The second birthday cake

So it’s already been a year since this cake. Woah. Last year we didn’t really do a big party, but this year we thought a party would be nice – park, playground, yummy food, a good bunch of people and kids – and of course in that case there had to be a cake. And when you’re on to a good thing, why change? So I made the same cake. Well, sort of…

It was the same recipe, but I made two batches. And split each batch across two cake tins. And dyed them different shades of pink. Yep, I made one of those ombre layer cakes! Never made one before, what could go wrong? Just to add to the fun, I thought I’d also try a totally different style of decorating the cake too, because why not live life on the edge?

IMG_5786

Surprisingly, it turned out really well! And there were no tears (from me anyway, there were a few babies at the party who cried, but I don’t think they were crying about the cake). Like I said, I used the same recipe but made it twice. I split each batch, dyed them, and baked in 18cm round cake tins. I didn’t dye the top layer, but for the second layer I used 3/4 teaspoon pink food dye, for the third layer I used 1 1/2 teaspoons pink food dye, and for the bottom layer I used 3 teaspoons pink food dye. Then I put them in the fridge overnight before doing all the trimming and decorating in the morning.

IMG_5738

Once I’d trimmed the tops and the sides a bit to make them even and smooth, I layered them together with plain vanilla buttercream. (I don’t have a recipe for this, it’s just butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk beaten in the mixer until it seems about right). I’m not the world’s greatest cake decorator, just gonna admit that right now, but I think that for my first time at this I didn’t do too bad a job. I can see how with a bit of practice it would look totally pro. And with a bit more patience I probably wouldn’t end up with crumbs all through the top layer of icing…

IMG_5746IMG_5747

The real test though was going to be cutting into it at the party. It was a pretty tall cake, so thin slices were plenty. I was so nervous about it, and then so happy when I realised how well it had worked, that I made everyone wait for their serves while I took photos. The presentation wasn’t the best, no fancy plates or props, but I was very proud of myself.

IMG_5796IMG_5800

Here’s the thing though: my daughter doesn’t really love cake. She ate about 3 bites of my piece before she’d had enough. Which is more than she would have eaten if it had been chocolate – she really doesn’t love chocolate. Strange woman. Anyway, I’m having leftovers for dinner, because she’s asleep and I think I deserve it!

IMG_5802

Advertisements

The first birthday cake

My daughter turned one last week. We took her out to brunch (mostly because we wanted to eat tasty foods) and she had avocado and banana, which she was very excited about, and we had a get-together with the grandparents that involved cute dresses, tasty lunch foods, presents, and of course there was cake. It took about 30 seconds of thought before I decided that she had to have the traditional number one cake. You know what I’m talking about – the cake shaped like a number one, covered in buttercream and smarties. It’s an Australian classic.

And for good reason. It’s simple, it’s effective, you can make the cake the day before, and everyone loves it.

I made a plain vanilla butter cake as the base, but I guess if you wanted to you could do something fancy. I don’t recommend that though, because if you have a one year old then they’re probably taking up most of your attention and sitting at your feet while you make this, begging to be picked up only to want to be put down again 30 seconds later, ad infinitum, so simple is best. My biggest tip would be: don’t overestimate your time or patience. Unless you’re making this for someone else’s kid, in which case do whatever you like. There were no tears, but there were swears, I’m not going to lie.

My second biggest tip would be: make the cake the night before. Refrigerate it and the next day it will be way easier to cut into shapes without crumbling everywhere. You can make the whole thing from a single large square cake. No need to double quantities or split it between tins or anything like that. Here’s the cutting technique I used:

IMG_0450

Stick the bits together with a dab of icing (there was some cake left over, if I’d had a larger cake board I’d have used all the cake but I didn’t have room):

IMG_0451

250g soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
3/4 cup milk

Cream the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until pale, add the vanilla and sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. Stir in half the flour and then half the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.

Pour into a greased square tin (I think mine is 22cm x 22cm) lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 1 hour. Cool the cake in the tin for 5-10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. Wait until it’s completely cooled before icing. Or, even better, follow my tip and refrigerate overnight first.

To make the icing, beat 125g-150g butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until pale, and then this is where I stopped measuring. I added a fair bit of icing sugar, maybe 500g, maybe a bit more. I also added a couple of tablespoons of milk – it helps make the icing a bit paler and fluffier and more spreadable. Basically with icing I just keep adding bits of things until it seems right and I have enough. Keep an eye on the texture and taste and you’ll be fine. You can add some colour to the icing if you want, but I didn’t.

Cut the cake up, and stick the bits together with a small amount of the icing. Then just go for it – buttercream all over the outside of that cake until it’s all nice and even and covered up. Make it as smooth as you can, but remember that the smarties hide a lot of mistakes.

IMG_0456

My daughter seemed to enjoy it, although I took the smarties off her piece so that there was no choking. She’d never had cake before, but honestly I think she would rather have had a banana. So I ate the rest of the cake myself over the next 2 days. It’s a lot of sugar. Now I jut have to decide what kind of cake to make next year!

 

Chocolate Crackles and Fairy Bread

If you grew up in Australia, chances are that you have attended a children’s birthday party which involved chocolate crackles and/or fairy bread. They are such childhood party staples that I only realised recently, when a friend of mine who is Scottish looked at me quizzically when these foods were mentioned, that perhaps they weren’t exactly a worldwide thing! Neither item requires baking at all – they are quick, easy, and well-loved – so I decided to make them for my own birthday!

For the uninitiated, fairy bread is just slices of fresh white bread (and it HAS to be white bread) spread with butter, and sprinkled liberally with 100’s & 1000’s. Then cut into quarters, preferably triangles. Sounds like you can’t go wrong, right? Well, there was actually some serious debate in our house about the ‘right’ way to make fairy bread, and it resulted in me being kicked out of the kitchen by my husband, and being called a communist for leaving the crusts on. I say the crusts have to stay on so that it gives you something to hold while you eat it, and is a barrier for holding the sprinkles in, on one side at least. Like pizza. Apparently the purists insist on cutting the crusts off. I think that is just unnecessary fanciness. My father then called and weighed in on the debate by agreeing about keeping the crusts on, but thinking the bread only needs to be cut in half. He was fairly well shot down for that one.

Crust or not crusts, they go down well. On this occasion the adults appreciated the fairy bread more than 11.5-month-old James, who mostly liked sticking his hands in the buttery sprinkle topping and then wiping it in my hair.

Chocolate crackles require slightly more effort, but not much. This recipe makes about 24. Remember to make them in advance so that they have time to set.

250g copha
1 cup icing sugar
4 cups rice bubbles
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup desiccated coconut 

Line cupcake trays with paper liners. Melt the copha. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the copha and mix thoroughly. Spoon into the cupcake liners and refrigerate until set.

Again there was some debate about the making of the chocolate crackles – if you want to get fancy you can drizzle melted chocolate over the top, or decorate the tops with silver cachous or sprinkles or something. My mum used to attempt to make them healthier by adding sultanas to the mix. She once tried to make fairy bread with wholemeal bread though…