After the cookies and cream Las Vegas cake I made for Lauren last year, it was safe to say I was determined to raise my game. But while I was celebrating American culture last year, I was somewhat cursing it this year for reasons you will shortly understand…
In the wise words of the cookie monster, ‘C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me’. And, unfortunately for Hayley, it’s going to have to be good enough for her too. My decision to make Hayley a cookie cake for her 23rd birthday was, however, not solely sparked by my desire to use what is the most overused quote in blog posts about cookies, but because I have been meaning to try it for ages. And if you have ever had a birthday cake from Millie’s Cookies, you will understand why. Let’s put it this way: if it’s anywhere near as good as the original Hayley is going to have to make a dash with it before I stop plucking my eyebrows, start taking some testosterone supplements for a more gruff sounding voice and dye myself blue as an excuse for petty cake theft.
Although you could argue I have already done one new years post with my hazelnut and salted caramel pavlova, I am arguing that two cannot hurt, especially since this is technically my first bake of the new year. However, for me the decision to make a Vasilopita is somewhat contradictory: although it is traditional in certain cultures at this time of year, I couldn’t even say the ruddy name of the thing until I googled it!
Although I hate to tell you this, I have to admit that I lied slightly in my post for Mince Pie Swirls: I may have had all my blog posts planned, but not all of them were Christmas themed as I promised. However, I’m sure you’ll forgive me and be able to take this as some sort of respite from the festive season, especially if you have the same Grinch-like tendencies as I do.
I never normally need an excuse for making cake, but when your best friend decides she’s moving half way across the world for at least a year I think I’ll take one this time! I’m not normally softie, nor do I normally post things like this on any kind of social media but I have to admit I will really miss her! Charlie is moving to Japan to teach English in Sasebo and I know she will have an amazing time. I’ve known her since we were 1 and we have been best friends pretty much ever since. She is so incredibly special to me and has always been there for me, so obviously I am so proud of her (and maybe just a little bit jealous)! But since I have just finished my face for her make up and pyjama party and don’t want to ruin it before I get there so I’ll move swiftly on! Instead I will take solace in the fact that, as inspired by her saving £2 coins for her whole time at Uni to buy a pair of Louboutins for graduation, I have started collecting mine to pay for some flights to visit next easter (the £26 I have so far will make a little scratch if nothing else!).
My thing when it comes to any kind of birthday is, unsurprisingly, making the cake. I always make an extra effort with Charlie and Lauren (the standard three musketeer style thing), so this time I decided to push myself. I was even scared of the icing! However, being modest as always, it actually turned out really well! I didn’t embark on anything really out there in terms of flavours: everything was pretty much vanilla apart from the raspberry jam I whacked in the middle layer. So this time I won’t bore you with any recipes as they were all pretty standard. Any basic Victoria sponge recipe will do and I bought the jam from the supermarket so I can’t give you any wizened knowledge there (not that I have any to begin with!). In the past I have always used the buttercream I’ve talked about in some of my previous blog posts including the turkish delight cupcakes (or anything similar), but have always found it never goes on that evenly when you are trying to create a smooth finish. I took my inspiration for the cake from The Bake Co’s Instagram page as I absolutely love the simplicity of their designs, so a flawless finish was pretty important. I chose Martha Stewart’s Recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream and it turned out really nicely. The texture was a lot lighter and more delicate, but still stiff enough to hold it’s shape if you get it right. I used this on the inside of the layers (of which I did 3 in a 20cm cake tin) and to both crumb coat the cake and finish it with a final layer. I only used one lot of the recipe and it managed to do all of this, fill the macarons and add a little extra decoration on the top, so it goes a long way too!
For the decorations I picked up some cafe curls, some white chocolate lindors and some flowers to arrange on the top with the vanilla macarons which I made in three different sizes for some variation. I also bought some sprayed roses and some gypsophila to use since cherry blossoms unfortunately weren’t an option.
I also made my own chocolate bark merely by melting some white chocolate, swirling through some pink food colouring and chucking on some edible pearl decorations. However, if you do the same I would recommend that colour some of the chocolate with the food colouring and swirl that through and that it is really firmly set before you break it into chunks. I’m taking the standard British approach and blaming the rare occasion of warm weather for it being slightly soft! I then built all these up around one edge of the cake, piped on some pink icing and chucked on a couple more pearls before deciding that I should call it quits before I ruined it!
And there you have it! The cake did cause me slightly less trauma than I expected so that was one thing that I was certainly happy about, but it went down really well! Charlie and the girls all seemed to absolutely love it and although it does look a bit like a wedding cake, I think it has a good balance of intricacy and simplicity. They could tell that I had put a lot of effort in, even though it was subtle. So, in my true nature, I am taking it as a compliment and rolling with it.
Luckily for me I managed to pinch a slice to take away before I left. The cake was really nice and moist and although the icing was quite sweet it was incredibly soft and delicate, so I would strongly recommend using it if you were ever trying to create a similar effect. I am still waiting to hear back from Charlie herself on if she likes it, but in fairness to her there was a lot of amazing food so even I wasn’t rushing to cut into it! On the plus side I did manage to get the cutest picture of her with the cake in her fabulous koala bear onesie, so I’ll post that instead to embarrass her as another ‘good luck’ from me!