So DD’s 1st birthday sprung up and caught me by surprise! I was so engrossed in finishing her Frankenbook that I totally forgot that we’d invited our families over for tea (on the day that meant 11 adults, 5 year old DS and 2 12 month olds altogether), and they might expect cake. Doh! So on the morning of her birthday I got baking, and by 2pm when everyone started arriving, despite numerous mistakes and mini-disasters, I’d nearly finished (with a little help from my sisters). Phew! So this is basically a frantic morning in the life of a chronic last minute bodger…..
Here’s the finished birthday tea-time treats spread:
Shape Sorter Box birthday cake (with two flavours of cake) covered with Chocolate Fudge Icing and filled with berries.
Sweet treats Plate with: Jam Tarts made with my mum’s home-made plum jam, Treacle Tart Bon Bons, Sweet Pastry Biscuits and Bite-Size Gooey Chocolate Cake.
Savoury nibbles provided by DH at the last minute: sausages with caramelised onion and bread + tortilla chips.
And here’s how I managed it all in a few hours (with very little help and lots of panicking):
Firstly, I used what I had lying around. Last week DS had an ‘international day’ and our contribution of food from the UK was home made mince-pies (remember all the mincemeat I had left over from xmas? – It comes in useful!). I only ended up making a dozen mini pies for the event so I had 3/4 of a batch of sweet cream cheese and sweet wholemeal pastry left over from that in the fridge. I’d run out of oranges when I made the pastry so I’d put orange zest in the cream cheese instead. Recipes for both the pastry and the sweet cream cheese are at the bottom of my Mince Pie page: Mince Pies So a lot of what’s here are various ways to use up bakey left-overs!
It also helps that I’m a chronic baking/icing equipment + left-over hoarder so I’ve got bits of most things I might ever need floating around the kitchen in various places that I can use in a last-minute panic…
Step 1: Wholemeal Banana and Date Cake (birthday cake base)
So this cake will be the base of the Shape Sorter – I’m using this as the base as whatever’s at the bottom will be the cake that’s left over (if any is) after the party and it’s nice to not have loads of rich sweet sickly things to have to eat for days on end. Another reason I chose this cake is because I make it all the time and know the recipe fairly well. The recipe for my Banana and Date Cake is here: Banana and Date Loaf Cake
I made twice the recipe (but with only 2 bananas because someone had eaten some for breakfast! Grrrr!) and put it all in an 8″ square cake tin. It took about 45 minutes to bake.
When it was cool-ish used a big sharp bread knife to slice the top off to level it (this’ll make it easier to put the top level cake on safely later).
I then sliced it in half horizontally to allow for filling. I carefully took the top half off and filled it with the orangey sweet cream cheese mixture.
I then “carefully” put the top half of the cake back on. In the process of doing this, the top half of the cake fell apart a bit (it was slightly too crumbly – could have done with the gooey moisture from the 2 missing bananas and maybe 5 mins less in the oven methinks). I just put the bits back together on top of the cream cheese like a jigsaw and filled any gaps with cakey crumbs. No one will ever know!
I put it on a silver cake board, covered it with cling film and put it to one side.
Step 2: Jam Tarts and Treacle Tart Bon Bons
So to make use of the left-over pastry I decided to make jam and treacle tarts. To start the tarts I simply rolled out the pastry, cut circles and put them into a buttered mini pie tray.
For jam tarts I 2/3 filled them with some of my mum’s home-made plum jam. Yum!
To make the treacle tarts, I first dug out an ancient tin of golden syrup. This had been left on a kitchen shelf very close to the hob and over time the heat had caramelised it. I’d kept it to use in baking as it was solid and wouldn’t pour. I had less than 1/4 tin so I added about a tablespoon of wholemeal flour and a teaspoon or so of fresh orange zest to the tin and mixed it all up. I used this to fill some more pastry pie cases in the tin. I managed to get 8 tarts out of the treacle, so made 8 jam tarts to go with them.
I did this all while the banana cake was baking so as soon as the cake was out of the oven, in went the first batch of treacle and jam tarts.
I’m guessing they’ll take about as long as the mince pies do, say 12 minutes….
….12 minutes later and this is what had happened!
Um…oh dear! The treacle all bubbled over and congealed the pastry to the tin! Luckily the jam tarts came out of the tin without too much difficulty, once I’d run a knife around the edge to free the boiled jam around the edges.
The treacle tarts were a bit more of a problem – the first one I tried to get out disintegrated into a gooey toffee-pastry mush, but it smelt amazing. So I grabbed some mini paper cake cases from my trusty baking drawer, rolled the disasterous tart mush into a ball between my hands and popped it in. Yay! Treacle Tart Bon Bons – completely and deliberately my own new original idea (or that’s what I’ll let everyone believe!) I was going to sprinkle with icing sugar, but forgot and they didn’t need it anyway – they were yummy!
Step 3: Sweet Pastry Biscuits
While the first batch of tarts were cooking, I was cutting all the rest of the pastry into circles in preparation for the next load. I think I got at least 20-30 more circles out of the pastry I had left.
I made 4 more jam tarts, and the rest of the pastry circles will be baked on a baking tray into little biscuits. All I did was stick them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until going golden brown, take them out again and sprinkle them with icing sugar (I use a sugar/flour shaker). Done!
Here’s all my sweet treats made with leftover sweet wholemeal pastry:
Step 4: Chocolate Cake (top layer of the birthday cake)
For the top layer of the Shape Sorter cake I’m making a very indulgent chocolate cake. I’m using our family recipe, which can be found at the bottom of this page: Japanese 3-Panel Cake
I made one batch of the cake mixture while the pastry biscuits were baking, beat the mixture to within an inch of its life to vent my general angst (plus the more you beat the mixture, the better the cake) and then baked it in the same 8″ tin I’d used for the banana cake (so they’ll be the same size).
This time I got the cooking time bang on perfect and a beautiful steamy rich moist chocolate cake was the result. At last things are going right!
Step 5: Shape Sorter 1st Birthday Cake (help arrives for the icing and decorating)
Luckily both my sisters now arrived a bit early for the party. While one of them cooked up 1 1/2 times the recipe for the chocolate fudge filling (also found at the end of the following page: Japanese 3-Panel Cake), I cut a 4″ square hole out of the middle of the chocolate cake. I chopped the gooey middle cake bit into bite size pieces to add to my plate of tea-time yummies (though looking back I should have cut them into squares, circles, stars and triangles and iced them with colours to go with the shape sorter main cake – maybe next time!)
We then spread chocolate fudge icing on top of the banana cake, and stuck the hollow square chocolate cake on top. We covered the whole thing with the rest of the chocolate icing and filled the middle hole with raspberries, grapes and blueberries (DD’s favourites!).
By now it was getting very close to party time so no time for pics as I went. We mixed up yellow, red, blue and green icing using egg white and icing sugar (make sure it’s stiff enough so it doesn’t run down the cake after piping). Using a piping bag and a piping syringe (luckily I have one of each!), two of us piped the coloured icing onto the cake to decorate it, working on opposite sides of the at the same time. Each of the 4 sides of the cake is themed in a different single colour and a shape (either square, circle, triangle or star) – we just made it up as we went!
It’s very slap-dash and rushed, but when it comes to cakes I’m a great believer that what people most appreciate and are impressed by is the general effect and the overall effort involved in bothering to bake your own cake and decorate it. The cake tasting good also helps people to overlook most mistakes that you might think are horrific. People really don’t notice all the imperfections that you can see clearly – they really really don’t (or at least they will be too delighted and polite and cake-filled to mention them)!
Lastly we added a birthday message and a candle on the top around the edge. Finished!
While we were doing the cake decoration, DH had cooked up a load of sausages and onions, and sliced some bread so we had savoury treats too. Yum!
Time to party!
By the end of the party, all of the nibbles had gone except for 2 pastry biscuits (which DD polished off during the following week), and by the next day this was all that was left of the decimated cake: