Nord Stage 2 Cake (Synthesizer Cake)

IMG_4314

My friend Joe is one of the most talented and lovely people I know. We met about 4 years ago when we had both rashly said yes to being in a theatrical rock and roll band. Much laughter, sweat and glitter later (check out the band to see what I mean), I count myself very lucky to call Joe and his wife Nikki good friends.

It was then, shyly in a rehearsal room about 4 years ago, that I also first met Joe’s red keyboard. Not only is Joe an amazing pianist but he is also a bit of a YouTube sensation because of his Nord Stage 2 Demo and is rarely seen at a music event without his keyboard in tow.

1610863_794329220639751_2872714107971545545_n

Joe performing in Felix Hagan & the Family


10614172_10100250452700422_5511314705911321030_n

Joe being producer extraordinaire for the band (that’s me in the camouflage jumper), see famous red keyboard on the left.

Nikki asked me well in advance of the day if I’d be up for making Joe a cake for his 30th Birthday. The cake was totally her idea, she wanted a replica of his keyboard in cake. It made perfect sense, I just had to figure out a way to recreate the keyboard so it was a cake for 30 people, not 300 as I’m sure a full size replica would be! I decided to do a mini version of the Nord but I wanted to keep the keys actual size so scaled down the keyboard to just over 2 octaves.

I made two square cakes and carved the basic shape into the sponge.  I then covered it in buttercream, then fondant before adding fondant covered KitKat fingers for the black keys:

keyboard cake

Lastly, I spent quite a lot of time with a cocktail stick and different hundreds and thousands to create the synthesizer buttons. I took it along to Joe’s party where he had to give it a ceremonious play before cutting into it:

Nikki and Joe

Joe and Nikki and the cake

I’m not usually a fan of trying to make cakes that look like objects as I think they can sometimes look a bit rubbish but I was very happy about how this one turned out.  Thanks to Nikki and her cake request and thanks to Joe and his trusty Nord!

Advertisements

My Second Wedding Cake (for a wedding)

The last few days of 2014 were filled with my biggest cake challenge of the year, a wedding cake:534

Early in 2014 I was asked by friends Jenny and James if I would be up for making their wedding cake.  I was flattered that they had so much faith in my abilities and after checking that I could logistically make the cake (it was a Christmas wedding in London), I agreed.  Jenny and James were very relaxed about what they wanted for their wedding cake.  Jenny sent through some pictures of cakes she had seen that she liked, alongside a picture of the wedding signing book, the tartan and the bridesmaid dresses.  I had a lot of things to look at that really ranged in style, so after much thought I decided to start with the common themes/things I knew to be fairly inflexible:

  • The cake was for 60-80 people
  • The flavours they wanted were chocolate and vanilla sponges with cherry jam
  • The cake should be circular and stacked – all the pictures they had sent of cakes that they liked were circular and stacked
  • I saw a reoccurring theme of small, delicate detail in all the decoration they had chosen to include in their wedding
  • The wedding colours were white and green – a specific green that the bridesmaids were wearing that matched the tartan the groom was wearing

dress and tartan

When I started baking the cake on the 27th December I had no idea how it would turn out. The decorating day was the 28th and after covering the layers of chocolate and vanilla cake in white fondant I mixed the green fondant to get the right colour and started the decoration.

If I’m honest, my first idea didn’t work – I wanted to make Rob Ryan inspired panels for the middle tier which would sit on a green background.  I designed and piped the panels but I thought they looked too messy and clumsy for the paper-cut effect I was after:

construction

So, after going through my standard ‘I-want-to-throw-this-cake-out-of-the-window-why-did-I-agree-to-this-I-should-never-bake-again’ wobble, I went back to the drawing board and really thought about the tiny delicate details that I noticed in a lot of the pictures Jenny had sent. I had bought some tiny ivy cutters for the cake as it was a December wedding and I had seen the florist idea boards for the wedding which included ivy.  I also had a set of little star and flower cutters and it is with these and a tiny piping nozzle I started on tiny details in green, working upwards, making each tier individual.

535

McPherson-536McPherson-538

Once I had finished the cake (about 9pm before the wedding day), I had a sudden panic that they might not like it.  As they had been so relaxed and open about the cake we had only talked in very vague terms about what the decoration would be.  I decided at that point not to send them a picture as it was too late to change anything and went to bed with a panicked mind.

