Happy Birthday to my father-in-law for last week – he was abroad on holiday for his birthday so we had a family get-together yesterday to celebrate (and to have an Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren!) Him and my hubby are massive fans of Only Fools & Horses. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a British TV sitcom that ran for over ten years in the 80s & 90s and is probably the most popular British sitcom of all time. The main character, Del Boy, drives a yellow three-wheeler van. My father-in-law and hubby regularly watch it, quote it, and finish off the lines before the characters have even said them! So, I decided to do an Only Fools & Horses themed cake with the iconic yellow three-wheeler on top.
I had a really busy week as it was our church’s Easter kids club Tuesday to Thursday which we were helping with, and I was also making a quiz for it which I finished very late Monday night…! There are lots of details on the cake that I didn’t get time to finish and would have done differently if I’d had more time.
This was my first go at carving/sculpting a cake to make the van. I don’t know what the best method is to do it, or how other people go about sculpting cakes, so I just did what made sense to me! The main cake was 8 inches in diameter, so I made the van between 5 & 6 inches. I googled pictures of it on the internet and drew and side-on profile picture to use as a template. I also googled the dimensions of the van and scaled it down to cut out the cake board to try and make it in the right proportions.
I made a vanilla cake (using a recipe from the Cake Central website) that’s fairly dense and recommended as a good cake for carving, and left it in the fridge to firm it up and make it easier to carve. Using the template as a guide I carved out the side-profile shape of the van, added in the bonnet shape detail, and used the bottom of an icing tip to carve out the wheel arches. I made dark chocolate ganache to cover the cake and smoothed it out with Bellissimo flexible smoothers which are meant for smoothing fondant, but were very useful for the ganache on a shaped object due to their flexibility.
The main cake was three one-inch layers of lemon cake with Swiss meringue buttercream in between. I made marshmallow fondant a couple of days in advance using Jessica Harris’s recipe again and coloured it yellow – I know that the colour slightly deepens when it rests, so didn’t want to add too much, but was over cautious and it came up lighter than I wanted! I used it as it was for the main cake, but kneaded in some more gel colouring for the van, and even more for the double yellow lines!
I cut out a rectangle and covered underneath the van first and then covered the top and sides with a larger piece. I used a cocktail stick box wrapped in baking paper to jack the van up so I could work on it and tuck the fondant underneath. I used colour shapers (silicon flexible paintbrushes) to make the indentations in the fondant.
The Happy Birthday sign is a copy of the Only Fools & Horses title sign. The only set of letter cutters I’ve got didn’t really go with the cake, so I made the letters out of a long pipe of fondant which I extruded. I wish I’d made them a bit thinner (then I could have shaped the more like the actual sign letters), but I totally ran out of time and just had to go with what I’d done.
There are lots of details on the cake that I was going to add but ran out of time for. I was going to put windscreen wipers on the van and add a ‘midwife on call’ sign in the windscreen (if you’ve seen Only Fools you’ll know they do that a lot so they can park on double yellow lines without getting a ticket!) I would have preferred to paint the writing on the sides and back of the cake, but ended up having to do it when we got to my hubby’s parents’ house with an edible pen – not ideal as the fondant was still soft so I couldn’t press too hard, and the van was already on top of the main cake so it was awkward to try and write on and is definitely not as neat or correct to the real thing as I would have liked it! I was also going to make Trigger’s broom – we joke that my father-in-law’s previous motorbike was the same as the broom – he’d replaced so many parts on it we weren’t sure there was anything original left on it! I didn’t have time to add the vertical yellow line between the side windows, the cross on the wheel hubs or the writing on the number plates. The Happy Birthday sign I’d left to dry on the outside of the cake tin so that it was the right curved shape to add to the cake, but I only attached it seconds before we left and when we arrived after over an hour in the car, the sign had slightly slipped down on the left side and stuck like that, wonky. That really bugged me! I like things to be straight and neat but there was nothing I could do about it as it had stuck firm during the journey! I was also going to get some black petal dust (if such a product exists?!) to dust in various places on the van to make it look dirty like the one in the show, but didn’t have enough time to get to a cake shop or order any online, so I had to forget that idea!