Ever had an idea in your head of something you want to make and you visualise making it and imagine it coming out perfectly?
Well that happened to me this week.
It’s my mum’s 80th birthday today and I’ve planned a party for later – I should really be preparing and decorating the house instead of writing this but hey ho, I thrive on stress in my life!
My mum, like most mum’s, is the kindest person and so loving, giving and caring. I am often riddled with guilt at how I give her nowhere near the amount of time, care and attention I should, just all those unimportant things in life seems to get in the way of the important stuff!
Anyway, for this birthday I wanted to go to a bit of effort and hold a little party, well more a family gathering, for her and as you know, you can’t have a birthday party without a cake! I was going to pay someone to make a beautiful one but then thought my mum would probably appreciate a home made one more as she will know I’d gone to the effort for her.
I started off by scouring google images, pinterest and youtube for the perfect cake and came across a layered ombre rose cake design that I thought looked easily achievable – having not really baked and decorated a cake for 20 odd years I thought I’d best set my sights on something that wasn’t too difficult and complicated.
So in preparation I watched a youtube video on how to do the icing and thought about writing a list of ingredients I needed. Not only ingredients but I also needed baking tools and equipment like cake tins, spatular and an electric whisk (i’ve been suffering with my carpal tunnel condition recently so there was no way I was going to spend hours creaming butter etc!).
You may have picked up on the word ‘thought’ in the last paragraph, I’ve put it in bold to emphasise it and looking back I think this is the moment the cake failed. While thinking about something is good, it then needs to move on to the action of doing it, so thinking about writing a list is no good if you don’t actually write a list. We are taught in life how essential preparation is in the success of execution. Many a famous and successful person has said something profound about preparation. What was that quote from Benjamin Franklin again? Also, Alexander Graham Bell also had a word of wisdom to share with the world on the subject of preparation and success…
Anyway, off I trot to the shops and if you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll have picked up that I’m the frugal type and a bit of a bargain hunter so I paid a visit to some of my favourite haunts – pound shops, B&M, Asda and picked up all the stuff I thought I needed or rather what I could remember I needed. When it got to nozzels to pipe the roses, I couldn’t quite remember what nozzel I needed, in fact I hadn’t really paid attention when watching the youtube video! I happened to stumble across a piping bag that came with a few different shaped nozzels so threw it in the basket thinking that will do! Hindsight really is a beautiful thing as I could have taken advantage of modern technology at this stage and just looked up on my smart phone what nozzel it was I needed but no I was too busy for that!
I was actually getting quite excited about making this cake but at this point my mum’s birthday was a couple of weeks to go and let’s face it no one wants a stale and mouldy birthday cake now do they! Time flew by which it has a habit of doing when you’re busy and before I knew it I was running out of time and the only window of opportunity I had to make the cake was on Wednesday afternoon. Again, this is where preparation is key, so going out the night before to a party with friends to celebrate International Women’s Day by drinking lots of pinot grigio is probably not the best way to prepare! Anyway I was pretty confident that, despite not making a cake for 20 odd years, never practicing this icing technique and the fact that I may not have the right nozzel, it would come out perfectly like the picture in my head or rather above! How wrong could I be!
So I start off by making the sponges, for this cake you just need a simple victoria sponge mix so nothing too strenuous there, next you need food colouring – enough of it! to colour the 4 sponges a different shade of pink. Why I thought a tiny little tube of pink would be enough to colour 4 sponges and 4 different batches of buttercream icing/frosting is beyond me? So while I put the first two sponges in the oven I have to hotfoot it to the local supermarket to buy more colouring, this all needs to be done within 20 minutes so I will be back to check on the sponges as a burnt sponge cake is never a good look! I managed the challenge and mixed up the remaining two cakes and got them in the oven.
So the four cakes are out the oven now and cooling nicely, I had bought the silicon cake tins (well they are not tins but silicon!) as thought it would be easier to get the cake out of and I was right. Silicon is the new black! Sorry for the rest of the world who probably discovered silicon for baking back with the dinosaurs but as I said I’ve not baked for 20 odd years so it’s all a bit of a novelty for me! Plus the other bonus with silicon is you can get it is groovy colours and they are kind of easier to store as will squidge into a space! Go silicon!
The cakes had rose quite high but that’s always a good thing as it means you can cut off the raised bit to make nice flat cakes that will sit on top of each other nicely and you still get to ‘have your cake and eat it’ too! There’s nothing more annoying that baking a cake and not having a bit left over to sample! For quality control purposes of course!
