It was Mum's birthday a few weeks ago and she had a dinner party with family and friends to celebrate. I decided to make her a birthday cake, 'cause lets face it - who wouldn't love a fancy birthday cake eh? Kids get 'em every year, but in the realm of adults' birthday parties they're pretty scarce. Which may be because as adults we have more sophisticated tastes and can therefore appreciate a party-cake alternative, such as creme brulée, or tiramisu.
Or maybe it's just because, as teens, we stopped wanting those kiddy type cakes (sooooo lame), and that was the end of an era. Anyhoo, colourful cakes are definitely in vogue again, and it's time we all got out some lollies, food colouring and had a bit of fun. And next time it's your Mum or Dad's birthday - make them a cake - I don't know a single Dad who wouldn't secretly LOVE a racing car cake, even if he's 80.
My Mum is a fabulous pianist, so when I decided to make her a piano-shaped cake (which I had actually made once before, so knew that whilst it looked quite involved, it was in reality simplicity incarnate), fresh from the pages of the Australian Women's Weekly Kids Birthday Cakes book, inherited from Mum herself (there's a duck cake in there which crops up in photos from my 1st birthday). You can use any type of cake really, provided it's a relatively firm one - banana cake etc not a good idea. So chocolate, vanilla, a good ol' butter cake. For the piano it needs '2 packets of cake mix' worth of cake. The first time I made it I just double the recipe for a standard butter cake, but this time I chose the line of least resistance and got 2 packets of Edmonds Angelic Vanilla Cake. And it was really yum, so win-win.
I baked the double-lot of cake mix in a 23 cm (or thereabouts) tin, for approximately 60 minutes - about 45 minutes in I needed to cover it with tin foil, so the top didn't get any more brown. The key with decorated cakes is - make it a day in advance. You want it a 'day stale', so to speak, as then the cake doesn't crumb when you're spreading icing on it.
When ready to decorate I cut the cake about 3/4 of the way through, so I had one large rectangle (for the upright part of the piano) and one long skinnier rectangle, to sit in front for the keys. Cover the whole beast with chocolate vienna cream icing (see below) and decorate using white chocolate and liquorice (or something else white and black). I like to make a wee music stand and what not, to give it some personality - ideally the piano would've had a candelabra set on top, but I could only find a mini wine bottle. But hey - it was for an adult after all eh?
125 g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
- Beat butter and half of sugar together until pale.
- Gradually add milk, then beat in the rest of the sugar.
- If wanting chocolate or coloured cream, add a couple of tbsp cocoa, or food colouring.
NB: Make the vienna cream on the day you want to use it. Once the cake is decorated, keep it somewhere cool, but do no refridgerate, as the butter in the cream may harden and start to separate.