If you think decorating a birthday cake is beyond your skill, think again. Anyone can create a cake that will please family and friends and it will only take you a few hours. Explore the online stores selling sugarcraft accessories and you’ll find a huge range of icings, colourings, cutters and decorations to suit every need. Such is the popularity of sugarcraft these days that you may well find a specialist shop in your local area. Pay a visit and you’ll be amazed at what is available.
Amanda last made a birthday cake for her son when he was 10. “He loved football so I made a large rectangular cake, covered it with green butter icing and added a few miniature football players. It was simple enough even for me.”
But now Amanda’s son is grown-up and a keen scuba diver, so when he asked his mum to make him a Special Cake for his 25th birthday she had to think long and hard …
Planning the cake
I had a rough idea of what I could do: use blue Fondant Icing for the sea and then make a diver from black icing. And that was about as far as I’d got! The trouble was that I’d tried to colour icing black before and it had always come out dark grey and disappointing so I decided to visit the local sugarcraft shop.
There, once I’d stopped ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over all the fantastic sugar flowers creations, I got down to shopping and bought:
- A large block of white ready-to-roll icing
- A small block of ready-to-roll black icing
- Orange, green and blue colouring pastes – I already had some red and yellow at home
- Silver dust paint
- Turquoise sparkly dust
- A fine paintbrush
Making the cake
I baked a large rectangular sponge – similar to the one I’d made for my son’s 10th birthday – and when it had cooled turned it onto a silver cake board. I warmed a little apricot jam slightly to make it easier to spread and then covered the sponge lightly. The jam helps the icing to stick to the cake.
Use the recipe for an All-in-one Sponge, using 4 eggs and increasing the other ingredients proportionally. This is enough for a roasting-tin or equivalent.
Alternatively use a packet mix for a sponge cake.
Icing the cake
I dusted the work surface with icing sugar before kneading the White Icing gently for a few minutes. Although the icing seems hard at first it soon becomes pliable. Leaving about a quarter of the icing to one side, I gradually added blue colouring paste to the rest. A little goes a long way so it’s necessary to add it a bit at a time and knead thoroughly. When it had reached what I thought was a good colour for the sea and while it was still irregular I stopped. I didn’t want a completely even colour for the sea. Colouring continues to deepen a little after kneading has stopped so bear that in mind.
Then I rolled it out to a larger-than-the-cake rectangle allowing plenty to cover the sides, and, using the rolling pin to help, lifted it onto the cake, placing it down carefully. I cut tiny triangles of icing away from the corners and by softly patting I was able to get a smooth surface and sides.
And then the fun began
- The diver and his tanks are made from black icing but the tanks were dusted with silver ‘paint’.
- His hands are made from white icing coloured with a just a tiny smidgen of orange. His hair has more orange in it and is made of individual locks i.e. icing rolled very finely with the fingertips.
- The fish, eel, seaweed and crab are all cut out and decorated with writing icing (available from supermarkets)
- The sand is coarse grain brown sugar – wet the icing very slightly before sprinkling the sugar over to help it to stay on.
- The rocks are broken chocolate mini-eggs.
- The shark and octopus are made from black and white icing. The blood is writing icing and the octopus has a light coating of silver dust.
- Finally, the cake has a dusting of turquoise sparkly dust.
My son was delighted with his cake – and it impressed all his friends! And if I can do it, anyone can! Let your imagination run riot!
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, read our feature on Imaginative Cake Decorating.