8 February 2009

Falbala's Third Birthday Party

My younger niece, Falbala, was born on New Year's Eve and her favourite sport is netball, so I'd promised to make her a cake in the shape of a netball court for her 10th birthday last year.

Sad circumstances prevented us celebrating her on that day and various other things forced us to put it off up to yesterday. This of course resulted in her getting three separate celebrations. Yesterday's one was with her friends.

So over the past week, I've been preparing her cake. This was also the first time I got to use icing to cover the cake, it's harder than it looks. And as I was putting the cake together, I got alternative ideas on how I could have done it all and skipped the icing completely. Never mind.

I used the same cake base as for Lou's cake, but I made 2.5 times the amount. Also instead of almonds, I used white chocolate bits. This resulted in a big rectangular cake - 17.5 x 28 cm and I baked it for 2 h 20 m. This was a bit too long and I should have stirred the chocolate bits in after pouring the mixture into the cake tin, because they seem to have moved to the edges of the cake and caramelised, rather than remain in their shapes, so the whole cake had a toffee flavour to it. Also because of the over-long cooking time, the crust went quite thick. But keeping the oven on 175 degrees (just over gas mark 3) prevented the cake from burning.

The cake itself was fairly thick and I ended up cutting it into three layers. As a filler, I made the white chocolate ganache I made for the Opera cake last year. And I trebled the dose.

You'll have spotted the white chocolate theme by now. Falbala likes white chocolate a lot. So I spread the ganache generously between the three layers of the cake.

Next was the white icing. They had ready rolled icing, but I suspected it was for a round cake and also would not be sufficient to cover the size I intended to make, so I bought ready icing in a lump of 1 kg. The instructions said dust the surface with a little icing sugar and roll. I did that and the icing sugar was pushed out along the edges and the whole thing was firmly stuck to the work surface. I also noticed that although easy to roll out, it didn't roll evenly like dough. Since it wouldn't come off in one piece, I pulled it all together and laid out baking paper and rolled again on that. This worked a treat and it was very easy to flip over the cake as well. Still, the middle of the icing was a lot thicker than the edges and I couldn't shift it.

As I've mentioned earlier, the kitchen shop in our village has a very good selection of bits for sugar craft and I got red and blue paint to paint the lines of the court on the icing. The proprietress was kind enough to tell me to leave the icing on the cake to dry out a bit before painting, so that the colours won't soak in and bleed into it. Thus I left the cake iced and ready in the fridge overnight and painted it yesterday morning. The colours are very thick and it does say concentrated on the label, so I used the blue to paint the lines, this was difficult because I couldn't rest my arm for support anywhere and the thickness of the paint forced me to keep dipping in it a lot more often than I'd expected. So for the side lines, I dissolved some of the paints in a little water and this worked out nicely, it felt like using water colours.

For the goals, I'd brought thin wafers all the way from Sweden and was about to start working out how to fit them to the rock candy posts, when Lundulph commented that in netball there are no boards behind the hoops, just the hoops themselves. I hadn't worked out the hoop and net bit anyway, so was a bit distressed at this point. I'd had some vague thoughts ages ago about doing something really fancy with caramel, but I'd probably need to be a pro to achieve what I'd thought out. I tried to make a net-like structure from icing, but it wasn't strong enough and in the end skipped the net altogether. I used the wafers to cut out hoops, really quite ugly, but completely edible, which was a major target on this project.

I'd saved some of the white coconut Rafaello sweets for the ball. It turned out to be well bigger than the hoop holes, but never mind.

Then I spotted the bag of jelly babies in the larder. Lundulph had bought these for Christmas because I'd never had these. As luck would have it, there were precisely 7 babies in red and green and they became the players. Unfortunately I had to skewer them onto short pieces of bamboo sticks to make them stand on the cake, that was the only non-edible thing, though I'm sure I would have thought of something else if I'd had the time. Of course the Rafaello ball was about the same size as the jelly babies, looked even sillier.

So there you have it, the netball court cake for Falbala:


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