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Advice on icing birthday cake

(27 Posts)
Wigeon Fri 05-Jun-09 19:39:31

So, the most important moment of my life has arrived: I need to make a cake for my PFB's 1st birthday. We are having a big afternoon party for DH and my 30ths and her 1st (don't tell me that big parties are no good for 1 year olds, too late now...).

I reckon that DD won't notice what the cake is like, so I'm trying to go for a mix of adult sophistication with childish tones. There is a smarties theme because the party invitations had smarties on them.

I really like the idea of copying this one, and it looks like it uses that fondant icing you buy and roll out. Is that right? How do you get chocolate fondant icing? Do you add cocoa, or can you buy chocolate fondant icing? I think buttercream would just be a bit messy looking. Is there another way of having nice smooth (maybe even shiny) icing? I am a pretty competent cook but haven't done any kind of sophisticated cake bakery.

Thanks a lot!

Goober Fri 05-Jun-09 19:43:15

That cake would look lovely with pink fondant icing too, and would be easier.

curlygal Fri 05-Jun-09 19:46:44

Wow that cake looks fab, am jealous envy

I think that is definitely roll out fondant icing. I would think you can buy brown in a specialist shop. There is a cake shop near me that sells it in all colurs.

As goober says another colour would also work, as would brown food colouring grin

If I were making thta I would DEFINITELY use roll out icing. Unless you are Nigella or Jane Asher you woudl sturggle to get the corners if icing it with glace or royal icing etc

Good luck

plimple Fri 05-Jun-09 19:50:57

If I was doing it I'd maybe use marzipan underneath to make it smooth then just normal icing sugar and water + cocoa to make it brown.
If I was doing it, it would probably look a bit rubbish!

Wigeon Fri 05-Jun-09 20:08:02

Oooh, thanks a lot, really helpful advice. Am a bit worried about the corners now (am not Nigella)...but also quite inspired - might need to do a trial run or three, trying out different kinds of icing!

Just off to have dinner but if anyone has any other advice then do shout!

kickassangel Fri 05-Jun-09 20:13:46

that is v professionally done, but you could get a reasonable reslut with roll out fondant. find a local specialist hsop & they'll sell it in any colour you like.

you 'stick' fondant to the cake using a thin lyer of buttercream icing and/or jam.

tying ribbon round the outside will hide any rough edges on the corners.

Goober Fri 05-Jun-09 20:15:46

I use apricot jam as my glue.

kickassangel Fri 05-Jun-09 20:16:07

and you'll need some 'pillars' to hold the second cake up, with it on a board, so it doesn't crush the bottom layer.

again, find a good cake shop, they'll explain it all, or just do a single layer

josette Fri 05-Jun-09 20:41:59

Our local specialist icing shop sells ready role regal icing in lots of colours including brown. See if you have a local one... or you could buy some brown food colouring from an icing shop and work it into white/ivory regal ice.
Agree with Kiss... you need dowling rods in the bottom cake to hold up the weight of the top one. Again see a local icing shop.
I would marzipan underneath first. Push in doweling rods. Leave to dry out for 24 hours. Then use the roll out icing. I use a tiny, tiny bit of boiled water brushed over the cake to stick the icing to.
Once it is on, you get it shiney by rubbing your hands over it!
Then use a little royal icing piped on the back of smarties and stick them all over.
To be really professional, roll the brown icing over the cake board too and add ribbon to the edage of the cake board so that you don't see any silver/gold.
Add ribbon to the base of the sides of the cakes to hide any rough edges.
Remember to buy your candles for it!
Good luck with it. It looks lovely.

Wigeon Fri 05-Jun-09 21:47:02

Great, thanks again everyone! Have just found out there's a specialist cake shop down an obscure little street in my town, so am going to go and be like a kid in a sweet shop there next week.

Might be a bit ambitious to do two layers...will see...think it will look nice with just one.

Olihan Fri 05-Jun-09 22:59:16

Fab cake smile.

If you are making a sponge cake then you don't need to use marzipan. Buttercream or warmed, sieved apricot jam is best.

The regalice ready made brown sugarpaste is supposedly chocolate flavoured but it's pretty vile, tbh. You can buy Chocopan from certain specialist cake shops which tastes just like proper chocolate. It's the same consistency as ordinary sugarpaste and you use it the same way, it's just a lot nicer to eat smile.

Top tips for getting your cake to look fab:

If you don't have much experience in using sugarpaste then I would do a round cake, iiwy. Getting the corners to go sit properly and not crack is very hard if you're a complete novice. (I've just done 5 square cakes and had to re do 2 of them because the corners were crap and I'm fairly experienced.)

You'll need a decent sized area of clear worktop to roll the sugarpaste out on as you'll need to roll it out to the diameter of the cake plus the height of the sides so a 10 inch cake that is 3 inches high will need a circle of icing measuring at least 17 inches across. Use plenty of icing sugar on the worktop to stop it sticking and move it around as you roll to make sure it's not stuck. Once it's the right size, lift it up using the rolling pin and drape it over the cake. Smooth across the top with the palms of your hands then over the edges and down the sides gently pulling the bottom out so you don't get any creases. Push it well into the crease between the bottom of the cake and the worktop then carefully trim away the excess with a plain, sharp knife. Don't worry if you get a few nicks as you cut, you can cover up any mistakes with the ribbon.

When you've made your cake, trim the risen bit off the top then turn it upside down. That will give you a completely flat top which looks much more professional than a lumpy surface.

If you're going to cover the board do it at least 24 hours ahead, more if you can so it can dry and harden and you won't end up with lots of dints in it if you knock it while you're decorating the cake. I would also leave the cake overnight before you add the smarties for the same reason.

Use jam or buttercream to stick the cake to the board so it doesn't disappear off the side when you carry it.

Once the cake is completely covered in sugarpaste you don't need to keep it in an airtight box, the sugarpaste does that for you.

Anything else you want to know, just ask!

Wigeon Sat 06-Jun-09 08:49:10

Wow, Olihan, thanks ever so much. I have just had a look at the pictures on your profile and your cakes are AMAZING! Did you used to do it professionally (saw that you are a SAHM now)?

I think round cake is definitely the way to go after everyone's advice.

I am a good baker but the world of proper cakes and cake decorating is a whole new one!

Thanks for offering to answer any other questions - I will digest (!) all the advice so far and definitely get back to you if I do.

Olihan Sat 06-Jun-09 12:09:12

<snigger> @ digest grin

It's been a hobby really until recently, family birthday cakes, etc but now ds2 is a bit older I've started taking paid orders from friends, etc so it's becoming a sort of business that will hopefully grow as I get more time in the day. It's not the easiest thing to do with samll fingers about grin.

plimple Sat 06-Jun-09 23:23:19

Just checked out your cake pictures.
If only I'd taken a picture of the truly awful but tasty cake I made for my DDs 2nd birthday, you would wet yourself laughing!!!!! Was green icing with coconut to make it look like grass and badly drawn on sheep in white that bled into the green a bit!

Wigeon Sun 07-Jun-09 09:01:16

Ok, I am going to bed thinking about cakes and waking up thinking about cakes!

Next questions - if you usually use a dusting of icing sugar to make sure the fondant icing doesn't stick to the worktop when you roll it out, do you use cocoa powder if you are using brown fondant icing? Or can you use icing sugar and it just brushes off?

If I do go with a second smaller cake on top of the first, with the dowling business in the bottom cake, what do you use as a board between the two cakes? (might just go for the one cake though).

Thanks again!

Xavielli Sun 07-Jun-09 09:31:16

Tbh I'd use cornflour as it is much finer.

Don't use cocoa for chocolate icing as it is far too coarse and will stain everything it touches to boot.

The icing sugar/cornflour can just be dusted off. By the time you have smoothed the top and sides with your hands it will be gone.

Olihan Sun 07-Jun-09 09:33:36

Icing sugar is fine, use a sugar shaker or sieve to get a light-ish dusting and don't turn the icing over so it's all on the back. A soft brush over the surface once the icing has hardened slightly will remove any stray bits on the top surface.

If you're doing 2 layers then the top one needs to be on a cake card. You get 2 types of board - a drum which is about 1cm thick that the whole cake sits on and is usually 3" bigger than the bottom cake, and a card which is about 3mm thick and you buy exactly the size of the cake you've baked.

Bake the cake, level it, stick it to the card and ice the whole thing down the bottom of the card. Leave to harden.

Once you've iced the bottom cake, get your dowels (3 or 4 is best) and poke them into the cake about 2cm in from where the edge of the top cake will sit in a sqaure or triangle. Mark the height of the top of the cake, pull them out and cut them to that height then reinsert them.

Once top cake is hard spread some royal icing (or buttercream if you're not transporting it) then position the top cake in place. Wrap ribbon round to hide the join and you're done.

A good book for basic sugarcraft skills is this one. There's no actual cakes in it but it does cover all the techniques you'll need.

The other thing I'd recommend is a pair of smoothers. They'll give you a much better finish on the flat icing and you can use them to lift the cake without leaving finger indentations.

Wigeon Wed 10-Jun-09 19:34:03

Thanks again! I really appreciate the advice. Will let you know how it goes...

Wigeon Fri 19-Jun-09 18:20:21

Ok, last minute question (the party's tomorrow) - how do I stick the smarties on? Josette suggested using royal icing to stick them on, but I'm not using royal icing. Could I just use a thickish regular icing sugar and water mix?

I have made the sandwich cakes (gone for round not square as advised!), made a yummy chocolate fudge icing (Delia) for the middle, and am going to cover in sugarpaste tonight, then do the smarties tomorrow morning.

Xavielli Fri 19-Jun-09 20:19:28

Yes you can just use water and icing sugar. Make it quite thick (I have just used this to stick my letters to a cake board so know it works well... Has dried very solidly in place now!)

pigleychez Fri 19-Jun-09 20:20:51

Wigeon- Do post some pics.. Id love to see the finished article

My DD is 1 the end of July and I too am going to attempt her cake. Ive road tested a couple of sponge recipes so thats sorted and picked up some tips from others on here. Be interesting to see how you found it.

I intend on a Number 1 shaped cake with white icing and pink stars or spots on it and DD's name across the bottom bit (if the cutters ever turn up from Ebay!)

Hope you have a fab party!

Wigeon Fri 19-Jun-09 20:42:14

Great, thanks a lot!

My ambitions have steadily declined as I've had to face up to actually making the cake, so it's now only one tier rather than two...but am currently admiring the unsmartied cake sitting on my kitchen table a(well, two identical smarties cakes plus one ginormous carrot cake plus the top tier of our wedding cake (been in a freezer for 6 years....) as there will be 50 people needing a slice...).

Will definitely post pictures.

Your cake sounds good Pigleychez!

Wigeon Sat 20-Jun-09 09:46:16

Pictures now posted! Icing cracked a bit round the edge of the cake but considering it's my first go at anything like this I am pretty pleased!

Thanks again for everyone for their advice, especially Olihan.

Olihan Sun 21-Jun-09 16:06:58

WOW! That looks amazing. It's so simple but so stunning.

Next time, to stop the icing cracking round the edges you need to make sure it's really warm and pliable before you roll it out then smooth the palm of your hand over the edge in a circlar motion as you ease it into place. It's one of those things you get better at the more you do it!

I've added the most recent ones I've done to my profile - it won't be long before you're making cakes for all your friends and family. Once people know you can do it you'll be asked to do loads grin.

Wigeon Tue 23-Jun-09 18:22:30

Thanks Olihan! Also for the advice about stopping it cracking - will come in handy on Saturday as a friend and I are making a big 1st birthday cake for our group of 8 antenatal class friends (I'm on a roll) - is going to be a rectangular cake with a patchwork quilt design on top, with each baby's initial in each square of the "quilt" (if that makes sense...). Think we will find some way of covering up the rectangle's corners with "stiches" or something.

Love your more recent pics - I think it would be years before I reach those dizzy heights...

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