Next to make up the buttercream icing. I had wanted more an american style frosting (after looking at various recipes I think frosting is just another word for buttercream icing as the ingredients do not seem to differ) as I always like the taste of it on American cakes so I was looking at different recipes on the internet and was amazed at how wildly the quantities differed. I then just did my usual when following a recipe and just largely ignore it and made up the quantities thinking, I’ll know the consistency I need when I get it. This does generally work for me.
Can I now just take the opportunity to say what a fabulous investment the handheld electric whisk I bought for £6 from tesco’s was! It certainly saved me a lot of labour I can tell you. Loved the price but the only criticism or rather constructive criticism would be that it would be much better if they made the end flat rather than rounded so when you need to put it down you can stand it on it’s rear – it would be a lot less messy!
Anyway, back to the task at hand! Icing of the cake! The moment had arrived that i’d been really looking forward to however at that particular moment in time I just wasn’t feeling it, it was about 5pm by this time, the sun was setting and the natural light was fastly becoming non existent – these things are much better done in natural light especially when mixing colours etc. I was feeling exhausted and had friends coming around in the next couple of hours and still had dinner to cook and to have a bath etc. At this stage it would have been an ideal time to say – I’ll finish it off another day but no because I’m the impatient type and always rush things to get them done, I decide to continue. Also I had to pop next door earlier, covered in cake mix, to ask my neighbour if I could borrow a sieve and he needed it back later so I thought I’d best just get on and do it.
Onward I venture and mix up my first batch of buttercream icing/frosting and put a bit of buttercream icing on the cake board to hold the first sponge in place, I then spread a think layer of icing in between the layers of the cake and stack them from lightest cake colour to darkest.
I then apply what they call a ‘crumb layer’ see I did pay attention to something on the youtube video. It’s basically a layer of icing around the sides and on the top.
Now it’s time to unpack the icing bag and fill it up with icing. Oooooooh so exciting…and…
My first rose! Ummm…it really doesn’t look how it should and I realise right away that it is not coming out as it should as I don’t have the right blooming nozzel. I could rush out and go and try and buy one but no I decide that I will persevere and somehow be able to turn this situation around! Just as this thought goes through my head the piping bag bursts open! Perhaps it was trying to tell me something! That’s the problem sometimes when you buy stuff from the pound shop, funnily enough it’s not always made to last! Grrrr… At this stage I realise I will just have to make the most of it but am annoyed at myself and tired. I keep going though and luckily had bought 10 disposable piping bags which are way superior to the other bag and I ended up piping the whole cake using just the one bag.
Anyway my wrists are aching from pushing the icing in the bag and at this stage I just want it to be done as time is ticking by and I’d kind of given up by now that they were going to resemble roses and just comfort myself by the fact that my mum will love it regardless as I made it with love, also I am relying on the fact she’s 80 years old so her eyesight probably isn’t what it was in her prime!
On I push and I realise half way around the 2nd layer of roses that this batch of icing is a bit thin and it’s almost falling off the cake! Aggghhh! On I go with the third colour and push onto the fourth which is the top layer on the side. I have now almost lost the will to live and did the best I could during a bad situation. Time really was ticking by now and I was almost out of buttercream – I’d already used 3 boxes of icing sugar and still had more but had run out of vanilla essence so decided to just pipe the icing around in a circle rather than do roses that really don’t look like roses! So, I just about squeeze every last bit of icing I had out the bag with none to spare and and it just covers the top – hallelujah for small mercies!
As a way to cover up the edge between the so called roses and top I had purchased some rice paper flowers so arranged these around the top rim and again I just had enough to fit perfectly! I also had some confectioners glitter or shimmer stuff and this other crystal style pink stuff – I’m sure it has a more technical name and I sprinkle that on top – well kind of throw it at the sides too hoping some will stick! Voila it’s done! Well almost as I positioned the cake towards the back of the cake board so I had room to pipe a birthday message at the bottom of the board. Now this really should have waited til I was less tired, had more time and didn’t have a painful wrist but no that impatience streak of mine was overriding my logical self yet again! I had to do it then! Luckily this is the bit I can get rid of and do again.
So here it is, my mum’s birthday cake fail! Let’s hope it tastes better than it looks:
Anyway, it may be a cake fail but failure is a positive thing as it gives way to the opportunity to improve and there’s so many great quotes on failure so the moral of this story is that preparation is key and next time I will be prepared with the right nozzel and will start the project when nice and fresh with lots of time! So from this cake fail I have learnt and the next one will be bigger and better – either that or it will be shop bought!
Again, many a wise and wonderful person has said something about failure and below are some of my favourite quotes: