Not so long ago, I was behind the times with my birthday celebrations. I had three birthdays to bake for and I was going to see said people all on the same night. To keep my own feelings of guilt at bay, I couldn’t possibly have made just one of them a cake – it was all or nothing. And nothing would have made me feel guilty, too, so really it was just all or… all. ALL. OK. I decided to do three small cakes that I could decorate individually with the girls’ names and some pretty icing shapes, rather than making three full sized cakes. I think it actually took me longer to make the three little ones than it would have to make bigger ones, but they were so cute that I think it was worth it. Even though I twisted my back leaning over to do the details work. What can I say? I suffer for my art! The other bonus of them being so tiny is that the girls wouldn’t feel like they had to share and so they could have a whole cake to themselves. To me, this is a good thing.
I made a dairy free victoria sponge batter (using soy margarine instead of butter) by the all in one method (ie throw all ingredients in a bowl and mix until mixed), and then made three separate buttercreams – one lavender, one raspberry and one (dairy free) coconut. To make the dairy free buttercream, I used soy margarine mixed with plenty of sugar and some desiccated coconut that had been further ground down to give more coconut flavour.
Side note: the brand of dairy free margarine I usually get is Vitalite. This makes me sing ‘Israelites’ over and over again, even though I don’t know the words AND usually substitute ‘me ears are alight’ for the one word I *do* know because someone once told me they really thought those were the words and it tickled me.
Second side note: this is why I sing that when I use Vitalite:
Anyway, I still don’t think that plain buttercream is the same when you take out the butter, for obvious reasons, but if you add another flavour, like coconut or chocolate, it is very passable, very passable indeed.
I used a cool technique for icing the mini cakes so that the tops would be totally flat and better for decorating. This is particularly good if, like me, you prefer buttercream to rolled fondant icing. I find fondant too sweet, tooth-squirmingly sweet sometimes, and I have also had very limited success in making it at home. This way, I can make every last bit of the cake without the stress of trying to apply a smooth layer of fondant without bumps, bubbles or tears; you can read that last word as tears as in ‘rips’ or tears as in ‘salt water from the eyes’. It works both ways.
First, put a decently thick and indecently messy layer (or possibly pile) of buttercream on the top of the cake, then invert the cake onto a board or other firm, portable surface, lined with a piece of greaseproof paper. Press it down firmly. If you are making a layered cake, add your filling and bottom layer once the top is iced, inverted and pressed down – it’s easier to build a cake upside down than to flip one over without some serious damage. Visions of jam-streaked walls and accidental buttercream gloves come to mind… Ice the sides of the cake, using a spatula to spread the buttercream evenly, and pop it in the fridge until it’s hardened – in my case, by the time I’d finished icing the other two cakes, the first one was ready. Turn the cake right side up again, on to a cake board, and peel off the greaseproof paper. There you have it – perfectly flat and smooth buttercream, ready to decorate. Brilliant!
I went with three different themes for the tiny cakes – buttons, hearts and flowers. I used a mixture of ready made sugar sprinkles and fondant icing to decorate them. Most of the fondant icing I cut using some great cutter/plunger tools. I have the flower set, a set of heart shaped ones and the star ones that I used for my jam tarts. They’re a very quick way to make some really pretty decorations, without using too much sugary fondant. I also made some big buttons by rolling a ball of fondant, flattening it out with my thumb into a nice, even circle then making holes in the middle and a ridge round the edge with my scribe tool (as previously seen in this Hello Kitty cake post). I supplemented the sugar sprinkles and fondant decoration with writing icing to personalise the cakes even more and to add fancy swirls here and there. I have to say, while I put in equal amounts of love, time and attention, the button cake came out pretty spectacular – I just seemed to get it *right* with that one, maybe because buttons are more imaginative than flowers and hearts? All the cakes, and all the ladies, are loved equally, I want to put that on record…
Here’s a photo gallery of the cakes. I took a lot of photos to try and capture them properly, but I don’t know if I’ve done them justice! Feel free to click on any that catch your eye for a closer look.
And here are a final couple of photos of the finished items: