A Milestone and a Tale of Cake Disaster

Last week I was able to luxuriate in baking and cake decorating.  Lara, a church mate of mine, asked me last summer if I could do a cake for her Mum’s 80th birthday. I adore her Mum so, of course, I was happy to do it even if I am not good at baking or cake decorating. Her sisters, Bempi and Bukky, happened to visit our church a week later, and we had a little chat on what type of cake they want. Told them, however, I didn’t go to culinary school nor had any formal training in baking. I am a self-taught baker, and all baking and cake decorating techniques I acquired is self taught from books, watching online tutorials, and a lot of experimenting. I have done a three-layer wedding cake a couple of years ago, and some type of novelty cakes in the past (it’s on a previous post if you’re interested to check it out), and I was hopeful that the cake will turn out good like the previous ones I’ve made.

So a classic Victoria Sponge cake with strawberry jam filling covered in fondant is what Bukky told me she wanted for her Mum’s birthday.

I couldn’t find a ready-made lilac fondant so I just added a mixture of purple and red gel food colour to the white fondant to achieve the perfect shade.

I always feel a little bit apprehensive about covering any cake with fondant. But had to do it so, for the smaller cakes I did it the traditional way (above top right picture), and for the 10 inch cake I tried a different method for the first time by rolling out a long rectangular shape fondant to cover the sides (top right bottom picture), and then do the top cover next (left side top picture) before using a smoother to make it look like they were put together in one piece.

Next was putting the dowels in the middle of the cake — it was pretty easy — before stacking the next layer. I don’t know how some people can manage to take perfect pictures while doing their baking/cooking. 🙂 I tried my best to document the process, it wasn’t easy and I am clearly not good at it — my pictures are bad! 🙁 I’ve got no time nor have the skills to use a real camera although we got one. Just the thought of taking the huge camera out, putting the big lens on, and taking photos while baking and decorating a cake is quite daunting! I need a photographer. 😉 But I convinced myself that it’s convenient to use my iPhone, my pictures aren’t too bad anyhow. 😉

The edible laces are quite easy to make but an extremely time consuming process. It’s very delicate; you have to do it right — baking them at the right temperature, taking them off from the mould very carefully, and transferring them on to the cake — all of that needs very careful consideration. The big fondant roses, though takes time, are more relaxing and fun to make — made them a week in advance.

I covered all three cakes in the evening and the next day I was horrified to see that a portion of the bottom layer had a huge crack. Had no idea what went wrong, and searched google to find an answer. Evidently, it can be a number of reason (I don’t wanna bore you with details), and because I was running out of time, instead of taking the fondant off, and redecorating the cake all over again, I hurriedly made some tiny flowers to cover it. I used tylo powder to dry the fondant flowers very quickly, and after half an hour they were fully dry, and ready to go. I explained everything to Bukky when she showed up while I was trying to finish covering the cracks.

The top two layers were fine and didn’t need any makeover. Only one side of the bottom layer had about 3 inches crack that I covered with tiny flowers while the other side (photo above) looks fine, dry enough and ready to be decorated with roses. However, I decided not to put the roses on simply because of the delicate sugar laces, plus the cake had to be transported to the venue — about an hour drive away. So I had given Bukky some instructions on where the roses need to be attached and all of that details. I’ve handed her a box full of fondant flowers with the edible glue, and she did a great job finishing off the decorations — thank you Bukky! She told me later that some small cracks appeared on the fondant when she tried to put the big roses on so they weren’t put in clusters of 2-3 roses. Overall, she (and others who may have helped) did a wonderful job.
Mummy Moji with her six children. (Photo: Bukky Martins)

I was very sorry and regretful that the cake didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it, and was quite unhappy about not being able to deliver it myself, and finish off putting the roses. But  just had to take a deep breath — I’ve learned some valuable lessons from what happened and know better what to do next time. I was hoping Jared and I could attend the party that night but didn’t get to go. Jared got up not feeling well; he started having flu-like symptoms the day before, and had to rest and prepare himself for next day’s events. I asked Heather to take some pictures for me when I found out Jared and I couldn’t be there. Thank you Heather for these two pictures!

Right after the cake was picked up by Bukky at around 11 am, I started working on another cake for next day’s church fellowship. On top of that, I had to make another dessert, and was so grateful that Sister Eunice came to help. Just as I was about to take a nap (or rather crash in bed haha!), she came to the rescue. While waiting for the cake to cool down, Sister Eunice and I whipped up some Banoffee Pie and Creme Caramel enough to feed a hundred people. I didn’t have any particular idea in mind on how I was going to decorate the second cake so while drizzling cocoa powder on top of the banoffee pie, I suddenly thought about Mummy Mo’s ‘lilac and white’ themed party that night. But then there was only one fondant rose left and not enough laces to cover the entire cake. And I was afraid to cover the cake with fondant so I settled on making more sugar laces which is less intimidating. 🙂 The sugar laces is in lilac colour though it appears grey in the picture (again, I had to add purple and red gel food colour to the mix to achieve the right shade). I was happy how it turned out. A huge relief after the previous day’s cake disaster. 🙂

The next day, Sunday, we had a wonderful thanksgiving service to celebrate Mummy Mo’s birthday. She had given a very touching testimony on how the Lord preserved her life — all those 80 long years —  and she made special mention how she came out unscathed from a dreadful car accident last year.

We had lunch after worship — thanks to our catering committee — we enjoyed the food and the fellowship. Some of her family have shared testimonies; we had a good laugh and some tears were shed listening to the stories. At the end Jared represented the church by giving Mummy Moji a tribute on how the Lord has blessed us through her life and testimony.

Her husband predeceased her (I didn’t get to meet him), and we continue to pray that God will grant her many more years with us. I’ve known Mummy Moji since I moved to London, and Jared and I always refer to her as our Nigerian Mum. I’ve gotten to know her better during our private chats. I remember years ago she came by to see us; she was very open and simply poured her heart out to us. That was a very special time we had with her, and I’d never forget that. It is the one of the most memorable days we had with her. She is a very strong, God-fearing, and loving woman. At 80 she still travels by herself, continues to care for her children, grandchildren, and other people around her despite her advanced age. Mummy Moji is a perfect example of a virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31. We had the pleasure and privilege of a day spent with Mummy Moji on her special day, and we had a wonderful time rejoicing and praising the Lord for all the blessings He has bestowed upon her life. 

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. — Proverbs 31:10-31, KJV