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


Comic Book Cake

This comic book inspired cake was for a friend’s boyfriend.  I’d never met Patrick, but I was told that he loves comics, especially Marvel comics and if I was up for the challenge, Holly, his other half, wanted a surprise cake for his birthday.

I can’t resist a cake challenge and decided that a comic book inspired cake was too good an opportunity to pass up.  My one other brief was to include his name… here is how I responded:

Comic cake

I’d originality set out to make the cake Marvel themed by drawing Marvel characters onto sugar paper in edible ink to use round the edge with PATRICK in the white Marvel font sitting in the centre of a red cake. However, half way through drawing Batman, my other half came into the kitchen and informed me that Batman wasn’t a Marvel character.  So I swore, and changed my plans.

Holly had told me that Patrick’s favourite character was (unknown to me, pictured in the centre below) Invincible, who isn’t a Marvel character, so my mistake proved quite fortuitous in the end.

Comic sides

I enjoyed drawing the comics too much (a mixture of tracing and freehand) and I ended up with an excess of pictures, so I spent quite a long time trying to figure out how to arrange them and which to feature on top.

ComicsComicbook line up

It was at this point I decided to scrap the name idea in the middle of the cake and instead to stand up some of the characters.  I was able to slot the sugar paper into the icing so the pictures were undamaged. Unfortunately the edible glue reacted with the sugar paper which I had used to stick the drawings to the side of the cake, leaving slight blemishes on the sides of some of the drawings which was a shame, and not a mistake I’ll repeat.

Comic side

The cake went down well despite being a complete fire hazard when teamed with candles!

Day of the Dead cake

A skull cake for a 30th birthday.  There aren’t many people who I could have made this cake for.  Certainly a few eyebrows were raised when I said I was spending my evenings making chocolate skulls for a birthday – I got knowing looks of ‘but it’s January, not Halloween’ but decided to ignore them and plough on with my plan.

Skull cake 1

From embarking on this cake mission, I learnt that it’s incredibly difficult to source a skull mould out of Halloween season.  Initially I wanted a little 3D mould but had to settle for what I could get. I wanted as grizzly as possible, no cartoon skull and crossbones, so I could make the cake Day of the Dead themed.  Eventually I got my hands on a mould that allowed me to make 11 skulls at once.

Why skulls? Well I’ve already written about a the narwhal and Russian doll cakes – previous gifts for Clê – so her eccentricities and love of the slightly abnormal are well documented. This year I decided to focus on her fascination with skulls.  Thanks to Clê we have a few skulls round the house and one Halloween, while we were drinking wine and painting (our own) faces, she did this:

Day of the dead Cle

Thus introducing me to the Day of the Dead Festival (this was a few years ago now) and getting my cake brain ticking.

I started the prep for this cake almost a week in advance as I needed to leave the skulls to set overnight and knew I wanted lots of skulls in different colours but could only make 11 at a time.  There were lots of midnight baking sessions for this cake.

Once I had all the set skulls in different colours, a day before her birthday, I set about decorating them with what I had in my baking cupboard (yes I have one, it’s overflowing).  Edible glitter, paint and ‘sparkle flakes’ were the main decorating materials and I enlisted my other (very brave) housemate to help.  It took us about 2 hours to paint all the skulls differently.  I’m kicking myself because I didn’t count how many there were on the cake, but I can make an educated guess at nearly 50 and honestly, for aesthetic purposes, there could have been more.

Close up skulls

The side panels were also made from white chocolate with coloured chocolate swirls set into the panel.  I made these a couple of days in advance to give them time to dry and was worried about how they would hold up, but they proved pretty stable.  I added the edible copper paint to the panels as a final touch.  For me, this was a bit of an experiment into working with chocolate, I was playing around with what you can do, and I was a little disappointed with how the colours smudged slightly in the side panels.

Side of cake

This cake ended up being a lot bigger than I originally intended.  It was hugely impractical to transport and massively over the top – all perfect for Clê.  We ended up cutting it in the morning before any of us went to work, she took half to her office and the other half lasted the weekend and managed to feed about 15 hungry mouths after a video shoot.

