It's a bit of a shame, though, that I have such a bee in my bonnet about this, because I am completely and utterly shit at decorating cakes. I can make a cake that tastes nice, but making it look like a passable Thomas the Tank Engine is on my 'never going to happen' list along with keeping the house tidy and filing my paperwork. I can live with that. It would be nice not to look like a tool in front of all the other mums again though.
Lets take a look at the evidence:
Rory's 1st Birthday: Wonky Lion.
This was probably the high point of my adventures in cake wrecking. I cheated and used a lion shaped cake tin and followed a colour by numbers chart to fill it in with icing. The result was passable. I think I got complacent.
Rory's 2nd Birthday: Boss-eyed Hedgehog.
I thought I'd got away with this one. That's clearly a hedgehog, right? Wrong. I proudly showed it to the birthday boy, who then congratulated me on my efforts: "Oh, lovely pinecone cake mummy." Ace. Also, lighting the candles gave impression of ritualistic animal sacrifice.
Rory's 3rd Birthday: Ballsed-up race track.
This one was so appalling that there's no close-up photo of it. The concept was sound enough: Make a cake in the shape of a number 3 look like a road, stick some Micro Machines on it, job done. It fell apart when the malicious old crone at the local cake decorating supply shop promised to loan me their '3' cake tin and then lent it out to somebody else instead. RUDE. Was furious. A year on and I still give her shit-eye every time I walk past her shop. This meant that I had to fashion a number 3 out of a normal shaped cake. I then iced it, but there were crumbs everywhere due to the re-fashioning effort, and some stupid tip about using Oreo crumbs to recreate the surface of the road that I found online turned out to be the most annoying and pointless tip ever. Entire cake was comprised of crumbs. Crumbs all over self and kitchen. Tried to save it for nearly 3 full hours, sweating like a beast in overheated, tiny kitchen. As the first guest walked through the door, I scraped up all the crumbs from the work-top, dumped them on what was left of the cake, stuck 3 candles in it and downed a glass of Rioja.
This year, I was determined that things would be different, and, inspired by a building site cake I saw on Pinterest, I decided to work with my lack of skills rather than against them and create a cake that was supposed to look a mess.
Here's the result:
No tutorial necessary, ladies. Simply make a chocolate cake, don't fret when a big chunk of it falls off the side as you remove it from the tin. Eat the fallen off bit. Smother whole thing in chocolate butter icing, chocolate biscuit crumbs and brown Smarties to resemble rocks. Put toy digger on cake. Put biscuit crumbs in toy digger. Serve. A triumph.
What's more, I reckon I can recycle this idea year after year by subtly changing the icing and toy on top:
* MINE/QUARRY: Black/grey icing, Lego dude with pick-axe stood by the side.
* BUILDING SITE: Yellow icing to denote builders sand. Half built lego houses on top (this should be easy, seeing as the only thing I can make from Lego is a house with no door, windows or roof), lego bricks strewn about. Lego men with low slung trousers on standing around drinking cups of tea.
* RUBBISH DUMP: (perhaps scraping bottom of barrel here). Icing in whatever colour food colouring you can find at the back of the cupboard. Cover cake with screwed up paper and broken toys (plenty to be found wedged down side of toy box). Add chocolate mice to represent rats.
After you've exhausted all of those options, your child will probably have forgotten about the mud/digger cake you made 3 years ago, so you can make that one again before repeating the cycle.
No need to thank me; it's just what I do.