2012’s first birthday cake

The year-end festive period is always rather draining on creative juices. This means at least one out of the three major events, Christmas, New Year’s eve and the husband’s birthday, is usually prepared last minute with spontaneous solutions. Since the spotlight landed on Christmas last year, I was left scrambling to prepare for the special (birth)day all during one last available morning. Thank God for the rather quick thinking of pouring the remaining chocolate cake mixture into two small round tins and baking them together with the Christmas cupcakes, the cake base was settled beforehand. A white chocolate ganache was easily whipped up and used to sandwich the two rounds together. Bam. Cake done! Now what? The tedious part of the cake making of course – decorating it!

Before my venture into fondant, I would have made a batch of buttercream on autopilot mode and smothered the cake with a generous layer of cream. Now, I can no longer imagine a cake without fondant and made sure I always have a good supply of fondant in the store. The husband has a disdain for my liking of all things white so I thought I should better cover the cake with another colour. The first colour that came to mind was red. A dark sexy raspberry red, I thought. So after an initial coat of marzipan followed by another coat of white fondant, the red fondant went on top and the cake already looked a quarter done. Since my piping skills are still amateurish, I decided to stick with ribbon for covering the bottom edge. A quick rummage through the box of ribbons brought up only one possibility – a thin black ribbon with white dots. Being brought up in a traditional Chinese family with all the usual associated superstitions, I was initially hesitant to use anything black for a birthday cake. But I was desperate and I put the ribbon on. There were no second thoughts after because it fitted the cake too well.

As all that was happening, I was already wondering what to do with the top. After the black ribbon was fitted, I decided black has to be an integral colour of this cake. But then I have to make black fondant. Having made black coloured macarons before, I know that it’s very difficult to colour something so white black. It would take time, a lot of kneading and hell lot of colouring. I started with what was remaining in the bottle of Wilton black gel paste I had. Only a pathetic shade of light grey was achieved. A light bulb came on during the kneading and I started to create my own black colouring by mixing all the colour powders I own and making a paste by adding a couple of drops of water. Finally, after the fingers were nastily stained and threatening to drop off after so much kneading, an intense dark as tar fondant emerged. Woohoo! I would love to have something really pompous like a giant black peony. But the only flower cutter I had was half the size what was desired so I had to make a couple in order to fill the top. After being shaped, the flowers were left to dry. To my dismay, they never dried. It must be because I added too much water in making the colouring. The flowers even felt damper than hours before. Darn. I had to think of something else quickly. I toyed with the idea of embossing the top with the snowflake template I bought recently for Christmas and then enhancing the outline with piping. Nice but it just doesn’t cut it. So what did I do? Make another batch of flowers. No way? Yes way.

This time round, I wore gloves during kneading, added pure colour powder and used cornstarch instead of icing sugar as a buffer. The flowers turned out nicely but they also never quite dried. I guess the amount of colouring is just too much in proportion to the fondant. The next time I use black fondant, it will appear in front of me already coloured.

The cake ultimately turned out looking quite fine. A rare non-cutesy cake from my kitchen. Ha! By the way, if you are wondering, it is a really small cake with a diameter of 10cm. I picked up a set of 3 tiny round baking pans from Wilton at KDTorten that day. They came in really handy for this ocassion. We are both glad with the portion. Enough for the birthday tea and a little leftover sweetness for the day after.

The next fondant cake I will make will be for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday end of this month. I’m already excited and running through design ideas. Do leave me a suggestion in the comments if you have one!

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