A few weeks ago I was chatting to my sister about cake, as we do. We were discussing previous cake orders and I mentioned how every toddlers birthday cake I’ve been commissioned to do was for a little boy. I kinda missed pink. Pink and frills and all those other things customers will say they absolutely do not want on a cake for a boy. Not half an hour later, my cousin messaged me asking if I could make a cake that ticked all those boxes.
Her niece’s birthday was approaching and she wanted something Minnie Mouse. I was so excited! These are the kinds of cakes I can’t make for customers because of copyright law, so when someone in the family wants one we can go nuts with ideas.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played around with a joconde. I have a terrible habit of getting stuck on one idea: I’ll bake almost nothing but that for weeks, and then forget it ever existed for a year. So when my birthday rolled around and I had the opportunity to make whatever I wanted with no restrictions, I decided it was time to return to this awesome cakey medium.
So far I’ve mostly used decorating combs for making patterns in the joconde paste. I’ve been wanting to use the sponge as more of a canvas for unusual designs. You always see them with uniform designs on the sides, but I wanted something a bit more picturesque. I had a number of food stencils, but all were a bit bland for what I was thinking. I hit up my favourite cake decorating store and started rummaging through the stencils until I finally found something that was more ‘me’.
This last month has been pretty cake crazy, and with a number of family events around the corner it’s about to get crazier. Every time I finish a cake project, another one appears. When I finished the owl cake I was relieved to have a break from impending deadlines, but then the next Link’s Blacklist Project round opened for sign ups. Oops. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to my own giant list of fan art projects that’s steadily growing my the moment.
Last month I got the opportunity to step away from all that and make a birthday cake for an occasion, rather than an art project. This family had been at the birthday party of another family who commissioned a cake from me. They liked what they saw enough to want me to make a cake for their son’s birthday, too. That’s always an incredibly flattering way to receive a commission, knowing the person has seen and tasted your work and wants more of it.
The idea was as simple enough: they wanted a colourful, two tiered cake adorned with all their son’s favourite toys.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
This is the last cake from the month of cake madness. This is Grug cake requested for a kids birthday party.
I doubt anyone not from Australia will have any clue who Grug is, and even a lot of the Australians amongst you may not remember him. I’d, admittedly, forgotten all about him until I was asked to do the cake. Grug is a character from a series of illustrated children’s books written by Ted Prior. Though there have been no new books published since I was a little kid, you can still find them amongst the kids book section of most any book store or supermarket.
The saying ‘it never rain, but it pours’ has never felt so appropriate for me as it has this last month. While I’m more often approached for quotes, it is actually quite rare that someone (outside my family, at least) commissions me to make a cake for them. But this last month has been nothing but commissions. I’ve spent all my spare time in the kitchen staring at cake and icing, crafting things of someone elses imagination. It’s most of the reason I’ve been so terrible at getting back to all your lovely comments and emails lately, something I keep promising myself every morning I will catch up on.
I’ve had to set aside my list of fan art cakes and such I have planned, but it’s been a fun change. It’s wonderful when someone entrusts you with the task of bringing to life the cake that exists in their minds eye, something that it for an important occasion, something to share with all the people they hold dear. It’s equal parts nerveracking and I never quite stop stressing until I see their overjoyed expressions, and even then I still panic. I’ve got a heap of cakes to show you guys over the coming weeks, alongside the usual recipe posts, so here’s the first one.
The family this cake is for is one I’ve made cakes for before. They were one of the first people to ever commission a cake for me. For their son’s first birthday I made them this jungle cake for their private celebration and this one for the larger birthday party. This year he was turning three and they approached me about making another cake for him. This time he was old enough that they were able to ask him what he wanted, and he answered straight away: a race car.
It was Cameron’s uncle’s birthday just recently, so I got another excuse to make cake. If trying to get my partner to decided on a cake is a task, getting the same from his uncle is umpteen times that. We’re an indecisive bunch. My only brief was to make something ‘plain Jane’. In a way, that’s more difficult for me. I find it too easy to over-complicate something. Doing something plain? It’s not really my style. I’m not sure I even know what plain is.
For these instances, I tend to default to simple flavours and classic recipes. It doesn’t get much more classic than a sponge in my book. A sponge is also usually a pretty safe option in Cam’s household, and a relatively regular appearance at birthdays. I’m fairly sure the first time I ate a sponge was at one of his family celebrations. So all that was left was the fill it with flavours I find reminiscent of previous occasions spent with his family.