The top 5 things I’ve learnt about cake decorating

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My Frozen castle cake for a gorgeous girl

 

I spent a couple of hours last weekend creating a Frozen castle extravaganza for my friend’s 4 year old. It’s over 10 years since I attempted the same cake for MGG, and I remember it taking many hours, and quite a lot of swearing.

Possibly some gin.

Put it this way, I really felt the book was mistitled. I had taken “No Time Cakes” to mean ready in no time, not no time to do anything else. This time it took me a couple of hours to do the decorating. Which I think is down to a few things that I’ve learnt doing a cake a year for MGG for the past 14 years. So for all those who think they can’t (and I was definitely there at the start, and probably even now) then these are the key things I’ve learnt:

1. Cheat

 

No, I don’t really mean a Helen Mirren in Calendar Girls mussing up an M&S sponge to enter a competition kind of cheat, but don’t think you have to make everything. The version of this cake in the book had lots of piped vines and things on it. I bought snowflakes from Amazon. Much better for the theme, much better than I could do, and the kids don’t care. Squires Kitchen are my absolute godsend for these cakes, if I’ve been organised and thought about ordering in time.

 

2. Beg, borrow or steal a turntable.

 

Not for your cat to play on, or motorised, or any music playing capacity, but just a bog standard cake turntable. Could be the best fiver you spend to help with cake decorating. Certainly takes out the risk of moving the cake on the board as you work your way round the cake.

 

3. Have patience

 

I’ll be honest, I’ve never done one of these cakes in less than 4 hours start to finish, from the cake making through to the finished thing. And the worst thing you can do is think you’re going to do one of these in an hour. And then stress when you’re nowhere near finished in that time.

 

4. Be realistic

 

Not a good place to start for a beginner in cake decorating

Let’s face it, a 5ft high version of Maleficent in cake is probably not the best place to start if you’ve never decorated a cake before. I’m all for having ambition, but you will just stress yourself out. If you need some inspiration I would say a) stay off Pinterest and b) buy a good book. Whilst I joke about No Time Party Cakes, it is actually pretty straightforward, or you could try something like the Australian Women’s Weekly Kids Birthday Cakes book, which relies a lot more on buttercream.

 

5. The kids don’t notice the small stuff

 

They’re still going to react like that, and will be so thrilled. In fact there are only two harsh judges in this: other parents (screw ’em, it’s jealousy) and yourself. Be kind to yourself. The kids will remember these cakes, not for the missing detail, but for the fact that you did it. And really that’s all that matters.

So, if you’re inclined, then try it. And if you’re not at all inclined, then don’t feel like you must. I’ve generally done one a year for MGG, and very, very occasionally made one for someone else. Which is quite enough in my view. But it was worth it, as it has been each year with MGG, for that moment when the kids first see the cake. Makes it all worthwhile, for me.

 

Gifs from GIPHY

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The Friday Five – The stressed parent’s guide to cake decorating

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I love this time of year, but it does cause me some stress. I always make a proper birthday cake for MGG’s birthday, and have worked my way through a few cake decorating books. I’m no expert, whatsoever, but prepared to give it a go. So these five are a combination of ones I’ve used so far, and ones I always look at and think, maybe, one day!

 

1. No Time Party Cakes – I started with this one, loved the title, thought this would be the book for me. I worked through a few, but by the time I got to the fairy castle (and what little girl isn’t going to ask for this at some point) I was beginning to think I had misunderstood the title. I think I came to the conclusion on quite a few it meant no time to do anything else! That said, the designs are great for kids, and if you don’t get too ambitious a good source.

 

An alternative to the caterpillar cake

 

2. 50 Easy Party Cakes – this is the one I’m working from today, in an attempt to replicate the cover cake, and I did a cake for someone else from here too. There is a great variety of cakes, and actually these have not been too bad at all. I really love the kitten and ball of wool, just waiting for a request for this one!

3. Celebrate With A Cake: A Step by Step Guide to Creating 15 Memorable Cakes – This one is the next level up and I aspire to some of these, they are truly beautiful. Thankfully, I’d already done the castle before I got this book, and before MGG had seen it, as the one in this book is truly spectacular.

4. Romantic Cakes by Peggy Porschen – it feels like Peggy is the pinnacle of fabulous, pretty, romantic cake decorating, and these are really the sorts of cakes I fantasise about turning out for an afternoon tea on a sunny lawn. This book moves you from every romantic occasion, from Valentine’s Day through to full on wedding cakes, which I think is beyond where I’ll end up, but I like looking at the pictures and dreaming. If you are more competent, then I would guess either this book is already in your possession, or most definitely on a wish list somewhere! Drop more hints!

5. Seriously Naughty Cakes by Debbie Brown – just to show cakes are not just for kids, or weddings, these are saucy additions to the cake decorator’s art! From mooning out of cars through to cleavages to make Jordan jealous and topless sunbathing, this really will give you some interesting ideas. To be honest, I would think having a roly-poly stripagram cake may be better than the real thing turning up! Not one to leave around for the kiddies to pick up though. Not till they turn 18 maybe!

I get a bit better each year, and as I only pretty much practice once a year then it’s no surprise I’m not making really quick progress on improving! I will keep you posted on how the stable comes along. But if I post pictures of a train cake, you have your answer!

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The big birthday cake night – part 1

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An alternative to the caterpillar cake

 

This is one of two stressful, but finally rewarding, nights of the year: making MGG’s birthday cake. Of course I could just pop to Tesco and buy a cake, but it’s kind of a family tradition. My mum always made fabulous birthday cakes: windmills, flowers, fairies, teddy bears, treasure islands…all lovingly created.

I don’t really have my mum’s talent, but I have desire, and love, so put myself through it every year. And every year it’s worth it just for that first moment when MGG finally sees the finished product. This year, I’ll be producing the horses in the stable, as per the book cover. I’m sure there’ll be some entertainment value, so will let you see the process and results!

Wish me good luck!

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