A quick blog post tonight as I’m in the middle of another very exciting cake commission so have to get back to it. This week has been all about baking on the road.
This week I made the largest single cake I’d ever made before (pictured above) for the Motorhome and Caravan Show. It was to celebrate the launch of Lunar’s new Alaria model of caravan and so my wife Sarah and I journeyed up to Birmingham on Wednesday this week for the day. It’s the furthest I’d ever travelled with a cake as the journey took two hours, so all week I’d been thinking about how to make it as sturdy as possible, to make sure that it would arrive safely and still taste great.
My blog readers tend to like it when I link to all the tools I use to make cakes, so here goes…
- I made the sponges using my 30cm square adjustable tin.
- The caravan was about 40cm long, 25cm wide and 25cm high, so I baked six sponges in total and did a bit of ‘cake bricklaying’ to put the caravan together (four layers high).
- The sponges were my Victoria sponge recipe from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, as it can so easily be scaled up for 30cm tins, using eight eggs per tin. Each sponge took 45-50 minutes to bake at 180oC / fan 160oC / gas mark 4.
- I sandwiched them together with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, carving the top layer with a bread knife into the rounded shape above.
- I cut a 40 x 25cm clean piece of 9mm plywood for the base of the cake as it needed to be strong enough to hold the cake.
- Once I had covered the cake with buttercream, I was going to fondant it, but I changed my mind and covered the cake in royal icing to make it more sturdy for travelling, and left this to dry overnight. Again, the royal icing recipe is in my book and I use Two Chicks to make it.
- The following day I transferred the cake onto my base, which was an astroturf door mat stuck onto an MDF board with Stixall – a very useful product for D.I.Y.
- I then decided to make gingerbread panels for the three hard sides, as my gingerbread recipe (also in my book) is fantastic and really strong. I rolled it out to 5mm thickness for extra sturdiness.
- I decorated the gingerbread panels with royal icing while flat (using the black food colouring from this set), and used these and these edible pens to decorate and apply the design
- I attached the dried panels to the cake using more royal icing, used fondant on the curved edge (stuck with this) and used Renshaw’s ready-made black fondant for the windows.
- I edged the cake with the leftover liquorice from the wheels.
While I was at the Motorhome and Caravan Show, I also did one of my favourite demos – bread on a camping stove (with Live Theatre host Ryan Philpott above). I’ve developed two breads for making on a camping stove, two ring burner, hob, or open fire, and the recipes for them are here. I camp with my family quite often and at festivals, I really begrudge paying £8 for a bacon sandwich in the morning as with a family of five it mounts up! So I developed these recipes instead. With the easy soda bread, as I showed on Wednesday’s demo, you can make your own bacon sandwich in under 45 minutes from start to finish and it tastes fantastic. It went down really well with the audience at the show and it’s also one of the recipes I get the most feedback from. In fact, just these week some 17th century re-enactors got in touch to say they’d made it using a caldron over an open fire. I was so delighted to hear that!
The white loaf (pictured above) takes a little longer to make but it’s pretty impressive too. I’ve already started thinking of more baking recipes that don’t require ovens and am really interested in developing recipes to use barbeques or outdoor fires for baking too. My chef friends Richard Holden and Andrew Dickens both demoed some really interesting barbeque techniques at the Motorhome and Caravan Show this week so I might be talking to them about this a bit more.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Monica Rivron (pictured above) at the Show too. Monica is a chef and the author of the Caravan Cookbook. Ever since she and her husband Rowland caravanned with the BBC’s Holiday programme many years ago, they’ve had the bug and their love of caravanning has inspired Monica’s recipes. It was so nice to talk to them both about our own family holiday experiences and how holidaying in tents, campervans, motorhomes and caravans is so rewarding if you love your food – the opportunity to seek out local produce and cook it fresh. As a fisherman, it’s something I’m really passionate about – hitting the open road and catching and cooking dinner on the same day. I also did a degree in Biodiversity and Conservation at Birkbeck, which taught me a lot about foraging too – skills I try and use as much as possible when cooking on the road.
It’s been so wet and gloomy at home that with all this talk of travelling this week, I’m really pleased that we’ve already booked next year’s summer holiday. We’re going with Eurocamp, who we holidayed with in the south of France last year, to one of their campsites near Venice. Until the end of October, they’ve got a special offer with up to 25% off here. It’s been over ten years since Sarah and I went to Italy and the kids have never been before so we’re really looking forward to a gelato-frenzy! It gives me plenty of time to perfect making pizzas on a barbeque pizza stone too, as I saw Andrew Dickens make this week. Anyway I have another huge cake to get on with so follow my Instagram to see how I get on and until next week, Happy Baking!