Let’s start at the very beginning...
because as we all know, it’s a very good place to start (and I for one am not about to argue with Fraulein Maria).
Now here, were not talking about A, B, C or even do-re-mi... so... what is the beginning?
It's the stuff you do first, before you've even put the cake in the oven. And for me it’s cake boards (or cake 'drums' if you're feeling profesh). Nothing causes me to twitch quite so uncontrollably as seeing a beautifully decorated cake sitting on... wait for it... yes... horror of horrors... an undecorated board. There, I've said it. I have issues.
Now, just bear with me, I'm not talking about a little cake rustled up for home or the school bake sale or even your child's birthday tea. I'm talking about those cakes where you've spent a lot of time and effort to make it really special. To me an un-iced or un-decorated board is like spending a ton on an amazing dress and then wearing it with slippers.
Okay, maybe that's not a great analogy, I have ruined many an evening with uncomfortable shoes and maybe slippers are the future BUT I think deep, DEEP down, you know what I mean.
A decorated board can turn an 'okay' cake into a 'good' cake and a 'good' cake into a 'great' cake. Sometimes all it takes is a little ring of icing around the cake and pretty ribbon but some cakes call for something a little more special...
Meet my personal favourite.... *fanfare
THE WOOD EFFECT BOARD
I love a wood effect board, especially for some of the more unusual and eclectic cakes where, more often than not, a much larger than usual amount of the board is on view. It's the perfect background, not detracting from the cake itself, but it also wow-worthy enough to be a feature on its own. It's so versatile and best part of all, it's really not that complicated and, because I'm a super nice person, I will show you how.
You will need:
Cooled boiled water
Brown food colour ( I use Squires Kitchen paste colour in Bulrush and Teddy Bear Brown)
Cake drum (I always use a drum at least 4" bigger in diameter than the cake).
Palette knife (I prefer a crank handle knife)
Veining tool or blunt/ dinner knife
Skewer/ cocktail stick
Clean, food safe paint brushes in several sizes
Rolling out the icing
Roll out your icing to a nice even thickness, about the thickness of a £1 coin... this means we have enough thickness to mark out the wood effect but also makes it the right depth when combined with the cake drum to match the width of a 15mm ribbon... not just thrown together eh?!
Transfer on to the drum
Clean and dampen the cake drum with some cooled boiled water or a clear alcohol (vodka is my 'go-to'... don't go wasting gin) and carefully lift the icing onto it with your rolling pin.
Smooth and trim
Smooth out the icing, if there are any air bubbles under the surface just pierce the icing with a clean, sterilised pin and release the air. Once you're happy its all lovely and smooth, pop the board on a raised surface - a large saucepan or stock pot will do.
Using a sharp knife cut along the edge of the board using a vertical motion to trim off the excess icing.
Score out the 'planks'
It's worth planning out the width of your 'planks' before you start. