made the eyes out of black and white sugarpaste and then used black food colour gel on a dry paint brush to create the stubble. In hindsight a 6 year old doesn’t really need stubble on his birthday cake and it just made the cake look a bit dirty.

Lego man birthday cake

4. Too much hair makes your cake top heavy!

I used a ton of black sugarpaste to make the hair and although it looked good when I finished it was so heavy that it weighed down the rest of the cake making it impossible for the Lego man to stay upright. What I should have done was to leave as much cake on the top of the head and add as little black sugarpaste as possible. This is the one time you want the cake to dome!

After I attached the arms and head I had the cake resting against a food box. It was supposed to support the cake just while the arms were ‘sticking’. I turned my back for literally a minute and when I turned back again he had fallen backwards, leaning right on the box causing a massive crease all the way across the back of the cake. To make matters worse the arms just wouldn’t stay on. I gently rubbed the back sugarpaste to blend the crease in but it was just too deep. I had to leave it.


Lego man birthday cake

5. The hands weren’t quite right. 

I wished I had made the hands well in advance so they were hardened and stayed in shape but I didn’t have the time with this cake so, I had to make them on the day. In future when I make a Lego man cake (because I am not beaten yet!) I will make the arms and hands in advance when I cover the cake board so that they are really firm and I can place cocktail sticks in them to attach them to the  cake with sugarpaste.

Lego man birthday cake

All I can say is that Asher liked the cake and at the end of the day (when PC Lego man did literally topple over!) that’s all that matters.

Happy Birthday Asher. I love you. xx



How to make a penguin birthday cake

How to make a Penguin cake

Back in November Beau celebrated her 10th Birthday. My kids usually know what cake they want for their birthdays. Well, they know for about 10 minutes and then they change their minds about 100 times!  But this year it was all about the penguin with Beau. I have absolutely no idea where this new obsession came from but all I do know is that we now have a cushion (half made but I’m working on it), mittens, a onesie and a cuddle cushion to name just a few of the recent penguin additions to our house.

Penguin cake drawing

Beau has been very creative and independent from a very young age and this year she gave me a drawing of exactly what she wanted her Penguin birthday cake to look like – complete with goldfish and bows in the hair. I love the little comments she put on there and that she even included what she wanted the board to look like and where to position the penguin’s feet! I think I’m going to be having bigger challenges as the years go on… or maybe she’ll be making her own cakes soon!

How to make a penguin cake How to make a Penguin cake

Beau decided that she wanted the actual cake to be “sky blue”. That was until I added blue food colour to a yellow cake mix and ended up with a green cake! Not to worry. It still looked good. I started off by baking three Madeira cakes in  4, 6 and 7” round cake tin. I loosely stacked them to check that the basic shape was going to work then I levelled the bottom two cakes and left the top one rounded for the head. I filled the cakes with raspberry jam and buttercream and placed a plastic food dowel through the whole cake to add stability.

How to make a Penguin cake

The next step was to cover the cake in a crumb coating of buttercream, pop it in the fridge (yes I had to remove shelves from the fridge) to firm up. Then I gave the cake a top coating of buttercream which I smoothed as best I could.

How to make a Penguin cake

Black sugarpaste is notoriously sticky but the plus side is that it is really easy to knead and roll out. It does tend to stretch and tear easily so try to keep the thickness of the sugarpaste 5mm or more. To cover the cake carefully lift the rolled out sugarpaste over the penguin. Smooth the top of the head first then smooth down the sides.

How to make a Penguin cake

As long as the sugarpaste is thick enough you’ll be able to gently ease the sugarpaste around the neck area in (when you do this it looks like your strangling the penguin) Move your hands around it’s neck till you have a good definition between the head and the body. Smooth all over and remove the excess at the bottom.

How to make a Penguin cake

I wanted the cake board (or cake stand in this case) to look like an iceberg sitting on some choppy water so I rolled out some really thick blue sugarpaste then positioned it over the cake stand and poked my fingers into it- carefully so that I didn’t go through to the stand.  I then rolled out some white icing and softened the edges with my fingers.

How to make a Penguin cake

To stick the cake in place I used a little royal icing o the iceberg then position the penguin in place.
How to make a Penguin cake

I added a pretty pink bow to the top of the head with royal icing.
How to make a Penguin cake

Next were the wings and then the feet and beak – all made from sugarpaste. Make sure the feet sit underneat the tummy. How to make a Penguin cake

The white tummy was added next. Be sure not to roll the white sugarpaste out too thinly or the black tummy will show through. How to make a Penguin cake

To make the eyes I used three circle cutters. It’s amazing what expressions you can get with a strategically placed white dot! How to make a Penguin cake The end result? A very happy Beau at her sleepover party. When this picture was taken she was in fits of laughter and didn’t want anyone to cut the cake up. Then I gave her a big knife to slice it up and it didn’t last very long at all.




