The pleasure a finely decorated cake can add to a party gathering is immeasurable. The foundations of cake decorating hark back to the golden age of decorated tables of the 17th century, when all food was presented ‘in its best possible aspect’
With such a wealth of styles and fashions the celebration cake is a large and complex subject. I have no reservations in starting at the complicated end since it will show the art-form, for that is what it is, at its very best.
But even if the cook does not have the time to produce such a time-consuming cake, all the ideas can be modified and refined to the experience and, to be honest the commitment, of the baker.
Many things, such as the numbers for the clock cake are now available, pre-made from specialist home bakery shops and some of the larger supermarket branches.
Marzipan cutters and pre-formed flowers can also be obtained fairly easily. But with a little practice the ideas and themes for cakes can be achieved with relative ease at home.
A celebration cake doesn’t need to be a fruit cake. The cake beneath the cover can be whatever appeals to the baker.
There is nothing quite like a well made Victoria sandwich filled with strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream. The whole can then be finished with more whipped cream, a fluffy American frosting, feathered icing or flavoured butter cream.
But modern manufacturing techniques and automated production mean that a pretty good, bespoke celebration cake can be bought ‘off-the-peg’ from many a good cake shop or the majority of the high-end supermarkets.
Whether it be a simple sponge, a well-flavoured afternoon cake or a rich fruit cake there is little more satisfying than the reception a home-made celebration cake will receive from friends and family alike.
As a boy I started with Christmas cakes. If the cake is good, a fairly mediocre decoration will withstand all criticism if the effort has been made.
Even now, being forty-something-plus, (don’t ask – it’s a sore point!) there is a great satisfaction in presenting that labour of love confection that can raise a smile in the most hardened cynic.
If I leave you now with the cold fingers of despair tickling around your vitals, remember that there is no such thing as a total failure. As long as the cake is not the texture (and flavour) of a house-brick and the decoration will pass muster under candle-light and amongst friends, there is nothing to fear!
As a final fall-back the presence of a fleet-footed, head-screwed-on youngster who can be dispatched with a ten pound note to the nearest corner store will alleviate even the most catastrophic of situations!
Planning is everything!