Like many toddlers, he is obsessed with emergency vehicles and aircraft. The best treat I can offer these days is to hang out at the airport listening to a running commentary, “oh, it’s a Qantas, there’s a Jet Star, it’s the All Blacks plane, there’s a big fire truck, oh Mum, just one more…..”. There are always other people doing the same thing (interestingly, many don’t have the excuse of having a toddler with them). Plane spotters really do exist. Who am I to talk, I guess I’ve become one of them!
Back to the cake. Having scanned images on the net, there were many to offer inspiration. Unfortunately the fire trucks I figured I could manage (impressive but easy) didn’t feature on the wish list – it became pretty clear that when he said fire truck, he meant a 3D real deal. No amount of me saying, “whow, isn’t this one cool” convinced him that he wanted what was within my ability to create.
I won’t chronicle the making – it’ll take too long. For those who are interested, I’ll add images of various stages of construction at the end of this post. Or, you can email me with questions. I’ll focus on the base cake instead.
This cake has become my fallback for any decorating I need to do. What I’m most excited to share is my discovery on how to bake the perfect even cake. I often end up with a bit of a hill in the middle cakes, which I then have to cut off to even it out before icing. See below for how to solve this and avoid the wastage.
This is a moist scrummy cake, that works well fresh or from frozen. For the fire truck, I made two cakes several days before I needed them. I waited until they were almost cold, then wrapped well in clingfilm before putting in the freezer. I defrosted in the fridge the night before I needed them. (The cake photographed is one I made earlier, if you’re wondering about the shape!)
Turn oven to 180C. Line a 20-22cm tin (I use whatever shape I need) with baking paper.
Sift together into a large bowl (or into your free-standing mixer bowl):
260g (1 3/4 C) plain flour
295g (1 1/4 C) caster sugar
70g (1/2 C) cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Good pinch salt
1 C milk
1/2 C vegetable oil (I use canola or rice bran, olive is a bit heavy)
2 tsp vanilla essence
Beat with an electric hand beater (or in your Kenny!) for about two minutes on medium speed until everything is very well combined. You’ll want to start on slow speed, then move up to medium.
Fold in, by hand – I use a spatular –
200ml boiling water
Now, for the super-dooper trick that will guarantee a no-peak cake. I can’t believe I’ve never thought to do this, it is so breathtakingly simple. You can either buy Wilton bake-even strips (I haven’t found an NZ supplier, but I’m sure you can get them here) or you can cut lengths of towel to fit the height of your tin. Rinse them in cold water and wring briefly. Affix the lengths around the tin, joining with safety pins if necessary. This really works – it ensures an even bake, without over-cooking the edges.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 40-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover with foil at 40 minutes if it’s getting too coloured on top.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out. Ice when cold, or freeze until you need it. Once you get over the consistency of the mixture, you’ll make this time and time again. It rarely fails.
Note: this mixture doubles well. But, try to use two tins if you have them as it will be faster to cook.
For those interested, here are some of the steps to icing the fire truck. I used pre-made coloured fondant and home made butter icing. There is a bit of a gap in photographs – I gave up on the camera due to the marathon effort required to get this thing finished. Feel free to send any questions my way.