Whooooo’s for Cake?

Patchwork Owl Cake

Patchwork Owl Cake

If you were up for some cake, it would not be a piece of this one. It is many weeks old and was baked and decorated for practice purposes only. Why? Because I have decided to go in my first ever cake decorating competition, at the Perth Royal Show.

The Royal Show is a community event staged annually by the Royal Agricultural Society in September/October and has been running for an incredible 170 years! “The Show” as it is familiarly known locally, showcases Western Australian agriculture, rural communities, small business and entertainment at an event in our capital city, Perth, for ten fun-filled days. There is everything to offer from animal showing, wood chopping and baby animal farms, to stunt shows, equestrian events and the ever popular sideshow alley and showbags. Never mind that you have to mortgage your house to afford a day spent at the Show.

A wonderfully old-fashioned and yet timeless element is the range of competitions run for bakers, sewers, craft enthusiasts, amateur artists, woodworkers and so forth. Prize money is generally very small but the glory lies in the receiving of ribbons and awards and competition can be fierce.

So I have decided to enter a cake (or two) in the decorated cakes section, in either the Student or Amateur categories, or perhaps both. The pictured patchwork owl cake is from a design by Lindy Smith and could potentially go in a Novelty Class.

Embossing fun with cutters

Embossing fun with cutters

I am fairly pleased with it even though I learnt a number of lessons along the way, and can’t help but look at it with a critical eye. It was carved out of a 25cm Madeira Cake, which is great for carving but always seem to come out horribly dry despite an inordinate amount of butter being in the recipe. I enjoyed the carving and found it much easier than I imagined it would be.

Given my previous post on furry edges, I can see that I need to smarten up my act in that respect. Another challenge was the embossing of some of the panels of colour with daisies, leaves, etc. Too light a touch left me with vague and indistinct patterns, and too heavy a hand made the patterns liable to stretching and distortion when I laid the panels on curved parts of the cake. The top of the head, which is judiciously hidden in these photos, looks a complete dog’s breakfast because of this problem.

Elaborate but effective eyes

Elaborate but effective eyes

Hollowing out those eye sockets was no picnic either. Creating identical hollows was nigh on impossible and it became a classic case of the more you tried to correct bits, the more damage you did to the end result. I need a creative solution for scooping out neat concave hollows. Any suggestions?

But the greatest challenge was that of neatly abutting the different “fabric” panels against each other. The joins between wings and head are pretty rough and definitely need to be improved upon. Well-wishing friends tell me otherwise, but my OCD dances a merry jig when I look at those joins and I just can’t be happy with the disorder. Ah me!

Claws, not carrots!

Claws, not carrots!

Flaws notwithstanding, it all seemed to come to life when the beak and claws were added. Not that I have ever seen an owl with orange beak and claws, but then neither is it common to see owls with gerberas for eyes and maple leaves and daisies adorning their wings. A friend made me laugh when she declared that the claws looked like carrots and were making her hungry, but not nearly so much as another (male) friend who, swept away with the enthusiasm of it all, suggested how I might improve it by adding sharp brown claws. I told him that as a child’s cake it was meant to induce joy and pleasure, not trauma and nightmares! To be fair, he was in hospital after a nasty road accident, and drugged to the eyeballs with painkillers…

My verdict on this cake – many hours of work, and many lessons learnt, but a visual feast (albeit inedible by the time I had finished).