I made this cake just before Christmas for a 60th birthday party. The brief was a ‘road of life to 60’ cake which included lots of personalised details of the birthday girl’s life to date.
So the starting point was sitting down with her husband and going through memorable events that would be included on the cake. She grew up in Ireland in a cottage in Malinmore, started working in her teens at the Pottery Factory in Arklow, went on a motorbike trip round Europe in her early twenties, got married, moved to their first house in London, had three sons, five grandchildren, and now works as a science technician in a school. Also included at the back of the cake was a garden of remembrance for two brothers and a sister that have passed away, their very much loved English Springer Spaniel, ‘Caesar the Geezer’ on the top of the cake, and as she now keeps chickens, a chicken!
I wanted to make the road spiralling up a tiered cake to a ’60’ at the top, and wanted to include British speed limit signs to show the different decades along the way.
I wanted to make sure that the road spiralled up the cake in a natural, even, gradual and seamless looking way. Having done several Google searches for how to carve a spiral cake, I still wasn’t convinced that any of the methods I’d seen would give me the finish I was looking for. So I decided to do it a completely different way and come up with my own method!
I made three separate cakes – 8″, 6″ and 4″ in diameter. Each cake was 4″ tall (three 1.2″ layers of cake with two layers of buttercream in between). I bought an Agbay cake leveller just before I made the Candle & Bow Winter Wedding Cake so that I could get the layers of cake in each tier perfectly level and equal, without spending hours doing it by hand. I have to say the Agbay is as good as all the reviews I’ve seen claim it is! It made it so quick and easy to get all the layers exactly the same height and completely level.
Once I’d assembled each tier I covered them in ganache, just as I would do for a non-carved tiered cake. I’d not seen anyone else do it that way in the other spiral cakes I’d seen, but decided that I wanted to try it so that each tier would have a completely level top for the next tier to sit on, and also so that I could mark the firm surface of the ganache to give me an easy to follow line to cut when I carved each of the tiers.
For each tier I cut a triangular template with a right-angle corner that was the height of the tier and the width of the circumference of the cake. So, for example, the triangle template for the bottom tier was 4″ high and 25.1″ long. To work out the circumference of the cake you multiply the diameter (8″) by pi (3.14…) Maths comes in handy, even for cakes! 😉
I then held the template round the ganached cake and marked it by pushing the end of a cocktail stick into the ganache repeatedly at small intervals round the whole cake. As the cake above would be one inch away from the edge of the cake below, I made the ‘road’ part one inch wide. I took a cake board the size of the cake above and marked round it on the top of the larger cake below with a cocktail stick as a guide – although for the last quarter of the circle I gradually tapered it out to the edge of the cake I was marking so that it would join with the tier above.
I use a small PME knife for cutting along the line of the road. I decided to use that type of knife because the blade of it is only about an inch long, and as the road was going to be an inch wide I didn’t want to cut into the cake anymore than I needed to.
I then cut into the cake vertically round the guide marks (using a much longer knife), gradually deeper into the cake so that the cut would match up with the surface of the road cut that I’d already made.
Once all three cakes were carved I used the off cuts the build up the bottom part of each road, and then ganache over the exposed cake parts so the whole of each cake was covered.
This may not be the most conventional way of carving a cake, but it worked really well for me for the finish I was trying to achieve, so I’d definitely do it the same way again!
I covered each tier in fondant separately before stacking the cake. Definitely not as easy as covering a normal round tiered cake! (which is not easy anyway! 😉 ) I then stacked the three tiers using bubble straws in the same way I would normally, I just had to make sure that I lined up where the road finished on one tier with where it started on the next.
For the road, I cut out three circles of fondant the same size as each of the tiers, and then cut a circle out of them 2 inches in diameter smaller to give a 1 inch wide road. This way it meant the road was the right shape to spiral up the cake, rather than cutting one long strip and trying to bend it which would have given creases. I started the road from the bottom with it coming out of a tunnel with her date of birth on.
The final stage, and probably the most time consuming, was making all the personalised details for the cake. I used google images a lot for this part! I wanted to try and make the details as accurate as possible, so found pictures online of Arklow Pottery Factory, a 1960s British motorbike, the houses in the road where they bought their first house, and an English Springer Spaniel! I loved making all the little details that made the cake personal to the birthday girl.
I hand-painted all the signs – my first go at hand painting on a cake, and it gave a much better finish that using an edible marker which I’ve done before.
For the British speed limit road signs I cut circles out of white fondant, pushed a cocktail stick into each of them, and then wrapped an extruded strip of red fondant round the edge of the circle.
The cake took a long time to complete, but I was very happy with the finished result, and I was told the birthday girl was too, which is the main thing! So much so that she didn’t let anyone cut it on the night of her party, and last I heard they still hadn’t cut it! 🙂