Cake making and cake design are a curious thing. Somehow we passionate and enthusiastic cake makers see a picture of a baking masterpiece and, more often than not, think “how hard can it be?”, or at least that’s how it seems to be for me. Gone are the memories of all of those frustrating and technically near impossible designs that I’ve taken on which have nearly driven me mad, and left me swearing I’ll never bake again. Instead, all I see is another opportunity to create a work of edible art, with the reward of happy faces and much adulation waiting for me at the end of it. And so it began with the Torana Cake.
The Torana Cake was chosen by a good friend of ours, as a surprise, to mark her husbands upcoming entry into the half century club. Being an avid car enthusiast, and with a recently purchased “renovators delight” Torana, it seemed only fitting that a replica of this car be the cake for him. And so, when the idea was first put to me over a few glasses of champagne, my usual response kicked in, “How hard can it be?”. Having no idea about cars I didn’t really know where to start with this cake and so was relieved, and a then a little nervous, when I received photos of what the end product was to resemble.
Fast forward a few weeks and the date of the 50th celebrations loomed large. In my mind I had a size and plan for this cake, based on the number of people it needed to feed, which I thought would work just fine, and set about getting boards and ingredients together to construct this motoring masterpiece. Enter the husband, my husband that is. Also a car enthusiast and wanting to show respect to the Torana, he offered to “help” me with the car specs and parts, to try and make this cake as true a replica of the original as it could be. Being a car novice I was quick to accept his offer, thinking I could use all the help I could get but not realizing how enthusiastic he was to become.
We set about sourcing some wheels to fit the car and found what we thought were the perfect thing at a hobby store, only needing fondant detail tread to finish them off, which my trusty helper was quick to get onto.
The original size of my car was going to be on a 16×10 inch board base however, after sizing up the wheels, I was told that these were all the wrong dimensions and instead of finding smaller wheels we were now building a bigger cake! Husband plotted out a draft and decided he would source a new base board and work on the undercarriage while I was at work and I returned home to a 20inch base that had already been cut, shaped and wheel axles assembled. As he stood back admiring his handy work (it was pretty good I have to concede!), all I could see was a cake evolving that would be bigger than Ben Hur and feed twice as many as it needed to. This was going to be the mother of all Torana cakes.
Looking at what I had to work with, it was time to get baking and create enough cake to construct the car and plenty of ganache to cement it all together. With my original budget definitely out the window, and construction way too far along to change, I gave in and got busy. We went with a chocolate cake and a combination of salted caramel and chocolate ganache between the layers and around the body of the car, before finishing it with the fondant detail. Creative cutting and wheel arch mouldings (we used recycled plastic drink bottles) were needed to get the cake even remotely looking car-like, but eventually it began to take shape and a Torana was emerging.
With the cake cut and assembled and the ganaching done and set it was time for the real fun to begin, and with everything taking longer than planned given the size of this beast we were well and truly under the pump. This cake was huge and so getting the fondant rolled, cut and applied without major drama was no mean feat. Not knowing quite where to start, I began with the roof, figuring this had the smallest surface area and so would be the easiest to tackle. In comparison to the other panels I was right, but it still had it’s challenges with trying to get the roof and window frames in position as one piece without the fondant cracking and splitting in the process.
Side panels, windows and the rear end were the next to go on with some crafty joinery needing to be used to bring it all together. There was much cursing of fondant, throwing up of hands and expression of artistic difference between myself and the husband during this process, but eventually with fondant in place, we were able to manage a smile and even a little happy dance as we started to see the end in sight.
We were getting closer but still had a lot to do and not much time to do it in. The bonnet needed to go on, the bumpers had to be finished, the rear flare shaped, as well as headlight details to paint, door handles and wheel arches to form and number plates to finish, and all with only about an hour left to get it done!
I won’t lie, there was a far bit of tension in our kitchen during the construction of this cake, and it made me realise why I usually cake decorate alone! I have to give the husband credit, he wanted so badly for everything to be perfect for this cake, with attention to detail second to none, but sometimes you just have to realize that it’s cake and all those tiny imperfections you see, no-one else is going to notice (unless they’re another cake decorating tragic like myself). I’m pretty organised when it comes to cakes and have never been as close to the wire as with this one but, as with every cake I’ve ever taken on, it got done on time for delivery and we were off to the celebrations.
Taking pride of place on the birthday table, this work of cake art attracted a far amount of attention and enough praise to redeem itself and make all of the stress worthwhile. The surprised birthday boy was also suitably impressed, with this cake, worthy of marking a milestone celebration.
I’ve heard people say so often with elaborate cake designs that they look too good to eat, but for me cutting into the cake and having something that tastes as good as it looks is as important as the “wow” factor the finished product brings. And as long as there has been a suitable amount of time for admiration, and plenty of photo opportunities taken before it’s cut, I’m a happy girl.
This 50th birthday cake was a mammoth collaborative effort between the husband and myself, the first and quite likely the last I suspect, but I couldn’t have pulled it off without his help and design ideas. The Torana is by far the biggest cake I’ve done, and most time consuming, but in the end the result was worth it, especially seeing happy faces on great friends celebrating a milestone birthday. Happy 50th Mr Beggs!