Less travel abroad than I’ve had in many years, as I chose to leave my international corporate career and take an interesting job helping to transform digital government. Given I lived in Newcastle and worked in central London, though, plenty of time spent on the East Coast mainline from NCL < --> KGX!

Abroad

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Mossel Bay, South Africa
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa*
  • Praia da Rocha, Portugal

UK

  • Newcastle**
  • London**
  • Kew/St Margarets
  • Bedford
  • Gosport
  • Cambridge
  • Tiverton

* repeat visits
** lived there for some of the year

To celebrate the launches of Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport we decided to make a terraced house (to represent DCLG) and a bus (for DFT).

Frankly I was really worried about this one as it involved a lot more detail work than I’d ever had to do before. I was hugely grateful to Ali (and her much steadier hands!) for help doing the doors and windows and basically all of the finer work on it.

The approach was pretty similar to my previous cakes — I hauled out the trusty vanilla buttermilk cake again and made four rectangular cakes (in roasting pans once more) and then cut them appropriately:

Two cakes roughly shaped into a house and an oblong and half covered in buttercream icing

I used a glass to cut out half circles for the wheels of the bus and then iced over the entire thing, using plenty of buttercream to hold it all together:

Oblong with semi circles on the bottom, vaguely resembling a bus at this stage

After covering both cakes in fondant and then using more fondant cut into shapes to decorate, they slowly took shape. Ali completed them with some fine writing icing touches, from the windows to the numbers on the doors.

Terraced house cake and London bus cake, side by side

And though sadly I was on a train home to Newcastle when the cake was cut, it seems our departmental colleagues did enjoy them πŸ™‚

Colleagues from DCLG and DFT cutting the house and bus cakes

For the public release of GOV.UK, I was asked to make the celebratory cake for the team. With all the folks at GDS and a number of visitors on the celebration day, we needed cake for 250-300 people. Definitely the largest I had ever undertaken!

So first I made 6 large roasting pans worth of my favourite vanilla buttermilk cake — including one which I made gluten free by substituting in Dove’s gluten free plain flour (which for the record is absolutely brilliant!).

Six large cakes laid out in a rectangle

Then covered them with a thick layer of buttercream icing:

Cake with piles of buttercream icing on top waiting to be spread

Once it was all smoothed out…

Cake covered in buttercream icing, smoothed out in 1m x 0.5m rectangle

We covered it in a layer of black fondant icing (which you should DEFINITELY buy ready-made rather than trying to colour it yourself — trust me…):

Ali and Ben both kindly helped out rolling out the white fondant and cutting the letters (in the correct font, of course!):

Letters cut out of white fondant, alongside a craft knife

Culminating in the final product — which looked pretty good alongside the existing 100 days, 50 days and GOV.UK road signs:

Large cake on table with pretend road signs alongside

And just one final shot so you can see the scale:

GOV.UK cake being cut up and distributed

My friend and colleague Neil asked me to make his son’s 5th birthday cake, in the shape of his favourite lego piece. The boy has excellent taste — his favourite piece is a lego computer. I thought I’d document how I went about it in case it’s of use to anyone else πŸ™‚

First of all I made a vanilla buttermilk cakeΒ in a large roasting tin so it was about 38cm long, 24 cm wide and 6cm deep and a bunch of vanilla buttercream icing.

Then I took the photo of the lego computer piece and measured it to make sure I got the proportions of the slope etc right. I multiplied out the ratios and matched it to the available cake:

Picture of lego computer piece and calculations of the ratios of the various parts

I cut the oblong cake into a 2/3rd and 1/3rd piece and placed one on top of the other. I then carved a triangle out from the bottom to make the correct slope. With the remaining couple of pieces I made the lego studs (apparently that’s the correct term for the bumps on top of lego) for the top.

Cake carved so it is like a cube, but with a side cut away in a slope

Next I covered this in a thin layer of buttercream icing — not worrying too much if any crumbs got into the icing. The key thing was to get a smooth layer, both for the fondant to stick to and to even out the total shape. Important to get this right as the fondant is very unforgiving — any bumps will show through!

Basic shape of lego computer cake iced in buttercream

Next I rolled out a couple of packets of white fondant icing and draped it across the entire shape, using a polisher to get sharp edges. I also used the back of a sharp knife to trace around the base of the bumps to make them stand out right.

Lego cake covered in white fondant layer

And then finished it off with coloured fondant to create the screen and buttons πŸ™‚

Lego computer cake with green screen and "Dylan = 5" written in blue fondant