Friday, 27 July 2012

I Caked It Myself: the Ladybird

Tra la la, oh happy day, Friday's here, kahloo kahlay! That is my happy Friday song. But you may sing it too if you like. Go on - it'll do wonders for your tired, workaday soul.

O Friday, how I love your lovely end-of-weekiness. It means rest is around the corner, sleep is practically within grasp, and it's time to let someone else step into the limelight until I shove them rudely out of it again and hog the spotlight myself once more.

Today's contributor to I Caked It Myself is the gorgeous Anna, who has submitted the ladybird for your edification. 

Anna writes: 

I love your blog (ed: why thank you Anna! You are a very nice person, and I must say that you clearly have impeccable taste.) and for a recent friend's birthday she said that she wanted a ladybird cake. 

Where better than to go to the Australian's Woman's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book where so many of my childhood cakes were made from!

As you can no longer buy black smarties, I bought large chocolate black buttons.

The cake was a huge success with my friends.

Good luck with all your remaining cakes!  I can't wait to see how you go with the train- that was always my favourite!

Thank you Anna for your lovely email, and for the photos of your wonderful ladybird! I also cannot wait to see how I go with the train, which everyone is dying to see and therefore also inadvertently providing me with the perfect excuse to hold off making it for some time yet in order to build the anticipation. 

Anna, I also admire how well you adapted the cake by using chocolate buttons - they look absolutely delicious. And I know only too well how annoying it can be, when you have decided to make a cake from The Book and you go out to procure all the proper bits and pieces only to find they've stopped making black smarties, or pink wafers, or tiny dolls, or a certain kind of squishy jube.

Did you know that the reason Smarties are now their kind of pale and insipid colours instead of the vibrant eye-bashingly colourful sweets we remember from our childhoods, is because Nestle decided to take out all the artificial colourings?

Now, I can understand that from a corporate social responsibility point of view. I can understand it from an organic-muesli-mummy-gumboots kind of view. But I cannot accept it from an authenticity point of view. Do they know how cross it makes me? Do they? It's like when they renamed those tiny lolly cigarettes "FADS". They weren't fooling anyone.

As a woman without children, I am MORE than prepared for every other mum across Australia to have to deal with their kids bouncing off the walls from artificial colourings if it means I can have the proper lollies at hand to lovingly recreate cakes from The Book. Isn't that magnanimous of me. 

Humph. Perhaps I should write a letter. 

Or better yet: do you think that if we gathered enough support through Facebook, that we could pressure Nestle to reinstate the black Smartie??? 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane (or: the flying doctor)


She's leeeeaaa-ving, on a jet plaaane

Don't know when she'll be back again,
Oh babe, she hates to go .....

So wrote John Denver back in 1966 - sort of, anyway, I have adapted it slightly - in a song most famously recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary (who, I hear the younger of you ask?).

I quote this song in honour of Katherine With A K, a dear friend who jetted off to England last week to take up an incredibly prestigious neurological position with a leading London hospital. She's clever. 

(To contrast that achievement, let me just remind everyone that my biggest goal right now is to a) get out of bed each day and b) maybe achieve a smoother consistency for my vienna cream. To wit, perhaps I should sift the icing sugar instead of just dumping it into the KitchenAid in a cloud of puff?) 

Katherine With A K, on the other hand, is out there Making It Happen and having exciting adventures. I can feel my feet starting to itch.

Katherine With A K flew out on Thursday, and as we haven't heard from her yet, I expect she is still stuck in the Olympic-sized queue at Heathrow, policed by poorly trained security guards (would that make them insecurity guards, or unsecure guards?). 

I shall miss Katherine With A K. She is one of those friends I don't see all the time, but I think of her often. And each time I do, my heart flutters a little. She is magic. And she is also one of those wonderful people who has the ability to make you feel like a far more captivating version of yourself. 

Like a concentrated perfume, in her presence I become Flickettysplits Intensif.   

So it seemed only appropriate that the Jet Plane should take on a dangerous lean to the left once it arrived at its afternoon tea destination. 