537

Happily, my worries were unfounded and Jenny and James were very happy with their cake.  That or they are very good actors… The wedding day itself was wonderful, with a fantastic ceremony followed by a romantic, beautiful and atmospheric reception with love, merriment and friendship filling every corner of the venue.

539

I have to thank Jenny and James for having so much faith in my baking and also for letting me do what I liked in the way of design.  So there we have it, my second wedding cake for a wedding.  You can read about my first one here and my first wedding cake not for a wedding here.

An Interlude

It has been a shameful 4 months since I last blogged. As always, I have excuses and reasons for the absence but needless to say, despite my lack of words, the rolling pin and oven have been as busy as ever.

I’ve made Christmas cakes based on my Christmas Jumper Cake:

Jumpers 2014

I’ve been experimenting with different flavoured cakes (cashew, coconut and chilli, salted caramel and apple, coffee):

flavour

I’ve been baking things other than cake, turning my hand to shortbread, biscuits, meringues and even bread:

Different bakes

And you can’t try other baking without experimenting with pie:

Pie

Despite my foray into other types of baking, I’ve still been as busy as ever with cakes and have many a cake related story waiting to be blogged.  Watch this space.  Be true

Eggs

Music Cakes

Until recently, I worked for an orchestra, and having studied music at university, I am a little wary about overusing musical symbols in decoration.  Once upon a time I had a colleague who absolutely hated musical paraphernalia and so it was drilled into me that using musical notation for anything other than music was distasteful.  In my opinion there is always place for a musical sticker or treble clef pencil, but, each to their own, I appreciate that for some, it can seem gaudy.

Three years since working with the lady who hated all musically decorated things, I was asked to make a party cake to serve over 50 people for a retirement party for three professional musicians.   And while her voice was firmly in my head, I had to do it.  I had to go there.

My brief wasn’t too detailed– it had to be a big cake.  I knew the retiring trio and set about making a cake that would include their nicknames – Cat, Jan and Koggy.  This was the result:

IMG_0006

IMG_0004

The ditched music stand (next to a blob of black fondant)

Originally, I wanted to place a sheet of music on an icing music stand in the centre of the cake. I made the music stand but decided it didn’t look quite right so I made the ‘Peters Edition’ style front pages to include their names and instruments. I hand drew all the manuscript using rice paper and edible ink before chopping it up to put around the outside.

I was really happy with the choppy manuscript effect – the front pages of the music were a little messy for my liking but without an icing printer it was the best I could do.  Also, in my slightly tired state, I managed to write ‘violin’ for Koggy where she is a viola player.  I still kick myself to this day.

IMG_0005

The Three Disgraces (self named) and their cake

 

A while after making this cake, I volunteered to make another for a charity fundraising evening called Made in Mind.  The organisers asked if I could do something piano related and immediately the old music paraphernalia decoration issue popped into my head.

Eventually, I decided to use the same idea for the edge of the cake as I liked it so much the first time. This time I even remembered to take a photo of the edible manuscript before chopping it up:

IMG_1890

To finish the cake off I made a keyboard to on the top (a handy colour scheme as I had been making a lot of penguin cakes around the same time…). IMG_1895So there we have it, a few musically inclined cakes, which I hope are tasteful enough not to offend… I’ll have to go back to my old colleague and find out.

Fried Chicken Cake

This fried chicken cake (made of cake, contains no chicken) was made for a colleague, Matt, as a leaving present:

Chicken 1When Matt (sadly) announced he was leaving, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the cake.The cake was inspired by one of his many stories – a story that perhaps I can’t post here, but needless to say it kept everyone in the office amused for months.

Chicken 2

When it came to giving Matt the cake he was so convinced that it was chicken that he didn’t know what to do, or how to be polite.  He settled by saying a coy ‘thanks’ and ‘I’ll have some later’ – it was 4.30pm and his 15 colleagues were stood round him.  I told him it was ok, it was in fact cake, which was met with a huge sigh of relief!  I was very impressed with how brave my colleagues were about tucking into the ‘chicken’; I had purposefully placed the chicken box on a Victoria sponge, thinking that the chicken pieces wouldn’t be too popular, but they were eaten with gusto.

A lovely final touch when presenting the cake was my friend’s idea – she suggested that I filled a bottle of ketchup with jam so you could have ‘ketchup’ on the ‘chicken’.  When eating the cake, it messed with your mind a bit as your eyes told you one thing but your taste buds another.

