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Would you cake experts mind advising me on my cake plans...

(24 Posts)
RottenRow Fri 17-Jun-11 22:58:20

DD wants a mermaid cake for her birthday, one of those doll stuck in the middle things and it needs to feed at least 30. I was hoping someone who knows what they are doing might be able to check my plans for any flaws

I have a nine inch springform which I was going to use to make a blue base for the sea using Olihan's recipe for victoria sponge from this thread

I'll have a 6 inch pyrex to do the rock to sit on top. I was thinking of icing both with sugar paste (is that the same as fondant?) and my understanding is I might need to slice the top of the base cake off before icing and that I will need to cover the cakes with buttercream before icing?

Do you think I need to put jam in the middle of the cakes as well? Also is there a clever way to cut the hole for the doll to sit in? I am assuming I can make the mermaid's tale out of sugarpaste.

I really would appreciate any advice.

PrettyCandles Fri 17-Jun-11 23:15:36

I love talking cakes grin

You will probably need to slice off the tops of both cakes to give you level surfaces. Stick them together with buttercream or jam.

To get the sugarpaste/fondant icing to stick to the cakes you will need either to brush them with boiled jam or 'butter' them a thin layer of buttercream.

I have never stuck a barbie in a cake (the one time I did anything like this, I used a legless one), but I would stack the cakes and excavate a narrow cone about half as deep as barbie's legs are long with a very thin knife. Stick the doll in, make sure you're happy with the fit, then remove and iceright over the hole. When you're haPpy with the unadorned base layer of icing, cut a cross in the icing and insert the doll. That way you will have a tidy and secure join.

Have fun!

amistillsexy Fri 17-Jun-11 23:17:40

Don't try to make a cake big enough to feed 30-make a simpler one iced in the same colours and cut that in the kitchen to go in the party will ever know! wink

RottenRow Sat 18-Jun-11 12:30:07

That's a good idea for the future amistillsexy but think this time I'll be giving the cake out to everyone after they've eaten.

Prettycandles am glad you like talking cakes!

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 20:13:19

Ok so I tried to make the sponge and it was a complete disaster! The cake was still liquid after 1.5 hours at 140 so I turned the oven up slightly. It then started to bubble out of the tin and was all over the oven. By the end the top was really well done but I thought I might be able slice off the crust and salvage it but it tasted really eggy. Back to the drawing board (or sainsburys tomorrow to buy aready made cake). Think I am more disappointed than DD, was really excited about it. Any idea where I went wrong?

PrettyCandles Fri 24-Jun-11 21:15:49

Is this the one in the pudding basin?

Cooking cakes in china or glass can be a bit tricky. The oven needs to be 170-180C for a sponge cake in a metal cake tin, which heats up very quickly, so 140C is way too cold for a pudding basin, which heats up more slowly.

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 21:50:16

No it was the one in the tin, so perhaps 140 was way too low for the tin also? You don't have a recipe you could recommend do you? I have all the icing and bits and pieces but it's all a bit pointless as I have failed so miserably at the sponge.

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 21:51:37

I thought the thing with sponge was if it didn't rise,not that it would overflow.

LadyDamerel Fri 24-Jun-11 22:04:03

It sounds as though your tin was too full and the oven temp a bit low. My (non fan) oven needs to be at 180 degrees for sponges, a fan oven does need to be lower though or it will cook the outside too quickly and the top will form a huge dome as the centre cooks. Ovens vary so much though that sometimes you just need to experiment to find the best temp on your particular one.

The tin should be no more than half full, 2/3rds at the absolute most.

A 2/2/2/1 mix (2oz each of flour, butter and sugar to each egg) will be fine, I just add an extra oz or so of flour to firm it up a bit.

seeker Fri 24-Jun-11 22:10:55

You could buy some cakes then cut them to look like rocks. Cover them with marbeled grey icing (knead some black and white together til it's streaky, roll it out then wrap the chunks of cake up like parcels. Pile them up, make some sea creatures out of fondant icing, then chop a cheap Barbie equivalent in half, make her a tail and a bra out of blue/green marbelled icing, plonk her on top of the rocks, throw on half a ton of cake glitter and you're done.

seeker Fri 24-Jun-11 22:15:28

Like this only more 'good enough mummy"!

PrettyCandles Fri 24-Jun-11 22:15:47

Agree with LadyD. 2221 recipe should work fine.

For a 9" tin I would use a 4-egg mix (so 8oz each of self-raising flour, caster sugar, and butter). That should half to two-thirds fill the tin.

Start it off at 180C (170 if you have an electric fan oven). Do not open the oven door for 45mins. It should take about 1 hour to cook, but if it looks like it is over-browning after 45mins, turn the oven down 10degrees/half a gas mark.


BTW, LadyD, when I want a firmer cake I replace 1oz of flour with 1oz ground almonds. It does wonders for the texture and makes a vanilla sponge somehow brighter-looking.

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 22:20:16

Thanks guys. I am so torn as to whether to give it another go.

LadyDamerel My tin was way too full then, was probably 3/4. Could you advise how many times to upscale the 2/2/2/1 mix for a 9 inch tin?

Seeker I could do that with some bought madeira or something, though I need enough for about 20.

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 22:21:52

Ooh thanks Prettycandles am slow typer!

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 22:30:00

I am thinking a new plan based on your kind advice.....I'll use the recipe prettycakes has posted for the base and then use seekers method for the rocks on top. Hopefully my homemade sponge will work out and then I don't have to worry about the additional difficulty of baking in a bowl.

PrettyCandles Fri 24-Jun-11 22:33:04

Oh my, that Ganesh cake is amazing!

Good idea, though. Bought Madeira can be perfectly good and relatively cheap. You could get 5 slab pieces (about £1 per piece, at least 6 servings each, I should guess), cut them into lumps and do something like this.

RottenRow Fri 24-Jun-11 22:45:22

Will be sending DP to the supermarket tomorrow.

Can anyone recommend a good not too difficult recipe book for children's cakes for my future attempts?

LadyDamerel Fri 24-Jun-11 23:02:57

PC, I'm allergic to nuts so can't do the ground almonds thing but, yes, they do give a lovely texture without drying it out!

WRT cakes, if you practice baking a basic sponge so you get to know your oven then you can make virtually anything. Carol Deacon is a good author to look at, most of her books are good for beginners but you do need to be able to bake the base for the rest to look good grin.

seeker Fri 24-Jun-11 23:27:56

I would always recommend Debbie Brown. I think people are scared off because her cakes look difficult, but her instructions are SOOOOOOOOO clear and detailed that they are really easy. My first ever cake was one of hers - I just started at the beginning, did everything she said and ended up with something that looked exactly like the picture. I was amazed.

Oh, and I often buy a Tesco's cheapy traybake cake, scrape the icing off and use that as my base. The decorating is enough stress for me without actually baking it as well!

PrettyCandles Sat 25-Jun-11 08:02:22

Again, I agree with LadyD grin. Practice making the same cake over and over again, so that you become very familiar with your oven, equipment and ingredients. There are so many little variations that no cookbook, however good, can account for them without becoming a somewhat overwhelming textbook.

The temperature and heat distribution of your oven.
The temperatures and sizes of your eggs.
The temperature of your butter, and whether you use butter/marge/etc.
How long and how hard you beat your mixture.
How long it stands before it goes in the oven.
The age of your flour, particularly self-raising.

Once you are confident with your chosen recipe (and the all-in-one 2221 is the best starting point IMO) and get fairly consistent recipes, then try out various recipes and techniques.

I have many (many!) recipe books, but I don't have one cake book that I swear by. Instead I have scribbled notes around almost every cake recipe that I have tried, commenting on how it turned out, and on what variations I did in subsequent bakings.

PrettyCandles Sat 25-Jun-11 08:05:07

BTW I just noticed what you did to my nickname, and I like it! Thank you wink

bananabump Sat 25-Jun-11 08:27:45

I've made a doll cake before in pretty much the same way you described, round cake with a pyrex bowl cake on top to be the dolls skirt. I used a madeira recipe, makes a really sturdy cake perfect for carving up.

You’ll need the following ingredients for an 8” Madeira Cake:
350g (12 oz) of Unsalted Butter
350g (12 oz) of Caster Sugar
350g (12 oz) of Self Raising Flour
175g (6oz) of Plain Flour
6 Eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Grease and line the cake tin (pan) with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light, fluffy and pale. Sift the flours together in a separate bowl.
Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, one at a time, following each with a spoonful of flour, to prevent the mixture curdling.
Sift the remaining flour into the creamed mixture and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon.
Transfer to the lined bakeware and bake, see above but everyone’s oven is different.. When the cake is ready it will be well risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.
Allow the cake to cool then, leaving the lining paper on, wrap the cake in foil or place in an airtight container for at least 12 hours before cutting, to allow the cake to settle (but you don't have to do this, if you haven't got time)

I wouldn't even start checking the cake til it's risen significantly, at least 40 min, I think mine took about 70 min but as it says, everyone's oven is different.

I didn't split my bowl cake and fill it with jam - in hindsight I would recommend you do, as it was a bit dry. Split them, spread on the jam, layer them up, then carve away, this cake can take it. Spread buttercream all over (250g unsalted butter to 1kg of buttercream, with a splash of boiling water to bind, and a bit of vanilla)

When I made the cake I wrapped the dolls legs in clingfilm, made a smallish hole about the width and depth of two fingers, then slid her in. Agree with whoever said to ice the cake then cut a cross over the hole, makes a neater finish.

RottenRow Sat 25-Jun-11 15:45:44

In case anyone is still following...I now have a round sponge covered in blue and a rock made out of bits of bought cake to go on top. My sponge is not brilliant, it has risen but not as much as it should which I think could be as the mixture curdled just as I was adding the last of the eggs or it may be my cheapo SR flour (or my technique of course). Despite turning the oven down for the last 15 mins it was a little bit too crisp at the edges for which I am blaming the oven. Am hoping jam, buttercream and icing will detract from it's shortcomings.

Thanks again for all the advice, I was all for giving up after cakegate yesterday. I wanted to ask a couple more questions.

I have a big wodge of sugar paste left, will it keep in an airtight container or in the freezer or is it use it or lose it?

When I come to make the mermaid's tail I am assuming I stick it to the cake while it is still soft and pliable (I have some edible glue or would buttercream be better) and then let it dry? (I was planning on doing this later on tonight when the icing on the cakes has had a chance to harden).

Also do you know anything about that sparkley dust stuff? Does it need anything to fix it to the cake or do you just sprinkle it on?

PrettyCandles Sat 25-Jun-11 16:40:59

Well done - don't forget to post a pic on your profile!

Curdling does indeed affect the rise, and is usually caused by adding the eggs too quickly or not beating enough between additions. Doesn't affect the taste, though.

Jam, buttercream and icing detract from most cake-making shortcomings!

Unfortunately sugarpaste doesn't keep terribly well once the packet has been opened. It doesn't go off, it starts to dry out, and when you knead it it has little flecks of dried paste in it which spoil the texture and make it unreliable for modelling. My dc2's birthday is 3w after dc1's, and I can use sugarpaste leftover from dc1's cake on dc2's cake. But dc3's birthday is two months later, and I always have to buy new sugarpaste by then. To store it wrap it well in clingfilm, then put it in a sandwich bag and seal. It does not need to be in the fridge or freezer.

I tend to use cooled boiled water for sticking sugarpaste to sugarpaste. Also, unless it needs strength for structural integrity, I tend to stick decorations on immediately, while the basic covering is still soft. That way the surface wont be dry and crack if you press too hard, and if you accidentally nick it with a fingernail, you can repair the surface by polishing it with a blob of sugarpaste.

To apply the sparkle dust your cake surfaces need to be bone dry. Dip a large soft paintbrush into the powder and tap the excess off back into the jar. Hold the brush fairly high over the cake and tap it with your finger so that the dust floats down onto the cake. That is all you need to do for the stuff that comes in largish flakes, but that stuff that comes in a powder needs to then be polished onto the cake with a large soft paintbrush. I use watercolour brushes about 1-2cm wide. Build the sparkle up in layers, otherwise it is clumpy.

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