Happy 95th Birthday, Joe!

It was my wife Sarah’s Grandad’s 95th birthday this week so we’ve had a fantastic time celebrating with all the family. A good excuse to let my creative juices flow making this week’s cake. Tips on how to replicate it on this week’s blog.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I try to do as much as I can to support the work of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). Each year, we run the GOSH Race for the Kids (pictured above) and last December we joined them on their Santa Dash through Clapham Common too. It’s always such a fun day out and it’s important to us that our kids enjoy running with us and keeping fit and healthy.

Last April, we were watching the London Marathon on the telly, feeling inspired, and thinking “maybe next year?” Our good friends have spent far too much time at Great Ormond Street over the past year as both of their young sons have been receiving cancer treatment for separate and unrelated cancers. You can read more about what this inspiring family has been going through here. A few of my other Bake Off friends also mentioned they might be up for running it and Sarah jumped on this straight away, working with GOSH, the London Marathon team and past contestants to put together a Baker’s Dozen of runners from the past few years of Bake Off:

Between us, we’re running for GOSH, World Vision, Cystic Fibrosis and Macmillan and it’s made the whole training process so much fun having these friends to run it with. Sarah is also running it for GOSH so we have a complicated joint training plan that fits around both of us working full-time and looking after our kids (thank goodness for Grandparents!) I would really appreciate any fundraising support for GOSH and you can donate at my fundraising page HERE.

There is a special bond between past contestants from the Bake Off, as it’s such a strange thing to have been part of. I’ve been really lucky to make friends with people from other years too, through meeting up at food festivals, book launches and other events. Last Friday, after more than a year of waiting for it to come around, we went to see Hamilton the Musical – with Tom & Andrew from Bake Off too (above). Andrew’s promised to bring cakes to the end of the Marathon for us so hopefully that will get us around the course a bit more quickly.

For those who don’t know, Hamilton the Musical is about the story behind the relationship between Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, and Aaron Burr. As a Burr whose best friend is a Hamilton, the Burrs and the Hamiltons (pictured above) had been really looking forward to seeing the show. I can say hands down it was the best thing I have ever seen at the theatre. Definitely worth waiting for and deserving of every one of the awards it’s won.

Sarah is lucky enough to have a Grandad in great health – pictured above with our eldest daughters. Joe is a D-Day Veteran and every year, visits Normandy and Eindhoven, where the bravery of him and the other Second World War Veterans is honoured. Our daughters went to Eindhoven with him last September, which was really exciting for them. During the D-Day 70 celebrations four years ago, the BBC featured him in a documentary and he was on the front pages of loads of newspapers. It was a real honour to make his 95th birthday cake this week.

I had in mind wanting to make a Tiffany lamp cake and looked through loads of designs from c.1923 when he was born. I settled on a dragonfly design and made four 10 inch coffee and walnut cakes (Joe’s favourite) based on my usual recipe but including chopped walnut pieces in the sponge as there were none going on top. I sandwiched the four sponges together with coffee buttercream and then carved it into a dome shape with a serrated knife. I crumb-coated the cake with buttercream and covered it in Renshaw fondant. I then drew a dragonfly template onto baking parchment and using a needle, pricked the outlines of dragonflies around the bottom of the cake. I drew the ’95’ in Art Nouveau lettering on the top of the cake and then painted it all freehand using my Wilton food colouring gels mixed with a tiny bit of water (roughly a pea-sized drop of gel mixed with about three drops of water).

I let the cake painting dry (went for a run!) and then mixed up black royal icing to pipe the stained glass outlines. I used a whole tube of Dr Oetker black food colour gel for this as the tubes are really convenient. This didn’t take as long as I thought it was going to, as unlike some of my previous cakes I didn’t need to change nozzle sizes and I was following a template I’d already painted onto the cake. I covered the cake board in marble-effect fondant and edged it in black ribbon for a 1920s feel, and found another Art Nouveau font online to copy to pipe ‘Happy Birthday Joe’.

We had a fantastic birthday lunch yesterday in Joe’s honour at The Swan, a beautiful 15th century hotel in Lavenham, with his daughters and son-in-law, Sarah’s siblings, cousins and partners, and six of Joe’s great-grandchildren. Joe loved the cake and has already put in a request for a Leaning Tower of Pisa (Joe’s family is from Italy, near Pisa) cake for his 100th birthday so watch this space in five years’ time!

It’s always satisfying to see a cake demolished and I’m glad to see yesterday’s went down well (above). I earned myself a big slice when I returned from a 10km run in the snow this morning. Until next week, Happy Baking and a couple of quid sponsorship would be very welcome here.

One thought on “Happy 95th Birthday, Joe!

  1. That must be the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen, and how impressive that the baker’s dozen of you are running the marathon! I love it!


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