Charity Donation Birthday Cake

This week I am going to tell you about a little girls birthday cake I made. But first I'm going to tell you why I made it. I'm going to talk about a sick little boy named Vinnie.

Vinnie was born with a rare genetic condition called SMA Type 1 - he requires breathing support and a feeding tube and he cannot swallow. He is also somewhat immobile and receives physical therapy. It is ultimately a terminal condition. Vinnie is 16 months old.

Vinnie's is certainly not the only child with this rare illness, but his particular story has been featured in the press and been written about by other bloggers.

If you'd like to learn any more about Vinnie you can check out the Our Boy Vinnie Facebook Page,

There is currently no approved treatment for Vinnie's condition, but there is a drug on trial. So far there have been incredible results. Children on the drug seem to be able to walk, dance, swallow and live long beyond their prognosis. I'm not a doctor or a medical researcher, but I do appreciate these things take time. There isn't a drug on the market that doesn't have side effect and it is irresponsible to release medication to the public that hasn't been rigorously tested. But, as Vinnie's mother herself has pointed out, these children already have a terminal diagnosis. A little more quality of life in the time they have would be a miracle.

There is a petition to push to allow children with SMA Type 1 to be given the chance to walk on their own, eat and maybe more. The petition is to give terminally ill children access to this trial drug. I know Vinnie's family would be extremely grateful if you felt that you could sign it.

our boy vinnie

Children with Type 1 SMA rarely make it to 2, many don't make it to 1. Despite this, the British Government doesn't offer any financial assistance until disabled children reach 3 years old. Vinnie is under the care of 3 different hospitals and there is obviously some free care on the NHS but there is a lot of equipment and other things that the family needs. Which they have had to fund themselves.

And that is where I - and this cake - come in. Vinnie's Mum Kelly and I went to school together. She started running a series of raffles to raise money for a specialist car seat, buggy etc. Equipment meant to make Vinnie's life a little more enjoyable and make it a little easier for his parents to care for him. She asked if anyone had anything to donate.

I offered up a cake. It isn't much, but we can only do what we can with what we have.

The lady who won the raffle was a lovely Mum looking for a birthday cake for her little girls 5th birthday party. It was pretty good timing as her birthday was around a month after the prize was drawn.

This has honestly been one of my favourite cakes to make to date. I liked the bake, the recipe was great and tasted fab. I enjoyed the fondant covering process despite the weather (more on that later). It was very pressured because this was for a little girls party and I wanted it to be wonderful. But I gave myself (almost) enough time, so I didn't feel too rushed.

They decided to keep things simple flavour-wise and went for a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. I went with the Chocolate Madeira Cake from SheWhoBakes and my favourite Swiss Meringue Buttercream by Sweetapolita.

Keira, the little girl, loves Charlotte's Web and there was no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest. In the end, the birthday girl opted for elements from 2 different cakes, a barn and a spiders web with some fondant figures. A number '5', a pig and a spider, naturally.

This was my final design.

Cake Summary Final

And here is my final interpretation of this design.


Charlottes Web Birthday Cake

It isn't perfect - but I don't know a cake maker who ever feels their work is. But I have to say I am pretty happy. I'm proud of the little flowers, I think they really finish the cake. I'm also pretty chuffed with my fondant models too, I've only made one model before, so these aren't too shabby.

I'll do another post going into this cake in more detail. But for now these are the changes I'd make if I could go back:

  1. I'd spend a little bit more time smoothing. It just wasn't 100%
  2. Wider board and put either the Pig or the Spider down at the bottom.
  3. Cover the edge of the board in ribbon.
  4. Centre the name. I'd start with the 'E' in the middle of the web and work out
  5. When placing the top tier I'd make sure the centre of the web lined up with the centre of the barn door
  6. I'd take better photos!

The photo part is important, I assembled the cake at the venue. So I couldn't take pictures with a backdrop and what have you. But I could have spent a little more time and taken a better shot.

Anyway, let me know what you think of this one - any questions let me know.

Baking My First Christmas Cake Part 2

Welcome back to my Christmas Cake saga 2015

Just in case you missed Part 1 here is a roundup everything that has gone wrong:

  1. Not enough fruit for the recipe, I forgot to buy currants
  2. Not enough butter (sort of)
  3. Made the wrong ratio of the recipe, which is why there was not enough butter
  4. Forgot to add the Almonds to the mix

And here are some mistakes I forgot to mention or discovered after I posted the Christmas Cake Part 1:

  1. My greaseproof paper was too high for my oven and needed snipping
  2. The oven was on 180 not 140
  3. My Bain Marie dried out

So I compensated by lowering the temperature to 110 and filling up the Bain Marie. I hoped the water in the oven made the cooking process gentle enough not to incinerate the cake.

It was false hope.



Christmas Cake Stage 5 - Crying

Ok, now that's over with...I do have my backup batter, thanks to mishaps 1 and 2 from yesterday's 'muck up' list.  So I baked that this morning.

With the almonds in, at the correct temperature, with a fully watered Bain Marie.



Isn't it a thing of beauty! Even with my terrible photography!



Christmas Cake Stage 6 - Maturing

I've got another great tip from my baker pals on Facebook


Thank you, Teresa!  A friend of mine makes her Christmas Cake in September. Then she feeds it Rum for 3 months and is, presumably, admitted to hospital for fruit-induced alcohol poisoning on Christmas Day. I don't have 3 months, I'll be lucky if I have 3 days, so this nifty tip on speeding up the cakes maturation is a winner for me. I just hope it works out ok!

Christmas Cake Stage 6 - Decorating

This is what I've been waiting for!!

In case you didn't know, the traditional way to cover a fruit cake is with Marzipan and then fondant. In order to get the marzipan to stick (as there is no buttercream or ganache) you paint the cake with a jam or preserve. Usually apricot. And as there are apricots in the cake (at least I didn't forget those) this seems like a good way to go. By that logic so would cherry jam, but I prefer apricot.

The last time I used marzipan I was in primary school and I don't remember enjoying it. I bought my marzipan, sacrilege I know, but I didn't have the time or mental fortitude to make my own. I initially rolled it very thin, worried I wouldn't have enough. It turns out I had plenty but one layer didn't really disguise the lumps and bumps. So I did 2 thin layers of marzipan, stuck together with more apricot jam.

Then came the one part of this process I was actually familiar with, fondant.


I'm not entirely sure why I took all of my photo's tilting to the right. Must have been all the brandy in the off cuts I was eating. And it isn't your imagination, the cake does also slope slightly - so not an entirely even bake. I did try cutting it a bit to balance it out but having so much fruit it in meant I was at risk of crumbling a whole chunk off.

I popped it up on a cupcake stand (the blue one you can see poking out) and that made it very easy to cover.  Then I did some embellishments.


I couldn't help but be influenced by the biggest Disney movie of the moment, so we have a sort of ice crown with pearls and blue accents.

The design is an homage to the Sphere Cakes I made and CakeyBake who designed them. The little blue leaf shaped pieces were the cut outs from my floral snowflakes. I painted them with luster dust. You can't really see in any of the photos but I also lightly brushed the top of the cake with pearl dust and a little bit of silver glitter. The sides are wrapped with white and blue ribbon, left over from my Cinderella Button Cookies. Waste not, want not.

I boxed it up in a decorative silver box and delivered it to the school, hoping it would impress.

I'm actually pleased with how it turned out. I like the decorations and it's kind of cute.

Do you have any cake disaster stories? Cakes that started badly and ended up ok?


Baking My First Christmas Cake Part 1

Well, it's that time of year again.  Happy Chanukah everyone! Oh right, it's Crimbo too, if you are into that kind of thing, I guess ;)

This year, I am making my first ever Christmas Cake.  And whose help am I wrangling? Only the best will do so Mary Berry of course.

I am using Mary Berry's Christmas Cake recipe that is.  I couldn't actually get her in my kitchen.  That would be a Christmas miracle.

As this cake takes a couple of days to make, I thought I would split it into 2 posts.  Just to let the suspense really soak in.  Brandy! I mean just to let the brandy really soak in.

I've never made a Christmas Cake or any kind of dense fruit cake before.  I don't like them if I'm honest.  I don't think kids really like very boozy cakes either, they taste weird. I didn't like it as a kid and haven't given it a second shot.

So why am I making one?  Well, a local school is looking for donations for their Raffle Hampers, one item?  Christmas Cake.  I don't need much of a reason to put on my pinny and whip up some sugary goodness and I can even say I'm doing it for a good cause.  Just a shame they get my first ever attempt, I don't have time to make more from scratch.  It's not like me to take on such a challenge, with little time to spare.  Yeah right, that is exactly me.

