Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sax appeal!

There's a time in life when birthday celebrations include clowns, fairy bread, jumping castles, ice cream cakes, and McDonalds.

They then start to include sleep-overs, staying up late, plaiting each other's hair, and playing truth or dare.

Suddenly, they include high heels, clubs, makeup, cocktails and skimpy dresses.

All too soon, they include being woken up early by miniature people jumping on you, hand-made cards, and vouchers for massages and/or breakfast in bed.

Eventually, there's a time in life when birthday celebrations include teacups, scones, and mini cucumber sandwiches.

I am still in the miniature person category, even though two of my miniature people are almost as tall as me! But no matter where you're up to or in between, one thing that birthday celebrations usually have in common... is cake.

Sixty is a special age. You're not quite old enough to retire, but you are old enough to validate teacups, scones, and mini cucumber sandwiches for your birthday!

Earlier this year, I was asked to make a cake for a 60th birthday. A cake for a man who loves jazz music, plays the saxophone... and wanted tea, scones, and mini cucumber sandwiches for his birthday ;)

I sat down with his wife, and brought the design I had in mind for his cake. I imagined something black and white. Square. With music notes around each tier, and a saxophone on top with more music notes coming out of the saxophone. It was to be a cake of elegance. Of wonder. And of vanilla.

<insert sketch of imagined cake design here>

I'd convinced myself that moulding the saxophone out of fondant would be the hardest part of the cake, so I wanted to at least have that started/done before doing anything else. After looking on YouTube for some advice and tutorials, I found a great one of a lady making miniature saxophones. I followed her technique (but with a much larger amount of fondant), and basically rolled the fondant out into a triangular snake, and curled it around itself:

But as I stood there staring at what I'd just "created", I couldn't help but notice its similarity to a tobacco pipe. I assured myself that it would look much more like a saxophone once it's sprayed gold and has it's little pieces on it...


When it was time to make the cakes, I was pleased that they were simple to cover. One colour of fondant, with a black ribbon around the base of each tier.

Sometimes when I make cakes, I am tired and have a limited time frame to finish them (because I leave it until the last possible second to start)... Which means I don't sleep well.

I now find it helpful to write a list of things -in order- that I need to do the following morning (mainly so that I don't panic when I wake up wondering where I should start), and aim to get some decent sleep.

But, there's the occasional times (usually when I forget to write the list), that I end up wide awake at 4am.

This was one of those times.

I attempted to write a mental list while trying to get back to sleep, but that didn't work. So, I got up, thinking "the least I could do is tidy up the kitchen so that when I actually wake up (hopefully several hours later), I'd have a clear head/workspace to concentrate".

By 5am, the kitchen was clean, and I was even more awake, so decided to start decorating the cake. It was quiet, and I had the whole morning ahead of me. I could take my time.

I looked up some simple sheet music, scaled it to fit around each of the cakes, and traced it onto baking paper as a guide. I then cut out HAPPY BIRTHDAY letters in black fondant while I procrastinated painting the sheet music onto the cake. I found time to cut out the music notes, too, and attach them to wires.

After every other possible addition to the cake was done, I had no choice but to start draw on the music lines (I'm sure there's an actual word for what they're called), and begin painting on the treble clef and notes.

The sun was coming up by the time I finished.

It was finally time to decorate the tobacco pipe! Uh, I mean saxophone! This part was very much guesswork. I had edible gold spray and more pieces of fondant. I played the saxophone in high school, but if you ask me how to play now, I will hit you. After asking Google to remind me what a saxophone looked like, I got to work.

There we go. Looking much more like a saxophone now!

Though I use this technique with almost all of my cakes now, this was the first cake (I think) that I'd made the tiers separately - a cake board for each, and cake pop sticks/skewers, cut to size, in the bottom tier to act as the stands for the top tier:

It was 9am at this stage, and I was really proud of the cake. When I am particularly impressed with something I've made (which is usually a cake), I post it up on Facebook for friends to see.

N.B. I was also particularly proud that I had a clean bench top to photograph the cake on, too.

Lastly, as I studied the cake believing that something was still missing, I added a golden "60" and a few more music notes, that were the perfect touch to finish the cake:

If you can read sheet music (I can no longer anymore), you may have noticed that it is (supposed to look like) the tune of "Happy Birthday" ;)

Happy 60th birthday Tony!

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