Tuesday, 5 June 2012

An adventure with icing

I like a nice slice of cake now and again - who doesn't? With a mug of tea it's the perfect afternoon snack. The world would be a nicer place if we all had more cake, as it's civilising.

I don't often bake for myself - if I fancy cake, I'll buy myself a slice from somewhere. I like to bake for friends, though - my grandmother's legendary baked Jewish cheesecake (recipe handwritten and handed down) has been taken to Teawitter for sharing. I recently discovered @GoodEggFoodie's delicious tea loaf - the recipe is simplicity itself and it's fruity, my favourite sort of cake. Friends dropping by will always be offered a slice if there's any in the tin.

A couple of weeks back, @MybakesUK tweeted a photo of some doughnuts that had been decorated with Union Jacks using their ready-to-roll fondant icing - they looked amazing and I said so. Before I knew it, they were offering me a pack of the red, white and blue to try out.

Now, I'm not great with icing. I learned to make buttercream as a kid (but don't think I've made any since I was about 12) and the only other time I attempted to ice a cake was one Christmas about 12 years ago when I was still living abroad - that was done with ready-to-roll royal icing and it was passable (my attempt, not the icing which was fine). One reason I don't go for icing much is that I don't have a massively sweet tooth - probably why I prefer a plain slice of fruit cake of some sort. So - a challenge loomed!

I opted to bake a cake that was a cross between a madeira sponge and a fruit loaf - I can't claim any ownership of the recipe for Fruity Teacake, which came from the BBC Good Food website (it was foolproof) but I left out the demerara topping so I could ice it instead.

Being honest, the result wasn't brilliant. That was mostly down to me as I'm not particularly artistic and, as I confessed earlier, am not very experienced at icing (there was no way I was going to attempt a Union Jack so I opted for a simple lattice effect). However, I did feel the instructions on the box could have been more detailed as they seemed to be aimed at people who mostly know what they are doing (I discovered after that there is a lengthy video on their website that fills in the knowledge gap). 

Things I learned the hard way:
  • Don't roll the icing too thin
  • Be frugal with the water when sticking it down
  • If it gets too wet, the colour transfers to everything else 
  • The main sheet needs a base to stick it to the cake (jam glaze or buttercream)
  • It needs time to dry out a little before cutting the cake
  • I need practice!
What is it like to eat? It has a pleasant subtle taste of vanilla and a nice texture on the palate although it was a little too sugary for my very unsweet tooth. I have some left over and I would definitely use it again if baking for an event like Teawitter. Not a bad product all in all - it's worth keeping it in the cupboard and it comes in a lovely retro-style box. PS the cake recipe was lovely too.