It’s been a few weeks since my last blog as I’ve been really busy running around, literally, but this week’s cake deserves a bit of attention. A few tips on how I made it on this week’s blog.
Marathon fever has well and truly taken over but the best thing about it is sharing the experience with the lovely bunch pictured above. I’ve been a bit under the weather for the past week or so, so my training has hit a buffer. We have a WhatsApp group with all of the Baker’s Dozen pictured above and through all the highs and lows of training, it’s really reassuring to have their support. Between us we span four years of the Great British Bake Off and until our Pancake Day photo shoot above, some of us hadn’t yet met in person but have become good mates over the years through our shared experiences of the Bake Off world.
I’m running the Virgin Money London Marathon for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), as over the past year, good friends of ours have spent a huge chunk of their time there. Their four year old and two year old sons have both been receiving chemotherapy for unrelated cancers and as a result, I really want to raise funds for better services for parents and families spending time at GOSH and for research into hard-to-treat childhood cancers. Any donations are welcome, and my fundraising page is here. Chetna made a short film about our day below
Our Shrove Tuesday shoot in Hyde Park was absolutely brass monkeys so I was really lucky to have been kitted out by a mate of mine who’s set up a running clothing company called Runarchy. The founder, Lee Healey, and I met through our mutual love of owls (of course!) at a day out at Lavenham Falconry last year and got chatting about running and how good we both find it for our mental wellbeing. That’s the philosophy of his running brand and the gear is the best I’ve ever had. I’ll be wearing the shorts on marathon day and I’m really grateful for the windbreaker too as it looks like snow again this week.
Michel Roux Jr., a mad keen runner himself (he’s done 26 marathons!) and big supporter of the Virgin Money London Marathon, gave us free run of his kitchen at Le Gavroche to have a bit more pancake fun (above) and to warm up. It really is crazy the stuff we all get to do in and amongst our day jobs! The nice folks at New Balance also invited us to their Oxford Street store that afternoon to analyse our running styles and kit us out in new running trainers, which are on their way to us soon. A few of the Baker’s Dozen are running the Vitality Big Half Marathon together next Sunday so if you’re in the Tower Bridge / Canary Wharf area next weekend, come and cheer us on – the route map is here.
Anyway, back to cakes! This week was our middle daughter’s 6th birthday and being a creative soul with a very definite view of what she wants in life, she drew the picture above of her ‘Dream Cake’. Obviously over the past few years the kids’ expectations for birthday cakes have risen, so I had to do my best to live up to it! I ran out of time to make the two fairy versions of her and her best friend on the drawing above but I think I made a pretty fair interpretation.
Never having made a 6-tiered cake before I decided to start with an 8-inch cake at the bottom, working my way up to 3-inches at the top. I only have 8-inch and 6-inch cake tins so as you can see from the picture above, I had to cut the other sizes out by hand. I bought thin cake bases (in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 inches) from Sugar Shack, my local suppliers, and used these as the templates. Through the middle of each cake base I made a hole with a Stanley knife, big enough to fit a hollow dowel through. I baked simple Victoria sponge cakes from the recipe in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, available here and sandwiched them together with strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream. Each of the six tiers got a crumb coat in buttercream and then I chilled them down in the fridge.
Next I made up a load more buttercream and coloured it in each of the six rainbow colours. I finished each of the layers and started stacking them with the large, hollow dowel through the middle. I put additional wooden dowels in the bottom cake for support, but the rest of the layers were light enough not to need it. It was such a pleasure finishing a cake in buttercream rather than fondant for once and I really liked the textured finish of each cake.
For scale, you can see me holding the cake above. It wasn’t too big to carry and while the top four layers went to party guests and their families, we’ve been enjoying the bottom two layers with our extended family this weekend. I also used cake lace for the first time. The party was butterfly themed so Child #2 had picked out this cake lace kit in Morrison’s the other day and it was really easy to use – definitely something I’d do again. We continued the butterfly theme with the rest of the party food, as you can see below. The sandwich cutters were from here.
If the only baking I did for the rest of my life were cakes for my kids, that would keep me happy as they’re always so appreciative.
I spent last weekend away with the five dudes above in Bruges. Having watched the awesome film ‘In Bruges’ a good few years ago, I’ve always wanted to visit so we had a bit of a road trip – good job I’m a proper Dad with a 7-seater car to take them all in! We were going to celebrate my mate Nick (pictured in the middle)’s 40th. The good thing about 40th Birthday celebrations as opposed to Stag Dos is that the aim is to actually enjoy yourselves, not try and destroy each other! While our first night involved drinking until 6am, day two was a whole lot more civilised, with bike rides and boat rides and a relatively early night. I am so lucky to still be mates with fellas I grew up with and without getting too soppy in my old age, they mean a lot to me. It was a fantastic weekend away. Speaking of old age, it’s my own birthday on Saturday and as I’m running the half marathon the following morning, it’s probably going to be a quiet one. So until next time, Happy Baking!