I’ve always been someone who finds it hard to say no when asked for something and I also love a challenge, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. So when my hairdresser asked if I could do her partners 30th birthday cake at short notice, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Then when she told me her idea was for a cake designed in the shape of a Ducati motorbike I said “no problem”. It wasn’t until I walked out of the salon that 2 things struck me – one, I had never made a cake as detailed as this before and two, I didn’t even know what a Ducati motorbike looked like. Ever up to the challenge I set about researching motorbikes, looking at countless pictures and designs, and it was then that I began to realize just what I’d gotten myself into. This was going to be interesting!
I had a week and a half to get the cake done and delivered in time for the birthday dinner and so procrastination was not an option. I’d been given the brief for the flavour of the cake and the colours, now all I had to do was make it come to life. The birthday boys’ preferred flavour was banana and walnut and the colour of the cake, red with black and silver detail.
Baking the cake was the easy part. I used my go-to white chocolate mud cake recipe, tweaking it with fresh banana and walnuts to get the desired flavour. As a contrast, and to cut through the white chocolate sweetness, I opted for a dark chocolate ganache to fill and cover the cake before decorating. At first glance the ganached cake looked more like a kangaroo than a motorbike and so I had to make some magic happen to get this cake looking like a lean, mean riding machine.
The body of the cake was covered in fire engine red fondant and whilst it no longer looked like a kangaroo it wasn’t really screaming “Ducati” either. This thing needed accessories and some detailing as well as a couple of tyres and a badge before it was done.
As I said earlier, I have no idea about motorbikes and so I had to go by pictures I’d discovered online to create the finished product. Fairings, fenders, disc brakes, side panels, exhaust pipes and shock absorbers were all discovered and created from fondant and sprayed silver to give that alloy look.
Handles, visors, headlights and seats were added to the body and finally this cake was beginning to resemble the pictures of Ducati’s I’d drawn inspiration from. All that was missing were the wheels. I had cut 2 small round cakes to serve as tyres and had already prepared the disc brakes and rims to go on them. The only thing left to do was to get the “rubber” on and give them some tread. This became a 2 man job involving a revolving cake stand, a husband and a ravioli cutter. Working with a steady hand the husband held the ravioli cutter to the “tyre” whilst the cake stand was turned, the results being perfect tyre tread.
The final assembly was putting the wheels in place, attaching the Ducati badge and adding the Happy Birthday message. This had been my most challenging design cake yet but I was really happy with the result, as were the recipients of my creation who were still enjoying this cake, days after the party was over.
For me, the flavour of the cake is just as important as how it looks and by all accounts, my banana walnut white chocolate mud cake was a winner.
I suspect I will continue to say yes to cake challenges in the future, without first really thinking it through, but as this Ducati birthday cake shows, you never know what you can do until you try!