On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

An afternoon tea for Mother’s Day

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Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums who come across this blog.

We had an afternoon tea with my Mum, my older Sister (mother of 3), and my MIL.

I also want to recognise those, who like me, would have loved to be a Mum but life just didn’t work out as planned. I hope everyone had an enjoyable day spending time with those they love, or remembering their Mums who meant so much to them.

Afternoon tea

I made a cake. And despite lots of time spent making the cake, it was disappointing. Baking isn’t all about what something looks like, though that’s extremely important to me. But it has to taste great too. Ok it tasted great, but it wasn’t enjoyable to eat (for me).

This blog is a recording of new recipes I’ve tried, the things I’ve learned and the tentative steps I’ve taken to embrace something new.

There’s a lot of lessons learnt over the last two weekends. This cake has been on the go for 2 weekends. And it’s been a bit of a mission.

For Mums

You see this cake is a 5 layer cake. I had only planned on it being 3 layers but the finished height (7cm) was out of proportion against a 9” cake, so I added more layers. You see it’s a Neapolitan Cake. More layers meant if it fell on the floor you wouldn’t know which way was up Winking smile That could have it’s advantages. No it never fell on the floor.

Neapolitan Cake

That slice is on a dinner plate. The finished cake stood over 14cm in height. So I went from one extreme to another. The cake, with just over 1/4 of it cut, weighed a little over 4kg. Yep it was big and heavy. And while we’re on the topic of heavy, the cake layers were disappointingly dense.

I wanted to keep the moisture in the cake layers and since I was baking them last weekend, I double wrapped the cakes in Gladwrap and put them in the freezer. I wrapped them when they were still warm. That’s what I’d read to do, but on thinking, that was a different type of cake, that was for a Genoise cake. I guess not all cakes do well frozen while still warm.

Strawberry cake

Last weekend I’d made one of each, Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla cake. When the Strawberry cake baked up I had a suspicion that the cake had lost it’s colour. I didn’t quite make the cake as directed. It used a 1/2 packet of Strawberry Jelly. I used Freeze-dried Strawberry powder. I cut into the frozen cake during the week and Mr Fussy described the colour as grey. He wasn’t wrong. I knew I’d have to re-make the cakes.

I still didn’t use the Strawberry Jelly, I doubled the freeze-dried strawberry powder (the first cake only had a hint of strawberry flavour) and added the strawberry puree that was in the original recipe. And for good measure I added a drop (maybe two) of Soft Pink Americolor food gel. The colour above is how I hoped it would turn out when baked. But it turned out more a Raspberry colour.

It’s not all bad, but for me the really big thing I can’t look past is how dense the cakes are. They’re not light and fluffy, but they tasted good, the frosting was wonderful and I enjoyed assembling the cake – mostly. I like the final look anyway.

Assemblying the cakes

I started assembling last night after dinner. Nothing like leaving it almost to the last minute. I had the two strawberry layers in the fridge from Friday night and I pulled the Devil’s Food cake and Vanilla layers out of the freezer during the morning.

The Swiss Meringue Buttercream took around 40 minutes to make but it really is great frosting. And I’d make it again. It’s satiny smooth.

SMBC almost there

I thought this was it (it was the 2nd time I’d made it but I don’t remember anything of my first experience). But as I was dividing up the frosting ready for chocolate and strawberry I saw a few lumps of butter still. So I put the vanilla frosting (7 cups of 10) back in to whip a bit longer and then it became this lovely velvety smooth frosting.

smooth as silk

I followed Rosie’s instructions from her blog Sweetapolita.

As for assembling the cake I turned 2 cups of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) into chocolate frosting having added 96gm melted but cooled Whittaker’s 70% chocolate. I used 1 cup of frosting and added 4 teaspoons of strawberry puree for the strawberry and left the rest as is for the Vanilla layer, crumb coat and final layer. Of the frosting left for the final decoration I coloured 2 parts and left 1 part as is. Of the two parts I coloured it with soft pink gel in two different depths. One is slightly deeper but for all that I left the colouring subtle, the top half of the side of the cake is almost a blush apricot rather than a pink.


I always put down waxed paper between the doily that’s sitting on the cake board, and the cake. In the past I’ve had no real difficulty pulling the waxed paper out, a little hesitation at the start but then it all goes off without a hitch. But this cake is really heavy. Do you think it was happy about me tugging at the paper for which it was firmly resting on? Not at all. So along with some of the paper came some of the cake. I gave up and had to cut around the edge of the cake as best I could. Which of course made it fun trying to cut a slice and pretend there wasn’t a little bit of paper caught up in it.

Here’s my round up of the things to improve on:

  • Don’t freeze the cakes until they are fully cool
  • Remember freeze-dried strawberry powder will lose colour while baking
  • Sometimes less is more. 3 layers of cake would have been fine
  • All the cake layers (5) made last week pulled away from the side of the tin during cooling resulting in different sizes
  • SMBC sets like the butter used in it. You need to pull the cake out a good 3 hours before serving for the cake to come back to room temperature and the frosting to be that smooth melt in your mouth texture it was when you whipped it up
  • Cakes served still chilled don’t help with the dense texture.

The things that went according to plan

  • The SMBC exceeded my expectations
  • The decorating went more smoothly than I expected from my wobbly cake turntable – probably helped by a 5kg+ cake weighing it down
  • The Bake-easy cake strips. I didn’t have to trim any of the cakes.

I’m happy with how the cake looked, but not how it felt. I’m really annoyed with myself. I spent a lot of time baking these cakes that I wanted the end result to be well worth the effort.

My BIL called the cakes doughy. My BIL isn’t about being subtle, he’s a Policeman, he says things like he sees them, he’s all about facts. He was right of course. It’s not his fault for stating the obvious. I’m just kicking myself for making such a silly mistake.

5 layers of cake

The light in the lounge was all weird today. But I wont complain about the light. For an Autumn day it was just lovely.

Family and good company is more important than a cake. I know everyone appreciated the time and effort I put in. I just wish it was more enjoyable to eat. Even the size of it was intimidating. It was so large that most of us took a small slice and found someone to share it with. Still it’s nice to share things with others.

That slice to the right is what I wanted. Natalie made my favourite Apricot slice. And I’ve been left with a few slices. Yum!

Here ends the saga of the mother of all cakes.


Because I made a hash of the cakes I don’t think it’s fair to share the recipes until I’ve got them done correctly, I don’t want this cake to be a reflection on the people who have successfully made these cakes and showcased them with such class. Or maybe I don’t want you to look at how beautiful their cakes were and compare to mine. Yeah that’s probably closer to the truth Winking smile


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