So you’d really like to bake that special cake yourself, but don’t know where to start? Use my checklist to guide you through the process and go for it!
♥ Decide what you’re aiming for before you start! I use Google images to get ideas; it really helps to see what other people have created – what works well and looks good, and what doesn’t! Save or print a picture to refer to once you’ve decided on the design for your cake. Think about what colours you want to use.
♥ How many people will the cake need to feed? Do you have the right size and right shaped cake tin(s)?
♥ What type of cake do you want? Vanilla sponge cake? Chocolate cake? Fruit cake? Do you have a tried and tested recipe or do you need to find one? What kind of icing do you want to use – this may be determined by the design of the cake. Jam or no jam in the middle? Chocolate buttercream or ganache? Marzipan under the icing?
♥ When do you need the cake to be ready? Make any sugar paste decorations in advance (there is no problem in making these weeks in advance!). Work out your timing for baking the cake, allowing it to cool, icing the cake, allowing the icing to dry, decorating time (at least double your estimate for decorating time!).
♥ Buy all of your ingredients – work through your recipe and ensure you have sufficient quantities. Don’t forget the ingredients for your icing, filling, making decorations, food colouring, etc.
♥ Buy your non-edibles – a cake board, a cake box (the same dimensions as the cake board, if you need to transport the cake), any non-edible decorations, ribbon, candles, etc.
♥ Do you need to buy/hire/borrow any equipment? Cake tin, cutters, etc.
♥ Plan out the size of your cake and decorations. Draw around your cake tin, draw on any decorations you are going to make and use the drawing as a size guide, place any non edible decorations on the drawing to check their size, draw around any letter cutters you are going to use to ensure your lettering fits. If your cake will have candles, plan where they are going to go – I never remember to do this!
♥ When it’s time to bake the cake. get all of your ingredients to room temperature, especially the butter. I always stick a note on my kitchen worktop that says ‘butter out’ to remind me to take the butter out of the fridge when I get up before I start baking!
♥ Follow the recipe really carefully – baking is a science – it’s not like making a casserole where you can chuck in a bit extra here and a bit less there, and maybe a splash of something extra! The basis of a jolly good cake, is a good cake!
♥ You can watch pretty much anything being demonstrated on the internet, so for example, if you haven’t covered a cake in sugar paste before, check out a few videos on YouTube to see how someone else does it.
♥ Keep your work area clean and tidy. Even when you’re up against the clock, taking a short break at a suitable time to wash up, put away equipment you’ve finished with, wipe down your work surface and have a cup of tea, can actually help you to get the cake finished quicker and to do a much better job. You can work much more easily in a clear space and are less likely to make mistakes or mess up the cake than if you’re working in chaos.
♥ Once you’ve baked the cake and it has cooled completely, keep it covered in cling film (plastic wrap) if you aren’t icing it immediately, to stop it from drying out. Once it is iced, keep it in a cardboard box in a cool, dry place; the cake inside is sealed by the icing and the icing can then dry without sweating. If you leave sugar paste to dry for a few hours or overnight before doing any further decoration, you will have less chance of marking or damaging the icing as it will be firm, but this isn’t essential (unless you are using edible pens in which case the icing needs to be really firm and dry).
♥ Don’t forget to photograph your cake before it gets delivered/eaten! You have put a lot of effort into your special cake so keep a memento (and upload it in the comments box of this blog – I love to see your cakes! ♥♥)
♥ Challenge yourself! Enjoy yourself! At the end of the day, it is just a cake so what’s the worst that can happen? Put in a little planning and organisation and a lot of love and you’ll produce a cake that the recipient is sure to be delighted with, even if it’s not 100% perfect. And you will learn so much from your first cake ….your next one will be an extra jolly good cake! ♥