Saturday, 30 June 2007

Crown Cake for Princess Madeline


When I was small, I collected recipes from magazines and would bind them with wool and a table of contents handwritten on the front of each collection. One such collection was kid’s birthday cakes. These recipes fascinated me with their creative appearances – pianos, trains, fairies. Nothing like my birthday cakes.

Don’t get me wrong. My mum made wonderful birthday cakes using a family sponge cake recipe - iced and sandwiched together with cream or lemon filling. We would light the candles for the birthday boy or girl and then they were re-lit a few times so the younger children in the family could have a go at blowing them out. This is probably why I remember little colour blobs of wax occasionally embedded in the icing.

But as an adult I bought the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book and actually started to make some for my nieces and eventually to invent a few of my own. I have done some Christmas cake decorating with marzipan and royal icing but I prefer plainer icing and lots of lollies (this is sweeties to the Brits and candy to the Americans). It is not only fun to work with but tastes good.

So some of my nieces are now old enough to have a chat about what cake they will make and help me with the decorating. Today it was my niece, Maddy’s birthday. We have had a few discussions about the cake over the last few months. She loves princesses and fairies and magic. So her idea was a crown cake. I thought it was a great idea – easy and a good excuse for lots of lollies that would represent the wealth of jewels on a crown.

I made the cake last night. It is easiest to ice it after it has sat overnight rather than when it is too fresh. I thought I had made that recipe before – a solid one that will have a nice flat top is best – but this one was a bit more crumbly around the edges than I remember, which made me have my doubts if I had the same recipe. I think I began to wonder when I saw it required me to separate the eggs which I don’t enjoy and chose to ignore. Never mind, it was flat and didn’t crumble too much. (The recipe is below.)

One of the nice things about the kids helping out, is the feeling of connection with the cake as well as some pride in it. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to how it looks. I love baking for kids – they are quite happy to use their imagination, they love bright and bold and silly. And they love to have fun!

This cake was definitely not perfect. I spread jelly crystals at the top of the crown to make it look like velvet, but it didn’t look quite as smooth as I’d hoped. I also made an icing that wasn’t firm enough and didn’t hold it’s shape when I piped a happy birthday message. (I should have listened to Maddy when she cautioned me about using too much water in the icing because there is a drought on.) But it looked fun and bright. My critical eye would suggest next time I should use the little lollies to outline the full crown and make the side 'jewels' smaller than the centre ones - but my inner child loved it. There were also lots of leftover lollies which were used to decorate the little cakes my mum had made (doing about a quarter with commercial gluten free flour which came out well). And, most importantly, the cake tasted delicious – fresh, chocolatey and even a little fluffy.

Chocolate Cake
(adapted from p 14 The Women’s Weekly cakes and slices cookbook)

125g dark chocolate, melted
125g unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
1½ cups sugar (I used raw sugar)
4 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
¾ cup plain flour
1 cup milk

Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add chocolate and beat til mixed. Add half flour and half milk and beat til combined. Add remaining flour and milk and beat well.

Pour batter into prepared cake tin and bake in moderately slow oven for 1¼ hours. It is cooked when a skewer comes out cleanly. Stand 10-15 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool. When cool, ice as desired.

On the stereo:
Music for Relaxation: various artists

5 comments:

  1. That cake looks truly amazing! And chocolate cake too, WOW!
    I bet there were sticky hands at the end of it!
    I have never heard of sweeties being called lollies before, is it short for something?

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  2. I love how your food is so colourful! It makes me smile to see it.

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  3. thanks Holler - I love food looking good but it also has to taste good which is why I like this chocolate cake recipe. I don't know why we call them lollies and you call them sweeties, any more than I understand why what we call icy poles are what you seem to call lollies! Strange regional variations that shows the web and globalisation haven't yet managed to make our world one big bland blob of a place!

    Wendy - glad you also love colourful food - it is so cheering isn't it?

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  4. This is incredible. i love colours and this is probably one of the prettiest posts with the prettiest cake i've ever seen. It puts me in SUCH a good mood, Johanna!! Kids' cakes are so fun. i still get cakes that are fancy and fun on my b'day, thanks to my oldest sister who makes 'em...

    Maddy is SO LUCKY to have you in her life. You are a super aunt. Very nice to have the kids help with the creation of the goodies. That can only serve to create further bonding between you all and also stir their interest in baking - and art! - in the future!

    Great post!

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  5. thank you kleopatra - you are too kind - I still love these kids cakes too and have made a few for adults lately

    and I think I am lucky to be able to spend time with my beautiful niece Maddy - I was overseas far too long when my oldest niece was very small so I appreciate this time even more

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