So here we go, the stages to (what I hope will be) an AMAZING Christmas Cake.

Christmas Cake Stage 1 - Boozy Fruit

Mary's recipe says you will need the following:

  • 425g currants
  • 250g each sultanas and raisins
  • 300g glacé cherries, quartered, rinsed and drained
  • 150g ready-to-eat dried apricots, snipped into small pieces
  • 75g mixed candied peel, roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp brandy, plus extra for pouring

That is a whopping 1.2kg of fruit and candied peel!!  And this is where I've made my first mistake.  I assumed I had a bag of currants, so didn't buy any but I did buy a 'backup' pack of Sainsbury's finest mixed, pre-soaked fruit. Having weighed out my raisins, sultanas etc I discover I, in fact, have ... no currants.  A pretty big chunk of the fruit recipe.  So I broke out the backup bag. Two problems there:

  1. It is only 300g
  2. It isn't just currants, it's EVERYTHING

I don't have time to go and get more (shops closed, who starts prep at 10 at night seriously) and I can't wait until the morning or I'm another day behind!  So I'm just going to have to go with it.

I pour my brandy over and leave it, covered, overnight.



The next morning I add a bit more brandy.  This isn't in the recipe, but I've been collecting Christmas Cake advice having never done it before.  Someone told me to top it up the following morning.  So top it up I did.  I then go to work etc and after dinner crack on with the 'cake' part.

Christmas Cake Stage 2 - Cake Pan

Mary's recipe says to really cover the pan.  A friend of mine this morning advised the same.  Grease the pan and put 2 layers of paper on it.  So that is what I've done.


It's a thing of beauty, don't you think.  I hope I don't actually need the paper to be that tall, the cake shouldn't rise that much. Or at all.

Christmas Cake Stage 3 - Cake

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g dark muscovado sugar
  • 5 medium free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 60g whole unblanched almonds, roughly chopped

This part should be easy, it's cake.  I've got this!  Except, apparently, I don't.  For some unknown reason, I don't have enough butter in my house!  I can't go out and get any either!  I'm only down by 50g so I'm going to risk 50g of (gulp) margarine! I am dying a little on the inside.




It still looks like cake and the batter actually tastes LOVELY so I'm not too worried (I'm really worried).  Oh and I need to point out that at this stage in the recipe it says to leave out the nuts.  Got it. No problem.

Christmas Cake Stage 4 - Mix

Now you mix the fruit into the cake batter.  So here I go.  Don't forget to pour in any extra soaking 'juices' (that's Mary code for booze) as well.  There weren't any.  Did I not add enough booze?  Should there be a little lake of Brandy at the bottom of my bowl?


But it's all mixed in and I realise I'm an idiot.  I know why there wasn't enough butter.  I remembered, when I was shopping, that I didn't have enough fruit.  I'd decided I was going to bake a 6-inch cake not a 9-inch cake like the recipe said so I was just going to make less batter and work out the fruit ratio.  I did neither.  I made the full amount of batter and there isn't enough fruit to go in it.  Remember I've never done this before and I don't know what this mix should look like!

Is the fruit supposed to be covered lightly like someone trying to make Rice Krispie cakes go further? Or is it supposed to be like Rocky Road, thickly covered?  Probably the former based on my ratio mix up.  Oh well.  Nothing I can do about it now!


Into the pan it goes. Mary's recipe says to level the top and put on a parchment circle.  That's fine.  But nowhere does it say how full the cake pan should be?  I figure, it's a plain flour cake with no raising agent and it's packed out with dense, alcoholic fruit.  It's probably not going to rise at all.  So I've left a 1cm gap at the top of the pan, and I'll hope for the best.


I got a great tip from a fellow baker about putting a Bain Marie in the oven

Christmas Cake Baking Tip Bain Marie

So that's exactly what I've done.  Phew, so it's in the oven as of 8.30 tonight with a 4-5 hour bake time. I'll be checking it at 12.30 with fingers crossed.

2 final things.  Remember the recipe said "leave out the nuts"?  You add them in after you've mixed the fruit. I didn't. I was so preoccupied by my weighing and measuring mistakes that I completely forgot. D'oh.

Aaaaaand, this is how much mix I have left over!


It's about half, just over I'd say.  So perhaps I'll add half the nuts to that and bake another one in the morning.  The school might not get such a disastrous cake after all!

Join me for Part 2 to see how this cake turns out.