Birthday cakes are rather personal things aren’t they? When I was younger, my cake of choice would always be a Victoria Sponge sandwiched with strawberry jam (no buttercream thank you) and covered in fondant in various designs. There was a miniature sofa carved from cake with a new Barbie lounging on top, a sleepover-themed square with tiny dolls lying in fondant sleeping bags and a teddy bears picnic with Teddy in my Pocket toys eating tiny sticky buns and sandwiches made from sugarpaste. All my mam’s creations and so wonderfully personal I’ll never forget them. Those early cakes really cemented how special celebrations are when the cake of choice is homemade with a bit of love.
I was reminded of this on my 25th birthday this week as my Mam hinted I’d be presented with a clown cake later that day. It was a staple of our childhood birthday parties, the mouth, nose and eyes carved from templates cut from a Cornflakes box in the nineties and both my sister and I were presented with one I’m sure on numerous occasions. I was actually quite excited for the nostalgia of that cake, until my mam presented me with a gravity defying chocolate cake instead, Aero bubbles floating from a packet onto a rich ganache coated chocolate sponge decorated with chocolate fingers and a perfectly matching mint green bow. It was beautiful and such a nice touch – my Mam hasn’t made me a birthday cake since my 21st – and got me thinking of others from birthdays gone by.
There was a rectangular cake made to look like a shirt and tie for my Dad, two coloured twists of fondant round the edge that I remember picking at and pinching bites of pure sugar before the party. A gingerbread house sinking into its foundations covered with sweets. But for my sister, the cake of choice was almost always M&S’s finest, the Colin the Caterpillar Cake. I think his first birthday appearance was made at Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest when she was around three, and he became a regular go-to ever since. I’m pretty sure her 18th cake was the iconic chocolate covered caterpillar as well.
So when it came to the task of creating a cake for my sister’s graduation last month, there was no doubt in my mind what childhood memory I wanted to recreate. Having been an avid follower of The Little Loaf (whose chocolate biscuit cake I featured as part of her debut cook book’s blog tour here), a few months ago she Instagrammed a picture of a homemade version that I was dying to recreate. And once the book landed on my desk for review, it was one of the first recipes I made, excitedly folding cocoa powder into whipped egg whites and drizzling melted chocolate over the ganache filled swiss roll. I’ve kept the recipe faithful save for the ganache, so feel it’s unfair to repost such an ingenious recipe here, but for the nostalgia alone I urge you to purchase the book if you fancy recreating it yourself. My only notes are a hearty encouragement to make the homemade white chocolate modelling paste – even if it takes you an hour to craft Colin’s face (which my boyfriend remarked looked more like a surprised rabbit) the taste alone is worth it, like white chocolate fudge. If you have a tiny kitchen without a microwave like me, the recipe works just as well if you use a thermometer to heat the golden syrup and chocolate to roughly the same temperature before combining, otherwise stick with the less-faffy microwave steps. Now I think it’s time to borrow those cornflake box templates and recreate that clown cake…
Notes: I was not paid for this review and none of the links are affiliated however I was sent a copy of Homemade Memories by Orion for my previous post