Thursday 4 March 2010

Sylvia's green pram cake

By now, if you have been reading this blog, you will know it was Sylvia's first birthday last week. I have told you about the morning we spent at Each Peach, the noodles we had for dinner and today I will tell you about the cake. For what are birthdays for if not to eat lots of sugary self-indulgent cake. Sylvia had three cakes. I have photos of them all but the most impressive one is the green pram. This is the one I will tell you how to make below.

But let us start with the cake I made to have with myself and E on her actual birthday. Lately I have discovered some great low sugar muffins and decided to continue in this virtuous vein for her birthday cake. If I ever ever suggest such a thing again, remind me that birthdays mean sugar. So no more cakes that are bitter with blackstrap molasses. I had thought the apple sauce would sweeten the molasses but it was not to be. If you are interested in the recipe, it is the Apple Spice Cake at this group of healthy first birthday cakes but I don't think it is one I will repeat.

I was consoled by the fact that at least it looked pretty, that there was a delicious chocolate cake to come, and that Sylvia had some to eat. But half of it went in the bin. I used beetroot powder to make it look pink but the green icing I had planned to use to decorate it was not the easy-to-use nozzle-on-a-tube that I expected. Thank goodness for hundreds and thousands. Sylvia loved us singing her happy birthday but didn't quite get the blowing out the candle bit.

The next day at child care she had birthday cake #2. I visited to share the cake with Sylvia and her little friends. It was both fun to see all the kids going a bit manic with cake and an eye-opener to see how the staff were managing the allergies of some of the kids in the centre. The cake was a vegan chocolate cake because the centre does not have nuts or eggs due to these being common allergies. We emerged with smears of chocolate icing over both Sylvia and myself.

The main event was a small family party on Sunday afternoon. I made the cake the day before and had some frosting leftover from my camera birthday cake. I liked the idea of the ease of a round cake with a couple of (gluten free) muffins for wheels. It was the decoration that was a challenge. I looked at ideas for pram cakes and liked one with basket weave on it to signify an old fashioned pram. I would love a green wicker pram but I know it would not be practical so I was happy to indulge in a bit of wish fulfillment with the cake.

On the morning of the party I got out my icing gun and leftover frosting and started to experiment. The first drama was that I found out we had no foil to cover the baking tray. Fortunately I had some green cellophane which was a nice base to work on. The frosting worked ok although when I tried to do a frilly outline it was a bit half hearted and by then there was so much frosting on the cake the some of it started to slide down the side. But I have written a step-by-step description below of what I did for the curious.

I also had decided to make cheese scones (coming soon) which were to be made as close to the afternoon tea as possible so they were warm out of the oven. At about 2pm, an hour before everyone was expected, I sent E out of the house with Sylvia in her pram to get her to sleep, and I set about doing some last minute cooking and cleaning.

My mum and dad arrived with my two nieces, Ella and Grace, at 2.30. Luckily I had a distraction for the little girls up my sleeve - a bag of balloons I had found in the bottom of the pantry. It also meant my parents could help with important tasks like the dishes and testing scones. My dad had specially got there early to put up Sylvia's birthday present - a cubby hut (aka Wendy house). At one stage our backyard seemed very full of family helping with the erection of the hut.

The nieces and nephews had lots of fun in the hut. Sylvia went in once and then fell out the door and wailed. Since then she has had a few peeks inside but preferred to eat dirt out of the pot plants. Zinc is also curious about the other white cat peering out the window. Later my nieces and nephews were in Sylvia's bedroom playing with her toys. The nappy change mat became a slide for our giraffes. Apparently my dad walked in and was met with a chorus of "we will put everything back in its place when we finish." Ah bless!

By the time everyone else arrived the table was full of food and for a while I felt I was constantly rearranging to make room for more dishes. In addition to the cheese scones, I had made pumpkin dip, grubs and some gluten free grubs (with Tart n Round spice biscuits instead of marie biscuits). I chopped up lots of vegies and fruit, including many of Sylvia's favourites. My mum brought some gluten free cupcakes and some zucchini fritters with yoghurt dip. Fran's partner, John, made his famous pavlova which was loaded up with berries and cream (but no strawberries for Sylvia).

Before everyone started eating, we lit the candle on the cake and sang happy birthday. Then Sylvia sat in her highchair and had her first taste of pavlova and some of her chocolate birthday cake. She had a taste of the scones but I think most of it landed on the floor, along with quite a few of her pieces of fruit and vegetables. Sylvia was quite happy to show off some of her new skills - clapping, waving, standing without needing something to pull herself up on, and of course the hands in the air in victory at her cleverness.

Sylvia was spoilt with lots of presents from her family on both sides of the world. Sadly her Scottish family couldn't be here but were remembered with her little purple tartan dress that we bought in Scotland on our trip there in November last year. You can see it above. I thought it looked very Mary Queen of Scots with a white lacy collar!

I have had a few questions lately about why I don't put Sylvia's face on the blog. The answer is that when I started my blog I decided not to put faces on it. The internet is a big scary world and I am too suspicious to give strangers pictures of my loved ones. I am happy to give you glimpses to encourage you to imagine just how beautiful my little blue eyed girl is. I especially love hands, which is why I love sharing photos of Sylvia's chubby paws. If I did have a photo it would not be her solemn face when everyone arrived but her laughter and delight with cake all over her face later in the afternoon.