I don’t think I’ve ever had someone in my life who it is so easy to make cakes for. I should re-phrase that; most people seem pleased to receive cake year on year but the beauty of baking for Clê is that thinking of different and interesting themes is never too difficult.

Back of cake

Unblogged cakes – 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that this little blog has been going for a year. My 2013 resolution was to get it on the road, and low and behold, here it is!

Self congratulations over, I wanted to do a round up blog about the year and a write up for all the bakes that never get mentioned. It is common knowledge amongst my friends that I take a lot of pictures. My phone memory groans under the strain of 2000+ photos that often don’t go any further than my little handset. It would be fair to say that about a third of the photos that I take are of cakes or baking activity and for every cake I write about, there are probably at least two others made around the same time that I don’t mention on the blog. This can be for many reasons – time, being the main one, or maybe they are repeat designs, or just plain cakes that aren’t worth blogging about (sorry plain cakes).

But now is their moment – a moment for some of the unmentioned and unseen cakes to be celebrated!

2013 roundup

From left to right, top to bottom:

One of 4 impromptu name cakes make from spare cupcakes and icing; A set of chocolate orange cakes for my Mum’s birthday; Cheesy cupcakes before baking for Tash (read about her arms here); Birthday cakes for Mike whipped up in an hour and a half; Birthday cakes for Nikki including a ukulele playing rabbit (she plays ukulele and has a rabbit); General cakes for my parent’s Bed and Breakfast guests; My name cake as part of a set of name cakes for my friend’s hen party, I then went on to make her wedding cake; An icing music stand that never made it to a cake, I will write a blog about the cake this was intended for; A slice of trial wedding cake that I doodled on in edible ink; All the little powder pots before they went on cupcakes for the Victorian Medicine cakes; A Victoria sponge, whipped up at the whim of Felix Hagan; A lonely Christmas cupcake on a tiny single-cake stand; An impromptu batch of cakes made from all I could find in a friend’s cupboard; A 60th birthday cake shaped like a pyramid; Wedding cupcakes with white chocolate leaves; A chocolate beetroot cake pre-decoration (blog to follow about this one).

This year I was also sent a picture of a cake that was made by Serafina, inspired by my Easter Cupcakes, a lovely surprise:

photo 4 (11)

This made me incredibly happy; any other cake pictures inspired by mine would be most welcome!

There was also this cake that I made to practise smooth icing for the wedding cake. I then took it to work for everyone to doodle on for the recipient, Simon. I love this graffiti cake with about 12 contributors to the artwork:

Simon's cake

A picture that should have made it into the blog post about the wedding cake is this beauty of Duncan, the groom, “helping” during its creation:

photo 2 (20)

And lastly, a couple of photos of what it took to make the aged posters for the Victorian cupcakes – help from my very lovely, very tolerant house mates:

Poster making

There are many more photos from 2013, but that is probably enough for the moment. Now is the time to look forward to what baking adventures 2014 will bring… watch this space and Happy New Year!

Trumpet cupcakes

I’m ashamed to say it has been over a month since I last blogged.  That is not to say it has been over a month since I last baked, on the contrary the oven has barely had a rest, I just have had no time to sit and write.

Stories still to come

Stories still to come

I’ve already mentioned that I have a day job, alongside which I do this which leaves little time for the baking cupboard to be opened and the creative cake muscles to be flexed. However, in the last few months I have squeezed in midnight baking sessions, the result of which are many unwritten cake stories – an ice-cream cake, hen party cakes (although one set of hen party cakes is perhaps too tasteless for this blog), Airfix cakes, 1-hour challenge cake, French dark chocolate cake, owl cakes and an amp cake, but today I am going to tell you about my friend Angie and the cakes I made for her birthday last year.

Angie and I met during an internship when I was fresh out of University.  We quickly bonded over a shared love of big hair, music and Marmite. We only worked together for a few months but have stayed in touch ever since, meeting up to share stories, drink gin and play music.  Angie has many interests and is very easy to think of cake themes for, in fact the challenge was to decide on which theme to go with.  As she is a fantastic trumpet player (she plays in the brilliant band Patch and the Giant) I decided to recreate a similar idea to the trumpet cupcake I had previously made on a much larger scale to take to her birthday picnic.


I decided on cupcakes rather than a big cake covered in trumpets as it is always easier to transport and distribute cupcakes. The little trumpets were made from marzipan sprayed with edible gold paint finished with little gold sugar balls.

I also originally wanted to include little accordion cakes as Angie is the only person I’ve ever seen play trumpet and accordion at the same time:


But unfortunately I ran out of time to figure out how to make convincing little accordions… there is always next birthday!

I can highly recommend Patch and the Giant, for many things including wonderful music, a multitalented trumpet/accordion player and just a bloody fun gig.


Narwhal and Puffincat

I’ve already recounted a story about Clê my housemate and trying to ninja bake for her, so when her birthday came around this year, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep a cake a secret. I decided there was only one thing for it – I just had to ban her from the kitchen one night.  This was my solution (I call her Shrimp):

Keep out!She was suitably furious at being kept out of the kitchen. Clê doesn’t like not being in control and to add insult to injury, I offered her a plate of broken biscuits as a snack while she couldn’t enter.  There was a reason that they were broken biscuits, but she didn’t know what the reason was…

Around this time Clê had taken to waking me up in the morning by jumping on my bed, ‘beaching’ herself and making narwhal noises. I don’t really know how it came about apart from she has an affinity with narwhals and she is a big fan of the bath – when she takes a 3-4 hour long bath, we refer to it as ‘narwhalling’.  With all the narwhal references flying about it was clear that there was only one way to go with her cake theme this year.  It wasn’t until the last minute that I decided to incorporate one of Clê’s other obsessions – Puffincat. It’s a cartoon about a cross between a puffin and a cat that Clê like to reference, a lot.  I’m not sure I can explain puffincat very well, just watch the link.

Once I had decided to have puffincat on the cake as well as a Narwhal I realised he needed something to stand on so I made him a raft, constructed of broken biscuits painted in dark chocolate.  It took a lot of broken biscuits to get the raft right, hence I had a plate of superfluous broken biscuits which I chose to offer as a snack.

Perhaps the oddest cake yet, but here is what you make if you happen to have a really eccentric house mate who loves narwhals and puffincat.

Narwhal 3Getting the right blue for the ocean and keeping it looking wet were important to this design; I ended up dying the fondant icing blue but then using blue food dye gel like paint over the top of the already blue icing to give the different shades and glossy look.

I made it so the Narwhal and Puffincat were looking at each other in confusion, because, lets face it, it’s a pretty confusing cake. I think Clê liked it, despite being furious about being locked out of the kitchen and being fed broken biscuits.


The Owl and the… Wispas?

Philippa and Lucy

This was a joint birthday cake for two people in my office.  The two people who this was for – Philippa and Lucy – couldn’t be more different and I spent quite a lot of time thinking about how to make a cake that they would both like. When I set about making this I had two ideas in mind – owls for Lucy and Wispas for Philippa – both known for their respective love of these things.  I just wasn’t sure how I was going to combine the two ideas and make it obvious that it was for both birthday ladies.

I made the owls out of tea-cakes, biscuits and sweeties. I then lined the edges of the cake with a Wispa wall and decided that wasn’t enough wispa – the owls needed their very own Wispa perch in the middle to tie the whole cake together. Originally this cake also included their names in the frosting around the perch but the writing icing proved too runny and bled into the cream cheese frosting.  Also, I had used red icing to do this and it ended up looking like there had been some horrible cake massacre so I had to do a quick touch up in the morning and made the surface blank again.  In retrospect I think there was enough going on with the cake to have the blank around the perch and no names – I was just trying to make sure the birds didn’t look like love birds!

Anyway, here is proof that no matter how different the recipients, there can always be unity in cake.