I had a tough challenge on my hands when it came to making Little I’s 4th birthday cake. For months she had been adamant that she wanted a Rapunzel cake. I desperately wanted it to live up to her high expectations and I’d spent quite a lot of time researching online for ideas…but all seemed to require skills which I simply didn’t possess.
I’m a keen home baker, but when it comes to cake decoration my abilities are very minimal. I’ve always wanted to master piping and sugar craft, but have never known where to start. So thank goodness for my best friend Kate who booked me onto a cake decorating course just a week before Little I’s birthday.
During the half day course at Julia’s Kitchen I learnt the art of sugar craft…and now I’m hooked! I was taught how to make a beautiful rose by hand out of sugar paste, and how to use cutters, moulds and sugar craft tools to make flowers, leaves, butterflies and birds. We were shown how to colour sugar paste to the colour you need – something which has always baffled me. And I was finally taught how to pipe a two-tone rosette out of fluffy buttercream, which has been on my bucket list for ages!
Sugar craft takes an awful lot of patience and concentration (I haven’t concentrated for that long since Little I was born!), but it’s actually not as difficult as it looks, so long as you have a good teacher and no distractions from little people. But the downside to it is that in order to get going, you need to invest in the proper tools and equipment. I’d say the essentials are a non-stick mat and non-stick rolling pin (for rolling out the sugar paste), a couple of dyes which blend well with each other (I opted for a dusky pink and gooseberry green), some flower cutters and some professional sugar paste. I plan to build my collection of tools slowly over time – they’ll be nice birthday presents to ask for. The Craft Company seems a brilliant stockist of good quality sugar craft equipment, where prices are very reasonable.
So armed with these new skills, I planned the Rapunzel cake around what I’d been taught and knew I could manage. The base was a simple madeira sponge, cooked in a heart-shaped tin. I covered it with marzipan first to get a smooth surface, but fondant icing would work equally as well. I then mixed a pretty green buttercream to cover the base with, to give it a garden feel (I now know to mix my buttercream on a high speed for at least 10 minutes, in order to get it nice and fluffy).
The Rapunzel figurine was a little bit of a cheat which I purchased from Amazon, but the nice thing about it was that Little I could keep it afterwards as a souvenir. The roses I hand moulded from sugar paste, and the other flowers and leaves I used cutters for. If you’re a beginner to sugar craft, it’s helpful to know that the decorations can be made well in advance as they should be left to dry out and harden anyway. So I managed to get all of the decorations made in the week leading up to Little I’s birthday, which helped to make assembly of the cake the night before a little less stressful.
The hair plait was a lastminute brainwave. I had been mulling over whether to try and pipe yellow buttercream, or make yellow fondant icing. But the thought occurred to me that readymade marzipan might be the easiest option, which it definitely was. Then finally around the edge of the cake I placed sugar pearls, which seemed to add a nice finishing touch.
On the morning of Little I’s birthday, I led her blindfolded, into the lounge where the finished cake sat. When she saw it her eyes light up. She said, “Mummy, it’s perfect”. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief!