Will’s 40th Birthday Cake

Will’s ‘birthday week’ is coming to an end (yes, Will has designated this whole week his birthday week!), so I thought it about time to write up my post about creating his 40th birthday cake. I decided to bake a chocolate cake with buttercream icing, with a fondant covering for decorative purposes. I had never worked with fondant before, so this cake took a lot of hard work and research. I used Mary Berry’s Mary’s Chocolate Cake recipe for the cake and Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen Chocolate Buttercream recipe for the filling and coating.

As you might have gathered, Will really loves weight training so I thought it would be fun to make a weight-lifting fondant Will. I didn’t use any tutorials or templates (except my own that I drew), so I am really quite pleased with how it all turned out. Fondant modelling is great fun and definitely something I would like to do more of in the future. I particularly enjoyed making Will’s hair and adding details that were unique to Will – i.e. adding the logo of his shorts and colouring the fondant grey so that it would be the same colour as his Nike t-shirt. I was quite pleased that I managed to get the figure to hold the barbell weight in the air – cocktail sticks and edible glue are definitely your friends! I wasn’t so happy with the hands – I toyed with the idea of adding fingers, but I decided there was a strong possibility that this could go horribly wrong so I stopped whilst I was ahead!

Making the decorative pieces was fun. I really enjoyed making the gym towel, water bottle and gym bag in particular. One thing I learnt is that it’s quite important to work to scale. For this reason, I cut out paper circles to represent the cake board, the cake, and the smaller cake board in the middle of the cake. Before I started on the figure, I also drew a life-size diagram to make sure the figure would be the right size. As I modelled, I kept checking back to the diagram and adjusting as necessary. Then, once the figure was complete, I put it on the paper circle and was able to make the accessories the right size working by eye. This was essential to avoid out-of-proportion issues like making a water bottle bigger than the gym bag etc.

Making the cake the day before Will’s birthday was really hard going and I ran out of time to finish it. So after a very bad night’s sleep (subconsciously envisaging various baking disasters that may transpire the next morning!), I got up early to finish the cake. I had never covered a cake in fondant, so I was particularly worried about this. The fondant rolled out in a slightly wonky shape, so whilst I had originally planned to roll it to 6mm, I had to roll it to 3mm so that I had enough to drape the cake. Fortunately, I managed to cover the cake without the fondant tearing, so I was quite pleased about that! I learnt, however, that trying to smooth out fondant on a cake on a turntable is less than ideal…

By 11am, Will was starting to get impatient that I was still working on his cake! I don’t blame him, it was poor planning on my part and not ideal finishing the cake on his birthday. As a consequence, I ended up rushing putting the final touches together. For instance, I rushed the gym floor and by the time I got to make the black fondant ribbon that went around the base of the cake, I had literally lost the will to live. As a consequence, it was probably the worst part of the cake – it tore in several places whilst I was trying to place it on the cake – so it looked a bit rubbish (note to self – buy an actual ribbon next time). I attached the rest of the decorations in record speed too.

Verdict? The cake looked pretty good and was delicious! Birthday boy loved it and we devoured the whole cake in 3 days. The buttercream really made the cake as it was so chocolatey – I can highly recommend it. Phew. Now relax. My next bake will be something a bit easier…

Published by

Helena Davies

Baker and Linguist based in Cardiff, Wales.

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