Today was our youngest daughter’s 3rd birthday party and the first kid’s party we’ve had since the Bake Off aired so the pressure was on on the birthday cake front! I’ve had a pretty awesome baking week as I started shooting for my book this week too.
One of the reasons I applied for the Great British Bake Off in the first place was because of children’s parties. Our daughters are 5 and a half and 3 so we’ve had a few good parties for them over the years. When I was a kid, my mum would really go to town for our birthdays and stay up half the night making our cakes. They’re some of my most vivid and happiest childhood memories. My wife Sarah’s mum was the same. So it’s been a big part of our lives as parents to do the same for our kids too.
I’ve baked far more since becoming a dad and nice comments on my cakes at our daughters’ birthday parties gave me the idea to apply for the show. The cake in the picture above was one that the kids loved making with me and baking is a real family affair for us. It was great to see a similar cake in this week’s Great Comic Relief Bake Off too.
Abbey Clancy made these cracking rainbow cupcakes and I hope she’s inspired people to give them a go for Red Nose Day Bake Sales. I’m still enjoying the Comic Relief Bake Off series and having fun writing about it each week for the Radio Times. I get to watch previews of the shows before they air but I don’t find out who Star Baker is until it’s transmitted so it’s fun trying to guess who gets it.
On Wednesday afternoon this week I went along to the Master Builder of the Year Awards 2015, hosted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). I’m an FMB member and have been talking with them over the past few months to help promote a better image of small and medium building firms in the UK, which is a subject close to my heart. I was honoured to be asked to present the “Kitchen of the Year” Award, which was won by a company called Project One Installations. They also presented me with a special “Master Builder of the Year / Master Baker of the Year” Award, including an engraved wooden spoon which has pride of place in my kitchen at home now.
I’m working part-time for the next month while I shoot all the photography for my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, which is going to be published by Quadrille later this year. This has been the most fun I’ve had since all this brilliant craziness began. I wrote my recipes over December and January and now I have to re-make nearly all of them to go in the book. I have an awesome Home Economist to help me make everything at home – Emily Jonzen. Emily is fantastic and so knowledgeable. We’re having a great time baking together. The book is being shot by Chris Terry, who’s ace too. We’re all spending a lot of time together over the next month so it’s good that the team are such a laugh. My neighbours are also over the moon as I’m sending them texts every couple of days saying “please come and get cake and doughnuts”! I wish I could tell you everything I’m making for the book but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I’m pretty proud of it already though.
Today was our youngest daughter’s 3rd birthday party. She’s a big CBeebies fan and is hooked on The Furchester Hotel, which is a CBeebies/Sesame Street co-production featuring Elmo and the Cookie Monster. For about 3 months now, she’s been asking for an Elmo birthday cake and Cookie Monster cupcakes, ever since Sarah showed her a picture of some on Pinterest. So at about 1 o’clock this morning I finished her cake (above) and I finished the cupcakes (below) about 10 minutes before all the guests arrived!
I had loads of fun making these and they were surprisingly easy. For the birthday cake, I knocked up some red butter cream. I only use gel colours these days, which I get from Amazon. I then piped them with this nozzle to create the ‘fur’:
I’ve had this nozzle for ages from a set I bought but I never twigged what it was for until I started thinking about this cake! It made it really easy to do the fur. For the birthday cake, I piped the fur all around the edge of the cake then worked my way in, overlapping each ring of fur until it reached the middle. I smoothed the sides with a palette knife and piped little stars around the bottom of the cake. Don’t tell Mary Berry but I never make my own fondant, so I used the gel colours to turn some fondant black for Elmo’s mouth and orange for his nose. For the Cookie Monster cakes, I cheated and used mini Maryland Cookies as I ran out of time to make my own. I used blue butter cream, white chocolate buttons for his eyes and piped a little bit of black glace icing for the middle of the eyes. It was quite food colouring-heavy, but I don’t mind going for it with the colouring on special occasions and if you’re not keen you can pick butter cream off fairly easily. We did a cupcake decorating party for the kids this afternoon, which was pretty easy as I seem to have collected a cupboard full of cake decorating sprinkles and icing bottles. It was a lot of fun but alas, I had to cut Elmo up in the end!
So my top tips for making kids’ birthday cakes are:
- use gel colours, as they’re much more concentrated so will last you longer and give a richer colour
- look to Pinterest for inspiration
- don’t worry about using shop-bought fondant, though personally I prefer the taste of butter cream or glace icing to fondant
- get a load of different nozzles and piping bags, experiment and have fun
See you next week!