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Homemade 21st Birthday Cake

by Lydia Deacon
(Norwich, Norfolk, England)

I am proud to say that his cake was my very first commission. My friend asked me to make a cake, as a surprise, for her daughter’s 21st birthday. After lots of discussion we decided to make a stack of birthday presents. The interesting colour combination (black, orange and pink) was chosen so that the cake matched the birthday girl’s party dress (a great little touch for any occasion).

I began by making two large square cakes, one plain sponge and one chocolate. (To get an idea of how big, each cake needed 10oz of flour). There was enough cake to serve about 40 people with a small piece each.

The bottom present was made using one whole cake (the plain sponge one), sandwiched with a standard vanilla buttercream icing. The cake was laid onto the board, on top of a blob of buttercream to stop it sliding around. I heated up some apricot jam, to make it runny, and brushed this evenly over the surface of the cake, to create some purchase for the next layer of icing. I thinly rolled two blocks of fuchsia pink roll out icing using a plastic rolling pin, and plenty of icing sugar to stop it sticking. Rolling it around the rolling pin to help to move the icing towards the cake, I then gently laid it on top. The edges were smoothed down (from the middle outwards, to avoid air bubbles), with special focus on the corners to stop it crumpling. The spare icing at the edges was cut away, as close to the edge of the cake as possible. Strips of black roll out icing were then laid on top in a cross pattern, to look like ribbon.

I then cut the second present out of the chocolate sponge, and sandwiched it using more of the buttercream. I found it easier to ice this one directly on the work surface, following the same method as above, but using a different colour icing. I was able to pick the cake up and actually fold the spare icing around underneath, to create a smooth edge. I then positioned it onto the first present at an angle, using another blob of buttercream to secure it on top. Again, I then stuck strips of a contrasting colour of roll out icing onto the present to look like ribbon. The third present was made in exactly the same way.

I ended up having much more cake left over than I had expected after making the stack of presents, so my brilliant boyfriend suggested I made three additional small presents to place around the stack. This turned it into a much more exciting composition than if there had only been one lonely stack. The small presents were made in exactly the same way as the others and secured onto the board in appropriate places.

To make the bows, I rolled out thin strips of the relevant coloured icing. I started by putting two strips onto the cake (secured with buttercream), with points cut out using a knife, to create the ends of the ribbon. I then took another strip and brought each end into the middle, securing with a small strip across the middle vertically. The loops of the bow were squashed in a little to make them as exaggerated as possible and this was then stuck onto the ends of the ribbon previously attached.

All I would suggest is that you are very careful when using buttercream to secure the ribbon, as the one I used was pale and if any shows around the edges it can look a bit unsightly and is hard to wipe off. Maybe I would suggest edible glue instead. I also use icing sugar when preparing roll out icing, to stop it from getting too sticky, however it is hard to wipe the excess icing sugar off and when using black icing it can look a bit obvious. Nevertheless, it was a really successful and delicious cake, which the birthday girl loved. She was even able to give her favourite people a little present cake of their own to take home.

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