KetchupjamA lot of people have asked me how I made this cake so I thought I’d describe the process. I came across this wonderful blog with some pretty convincing fried chicken rice krispie treats.  I thought I’d take the same principle but use cake as the basis for the chicken. Using the same method as if to make cake pops (crushed cake with buttercream) I was able to mould the chicken shapes which I then covered in a cornflake, chocolate and peanut butter mix. The boxes were sourced from a local chicken shop where I bought them unused – I am a vegetarian, this cake never came into contact with meat!

Chicken 4

When he realised that he didn’t have to eat a bumper amount of chicken in front of his colleagues at 4.30 in the afternoon, Matt was pretty pleased with his cake.  He will be sorely missed in our office, not least for his dodgy, drunken chicken stories.

photo 5

 

 

 

Natural Kitchen Cake

Believe it or not, this little beauty is gluten, grain and sugar free:

P1040064

This cake was the result of a collaboration between me and a friend, Ceri.  As documented in my ‘About Me’ section, Ceri of Natural Kitchen Adventures is one of the main reasons this blog came into being.  If you haven’t ever checked out her blog, I suggest you do, she is one interesting and skilled lady with passion and talent for healthy cooking. When Ceri suggested that we should make a cake together I was slightly nervous about how I could maintain a standard of decorating that I would be happy with, without my go-to food dyes, sugar and E-numbers.

Ceri proposed that she made the cake and I decorated it – so far so good – the only stipulation was that everything I used had to be natural.  My forays into cakey excess, extravagance and flamboyance are well documented and so, approaching this challenge, I was slightly nervous.

Thinking about natural ingredients conjured the image of flowers for me and I started to think of how I could make a flowery cake without using sugar paste. I decided to use flaked almonds to make petals and beetroot to dye them pink.

P1040034

Ceri made four chocolate cakes that we layered with cream cheese frosting (sweetened with honey) and then she let me loose with flaked almonds, dried raspberries and green-tea dyed frosting.  Ceri had picked up the dried raspberries at the last minute as I had refused to tell her my decorating idea (I’m superstitious like that), I had just mentioned that I wanted to use red. She wasn’t sure the beetroot would be red enough and so had picked up the raspberries. My original idea was to use pomegranate seeds in the centre of the flowers but I’d forgotten to add it to our shopping list, so the raspberries were a happy last minute addition. It was Ceri’s idea to use green tea to dye the frosting for the stems.  It made a beautiful pale green that complimented the delicate pink of the beetroot-almond petals. Unfortunately it wasn’t the easiest thing to pipe – without the glossy sheen of royal icing, I found it slightly unwieldy to work with and the result is perhaps a little messier than I’d like.

P1040054I really liked the look of the 3D flowers and would definitely use the flaked almonds again to decorate a cake – natural challenge or not!

Ceri took the cake to a party and her hard baking work paid off, it looked beautiful when it had been cut into:

P1040068You can read more about this cake and get a recipe for it over at Natural Kitchen Adventures.  I really enjoyed the challenge and loved the results; I’m looking forward to the next collaboration…

 

 

 

Secret Chocolate Cake

After making a Unicorn Cake for my friend Sophie last year I was slightly stumped about how I could top my baking efforts for her birthday this year.  I decided not to beat around the bush and to ask her directly what she wanted this year.  She had one word for me, “chocolate”, and so I started to think of the most fun and unusual way to fill my short (and sweet…!) brief.

A while ago I made a chocoholic cake for a colleague and as Sophie and I work together I didn’t want to repeat the design.  I had recently seen a cupcake design online that included hidden sweets in the middle of the cake and thought it might be fun to try that on a grand scale.  I wanted the actual cake to look tempting, but plain; something big that wouldn’t be out of place in the Bruce Bogtrotter scene in Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

It took four sponges and a heck of a lot of cream cheese frosting to create this:

Secret cake 4

But the beauty of the cake was when it was cut:

Secret cake 2

A lot of people asked me how I made it, assuming I had baked the cake with the sweets inside.  Of course you can’t bake chocolate sweets as they will melt – the best way to illustrate how this cake came together is pictorial:

Secret Cake 1

Sophie was pretty pleased with her cake, perhaps as pleased as she was with her fondant unicorn.  I wonder what next year will bring…

Secret cake 5