As 2014 kicks off, I’m thinking about how on earth an entire year has passed, and doing all the usual new year stuff – not drinking, eating less, exercising more etc. etc. (well at least until the 10th January or so). Luckily, there were a few rather more fun things to get out of the way before the real hardship starts…

As well as my eldest daughter, I have two lovely friends who have birthdays just after Christmas.   It’s a pretty hopeless time of year to have a birthday, something that didn’t really cross my mind when trying to have a baby! However, it makes me keen to clear the Christmas detritus and get back to work – I love  creating something special for those poor people who’ve endured years of joint birthday and christmas presents , or worse, the “she’s only just had christmas so I’m sure she doesn’t want anything else for her birthday”- type relatives.

Birthday number one was a rather fun affair at a bar and restaurant called Circus in Covent Garden where circus performers do their thing in between courses of scrumptious pan-Asian food.  Our party of 10 were sat at a large communal table which doubled at the stage so we were front row for a fire-eater, a hula-hooping Elvis, dancers and some very impressive acrobats.  I’d checked out the website beforehand and taken some inspiration from the venue’s design (by British designer Tom Dixon) to create a cake for the occasion.  The harlequin chequerboard on the sides of the cake reflected the wall at the front of the open kitchen and the feathers and mask captured the circusy, cabaret vibe of the bar.  Inside was a strawberry and champagne sponge with white chocolate ganache, and for a change, I actually got to eat a rather generous slice!

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The second cake has inspired me for this year.  I’ve done a few cakes with buttercream finishes which take less time than a sugar pasted cake, which in turn means I can produce them for more pocket-friendly prices and for last-minute events.  My friend had a little get-together in our lovely new local pub, The Milk House, and I thought the remains of the Christmas Bailey’s would be a great starting point flavour-wise.  I made the sponge with 1/4 soft brown sugar, a dash of butterscotch flavour and replaced some of the flour with ground almonds to make a slightly denser, moister texture.  I decided on a petal design and used cocoa powder to create an ombre, or graduated colour effect on the cake.

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So, looking forward at 2014, I am considering pulling together a range of buttercream-finish cakes in popular flavours for celebrations which can still be personalised but offer an alternative to more formal cakes.  Watch this space…

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