On to the plate

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

Cel’s ‘going on maternity leave’ luncheon


The cakeThis is the cake I made for Cel’s luncheon today. I’d been planning it for almost a month and the first thing I made was about 7 babies. From there I decided on the look, I wanted the baby on a soft blanket and to look very angelic, so angel wings appeared. And butterflies went from the clothesline scene above the clouds to join one sleeping baby. It was my way of merging one theme into another. It seemed to work pretty well.

Before I explain more about the decorations, best I start with the cake.

I feel slightly like a fake because I’ve always held the belief  good cakes only come from pre-selected ingredients carefully measured and lovingly brought together into the perfect batter. And now I’m having to reluctantly eat my words, but only after today. Only after those who had a slice of this cake proclaimed enthusiastically how moist and wonderful it was. How it had great flavour without being too sweet. I give you a boxed cake mix. Though there are a few small tweaks that make it not just a box mix.

ImageI got the “recipe” off Rose Bakes, using her Vanilla Cake Recipe. Rose talks about using a Pillsbury box mix and it being 18oz in size (though the size has since been reduced). We don’t have Pillsbury here, or not where I shop. Instead I used Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Vanilla Cake mix. Rose hasn’t yet gotten around to adjusting the other ingredients to down size the recipe, instead she has extra box mix and she just adds more box mix to bring the ingredients up to her original recipe.

So I’ve done the adjustments and I’ll share them here.

  • 1 x Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 70ml Vegetable Oil (I used Canola)
  • 200ml Sour Cream
  • 100ml water
  • 70gm (or 80gm, up to 96gm is fine) packet of Gregg’s Instant Pudding (use whatever flavour you like, I used Vanilla) *you’re mixing it in dry, not made up
  • 3 eggs. Actually I managed to capture some of the egg white and tucked that away in a container to use for “glue” with gumpaste flowers. So just a bit under 3 size 7 eggs. Our size 7 eggs seem to be a bit smaller (by weight) to what I’ve seen as “large” eggs on American websites.

The rest is really easy. You’re adding the whole lot to a mixing bowl. I used a hand mixer since it’s so easy.

What I didn’t like about the box mix is that some of the dry ingredients sort of clumped together. And when I had finished mixing it still appeared to have some lumps. I couldn’t get those out.

I used two box mixes for the cake. The cakes rose much more than I expected. I made 2 8″ cakes. My cake tins are 3″ deep. I used 740gm of batter for the cakes, and had enough left over for 4 (or 5) cupcakes. 740gm of batter gave me 2cm of depth unbaked. That’s the depth of batter I’ve had using different vanilla cake recipes. The first cake I made I had enough left for 5 cupcakes, the second mix only had enough left for 4 cupcakes. Don’t ask me to explain that.

After the cakes were baked I double wrapped them in Gladwrap and then put them in the freezer. One cake baked on Saturday, the other Sunday. The cupcakes were put into the freezer on Monday morning which was when I took the cakes out, and gave me enough space.

Monday I made up a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream using my slightly adapted recipe from Joshua John Russel’s Craftsy class which I posted here. Unlike last time, I used all the butter but about a 1cm square piece. I also used a Sugarflair food gel, Paprika which gave me a really nice blush orange colour.  I trimmed and torted the cakes and this time I also trimmed the outer edges, something I’d watched from Cake Style TV in a free online class Cake Basics. While I’m happy with the result of the cake when it’s cut and you can see where the cake meets fondant, my knife was so sharp that it cut up the silver covering on the cake board. And that bugged me no end. I just couldn’t think of a good way of disguising it. Even though I covered a larger cake board and cut out an 8″ circle to fit the completed cake, it still didn’t fully detract from the shabby cake board. Once the cake is trimmed, even with a covering of buttercream and fondant, the cake was still less than 8″.

So a final word on the cake, despite it baking with large irregular holes (which I’d be thrilled with if I was baking bread), it really did taste pretty good, and it was lovely and moist. But it’s also very yellow. The cake mix seemed pretty white so I presume the Vanilla pudding mix had yellow “stuff” in it. With the hearty praise I received today I guess I’ll likely be making this again, at least until I’ve found a from-scratch recipe that gives the same results (less holes and yellow would really seal the deal).

Lunch spread

Over the past few weeks I’m used various silicone moulds for making the onsies, bibs and other characters. I’ve spent some evenings then using edible markers to colour and give detail and I’ve used my smallest butterfly patchwork cutter for the butterflies and then used edible petal dusts to colour them.

The blanket was a piece of gumpaste mixed with equal parts fondant which I rolled out and used my stitching tool in a fairly careless method (for me who likes order and neatness) to roll out lines and then used another tool (I have no idea the name) to press into the edges to give that scalloped edge and pattern. Lastly I used a ribbon tool under sections to lift it to give it some dimension of being just fluffed and laid on the carpet ready for sleeping baby.

Getting the nappy on the baby was very tricky. I wanted to get a nappy first and then add the ruffles, and that’s what I did. But I couldn’t get the right shape for the nappy so that it laid over the baby’s bottom without having overhanging bits or gathers where there was too much draping. I can’t believe how long it actually took. It was a very frustrating exercise. It’s not at all like arranging a nappy for a real baby. I know it’s been a very long time but I do have a reasonably good memory of preparing a nappy.

I used a metal butterfly cutter for the angle wings. After cutting out the shape I then rolled the shape out to make it larger, then used a cel stick (you can use a ball tool too) to drag from the middle to the outside to try and give a more “feather-like” impression. It also helped the thin out the fondant at the edges.

The posts were made from the same 50/50 mixture which I coloured brown and then shaped into a thin sausage. I knew it would need to be flat on one side to sit up against the cake. I have a Mankins wood grain impression mat which I used, placing the sausage on top and then sort of rolling it over the mat. It worked much easier than it had when I made the Angry Birds cake, but then I needed 3 sides to hold the impression which was almost impossible.

Hmm, what else?  Ahh yes. I got to play with my Mankins Extruder which arrived a week or so ago. I used that to squeeze out the grass. It wasn’t quite how I pictured it working. The grass is a bit too organised. This morning I used my mini scissors to try an separate some of the “blades” to allow it to appear more natural. I coloured some of the fondant (I’ve got a story there too) and added another Sugarflair colour to give it better green colour. Then I added as much Crisco as necessary to achieve the consistency of chewing gum, rolled it into a sausage and fed it down the tube and pushed out the “grass”. Trying to add such tiny pieces around the side of the logs took some patience too.

Clothesline sceneNow, the fondant. This is the first batch of homemade Marshmallow Fondant. I wrote about making it here.  I made it about two weeks ago. I had it double wrapped in Gladwrap in a Tupperware container. I forgot to rub a bit of Crisco over it before wrapping it up. Anyway, I didn’t know how it would behave, would it be like Bakel’s fondant? Kneading it took a bit more time, each time I pressed it, where the pressure was it sort of split/tore. It wasn’t really working the same and I couldn’t have splits in it, you’re looking for a nice smooth flawless finish. I used a bit of Crisco on my hands and that along with some more kneading finally gave me a consistency I could use. However the extra Crisco now made the fondant sticky, not on the top, but underneath right in the middle where I was rolling out from. It stuck so bad that I couldn’t release it by gently pulling it away from the table. And I’d used what I thought was a liberal amount of cornflour. In the end I added some cornflour to the fondant by dabbing my cornstarch puff over the top and then re-kneading it. And we were away. The fondant stretches just like Bakel’s. It smooths as well, it wasn’t sticky to use the fondant smoother over like I’ve had sometimes. All up I’d say it was a successful experiment and I’ll make it again, especially if I want to get a unique colour that would be difficult to achieve mixing colour into a pre-coloured fondant, or blending colours together. I also used the fondant to make toppers for the cupcakes. I used a quilting patchwork cutter to impress into the fondant (and again it stuck but a dab of cornflour sorted it out) and then a fluted biscuit cutter to cut the topper. I used the left over letter characters to spell out baby and a couple with silicone baby feet like I’ve used on Meredith’s nieces cupcakes. Hmm, I don’t seem to have a post with photos, I know I took some.

Cutting the cakeThere was a huge spread of food for Cel’s lunch. No one would cut the cake, eventually Cel started, but I finished off the job. Cel was delighted with the cake, the cookies and the cupcakes. She was taking some of everything home so her husband could take photos. When I’ve brought baking to work it’s just been our floor that’s seen some of the things I have been working on, new techniques and skills I’m practicing, so a good many people were quite surprised that I made the cake, and then to find out I did the cookies as well. People suggested I start my own business. As I explain, you couldn’t make a living with the amount of time you put into these types of projects. One day I might get quicker but for now I just potter about and have a good time trying new things and seeing a cake like this come together.

All the very best with the new addition to your family Cel. I hope Zayden doesn’t tire of Sydney when she arrives, I know he’s so looking forward to her arrival, as I know you and Ed are.  See you again in January!

4 thoughts on “Cel’s ‘going on maternity leave’ luncheon

  1. The detail, the detail! I love reading your posts for all the interesting information. Such a lovely cake, you must really enjoy working with your friend – and look forward to her return. For ages I have tried to guess your occupation, first I thought it was real estate – now I am leaning towards something in banking? Or maybe legal? Accounting? All those files along the walls!

    • Funny thing Alison, last night after publishing the post I realised I’d not explained how I marked out the line for the clothes line and how I worked out what mix of colours to use to get an acceptable rope type colour. I’m not sure what those folders are, this is one of our meeting rooms. I suspect no one owns them and everyone is too afraid to toss them out 😉 And I know you’ve read your email from me where I’ve given a better idea of the industry I’m working in. I would prefer not to say on my blog through 🙂

  2. What a sweet cake Anita, fab job as usual.

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