Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Cake of Dreams

Cake of Dreams

Cake - everything from cupcakes to meringuey amazingness -  has been uppermost on my mind recently.  It's the children's party on Saturday - note the plural - so I need to produce two cakes this week.  And for a cake to be successful, it really does need both to look and taste good; sadly, I only ever manage one out of two, and it's usually taste (and that's only because there's basically nothing Nutella can't fix.)  Clearly, it's time to up my game, find a new source (everybody recognises a Hummingbird from about a hundred metres) or find an actual recipe instead of relying on Betty Crocker.

Fortunately my husband has offered to make Sholto's, I think as much to save our son from embarrassment as anything else (he has started noticing how good his friends' cakes look.) Andrew is determined to surprise him with an Abney and Teal cake, Abney and Teal being Sholto's biggest obsession right now.  (Which is fine by me:  a teddy bear and a rag doll live in the park on an island, surviving entirely on porridge, and accompanied by a bouncing, hole-digging parsnip called Neep, some wooden things called Poc-Pocs, a guitar-playing dog called Toby, and an obese, bubble-blowing and tea-drinking seal called Bop. What's not to like?)  Andrew has been google imaging for inspiration, and has just shown me this:

Not Cake of Dreams.  Very fiddly looking Abney and Teal cake obviously made by someone very patient.

My husband is seriously ambitious.  He also has a tendency to become a teeny bit stressed when a culinary idea doesn't do as it's told. And as far as I know, he's never iced a cake before in his life.  So I've suggested that he make it on Thursday, when I'll be at Wimbledon all day.

But that still leaves me with Esmeralda's.  For her, I'm thinking a Rainbow Cake.  And the reason I'm thinking this is because a.) her middle name is Rainbow and b.) my go-to food writer Esther Walker - who is hilarious and brilliant and you can click through to her blog Recipe Rifle on the side of this page - trialled Pippa Middleton's Rainbow Cake, and found it rather good.  And I've got a thing about Pippa Middleton.  I own a copy of Celebrate, and find it way more helpful than is fashionable to admit. I've also got this feeling that it's going to become cult.  And, in, say, seventy years time, when Esmeralda tells everyone that her first birthday party cake came by way of the sister of the Queen, everyone will nod knowingly, and proudly state that their mother too had a secret copy of the Sloane Ranger Guide to Entertaining, hidden between Jamie and Nigella in the celebrity chef section of their kitchen library.

Recipe Rifle's Rainbow Cake, made to Pippa Middleton's recipe

But then my friend Francesca, who actually makes cakes for a living, sent me this picture:

Cake of Dreams Rainbow Cake

And now I know that I have got to make Esmeralda something like that.  I've got to spend days making little layers of sponge in variegated shades of pink (and maybe green), so that when you cut into the cake, it really is a rainbow. 

And then I started looking at some of Francesca's other cakes, and wondering why I'm even bothering to try to make a cake myself, when Francesca is not only way more talented in the baking department than me, but creates exquisite confections that truly are deserving of the title Cake of Dreams.  For that is what her cake-making company is called.

Cake of Dreams

Cake of Dreams

Cake of Dreams

Cake of Dreams

Can we please just take a moment to look at these cherries?  I mean, sparkly maraschino cherries.  Did you ever see anything that you want more, ever?  They look like they ought to be on a Christmas tree.  I bet they're edible, too, and not just rolled in glue and then glitter as they would be if I had attempted anything like this.  I love maraschino cherries.  I used to order Amaretto Sours in cocktail dives just because I knew that they'd come with one.  Or more, in my case, as I always requested extra.

So, I could just order from Francesca, and part of me - the logical part - is muttering "Do it, do it, do it."  She and her children are coming to the party anyway so I wouldn't even have to think about the cake for another minute, and would instead be able to concentrate entirely on making heart and star shaped sandwiches, sourcing sacks for a sack race, and hardboiling eggs for the egg and spoon race. (All requested by Sholto incidentally.  Abney and Teal is charmingly retro.)

However my perfectionist tendencies are such that I really want to make my children's birthday cakes myself.  I want everyone to look at the cake, take a sharp intake of breath, and think "wow. Fiona obviously eats her fair share, but look at what she has created!" In my head, I equate successful cake making to a life of domestic bliss, as opposed to a life of juggling work and childcare.  Like, if I produce a good cake, people will also think that my house is clean and my children are always perfectly behaved.  Obviously my reasoning doesn't entirely make (any) sense, but nonetheless I'm going to try.

Lucky for me I have Francesca on speed dial for when I get it totally wrong.

You can contact Francesca at hello@cakeofdreams.co.uk, and you can gaze at her heavenly-looking life of domestic bliss on her blog, The Squids, which also has a recipe for Rainbow Cake on it, somewhere.