My dear old dad, Daddums as I call him, is spoilt rotten every year for his birthday. In fact, he’s spoilt rotten all year ’round but he doesn’t ever seem to be the least bit affected by it. He’s a strong man, sensitive but stubborn; thoughtful yet like his daughter, a little dreamy and distracted at times. A joiner by trade he is a craftsman in the truest, most authentic sense of the word and he lives to create.
He is theoretically retired but I can hardly remember a day he didn’t don his steel toe capped boots, heavy duty drill work pants with reinforced knees and of course, one of his multi-pocketed and sawdust scented tool vests and at the very least, potter around his workshop (his garage is a bespoke Daddums den filled with his tools, wood and of course biscuit tin and kettle).
His tape measure, hammer and stubby little carpenter’s pencil are never far from his person. He has long told me if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life and Daddums gives life to this old saying. Of course, when he isn’t up to a job or two, he can be found at the epicentre of our family.
As much as he adores his work, he adores our more than a little bit mental but thoroughly loveable family more and we flock back to the family home at any given opportunity. Weekends frequently feature BBQs in the garden even in the middle of winter (it’s handy having someone who can erect a marquee quicker than it takes to uncork a good bottle of red, not to mention rig up outdoor lighting, heating and windbreakers with odds and sods he has tucked away in his workshop!). Daddums is the one member of the family who always seems to get a whole weekend of celebrations for his birthday and this year was no exception.
I’ve wanted to make Daddums a BBQ cake for the longest time. Each year, I draw up ideas in my head and do a bit of research but I’ve always chickened out before now. This year though, I felt the fear and baked it anyway. I’m not a “cake decorator” at all – I hugely admire folk who are and I follow a fair few on social media who blow my socks off but I simply don’t have the time to craft cakes like these on a regular basis. Which makes it difficult to get really good at them technically speaking.
But fortunately, it is in the Dad-Daughter contract that you could bake a brick and wrap it in tinfoil and Daddums who coo and love it as if it were a prized piece of art. And also, I find it so much easier to create cakes when I’m not being commissioned to do so – the pressure is off and it’s far easier to get the end result I dreamed up. The design of this cake was based on the photograph of Daddums at his old faithful BBQ at the top of this post and the choice of cake always had to be a fruitcake.
Nigella’s chocolate fruit cake is one of his favourites. After I cemented the basic form in my head and chose sausages, chicken legs, tomatoes and mushrooms (all of which make regular appearances in our family BBQs) I set about doing some Pinterest research.
The cake is covered first with a layer of golden marzipan then in layers of sugarpaste. I used Renshaws sugarpaste and I was super impressed with how malleable it is now. Rumour has it their recipe changed a wee while ago and I have to applaud them as it was a dream to work with. I whipped up an egg white’s worth of Royal icing (whisk a single egg white until frothy then beat in as much icing sugar as you need to get a thick, stiff even consistency that you can use for all manner of decorating jobs in making these novelty cakes) and coloured some dark grey that I piped the bars of the BBQ grill with; the rest was used to glue the mushroom meringue caps onto their stalks and attach the various elements to the cake.
Melted chocolate produced very good mushroom gills on the undersurface of their caps and cocoa powder gave them a fairy tale speckling to finish. To get the “bar marks” on the sausages etc, I pressed a skewer into their surface whilst still soft and then used a very handy black food colouring, completely edible pen to paint on some charred tram tracks. So easy yet so effective! A set of miniature alphanumeric cookie cutters allowed me to write out a personalised message for the cake board and my favourite cookie cutter – the hammer – came out once again as like I’ve said, Daddums is almost never without his hammer.
A friend gifted me her set of cake modelling tools years back now and they really are indispensable for sugarcraft work. From giving the dimples on the cut surface of the tomato to suggest the seed-bearing portion to the star headed one which I used to indent the ends of the sausages to give the impression of where their skins are usually twisted shut between links; they make a project like this so much more manageable.
I made this cake over a period of about ten days, doing a little each night after work as of course is a fruitcake, it only gets better the longer you keep it. It can be a bit tense, to say the least to make a three-tiered sponge wedding cake like I did last month as you really have to do it within a few days maximum to keep it moist and fresh inside. Thank goodness Daddums is a fruitcake monster!
As you can see, the birthday boy was suitably pleased with his cake. He nearly waited for the twenty or so guests to sing him an extremely out of tune rendition of Happy Birthday before he cut a slice and wolfed down a chunk, just to be sure it was good enough for his guests of course. He’s so selfless is Daddums.
All in all, a wonderful birthday weekend was had by Daddums and indeed, all the family. Me and Hungry Hubby are going veggie for at least the next week mind you as we’ve eaten half a pig’s worth of sausage and at least a cow’s worth of burgers! We won’t even mention the bubbles, red wine and Tia Maria on the rocks which were imbibed too ;)
I will, however, mention that as Daddums has just been confirmed as having Coeliac Disease, I made his cake completely gluten-free. Cue much label reading and procurement of gluten-free flours and xantham gum. I’d love it if any readers who are GF or have to cook for someone who is, would please leave me some comments with tips for baking below. Do feel free to link to blogs, recipes, websites or books even that I can buy. We can’t have Daddums missing out on his favourite treats so I need some help to make sure he remains spoilt rotten, as always.
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