Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Cake Disasterclass Part I

There was a time, not so long ago, when I really believed I was good at making cakes. I had a sad little fantasy of opening a British cake shop in some chichi corner of Brussels, with scones and flapjacks and fairy cakes. The dream was comprehensively pissed on by the CFO with some back of an envelope cashflow modelling, but even before that, I think I had accepted that I am not a career, or even talented amateur, baker.

I do, however, have a style all my own, and one faithful customer who comes back year after year for caketastrophe after caketastrophe. It is my colleague's daughter, who last year got the Pig of Doom.

(I was quite proud of the babies, but Momma Hog is just fearsome).

This year, she decided she wanted this (look Helena! We're back on the beach).

Several thoughts. First, the child clearly has low expectations. This is a good thing. But secondly, an odd choice - a tiger pen? Low expectations, much? Thirdly, blue jelly. Blue jelly, unlike blue brains, is not an echt Belgian product. Could be tricky.

Note also, as our hand model indicates, that this cake warrants classification by the Australian Women's Weekly team of ninja bakers, as "Quick and Easy". The AWW are all black belt, tenth dan bakers. Their quick and easy is my 'long and torturous, with several crying jags'. I love AWW cakes, in theory, but in practice, it ends in tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Never fear, however, apprentice bakers, because here is the Belgian Waffle step by step guide to how to make a cake that looks a bit like a tiger pen, if you squint at it sideways and enjoy being blinded by edible glitter. Let the masterclass commence! You may place your technical questions in the comments. I love to be able to use my talents as a force for good.

1. First, ensure your kitchen and work surfaces are spotlessly clean.

2. Next, assemble your cake ingredients. If your eggs look like this:

get some more, if you can be bothered. I can't. They don't smell bad. It will be fine.

3. Now, make a cake. No, I am not going to explain that to you. Oh, ok, if you insist. Put the cake stuff in a mixer. All of it. Mix at warp speed 10 for as long as you can be bothered. Pour it into a tin, lined with whatever you can find, in my case, a lot of flattened fairy case papers. Put in the oven at 'too hot'. Go and play on the internet. Come back to find your cake looking impressively plump and gigantic. Take it out, and watch it deflate to a wrinkled communion wafer before your very eyes. Stand back to admire the crater in the middle, ideal for creating a jelly pond. Knock over the milk.

Clean up as best you can.

4. Start to make the icing, stopping to realise you have no icing sugar and making a detour via GB (Delhaize's cheaper and nastier counterpart) to buy finger biscuits, icing sugar and other stuff you can't remember. Forget stuff. Curse. Go back. Lack of correct biscuits means you buy about thirty types to experiment on. Your basket looks like a bulimic's dream. When you get home you also realise you have a long smear of chocolate cake mix along your right cheek.

5. Try to be clever. Essential, this step. Decide that bright yellow icing is not quite right for the tiger pen floor, and add some cocoa powder to the icing mix. The result will be horribly reminiscent of early nappies:

but do not despair, continue throwing yellow colouring into the mixture until either you run out of yellow colouring, or your icing does not look like baby poo. In my case, the former.

6. Using only the power of your imagination, devise a blue jelly out of a clear sports drink, blue food colouring and leaf gelatine.

Leave mixture in fridge in the hope it will eventually set.

7. It's time to ice your cake! Turn it out of the tin, picking off fairy cake cases from the bottom. Find a cake board, due to a miraculous act of Nathan, sparing the poor cakee the aesthetic joy of receiving her precious cake on a Quick tray.

(I call this tableau vivant 'Quick tray with debris'. Prints retail at €85 for a 6"x4" limited edition)

8. Slap icing all over cake, ignoring inevitable crumbage escaping and creating horrible rubble effect. Eat icing. Stick biscuits round the side. Eat biscuits. Roll coconut in food colouring and sprinkle on top. Consider eating coconut but reject as insufficiently sweet. Eat more icing. Put pieces of Flake on cake top as decorative logs. Eat Flake. Use chocolate chips for tiger poo. Eat tiger poo, etc etc.

Admire handiwork through sugar coma. Very nice.

9. Stick cake in fridge. Give entirely liquid jellymix a worried poke. Sigh. Eat more icing.


Tune in later today to let me take you through those crucial finishing touches, including, 'holy fuck Oscar have you eaten the tigers'.


Helen Brocklebank said...

Yet again you've made me sick up my cup of tea, so lovingly made by Third Spear Carrier. Stop making me laugh - I am Serious Businesswoman. I quite like the cake. Think you're genius to have even thought up the improv pond (I'd have gone for green jelly...happy to post jelly in future. I will steal from Good Housekeeping Kitchen). And your kitchen looks tidier than mine, mainly because I don't have a helpful dog to hoover up the stuff on the floor. You're a saint.

Victoriark said...

So funny can't wait for next instalment Do you think Weepette might have dairy intolerance?

Layla said...

Glad to see you that you managed the tiger poo most effectively. In part 2, expecting to see how you have overcome the challenge of depicting the bits of dismembered small mammals that are leftovers from the tiger's breakfast.

Hmm, what about tiger-eating-keeper scenario. Foot, arm, or even head protruding from tiger's mouth would add small but poignant touch of drama to cake.

Jen said...

Part two later today, you promise? Because I can't wait...

karen said...

The short people in this household start poring over the AWW birthday cake book MONTHS before the big day. We've done the big fish (with cupcake bubbles), the lolly train, the big dress with legless Barbie inserted, the aquarium (with blue jelly!) and a number of others, but the male child is now being creative - the last two cakes have been a Superman logo (much bright blue icing - which changes colour through the digestive process - quite alarming if you've not encountered it before) and a dinosaur scene with a volcano (don't do it! It took hours!). I rather like the tiger pen - it's not in my book, so will have to go hunting for this one. And if you need blue jelly or other odd things from Australia, just yell!

Marie said...

I am terrified of the jelly.

Anonymous said...

I always had AWW cakes as a child! And now have a much deeper feeling of gratitude to my mother.

I remember a particularly spectacular stable block with tiles on th eroof, horses heads over the doors and, the finishing touch, their names iced on to the stable doors themselves.

I cried when they cut it - it was too beautiful to be eaten.

Anonymous said...

I think it's absolutely brilliant. Glad to see you have the same approach to kitchen hygiene as me. All that cleaning and antibacterial stuff, hah! - you'll only end up with kids full of allergies. They need to absorb dirt to grow up strong and healthy. Well, it hasn't done mine any harm anyway.

I'm very taken with the tiger cage; Lenin is 17 in a couple of weeks, I wonder if she'd appreciate one!

WV is concrout - sounds like my icing.

Ali said...

Now, being Australian, I grew up going through the ritual of 'choose a cake from the AWW book' each year, as have my kids but where on earth did you acquire the bloody thing? Meant to ask after the treasure cake incident.

I think the sports drink is a stroke of genius. The pig turned out as well as any of mine ever have but then again, I once gave everyone at a party green crap with an AWW wizards hat or maybe a pirate ship I can't remember.

softinthehead said...

I am standing by for Part II - you are a saint, I mean you are not even doing this for your own child!! A family favourite much requested in our house was the chocolate hedgehog cake which incorporated many many chocolate buttons!!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Madame, I am sincerely impressed, particularly by your Canine Dyson - 'No bags necessary, never loses suction...'

AWW Cakebook? A whole new world has opened to me... I am astounded by your creativity and ingenuity - 'Know what it is yet?'

Can't wait for Part Deux - You are a blogging and now cake-making treasure - and I really like the piglets...

JChevais said...

I have a feeling that your little pond will end up green anyway since it'll be laid over yellow icing. But bravo for the attempt. You are very brave.

Cake Disasterclass etc... is more your style and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Unfortunately for you, perhaps...

fabhat said...

what about using tinfoil under the non setting blue jelly pond - reflective and liquid holding?
I think this cake is great - but a dead(ish) keeper could only add to it's charms...

Persephone said...

I didn't think anything could make me feel better about my Lice Cake...

katyboo1 said...

I am vair impressed that you have gone to the great lengths of including tiger pooh. I second the suggestion of mauled body parts as the piece de resistance.


Waffle said...

Mrs T - I don't think you should sick up your tea. They'll think you're preparing for trial by check your weight in lobby machine.

Victoria - the sicking came before the licking. I thought it had rabies, actually; there was foaming and everything.

Layla - I felt you were guiding me remotely in the matter of tiger poo.

Half-baked - done! Hideous!

KarenMc - YES. The green leaf sweeties that appear to feature in all cakes. What ARE those things?

Marie - try not to dream about it. It is entirely fearsome.

Mud - adult life must be such a disappointment after that, no?

CA - oh, good old concrout. That's usually the cake consistency here. Tiger pen can of course be accessorised with the plastic tat of your choice. Such is the beauty of it.

Ali - Matilda from the Corridor of Ennui gifted it to me. It has been a slightly poisoned chalice, but also so AWESOME.

softinthehead - that sounds way nicer. and more sensible. Violet has very happy memories of a flake owl.

Woman - sadly 'never loses suction' proved wrong today. Sometimes direction reversed. Dire.

Mrs C - your expression is inspired. I will be offering further kitchen disasterclasses, I think.

fabhat - now that is sheer brilliance. Do you make cakes?

Persephone - that is, after all, what I am here for.

katyboo - see part II. I did try, but to limited success...

karen said...

"The green leaf sweeties that appear to feature in all cakes. What ARE those things?"

Mint leaves! Available in convenient plastic packets at all good supermarkets. Most kids seem to hate them, so the AWW cake books feature them a lot, because Australians are contrary like that. How many packs would you like?

Waffle said...

karenmc - yes, the stegosaurus is covered in mint leaves! weird. I don't want you to have to pay postage all the way to Belgium sweetest, but you are lovley lovely to offer.

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