It was slumping in anticipation of her departure, just like my spirits. It happened in slow motion before our eyes, and eventually toppled to one side as the turboprop wafer collapsed. 

We toasted her departure with tea (the nursing mothers, and her, the responsible doctor) - and wine (me, the artistic soul sobbing on the inside).

Farewell for now, Katherine With A K, and long may you live, though not long in London please. xox.

(As a postscript, I'd just like to note HOW FREAKING HARD this cake was. Mainly because of my terrible construction skills. I cut the bottom platform too narrowly, which meant the entire plane body teetered precariously on a teeny-tiny-itty-bitty bit of cake instead of the solid footing it should have had. And the wafers! In The Book the icecream wafers are pink. Can you buy pink wafers in real life these days? No you cannot. Not unless you buy the Arnotts wafer biscuits, take them apart, scrape out the pink fondant, and then glue them into the shape you *actually* need. Sheesh. And you try - just TRY - getting that hundreds and thousands thing to stick onto the roof and not shed hundreds and thousands everywhere like little bits of sugary dandruff. I had to resort to jamming a wooden skewer into it and ignoring the dandruffy bits. I tell you, if this cake hadn't been for Katherine With A K... well, I just would have given up.)

Monday, 16 July 2012

The (Log) Cabin In The Woods

With the publication of this post, I emerge from a baking haze, a veritable prison of musk sticks, and an overwhelming desire to sink down into a bath full of vienna cream and never come out again. 

Imagine me all Betty-Page-esque with a thick fringe and a retro bikini supporting the ample curves that the recent sugar overdose has lovingly bestowed upon my tiny frame; lolling in the bath with my foot hooked over the edge and the cat licking the cream from my toes. Now there's a mental picture for you.

It's been a frenzy, readers, but I have survived to tell the tale. I have lived to bake another day. 

Last week I attempted the impossible. I did not know it was impossible at the time, but now I am MORE than aware of just how ridiculous it was. I mean, just read the intro about the bath. My mental health is clearly at risk.

Three cakes. But not just *any* three cakes. Not the three that are all a variation on the snail, and not the three that are all a variation on the theme of farmyard/zoo/can't remember the third one. Rodeo? Cattle yard? My synapses are shot.

No, the three cakes on my list were not easy. They were:  
  • the log cabin
  • the ladybird
  • and the Jet Plane
These were not easy cakes. There was architecture, and engineering involved. There was structural calculation. There was acres of green coconut, and my fingers are only just beginning to turn pink again. 

Today's post is the Log Cabin, because I feel it is metaphorically appropriate for the insanity that I dove into with this task. 

Log Cabins are where the crazy people live in horror movies. They are cabins with snaggle-toothed shingles hanging at precarious angles (I have included one at a particularly special angle, directly on the edge of left hand row of licorice allsort shingles you see there). They are cabins with gaps in the walls, where the wind whistles in and narrowed eyes stare out. 

Four hours of decoration went into this little masterpiece, and with it my sanity and pretty much my desire to ever look at another cake, EVER in my life AGAIN.

I would just like to note for the record that there is a REASON that The Book does not have a photograph of the back of this cake, and it is because that is where you see Hell. It is a mess of icing and coconut and pillars of Flake holding up the cantilevered roof of cake. 

There are thirteen Cadbury Flakes in that roof, people. Thirteen. (Which, naturally, made it a HUGE hit at work and there was not a skerrick to be seen by the time the ravening hordes had finished with it!)

And I had to pin the chimney onto the roof with barbeque skeweres, for fear that the whole thing would collapse and bring down the roof with it. 

So beware, dear readers, if you wish to attempt this cake. Set aside time, and possibly Valium. Certainly wine, though save it until afterwards if you actually want to finish it. Prepare yourself for a trip to the dark side. 

Beware, the Cabin In The Woods.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Incredible Cake Case Load of July

Readers, it may have been quiet on the blogging front recently, but do not think for one minute that it is because the cake-baking-slump has got the better of me.

Quite the contrary, in fact.

July happens to be a terribly busy time in the office of Cake It To The Limit. And while it is always busy with, you know, working and stuff, this month we have the additional element of birthdays.

Ten birthdays. Count them - ten. In an office of thirty-five people. I don't know what everyone's parents were doing nine months ago .. although ... well... actually, I suppose I do know, but I don't like to think about it too much and although I was going to go off on a bit of a rant, in fact I'm just going to end this sentence right here.

I am lucky enough to work in an office where everyone's birthdays are celebrated. There is cake, and there is singing of Happy Birthday, and importantly, there is cake.

Recently of course, this has been cake produced by my good self. I'm glad to do it, it's the perfect excuse to present another masterpiece from The Book and bask in the happy sounds of people consuming vienna cream by the bucketload. Does anything sound as good as colleagues busily devouring cake, I ask you?

But TEN birthdays, readers ... that is quite a lot. Even *I* quailed a little at the thought of it.

But I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and promptly informed my manager that due to the cake caseload I would not be available for any actual real work during the month of July. 

She laughed and then the accountant asked me if I still wanted to get paid. Ahem.

So the cake-baking is on. It is a MARATHON. There is meticulous planning involved. It is like a military operation. I do not want to think about the kilograms of butter and sugar that my colleagues will shortly be consuming.

I'm sorry, there is not time for chat. I must run. There is baking to do !

Monday, 2 July 2012

An Elephantine Effort To Make This Cake

And so it was, with the true onset of Melbourne winter, that the cold chill seeped into my soul and I experienced a baking slump.

I slumped, readers. My shoulders fell. I lost verve.

Listlessly, I turned the pages of The Book and my eyes ran over the pictures like distracted little mice, seeking out dark corners in which to hide. Not seeing, not reading. I found I could not muster up the energy to bake. Now is the winter of my discontent. Etc.

I experienced Cake Fatigue. L'epuisement Gateau. Stanco Di Torta. It's the same in every language. Although actually, in Icelandic, is it "prettyur a koku", which I think has a certain ring to it.  It makes it sound more exotic and less .... slumpy.

It was the circumstances which conspired against me, I think. In the recipe of life, take two very busy weeks at work, dash in a tiny bit of sleep (but nowhere near as much as I would like), mix together with some really cold weather and a poor attitude to life, and there you have it: a sunken mess of batter that cannot find the will to rise.

I am the sunken mess of batter.

BUT, cake-making must go on, mustn't it? Birthdays do not wait for any man.

And that is how I exercised a herculean effort - some might say elephantine - to create the Jungle Elephant.

Do you remember the delightful Jonty, who turned one and had Leonard The Lion for his birthday cake? Well, Jonty's brother Hugo just turned three, so I made him the Jungle Elephant. Two African animals, I thought it was only fair.

My favourite part of making this cake was not the lurid pink colour of the icing. It was not creating the alchemic meringue ith its ever-so-particular temperature control and requisite fluffiness. It was not buying two packets of Smarties and eating every other colour except the blue ones I had to use on the ears.

No, it was when I asked my Vice President of Baking Operations to run to the shops for me late at night and buy some icecream wafers (for the tusks). 

Icecream wafers? he asked questioningly.

Yes, icecream wafers, I said. For the tusks. Icecream wafers. And off he went. 

And the next day when I came to do the icing and the decorating, I looked through the pantry for my box of icecream wafers. I turned it upside and inside out. Exasperated, at last I asked the VP Of Baking where he had hidden the wafers.

In the freezer, he said.  In the FREEZER?? I asked.

Yes, in the freezer. Where icecream lives, he said.

And on opening the freezer lo and behold .... a pack of 12 ice-creams. Without a wafer in sight.

Cultural differences, eh? In Scotland and Northern Island, an icecream wafer is what we would know as an icecream sandwich. It's the vanilla brick of icecream that goes in between two biscuit pieces. That is not an icecream wafer here though. 

Off I went to the shops then, where I bought icecream wafers, the other kind, and fashioned them into tusks.

Hugo didn't mind though. He thought the elephant was fantastic, wonky ear and all. And all my worries about it being pink, because he's a boy, and I have no idea what age babies become gender-aware, turned out to be groundless, because it's his favourite colour right now. 

Isn't that the greatest?