How to make silver sugarpaste numbers… or letters.

Sugarpaste letters


Sometimes you want to scream and shout “I’m 60. Yaayyyy!” and when that happens you want your ’60’ to stand to attention. Don’t you? I know I would. So that’s what I planned for this cake. Robert was going to be given an electric guitar for his birthday so the cake was themed around that. His wife sent me a picture of the  guitar and told me that the colour scheme for the party was purple and silver. She had some really great ideas for the cake and after I sent her a sketch of my design she made a few tweeks and the look was set.

I really wanted the ’60’ to be standing up so I made it a few days before I baked the cake – so it had time to dry and would be able to be handled. This is how I made it…


How to make a silver sugarpaste number

how to make silver sugarpaste numbers

If you want silver letters and numbers you should mix up some grey sugarpaste. If you want gold use a pale yellow colour paste. Cut out the Numbers and letters.

how to make silver Sugarpaste letters

Place the cut out’s onto baking paper so they can dry without sticking to the surface they’re on. I left these for three days and turned them over at the end of each day so the back could dry too.

Sugarpaste letters

To make them stand up I use a little royal icing underneath each number to make them ‘stick’ to the cake, but just to be on the safe side (especially when you have to drive a long way to deliver the cake) I use cocktail sticks in the larger numbers and really thin food standard Sugarcraft Wire (the kind you use to have stars on like these) in the tiny ‘th’ to give you something to stick them in with. Gently push these into each digit soon after you cut them out so they can dry in place. If you try to add them once the digits are dry they tend to crack and break.

Silver Sugarpaste letters

Use some edible Metallic Silver Liquid food colour to get a really good shine. This tiny pot goes a really, really long way! Make sure you stir it really well as the silver pigments sink to the bottom of the pot and that’s where the sparkle comes from!


Give the numbers a coat. Work quickly as it dries practically instantly. Avoid going over areas more than once as it mottles and goes a bit bumpy. If you aren’t happy with the finish you can always wait for it to dry then do a second coat. No-one will know!
Silver Sugarpaste letters


And there you have it. One rocking 60th birthday cake- complete with silver 60 and an electric guitar !




The secrets of a smooth cake……crumb coating

Rainbow cake getting a crumb coating

I often get asked how I get my cakes so smooth and I have to tell you that it’s a bit like DIY. It’s all in the preparation. If you don’t sand and fill in the holes on your walls before you paint then you are always going to see those lumps and bumps. Well with cake decorating it’s all about the crumb coating.

What’s a Crumb coating

Basically it’s a thin layer of buttercream that you apply to a cake to stop the loose crumbs from coming off of the cakes outter edge before you give it a really good layer of buttercream. The cake is coated in a thin layer which is smoothed as much as possible. This needs to be done gently as very fresh sponge can so easily crumble- especially my chocolate cake recipe. The cake is then popped into the fridge for 20 minutes to harden up. This gives the cake a kind of coat of armour. When you take the cake out of the fridge the buttercream crumb coat has firmed up enough to prevent crumbs coming off when you add a proper layer of buttercream. This second layer can be smoothed perfectly. It’s also where you can hide any inperfections. If there are deep holes, wonky layers or uneven fillings you can add buttercream and smooth it to hide everything. No one will ever know!

Once the second layer of buttercream has been applied and smoothed you can pop the cake bake in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden again or go straight to the sugarpaste/ marzipan covering.

I don’t like to leave cakes in the fridge for a long time as it alters the taste and consistency, but by adding these two buttercream coats the sugarpaste has a really firm and flat base to sit on. Since mastering this technique my cakes look much more professional. It’s also an essential step when decorating a shaped cake. It makes life a whole lot easier.


How to do a Crumb coating.

Here are the steps to doing a crumb coating from the cake I made for Dahlia (you know the one that fell over!)

Crumb coating


1. Once your cake is stacked and filled or shaped add a thin layer of buttercream to the outside edge. I used buttercream to ensure where each layer was filled looked nice and flat. I then scraped off the excess. Pop the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes.

2. Remove the cake from the fridge. The crumb coating is now firm to the touch and acts as a base for the real buttercream coating. This coating can be for decoration or as a base for marzipan or sugarpaste.

3. Use a side scraper to give a perfectly smooth finish even if you are covering it in sugarpaste and no one will see it. The better the finish here the better the final result will be.

