Last night, I joined my family to celebrate Mum’s fella John’s 80th birthday, which was absolutely fantastic! For this wonderful occasion, Mum asked me to bake a rainbow cake, (the other three rainbow cakes were dress rehearsals for this: The Big One), which I decided to cover in rolled fondant so that we could use edible-ink pens to graffiti messages for him. Not your typical 80th birthday cake, but then he’s not your typical 80-year-old.
This cake is the most perfect rainbow one I’ve done so far – it’s flawless. There is an even rise on every layer, they’re pretty much identical in size, fantastic colours, and they stacked up like an absolute dream. I did a really, really thin layer of buttercream because I didn’t want to overload the cake with too much sugar, so it was purely to create as neat a finish as possible for the fondant to sit on.
I was a very happy cookie at this point.
Then came the nerve-wracking bit, and the point at which I made a couple of really stupid decisions (I stopped taking photographs on account of the consequences of said stupidity, so please forgive the purely narrative account). Although the cake was only 20cm in diameter, it was tall – being a five-egg mix – so I was concerned about rolling the icing big enough to completely cover it. I measured, and made sure I had rolled to the right diameter, but then noticed that it was slightly uneven (the perils of rolling an enormous slab of fondant with a silly little 9-inch non-stick rolling pin) so I worked it a bit more. It being almost midnight at this point, I failed to twig that I had therefore made it bigger, thinner and therefore seriously compromised its strength. Rookie mistake.
With my cake standing proudly on my not-entirely-necessary-but-deeply-pleasing turntable, I used a big wooden rolling pin to move the fondant and drape it over the cake, and things were looking good. But not for long. As I started happily working to smooth one side, the other developed a fatal flaw: the icing was breaking around the top edge and, much like an avalanche, there was nothing any human could do to stop its dastardly progress. I tried to grapple with it (and obviously yelled “No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no!” at it), but after some futile attempts, I watched helplessly as the rip travelled all the way around the top edge, and the detached piece slowly folded itself in a smug, self-satisfied heap around the turntable’s ankle. “You should’ve known not to roll me too thinly”, it seemed to say. I realise, of course, that the second woeful error I had made was to have the cake standing so tall during this process; had the weight of the excess icing been resting on the work surface rather than hanging from such dizzy heights, it mightn’t have had the power to rip like that. Lesson learned.
“Right,” I said, “time for Plan B, then.”
I calmly assessed the damage and, as the top was firmly adhered to the buttercream, I decided to leave it as it was and patch the sides as best I could. I kneaded and re-rolled the fallen piece, and carefully cut two rectangles that I could piece together. I brushed the buttercream with a little water to make it more adhesive and carefully put the strips in place, pinching it together with the edges of the top, and finishing with a careful once-over with the smoothing paddle.
It’s not perfect, but it’s nothing a massive ribbon can’t conceal. Is that cheating? Perhaps. Do I care? Yes; I’m a bit gutted, to be honest.
And here is the final thing, pimped up with an unplanned ribbon and graffitied with loving messages, and chopped up in the restaurant: