Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Mmmm... Cake...

As you probably know – and if you didn’t you will now! – I made the Mumbles Ripple for my brother and his lovely fiancée for their wedding present. 


Their beautiful wedding took place on the weekend just gone, and I was privileged to be able to present them this lovely blanket at their reception, after the speeches. Husband of mine was not on-the-ball enough to get a picture of this, but the photographer snapped some, so hopefully I can get a copy at some point :)  But here is the Mumbles, tied up with ribbon and with a hand-scrawled label. The writing could have been better, but while I did remember to bring the labels I didn’t remember to bring a decent pen with me, so I only had a Bic biro to work with… Doh!! I added on the stitch count for two reasons, firstly that I think it’s really cool to know these little details, and secondly because I think it’s a very impressive stitch count!

I finished this blanket a while ago, back in April, so there was no pressure on me as the big day drew nearer. I was therefore free when I arrived at Hampstead Norrys – where the wedding took place – to help my mum with her Big Job for the Big Day.

She had arrived a few days early, and was staying in a self-catering cottage just a few doors down from the church, as her Big Job was to make the Wedding Cake! No pressure then!! I arrived on the Thursday afternoon, and as my mum now struggles a lot with mobility issues I offered to help as much as I could. My mum used to do a lot of cake making, sugar craft, and other decorative baking exploits. She made all of our birthday cakes when we were young, and as my brother and I share a birthday (although we’re not twins!!) we would have great fun as children deciding together what fancy cake we would have. She had made everything for us from easier cake-shaped cakes with decoration (I remember a desert island one – blue icing with a sand coloured island in the middle, which we then had fun adding plastic toy animals and palm trees to! A red plastic pelican really sticks in my memory for some reason!) all the way up to 3D modelled cakes, cut to the rights shapes and pinned into place with cocktail sticks, before being iced appropriately. A 3D train is my most vivid memory of this type of cake :)

Well, despite this experience, it has been many years since my mum did any cake making. She did make the cake toppers for my wedding cake, but being out of practice and underprepared at the time, she hadn’t wanted that to happen again! She had therefore begun making small cakes for a local charity as practice. But then disaster happened, and her old faithful Kenwood mixer died on her!! Noooooo!!! Hence the requirement for plenty of help in hand mixing cake mixture and butter icing :/

My mum was feeling the pressure on this one. It was a very special cake obviously, and she didn’t want to let them down at all. My brother and his wife (wooo!) are very laid-back people, and beyond saying that they wanted a chocolate cake, they hadn’t given any direction to my mum in terms of styling or colours or anything. My mum had to just make it up as she went along, which she found a bit stressful! In the end, she went with a cake recipe from a Black Forest Gateau, and for the icing she chose butter cream and made it green. She had been to a Lakeland shop on the way to Hampstead Norrys, and had picked up icing cutters for leaf shapes and daisy shapes.

I prepared a working area for my mum so she could sit comfortably and not have to keep getting up, then fetched and carried ingredients and equipment, while my mum measured and sieved and stirred up the mixture. I pre-heated the oven – a nervous task, as with a different oven you never quite know which way to adjust temperature and timing to get the effect you want – and prepared the baking tin. Then in went the cake mixture… my mum started worrying about how the cake would be: I had an idea to make a cup cake of some of the mixture so we could taste-test it, but we didn’t have anything to make a cup cake in, so she just had to suppress her nerves…

While the cake baked, we started making the icing shapes. My mum dyed some fondant icing with green food colouring, and we both made some leaves. She was a bit disappointed that she didn’t have any colouring for the flowers, but I reassured her that the white daisies would look good anyway. I started cutting out white daisies to show her, and I even remembered a tip I saw ages ago on Pinterest of resting the flowers in spoons to harden, so that the petals curl up a bit and the flowers aren’t too flat!

Then the time came for me to head over to the village hall to help set up for the wedding, while my mum continued and made the second cake layer. The wedding was very much a personal and hand-made affair, so there was lots and lots to do! Luckily, they had plenty of help from family and friends, and it was quite fun to put all the decorations together, and to work together to get everything set up! Friends of the bride had made paper decorations to hang across the hall, my brother had made pebble and wire table name holders. The bride had decorated pebbles to use as name cards, and put together photos of all the places that the tables were named after – mostly local beaches, which made for gorgeous pictures! People had spent time collecting blue and green glass from charity shops and shells from beaches to decorate the tables – and although it didn’t click with me until my mum noticed later on, the flowers were all white and included lots of big daisies! So my mum’s choice of cake decorations and lack of food colouring was perfect!

My husband took some pictures of the decorating in progress while we were at the rehearsal - look at that lovely big oxeye daisy!

The next day – the Big Day! – and we had to put the cake together. I made up the butter cream icing – hard work to whip up butter with a wooden spoon! But we got there in the end. My mum added some more green food colouring and some peppermint flavouring (mint choc cake!! Yum!!) and I did my very best impression of a Kenwood mixer until it was ready. We needed to increase the quantity a bit, and by this time my arm was seriously achy, so my husband did his best to mix up another batch, and then I mixed the two together to ensure the colour was even.

My mum adding the icing to the bottom layer

My mum put the bottom layer of cake onto the cake stand, then expertly iced the top of it and got the second layer into place. By this time she was struggling on her feet a bit, and there was still the whole business of getting changed and walking to church ahead of us, so I asked if I could help with the rest of the cake. I’ve never done it before, but I somehow managed to ice the whole cake without ruining it, and then my mum came and went over it all to get a smoother finish (my finish was a bit, hmmm, rustic…)

My 'rustic' finish!

[Sadly I then had to ruin the nice finish as she hadn’t left me any extra butter cream in order to make a bit of a mound in the middle on which to build up the main decoration, and I had to scrape up a mound once I realised, so it ended up a bit rustic anyway! Boo!!]

My mum wasn’t entirely sure what to do for the rest of the decoration, but I had an idea to have the smallest daisies scattered densely around the top edge and cascading down the sides of the cake, and then have a centrepiece of the leaves and larger daisies. I aimed for ‘pleasingly random’ around the edge, but I don’t think I quite hit the mark in the way I had pictured it. I guess you can’t expect to on your first go, but I do wish I could have done better! My mum and I worked together to figure out an arrangement for the centrepiece, and then I transferred it to the cake. There aren't too many photos of the process as everyone was so busy!

It was nerve-wracking stuff to deliver the cake to the village hall – I held the cake stand tightly while my husband drove really carefully to the village hall. Finally it was on the cake table and we could breathe a sigh of relief!

The cake table had lots of cakes on it that were made by closest friends and family, with our big iced cake in the centre. 

The cake table!

I felt a great sense of pride when the time arrived for the cake to be cut, and everyone was watching and taking pictures! I also felt really chuffed for my mum that this cake disappeared the fastest, and that there were lots of comments about how tasty it was, and how delicious the peppermint icing was. Like an inside-out After Eight, which was exactly what she had been aiming for when she planned it! It was great to have worked on this little project together- we don't do things together much these days, and this was really great.

It is so much work to make blankets and cakes and to help decorate halls, so much nervousness in the planning and execution as you hope to get it all ‘right’, and then such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when it all comes together, and even some pride that you were selected and trusted to help and be a part of something so special :)

Nom nom nom... ;)


  1. What a fab do!! I just love how everyone chips in and made it all so special and personal.....your Mum is brave making a cake in a strange oven with unfamiliar equipment, so well done it looks super.....I love the cake table with all the contributions and your fabulous blanket. What a lovely fun day xx

    1. Thank you - I actually felt a bit nervous about you reading this one, your cakes are soooo good!!

      The Wedding really was fab - like you say, everyone came together to make it really personal. I wish I had done more of that when I got married!

      My mum was so nervous bless her about the cake, I was so happy for her that it turned so well :)


  2. The cake is just fab!!!! Your mum did so well. I am seriously impressed [icing skills of a hobbit here]. Looks like you all had a really nice day. Was thinking of you. xx

    S xx

    1. Oops - I meant to reply to this ages ago!! orry!!!!

      Your Hobbit comment really made me chuckle :)

      Thank you for your thoughts - it was such a lovely day. The weather, the people, the atmosphere, all really lovely :)