4. Pop the cake in the fridge for a little longer so handling the cake is easier then complete your decorations.


Good luck crumbless bakers




How to make a number 7 birthday cake

How to make a number 7 cake

On Thursday it was Darcey’s birthday and what with one thing and another I had to make her cake in one evening! The day before I had finished off decorating a friends wedding cake which had to be driven to Poland. Can you imagine how stressful it is to make a friends wedding cake let alone make sure that it can survive a 12 hour drive! I was mega stressed out to say the least. I boxed it all up in double boxes. Loads of brown tape and tissue paper so it couldn’t move. The poor bride only got to see photos of it as I wanted to make sure it was really safe and bump/ swerve/brake proof.

I learnt a lot from that wedding cake including how to get the right ingredients for different size cake tins. (I’ll be sharing that with you soon). So I luckily had a 10″ cake that I didn’t use for the wedding cake sitting around. It wasn’t very deep, only 2″, so I decided to use it for Darcey’s cake and keep it simple and make her a ‘7’. To be honest I was too shattered to do anything else – even though Tim said I should make her a Mike from Monsters University. Finishing decorating at 1am, 1am and 2am for the last three nights in a row was too much me!

How to make a number 7 cake 

My girls are pretty lucky. They get to celebrate their birthdays two or three times each year. Once on their birthday, once with the family and once with their friends at their birthday party. This cake was for just the four of us to take with to a birthday dinner meal so it wasn’t supposed to be that big but a 10″ cake!!! I couldn’t resist.

How to make a number 7 cake

I started with a 10″ Madeira cake which I levelled off. I didn’t want to fill it with buttercream so I did what my mum always does with marzipan (see below) I cut out a piece of paper to the same size as the cake then cut it into a ‘7’ template.

How to make a number 7 cake

Carefully I cut out the shape making sure that I kept the knife straight. I smoothed the top corner edges with my fingers.

How to make a number 7 cake

Next I heated up some raspberry jam in the microwave until it was runny and covered the whole cake with it. I was pretty annoyed that I picked up a jam with seeds in but it didn’t seem to matter. The cake then had to be left till the jam had cooled down.

How to make a number 7 cake

The cake was covered in a layer of marzipan. This is how my mum covers her birthday cakes. The combination on jam, marzipan and finally icing is just perfect. Most people want a layer of buttercream but we aren’t keen on it so much. The family tradition is much better!

The marzipan is rolled out between two spacers then is laid over the jam covered cake. It’s important not to let the marzipan get too thin as you wont have enough scope to ease it into the nooks and crannies of the shaped cake.

Smooth the top first, then work your way around the edges. I use my hands to get it all in place before I use a smoother. Marzipan is pretty sticky stuff so if you’re having difficulties lightly sprinkle icing sugar on your hands.
How to make a number 7 cake

Gently ease the marzipan into the crook of the 7. This is where it can easily tear if you have rolled it out too thin. If it doesn’t feel like it will fit, lift up the excess that is on the flat in front of the crook and gently move it inwards. This prevents the pulling action over the cake and uses up some of the excess that you will be cutting away anyway.

How to make a number 7 cake

Make sure the marzipan is secured against the cake right down to the cake board.

How to make a number 7 cake

Smooth with a smoother and remove the excess marzipan. Tuck any loose bits under the cake with a side scraper.

How to make a number 7 cake

Now you need to repeat the whole process for the sugarpaste. Give your marzipaned cake a brush with cooled boiled water so that the sugarpaste will stick to it. Roll out the sugarpaste and place over the cake, smoothing as you did with the marzipan.

How to make a number 7 cake

Rather than add ribbon to this cake I decided to make it really bright and colourful. I made balls from sugarpaste which I wanted to go all the way around the cake. To make sure that they were all the same size I rolled out the sugarpaste between two spacers and used a round cutter to create pieces that were exactly the same. I then rolled them into balls and left them to air dry for a bit.

How to make a number 7 cake

The balls were secured onto the cake board with a little royal icing.

How to make a number 7 cake

I used these plunger letter tappits to make the wording. I’ve never been very successful with them before so I was really pleased when I got them to work. I got the plungers tappits at the Cake and Bake show a few years ago and I can’t find them on line anywhere! I’ll keep looking though as they are a great tool and I’d love to share them with you guys.

I positioned the wording with a little royal icing and then made the ‘7’ with some dots on to follow the theme.

How to make a number 7 cake

So, there you have it. Darcey’s number 7 cake. We went to Zizzi’s pizza for dinner. It was her choice and it took her ages to decide. She made up this elaborate way to decide where we would go. We all had to write down four places we wanted to go and put a number 1-4 on each one depending on our first choice. She then got all the number ones together and it basically got very confusing! But what she wanted to do was choose somewhere that we all wanted to go, even though we had said as it’s her birthday it’s her choice. She’s a very caring little monkey. How to make a number 7 cake

Happy Birthday Doodles. We love you so.



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