How to Make a Pram Cake

You can use any round cake and muffins. I made a 22cm round chocolate cake using this mud cake recipe but substituting milk for whisky, less sugar (1 1/2 cups) and using less wattleseed. I put in the flour last so I could take some of the mixture out and mix a little besan in to make gluten free wheels. I usually use a gf flour mix but thought I would try besan. It got the thumbs down from one of my nieces who always eats my gluten free baking. (Hey Ella, it might have been a little dry but it was still good with lots of frosting!)

I had at least half of this white chocolate cream cheese frosting that I had stashed in the freezer. It was far too much, which meant I was liberal with the icing when I didn't have a clue what I was doing and also that I didn't need to stress about running out. Yet again I regretted not allowing it to cool before adding the cream cheese because little unmelted bits of white chocolate kept getting stuck in the icing pipe so that suddenly there wasn't much frosting coming out and when the chocolate finally got through I would get a gush of frosting.

I used green cellophane to line a large baking tray (I didn't even bother with sticky tape but just let the weight of the tray weigh it down as I didn't need to move it). I cut a wedge out of the cake as above and positioned the wheels to check out how they looked. As always I used a pastry brush to brush away crumbs before icing. (And I took off the muffin papers.)

Carefully cover the side of the cake with frosting using a butterknife and then cover the wheels in frosting. Press the wheels against the cake. Disclaimer: I was making it for my sister and niece whom I know don't mind their gf baking canoodling with wheat products but if you are making it for gluten free folk you might need to check if this is ok.

Now here is where you will need an icing nozzle that does a basket weave or ribbon. I have an icing gun set that makes life easy. First I covered the body of the pram in horizontal rows of basket weave. I changed the angle of the rows for the hood.

Then I changed to a writing nozzle and piped thin lines vertically. I also piped spokes and tyres on the wheels.

Then I returned to my basket weave nozzle and piped a short strip over each second vertical line on the top row. On the row below I piped strips over every other vertical line. I kept going til I had run out of room on the vertical lines.

Then I got really amateurish and tried to do a frilly edge around the cake and across the mark between the body of the pram and the hood. By then I was running out of patience so it was a bit lackadaisical. Finding the I still had plenty of frosting, I piped a handle and a little birthday message for Sylvia on the cellophane. If you look at the above picture you can see smears of icing on the table where I was testing the icing gun every now and again.

Sylvia was not too fussed by the decoration but she enjoyed us singing happy birthday and loved eating the cake. It is all we can ask of her at this age.

On the Stereo:
Turn it on again: The Hits: Genesis


  1. You are truly such a gifted baker, Johanna! I am in awe of the beautiful wicker weave you created from the frosting!! I absolutley love the photo of Sylvia in her purple dress - soooo adorable! :-) HAPPY BIRTHDAY SYLVIA!!!:-)

  2. It's a lovely cake! And I've read that doing the basketweave can be really tricky--yours looks beautiful. Such a great spread for the event! And I'm sure E's parents appreciated that Sylvia wore the tartan dress (so cute!). Though I don't have kids, I'm with you on the "no faces" rule. My hubby has asked me to keep his mug anonymous, and I don't put faces of friends/relatives on my blog, either.

  3. Awwwwww! Lucky girl!

    Can't say I've ever come across a green pram cake before - fantastic effort! A real labour of love.

  4. You have a great imagination when it comes to cakes Johanna and this ones a stonker, really fab! It sounds like much fun was had.

  5. Lucky Sylvia! The cake is gorgeous and I love the idea of using the gf muffins for the wheels. You should go into business! It looks as though Sylvia has a very pretty dress on, too - I hope she enjoyed her day (can't believe it's a year!)

  6. Belated birthday to the sweet Sylvia.

    The cake and everything else looked just perject, Johanna. :)

  7. Aww that's so clever Johanna! I love the basket weave detailing too. Sylvia will definitely look back most fondly on this cake :D

  8. Gorgeous post, Jo - and the wicker on the pram is wonderful! Happy days to all of you - and a dribbly kiss from Poppy. xx N

  9. The pram cake is gorgeous!!

  10. Thank you everyone for your kind comments, and a big sticky hug from sylvia for all of you!

  11. I think it's funny that you say "cubby hut or Wendy house", and we called them cubby houses! I always wanted one, then went inside a friend's one day and discovered a huge spider. Never wanted one again. :P

    In more important matters - Johanna, that icing pram is magnificent! The texture of it just jumps out, though it does keep me thinking of poor old Baby Bunting ;)

  12. The pram cake looks lovely Johanna, and I'm so impressed by the baking of three cakes to celebrate - you've got a very lucky little girl and family!

    Love the pictures of her hands too, and can quite understand the no faces choice.

  13. The pram cake is really lovely. I love the fact its a green pram, just like the GGG.

  14. Happy birthday to your little girl! =) How lucky that she got so many cakes. I love the cool cakes you put together - I would never be so ambitious to make a pram cake!

  15. Thanks everyone - just to be clear, I didn't bake the one at the child care centre (one of the things I like about that centre is that they cater for every kid's birthday), Hannah - hope you are over that spider and I highly recommend others try this cake as it really is not that difficult if you don't bother with the basket weave (and even that wasn't too hard)

  16. Happy birthday, Sylvia!

    Johanna, your basket weave icing is terrific. :-)


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