Birthday cake. We spend so much time baking, icing, decorating and stressing. Then it is eaten in the blink of an eye. Sylvia's birthday cake this year caused me more sleepless nights than usual. She asked for a toadstool house cake. It is with a great sense of achievement that I present it to you today.
The cake required more red food colouring than ever before, baking cakes in pudding bowls, balancing a larger cake on a smaller one. Finally when I had my head around all of this, I read that it was to be assembled at the last moment. And we were having her party in the park. I am not sure I am the best advocate of the cake because it gave me so much worry but it worked for me and made young eyes widen in appreciation!
Sylvia had been planning her party for months. Games, party bags, cake etc etc. Unfortunately her birthday fell a few weeks after she started school. It meant we were busy with settling into school and new friendships in the weeks leading up to the party. We invited family and some old friends early on. Later on we invited a few new friends too.
Party bags are one of Sylvia's favourite parts of parties. We agreed everyone would have a lollypop and she could choose a couple more lollies for each bag. We also bought some cheap toys at the supermarket. I wanted to get away from the focus on lollies and make some things for the party bags. We made the bags
out of craft paper, we baked our favourite gingerbread
and made some bookmarks
by photographing her favourite books.
I had to go to a specialty cake decorating shop (Cake Deco
in the city) to buy food colouring paste for the red buttercream. While there, I was tempted by some pretty cake pop sticks. So cake pops
went on the menu. I was inspired by my recent candy cane brownies
. They were made the day before the party.
I made the brownie, substituting chickpea flour for regular flour and baking for 30 minutes. I mixed it with 40g cream cheese and a spoonful or two of icing sugar (and then wondered if the brownie would clump together without mixing anything in). I dipped each stick in white chocolate before inserting in the cake balls. After some time in the freezer, they were covered in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed cherry and apple flavoured candy canes. They were nice but so sweet without the peppermint candy canes. Next time it will be dark chocolate on the outside.
The main event was the birthday cake. It threatened to be disastrous from the start. I decided to use the ultimate chocolate cake
recipe I had used earlier in the year because it seemed so sturdy. I had to use a cake four times as big as the previous version, so I have included the amended recipe below.
Choosing the right bowls was stressful. This was the decision that meant the cakes balanced or not. I found a 1.8 litre pudding bowl and a 1 litre pyrex bowl. I am not used to baking in these bowls. So I was nervous. And rightly so. The cakes took over 2 hours to bake. I turned the oven down when I had to go out to pick up Sylvia. I just kept going until a skewer inserted in the middle came out clean. Meanwhile the cakes sunk lower and lower in the bowls.
I read online that sometimes cakes stick to pyrex so I lined the bowls with greased foil. You can see above that they were terribly misshapen and covered in creases. By now I was not only worried about how the cakes looked but how they would fare being balanced on top of one another.
It is times like these that I am grateful for icing to cover a multitude of sins. I did a little cosmetic surgery on the larger cake to make the top a little more even. A crumb coat was quite helpful in filling in some cracks and crevices. (I made the cakes the previous day and did the decoration on the morning of the party.)
Even making the buttercream frosting was more challenging that usual. I know from experience how hard it is to get a truly red icing. I went into Cake Deco and bought a red paste. The woman behind the counter told me that I had to be careful my icing was white and not yellow from the butter or the colour would be peach. She recommended buying a European style butter. I made sure I beat it long and hard when creaming the butter.
As you can see my red was very very red. It is the reddest icing I have ever made. (I probably could have used less red food colouring.) I was pleased that E went over the street with Sylvia at this point. She had helped putting on the doors and windows but I really needed to focus on the colour and final decoration.
The recipe said to divide the icing into two lots: a white and a red. But I have never made one of these children's cakes without icing left over. So I used less for the red icing and had enough to make green icing. This formed the grassy area around my base of the toadstool.
The recipe we were following had these medium sized freckles. They were hard to find so I made them by pouring white chocolate onto a tray and sprinkling it with 100s and 1000s sprinkles. When it set I cut it into round with cookie cutters. Sadly I let mine set a bit long and broke a favourite cookie cutter doing this. I also found flower candles in Cake Deco and had a fairy doll of Sylvia's.
Once the cake was done, I rushed to complete the preparation for the party in the park. Chopping vegies and packing all the food. E bought Turkish bread and falafel over the street, as well as a soft white loaf for the fairy bread.
Finally the car was packed. At the last moment I grabbed a tablecloth and was very pleased I did. We got to the park and had forgotten the bread so I drove back for it. Our lunch looked somewhat like this: Turkish bread, rice crackers, hummus, falafel, vegie sticks, cheezels, cake pops, mum's sparkly pink gf cupcakes, fairy bread, watermelon, grapes, birthday cake.
It was a fairly simple affair. I had been so bound up in making the very sweet cake pops and the birthday cake that I was surprised when someone commented on the healthy food. As always there was lots of leftover food. The cupcakes, watermelon and fairy bread were big hits. Leftover vegies were roasted and turned into a pizza topping on some leftover Turkish bread. The cake pops stood proudly in some polystyrene foam packaging I had made hole in.
We had about 12 kids, with about half of these being cousins. I had been worried about Sylvia being overwhelmed but she had a lovely time running about the park with the kids. We had one game planned: pass the parcel. My mum wisely advised we gather them for this before singing happy birthday and cutting the cake. E brought his ukelele to play the music for pass the parcel.
I brought the cake to the park in two pieces. Putting it together was a nervous moment. I took a photo quickly lest it collapse but it seemed to hold together well. This seemed little short of a miracle. It didn't stay together long because we then sang happy birthday, couldn't find the matches for the candles, stuck a knife in it and, before we knew it, the cake looked like this.
Having the party at the park was great, once we had carted everything there. The weather was kind to us, and there was lots for the kids to do without having to organise lots of games. Which is just right for Sylvia at the moment. Everyone had a great time, especially the birthday girl. It might seem a long time until her next birthday party but she already has started planning!
I am sending this toadstool house cake to Jane of the Hedgecomber
s who is co-host of Tea Time Treats
with Karen of Lavender and Lovage
. This month the theme is decorated cakes
! I am also sending it to Mummy Makes Cakes for her Celebration Cakes and Bakes
event.Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WSC Pirate Treasure Chest Birthday Cake
Two years ago: Grrrr Dinosaur Birthday Cake (from Peppa Pig)
Three years ago: Dinosaur farm, white mudcake and teddy racers
Four years ago: Sylvia's green pram cake
Five years ago: Welcome little one!
Six years ago: Pomegranates - the cruelest fruit?How to make a Pixie Toadstool Cake
Adapted from Anne Rigg
's Birthday Cakes for Kids You will need:
Chocolate cakes (see recipe below)
Buttercream frosting (see recipe below)
Red food dye paste
Green food dye (drops is fine)
Sour strips (or liquorice strips)
Red or silver cachous
Large white freckles (you can easily make your own*)
Jubes, icing flowers, tiny toy fairies for around the toadstool
Mini m&ms or other small pebbly lollies for a path
Bake two dome shaped cakes - Annie Rigg suggests a 1 litre and a 1.5 litre cake. My larger cake was 1.8litre. See below for a chocolate cake recipe. These are best baked the day before decorating.
Make buttercream frosting.
If necessary trim the cakes to make the tops and bottoms even. I didn't trim the bottoms because I thought I might be in for further collapse of the cakes if I did. Have a very cautious go at balancing the large dome on the small one and check if it needs trimming to help it sit properly.
It isn't necessary to firstly crumb coat (very thin layer of icing like an undercoat) the cakes but I found this makes it easier to spread the final coat of frosting on the cakes, and is an opportunity to iron out any creases. If you do a crumb coat, ideally put the cake in the fridge to set the icing but if you are like me and your fridge is full, leave it about an hour to let the icing set as much as possible.
Place the smaller cake flat side down on a cake board or plate. Ice it in white (plain) buttercream. Cut out little doors and windows. Annie Rigg used cachous around doors and windows like frames but I did it for the doors and found them fiddly. A thin liquorice shoelace would have been better perhaps? I did like the cachous as the door handles. Use a small blob of icing to stick them on.
Halve the remaining icing and colour one half red. Place the larger cake on a flat plate. Ice with red icing. Dot white freckles over the red icing. Set aside until you are ready to assemble cake.
Colour the remaining icing green and spread around the base of the white dome. Make a path coming out of the doorway with small lollies that look like pebbles (such as m&ms). *I made my own large freckles to place around the house (melt white chocolate, sprinkle with 100s and 100s, allow to mostly cool and then cut with cookie cutter - it is tends to crack if too hard so don't let set really hard.) Use jubes, icing flowers, toy fairies etc to decorate. We found some flower candles that we could stick into jubes.
Just before you are ready to sing happy birthday and serve the cake, place the red dome on the white dome, cross your fingers, have faith in your sturdy chocolate cake and pray it doesn't collapse.Ultimate chocolate cake
Adapted from Drizzle and Drip
Makes 2 domed cakes
360g dark chocolate (I used dark choc chips)
170g self raising flour
170g plain flour (I used wholemeal)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
320g brown sugar
320g caster sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
150ml vanilla or plain yoghurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 170 C. Grease and line a 1 litre bowl and a 1.8 litre pudding bowl. (Or you could use 2 x 20cm round cake tins if you are not making a toadstool cake, and they will probably cook quicker.)
Melt chocolate and butter in a medium mixing bowl (in the microwave or if on stovetop use a small saucepan). Set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Beat eggs for a minute or two until the colour is lighter and the eggs are frothy. Briefly bean in yoghurt.
Pour melted chocolate mixture, egg mixture and apple cider vinegar into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Pour into the prepared bowls.
Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes (I did 50 minutes at 170 C and then about 1 hour and 20 minutes at 140 C because I left the oven on while I was out - this is not recommended! However I can't give an exact time for baking), check with a skewer if cooked inside and if necessary bake about another 15 to 30 minutes. The cake is cooked when it smells cooked, the side of the cake is pulling away from the side of the tin and the skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. Sit 15 minutes before turning out. Cool on a cake rack.Buttercream frosting
From Annie Rigg's Birthday Cakes for Kids
350g butter (preferably European-style), softened
700g icing sugar (confectionery sugar)
food colouring, as desired
Beat butter with electric beaters until creamy and pale - this could take a few minutes. Gradually beat in icing sugar until all of it is mixed into the frosting and it is quite thick and creamy. (If it is too stiff, add a dribble of milk). Stir in food colouring to make the colours you want for the cake. On the Stereo:Different Class: