When my brother rang to tell me he had got engaged to his girlfriend I said, “Congratulations! Can I make the wedding cake?”by Wendell Steavenson / November 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The first seriously ridiculous cake I made was for my Dad’s 75th birthday. He was a military history buff; I made him a tank cake. Two sheet pans of chocolate cake sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream and carved into the body of the tank and the turret. It took me a long time to get the fondant overlay icing the right shade of khaki. It was very tricky to transfer the sheet of thinly-rolled fondant and smooth them into place. The turret was small and went OK, but the fondant tore against the slanted flank of the chassis. Fondant is not like pastry, you can’t patch it. The cake was ruined. I smashed my fists on the worktop in frustration.
“OK, it’s not perfect, but it looks fine,” said my mother trying to be consoling. I looked at her, wild-eyed with fury.
“When was ‘fine’ ever good enough?” I yelled.
The crack was on the underside, I smooshed the edges together and it looked a little better. The turret fitted on top. I made track wheels out of fondant circles painted brown and indented with the spokes of an apple corer. I cut out fondant details of hatches and latches and stuck them on the top of the tank. I covered a chopstick in fondant for the canon. It was a triumph.
Since then I have made: a gravity defying cake with a tube of red paint being squeezed over the Happy Birthday; a surprise cake which when you cut into it revealed the vertical red, white and blue stripes of the French tricolour; a cake that looked like three books stacked on top of each other; a chocolate bust of Napoleon filled with mousse. When my brother rang to tell me he had got engaged to his girlfriend I said, “Congratulations! Can I make the wedding cake?”
I thought about putting live doves inside, but doves are quite big, the cake carcass would have to be enormous, and there was the problem of bird poo. I thought about suspending the cake upside down. I considered intricate lace piping, the support structure needed for five tiers, naked cake and dry ice. There is no cake madness that trawling Instagram will not encourage. No, I thought, trying to get a grip, let’s go in the opposite direction of bells and whistles: simple, elegant. I got stuck on the idea of a cloud. White, ethereal, pretty. Meringue, candy floss, cream. I could make a sun rise out of molten sugar tinted yellow and little chocolate cherubs gilded with edible gold leaf…