For a great deal of cake-makers, myself included, the birthday cake is the reason they are now in this industry.
A major birthday for a partner, child, parent or friend, for example, may have sent us running to books by cake designers Debbie Brown or Lindy Smith and wishing we could achieve such great results, rather than buying the preservative filled supermarket sponge cakes.
For me, I dabbled with cakes annually; I would try to make a novelty one for my boyfriend (now husband), played with sugarpaste and chocolate cake and came out with something reasonable for an amateur.
The gear-change in this situation was the birth of my daughter.
For her first birthday I was intent on making a number 1-shaped cake myself, without a shaped pan, sides covered in sprinkles and the top dotted with dolly mixtures. A perfectly girly number 1 with a soft Victoria Sponge and buttercream cake suitable for my little one.
My lasting memory of this less-than-perfect cake (which it was, now I look back on it), was how my daughter sat in her high chair delighted with her cake (not noticing the flaws) and loving the fact that we were all there to sing to her, happily picking off the dolly mixture sweets one by one and eating them. How very cute!
Now, as I have mentioned before, the majority of Australian celebration cakes are mud cakes. I cannot quite get my head around this yet, but cake decorators seem to come up with the most amazing flavours of cake, but still in mud cake format.
Chocolate mud (obviously), white chocolate mud, caramel choc mud, white choc and raspberry mud, citrus mud, Baileys mud... the list is endless. These very rich, heavy cakes are perfect for the sculpting and ganaching that goes on here to achieve the perfect design of cake, and the results are flawless and amazing, but on the back of this is the (my) question of their suitability for babies’ cakes - after all, a lot of mud cakes have coffee in their recipes.
Even for adult cakes; I cannot lie, I miss my carrot cakes and coffee cakes - and my light, smooth Madeira is one I will not be giving up with out a fight. Also, the harder coating of ganache and fondant may be a bit too much for a one-year-old, which then probably doesn’t get a piece of the cake anyway.
Enter the Smash cake! I had heard of this concept in the UK before moving out here: it is part of the wedding celebration, where a couple get to dress up a second time in their wedding outfits, basically rip a wedding cake apart and have a bit of a food fight in front of a camera. However, this craze has now evolved, in Australia, as a way of commemorating the first birthday (normally, but can be any age) of their gorgeous offspring. There may well be a full two- to three-tiered ganached and fondant-covered "formal" cake at the party, but the guest of honour gets their own smaller cake, of soft sponge and normally buttercream coating.
Instructions: arrange professional photographer, place cake in open space that can be easily cleaned and then place baby in front of cake to do what they like with it, then instruct photographer to shoot away with the camera, The result? Cute nappy-clad bundles of joy in cake heaven, grabbing at sponge and buttercream to their hearts’ content. There aren’t many other occasions in life where this activity would be allowed. How adorable! It takes my little girl’s Dolly Mixture stealing to a whole new level.
About Victoria Forward
Victoria Forward has just returned to the UK after two years in Australia, and is setting up cake business "Victoria Sponge", in Buckinghamshire. She previously ran Let Them Eat Cake in the UK for six years providing celebration cakes / cupcakes, cake decorating courses and workshops. In 2012 she won the award for Best Presented Cupcake at the British Baker National Cupcake Championships. Victoria is married with 2 children.