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Molly is 3!

Posted on: September 26, 2011

We’ve had a busy week! With Molly’s birthday being mid-week, I found myself (as usual) preparing 3 separate cakes: one for daycare, one for her actual birthday and one for her family ‘brunch’ on the weekend. I decided to make a double batch of cupcakes early in the week, some of which I prepared for daycare, and some were frozen to be decorated on her actual birthday. Here they are:

And then there was her ‘brunch’ cake. The scariest project I have ever taken on. Tiernan had Boris, from the Dinosaur Train, for his cake this year, and so Molly decided she wanted one too. I didn’t want to do the same dinosaur again, so I convinced her to let me do Buddy, who is also from the Dinosaur Train, instead. She agreed, on the condition that it be a ‘girl’ Buddy. Deal.

Then, just to make things extra challenging, I decided I would try a 3D cake, covered in fondant. I’ve never attempted a 3D cake before. I’ve also never worked with fondant before. To try both for the first time in one go was pretty silly. But that’s how I roll. No matter the situation, I set the bar really high, and either get there and do well, or fall flat on my face. There are usually tears and tantrums, whether I succeed or not. I always realise afterwards that I was probably expecting too much of myself, but I never really learn not to do it again.

I did at least have a practice before deciding to go ahead with my ‘Girl Buddy’ design. I made a head on a smaller scale, and practiced with some fondant. I made lots of mistakes, and made notes about how to do better for the real cake. I also looked up some tutorials on You Tube for more tips. The design I decided on was loosely based on Tiernan’s toy Buddy, but I altered the body and legs a bit so the cake would be stable.

It all sounded great in my head. I would use a Dolly Varden tin to get a starting body shape, which I would then carve down to the shape I wanted. I’d also bake a square cake and use some of it for the tail, and the rest for the head. Then I would cover it, in sections, with fondant, and join them all together. Tricky, but not too bad (or so I thought). I was really looking forward to the challenge.

However, as ‘cake day’ loomed closer, I started to get nervous. What if it collapsed? What if I couldn’t get the fondant on smoothly? How does one actually use a Dolly Varden tin??? It all had to work perfectly, because there wasn’t a Plan B, and I’d already spent a small fortune on the various tools and paraphernalia that go with using fondant. The pressure was building. I had to remind myself a few times that I was the one who decided to do this, and that it was supposed to be fun. Relax and have a go. It’s a bloody cake!

I say ‘cake day’, but really it was ‘cake days’. The cake was to be made in three stages, over two days. This was because it was going to take a very long time to do. I didn’t have a very long time all in one day, because in the midst of all this birthday and ‘brunch’ stuff, was a regatta that was going to take up several hours on Saturday afternoon. With the brunch scheduled for Sunday morning (to allow for Tom’s cricket in the afternoon – we’re busy people), this meant that Stage 1: Cake Baking, had to occur on Friday.

Stage 1: Cake Baking didn’t go so well. I made a double batch of butter cake, poured it into my brand new Dolly Varden tin (which had been greased and floured first), set the oven temperature for about 150-160 degrees Celsius, and placed it on the bottom shelf so that the rim of the tin was in the centre of the oven. I knew to allow heaps of time for it to cook, so I didn’t even check it until just over an hour had passed. A skewer revealed that, while my cake had a nice crust on top, it was liquid in the middle still. Liquid. So I put it back in. When I checked it 20 minutes later, it had collapsed, it was still raw in the middle, and the outside was starting to look quite crispy. So I shoved it back in the oven and turned the heat up to 180 for ten minutes. Then I took it out and surveyed the damage. The inside (which was clearly visible through the gaping hole in the top) was at best ‘very moist’, and at worst ‘raw’. The outside was rock hard. Not burnt, but not far off it. Hmm. Now what?

While I pondered my dilemma, I put my nice, simple square cake into the oven, baked it for 35 minutes and heaved a sigh of relief when it came out perfect. We would at least have some cake that was edible, if I went ahead and used the collapsed cake anyway. But I was worried that the huge hole would mean that the body wouldn’t be able to support ‘Girl Buddy’s’ giant, heavy head. So, I decided to buy some cake mix and try again.

Two hours later, I had a cake that was worse than the first one. This time, I turned the oven temperature down a bit lower, about 140 degrees Celsius, and moved the bottom shelf up a little so that the top of the cake itself was closer to the centre of the oven. I thought the first cake must have collapsed because I checked it too early, so after an hour, I looked into the oven without taking the cake out. The first thing I noticed was another giant hole! The second thing I noticed was that the cake had barely risen, and it hadn’t even started to colour on top yet. After another half-hour, I pulled the cake out to have a look. It was tiny, shrivelled, very blonde, and soggy inside. Half an hour later there was really no change, so I gave up. When I removed it from the tin, the cake felt soft and rubbery. I think it would have bounced if I’d dropped it. Not good.

So, I was feeling pretty despondent about the whole project by Friday evening. I decided to just use the first cake, but only the head and tail would be edible. And I would have to just cross my fingers and hope that it would be strong enough to support the head. I had planned to commence Stage Two: Cake Sculpting that evening after the kids were in bed, but I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Better to wait until morning.

So, Stage 2: Cake Sculpting began bright and early on Saturday morning. Using Tiernan’s little toy Buddy as a guide, I started hacking away at Dolly Varden Cake 1, and as ‘Girl Buddy’s’ body started to emerge, I felt a lot better about things. Nibbling on the offcuts, I also noticed that the cake wasn’t nearly as dry and horrible as I had first thought. But I was still sure the middle was going to be inedible. After the body was done, I went on to shape the tail and the head, and then cover all three with a thin layer of butter cream, to give the fondant something to stick to. And thus, Stage 2: Cake Sculpting, was completed in about four hours! Stage 3: Cake Covering had to wait until after the regatta (which, by the way, went rather well: I raced in a mixed double scull and came 2nd, and came third in a mixed quad scull. Both races were very tough, and left me wondering how I ever had considered myself fit! But I had fun, and can’t wait until the next regatta).

Stage 3: Cake Covering began at 9pm on Saturday. This part was the most fun, but also the most painstaking. I knew it was going to take hours. I hoped to be in bed by 1am. I didn’t get there until closer to 4am. Oh well, the end result was worth it. I managed to get the fondant on pretty well, with only a few lumps and bumps. Here are some photos I took along the way:

It was the tiny details, like painting the toenails and fingernails, and making the eyes and the diamonds down the dinosaur’s back that took the longest. But they looked pretty good when it was all over.

I was unsure what to do about the mouth, because Buddy’s mouth is open, and I couldn’t possibly have had an open-mouthed cake, it was too flimsy. In the end I just painted it on. I forgot to buy tic tacs to use as teeth, but I think they would have been too big, and probably would have made her look a bit goofy. I also thought about painting some on, but was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it neatly enough. So I just left it.

So there she is, the completed Girl-Buddy. She took about 16 hours to create, and only minutes to demolish. But that’s how it’s meant to be.

And the inedible body that I got myself into a tizz over? Turns out it was pretty delicious! Nice and evenly cooked, perfectly moist, and only slightly underdone at the site of the hole, which wasn’t as big as I feared, and didn’t render the cake unstable at all. So maybe I’ll give the Dolly Varden tin another chance.

Here are some more pictures of the Birthday/brunch fun:

Molly’s new oven. I bought it online. In the picture, it was timber with a yellow door, and it had a clear window to look through. I was pretty disappointed when this purple and pink one turned up. We’ve definitely got enough purple and pink crap in our house already. I haven’t called the online store yet to complain, but I will. Molly was pretty thrilled with it anyway.

Birthday craft. It didn’t turn out quite the same as Mr Maker’s.

Wearing Molly’s new sunnies.

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