11 May 2013

Charlotte's Web Birthday Cake

Sugababe 2 was turning 6, and we were discussing what theme her birthday cake was going to have. As usual, I had my unspoken ideas about what kind of cake I wanted to make, and tried (I thought, cunningly) to steer the direction of the discussion in my favour. Basically, it was simple. I saw a picture a friend had posted on Facebook of piggies in a chocolate mud bath and wanted to do the same. The chocolate mud and kit kat bathtub slats kind of had me at hello.

But my daughter had other ideas. First, she wanted a Fibonacci birthday cake (thanks, but no thanks, Vi Hart).  Apart from the fact that that kind of cake crosses dangerously from geek to nerd territory, 6 is not a Fibonacci number, really. Next, she suggested a Flower Fairies cake (no way was I going to be able to make those figures ...).  Followed by a couple of other really impractical ideas. And then I slyly showed her the piggies ...

Me: OOOOHHHH look at those piggies they are SOOOOO cute!!!
Sugababe 2: Nope.
Me: C'mon, you're born in the year of the pig!
Sugababe 2: Nope!!!
Me: And I can, um, change it to like a CHARLOTTE'S WEB cake!! You like Charlotte's Web right??
Sugababe 2: But Wilbur was not in a chocolate bathtub!!!
Me: It's ok, I'll just add a spider! (More pestering on my part ensues ...."
Sugababe 2: (grudgingly) OKAAAY ....

I must admit I was kind of elated at having won her over to MY way. I could do the cake I liked and just plaster a spider web somewhere. Until ...

Husband: Have you read Charlotte's Web?  Wilbur wasn't in a mud bathtub!
Me: Noo ... I haven't but but but ... I am SURE he was kind of like in the mud??
Husband: I'm just saying it's strange.
Me: (Whine) Are you saying it's not going to look nice???
Husband: You know, I'm just saying it's a cute cake but it's not a Charlotte's Web cake. And how ARE you going to suspend the spider web? On the side of the wooden bath? Isn't that going to look odd?

He got me of course. Over the next couple of days I conceded that I had to do a proper true-to-the-story Charlotte's Web cake. It really didn't help that, not only did Sugababe 2 want a spider web, she wanted it to say "Some Pig", like in the story.

I had some rough idea of how I was going to construct the farm - green coconut grass, a biscuit barn house, fondant carrots in a cocoa-powder garden patch, pretzel sticks for the wooden fencing, and a fondant Wilbur.

But the spider web really had me stumped. What could I use to make a spider web that could suspend from the barn house? I tried making a fondant spider web which literally fell apart once I held it up. Piped white chocolate would be too thick and might also not hold up well.

It was past midnight before the day of the party, the cake was all done up, all except the dreaded spider web. We went through options like tying a thread spider web, cutting a paper web, etc. Until it hit me that we could just draw in the spider web with a white marker on a transparent sheet to give the illusion of a hanging spider web.

So voila! With that, I completed one of my most challenging cakes to date. The result was a 4 layered dark chocolate cake (made with the perfect birthday cake recipe, which my husband was most pleased to see me return to after my brief affair with another chocolate cake recipe), with alternating chocolate ganache and strawberry cream filling, painstakingly decorated with sufficient details and accuracy such as to leave no room for doubt that this was supposed to be a Charlotte's Web cake and not just a piggy cake. And just in case anyone needed some help in coming to that conclusion, I also constructed a huge banner with the words "Charlotte's Web".

A Herculean baking effort for a little girl's birthday. But then again, she is not just any girl, but SOME GIRL, to be sure.

Happy birthday my very special 6 year old.

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