If you’re a fellow Aussie, or have been paying attention to our lil’ continent of late, you’ll be aware of how scorching this summer is turning out to be. Off the back of our hottest year for over 100 years, we’ve delved into a 2014 that doesn’t look much better. In three weeks we’ve already had two major heatwaves. It’s not a huge deal if you have air con. I don’t, which makes the heatwaves much harder to cope through. Last week the room temperature of my house didn’t sink below 30°C at night, and that was in the room we were dedicating all our cooling efforts into. It led to a lot of sleepless nights and exclaiming at 5am, “How is it still 35°C!?”
Needless to say, cooking and baking have been so far out of the question. My diet has largely consisted of watermelon, ice and anything that can be quickly cooked on the stovetop, which is also why the blog has stayed quiet for longer than planned. Too hot to make food, or eat food, or open a curtain to photograph food, or to sit in front of my computer talking about food.
So when my cousin asked me to make a Mike Wazowski cake for her son’s 3rd birthday, I said I’d keep an eye on the forecast and let her know. We were blessed with a relatively cool week the week she needed it, so I said it would be no problem. I baked the cake, carved it, covered it in ganache and let it set overnight, ready to be fondant-ed up the next day. That’s when the forecast changed.
The high 30’s weather we weren’t supposed to be getting unto the weekend decided to arrive two days earlier. Just in time for fondant work. If you’ve worked with fondant in summer, you probably know how badly it reacts to heat. It’s amazing how it can go both limp and stretchy, yet dry and crack at the same time. Covering the cake becomes an ordeal as the ganache underneath starts to melt and shift and seep through any cracks that appear. I had half a mind to switch to buttercream, but my stubbornness (and the fact that I’d already made and tinted the fondant) demanded I press on. It then became a game of trying, failing, and deciding to wait a little while longer for it to get cooler. By the time midnight hit I decided there was nothing left to do but march on and try to repair it as I went.
Any previous thoughts of detail I’d had went straight out the window and instead I focused on just trying to end up with something vaguely Mike Wazowski-looking. His arms and legs became super basic as just getting them to stand up and dry in time in the heat was going to be a hard enough ask without making them even more delicate.
The only part that wasn’t turned into a complete marathon was painting the eye. I’ve started incorporating painting into a lot more cakes recently. It’s always something I’ve not been very confident with, as I’m not a skilled painter as it is. But getting light and/or accurate colours using food dye has always been difficult. But I’ve been experimenting with new techniques and methods every time I have to paint on fondant and I’m starting to find things that work well enough. I used to dread having to paint something, but it’s turning into one of the joys of cakes now.
As drama fuelled as it was, it was worth it when my cousin and the birthday boy arrived to pick up the cake. He saw it and instantly said in a voice that rivalled the cuteness of Boo’s, “Mike Wazowski!”
Of course once he’d seen it it was then impossible to explain to him that he had to wait until his party tomorrow before he could eat it.