The Dairy Free Guide to DIY Cake Decorating
Have you ever thought of yourself as a budding Picasso? Do you see a plain Victoria sponge as a blank canvas waiting for your silent poetry? Maybe, you shy away from anything creative and prefer to leave the arty side to those who have been blessed with the gift…Whether you are waiting to blend your cooking palette with different coloured icing sugars or thinking about leaving this page…read on and you will definitely be drawn (pardon the pun) in long enough to pick up a few suggestions which will get the creative wheels turning…
The best part about making your own cake is the knowledge that you have prepared it with ingredients which are safe for your children. A home baked cake can also be dairy free and free of all additives and preservatives. These substances can cause hyperactivity and a whole host of other nasty side effects to both young and older children.
The steps you need to take:
• First, bake your cake
• Second, add the icing
• Last but not least…avoid food colours
Like every good workman, you will need the right tools for the job. No need to raid the piggy bank, for some simple but striking designs you just need to have a few of the bare essentials:
Recipes to get you started
• Dairy free sponge sandwich
• Madeira cake
• Moist fruit cake
• Glace, butter or royal icing
• Non stick cake tins
• Greaseproof paper for lining cake tins
• A wired cooling rack
• Mixing bowl
• Food processor, mixer or food blender
• A wooden rolling pin
• Flat sided knife
For the more advanced:
For those who have already dabbled with cake decorating, you may want to stock up on more utensils to help create those images which come straight from the heart. Browse online for suppliers who have:
- Different shaped cake tins
- Decoratons such as ribbons, sprinkles, sparkles and glitters
If you don’t want to buy a cake tin that you are likely to use just once, why not hire one? Alternatively, you can improvise by using oven proof crockery to create the same effect.
- Pudding bowls make great dome shapes
- Tin cans are the perfect size for cylinders (great for towers etc)
One tip: Remember to line the interiors with greaseproof paper!
Rising to the occasion
You need to decide upon the texture of cake you wish to make:
Sponges are great sandwich cakes. They are created in two halves and sandwiched with your favourite filling.
Madeira cakes have a firmer texture and are therefore better for sculptures…they exist as one sponge and are often flavoured with lemon.
Fruit cakes are heavy and usually soaked in spirits for up to three weeks to bring out that rich fruity taste. They are packed with a generous supply of chopped candied fruit, nuts and spices.
Interesting fact: Fruitcakes which contain alcohol can last for over 100 years. One which was baked in 1878 was handed down throughout the generations as a family heirloom and sampled by Jay Leno on the Tonight show in 2003…it tasted as fresh as the day it was baked!
Madeira and sponge cakes can be made a couple of days in advance and decorated nearer the big day.
• Sponge cake
• Madeira cake
• Fruit cake
Make sure that your cake is completely cool before even attempting to ice it. If it does not have a completely smooth top, simply slice off the bits which have rose too much, this will keep it level and easier to ice. If you really have suffered a baking disaster, don’t worry, you can always pick up a readymade sponge, Madeira or fruit cake from the shop and still let your creative genius loose on it with the design.
The icing on the cake
The best way to approach cake decorating is to sneak up on it slowly. Why not browse online or look through some books to find some simple but striking ideas? Alternatively, look at some characters from nursery rhymes or pictures from your children’s favourite books to pick up some great inspiration. Something as basic as a plain white icing and a huge smiley face may be all that is needed for your young guests to have their cake and eat it.
A piece of cake…
The easiest cake to whisk together is a Victoria sponge which can be sandwiched with scrumptious jam and cream or a rich, dairy free butter cream filling. Drizzle icing sugar over the top and sides and use ready make cake decorations to spell out your child’s name …better still get the children to help, then if it all goes horribly wrong, you can always say that this was little Jacob’s own creation!
The beauty of fondant icing…
For the more adventurous among us there is always fondant icing. This makes a cake look, clean, defined and much more polished than spreadable icing. If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy readymade fondant icing in classic white or a rainbow of other colours.
Spread your cake with a thin layer of soft butter icing before adding the fondant as this acts as an adhesive and helps to make it stay in place. Dust a work surface with icing sugar. Roll out the fondant icing to the required size for your cake. For example, if your cake is 20cm in width and has a depth of 8cm you will need to roll out a circle equivalent to 20cm + 2 X 8 cm (16 cm). Therefore you need to roll out 36cm worth of icing to cover the cake in its entirety.
Drape the fondant icing over the rolling pin and place it over the top of your cake. Use your hands to mould it and trim away any excess from the bottom so as the sides look neat and tidy. If you want to disguise the seams of the cake, you could use leftover fondant icing to cover up any rough edges. Simply, make a long, thin sausage shape by rolling some icing between the palms of your hands. Now, twist the entire length of the sausage shape and affix it to the base of the cake… How easy was that?
Now that you have mastered the art of fondant icing, you can use it as a base for creating a multitude of cake decorations…
It’s all in the design
Some simple ideas to get you started:
The Caterpillar Cake: Use some green kitchen paper to rest the caterpillar on. Cut out a corner of the paper to make it look as though the caterpillar has eaten part of the leaf. Next, whip up a batch of muffins. Allow them to cool and immerse them in green icing. Decorate the tops with Smarties or Whizzer's Chocolate Beans (a dairy free version of Smarties). Make a face on one single iced muffin using red Smarties of Whizzers for the eyes and nose and a piece of black liquorice to make a smiley face.
Creepy Crawlie Spider Cakes: Make up a batch of chocolate cup cakes. Coat them with dark chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles. Make eight legs for each spider using laces of black liquorice. Give the spider big beady eyes by using two red Smarties or Whizzers.
Lego Cakes: Cut out fruit cake to replicate jumbo Lego pieces. The interlocking parts are made by placing marshmallows on top. Use red, blue, lemon, green and white icing to match the colour of individual Lego pieces.
Dirt Cake: Use a dairy free chocolate pudding mix and crushed chocolate biscuits to represent soil. Buy a packet of gummy worms and place them on top of the biscuit crumbs. Kids just love this messy but fun birthday treat.
Icing a fruit cake…
After all the care and attention taken to make the perfect fruit cake, you will not want to ruin your work of art when it comes to the icing. The best way to ice a fruit cake is to turn it upside down so as any rough edges are hidden underneath and you have an instant flat top.
Gently warm some apricot jam (without bits) or golden syrup and spread it over the entire cake to act as an adhesive. Now cover the cake with a layer of marzipan and leave it to set for at least a day. Brush the marzipan with a layer of golden syrup or apricot jam before adding the fondant icing and decorate accordingly.
Hint… Fondant icing acts in a similar way to play dough or clay and therefore is great for making figurines to stand on top of the cake.
How to avoid using artificial colours
If you want to experiment with colours but are looking for a natural way to add those luscious deep tones and pastel hues to your icing, why not experiment with natural food colours (available from most major supermarkets).
Alternatively, you could make your own natural colours using ingredients which Mother Nature has supplied for us. Some of these may already be sitting in your kitchen cupboard.
Turmeric…a great yellow shade which is often used by vegans to create that yellowy egg colour in scrambled tofu.
- Fresh or frozen raspberries will make that perfect pink blush.
- Avocadoes will give you beautiful pastel greens.
- Blueberries and beetroot create great purple/raspberry tones.
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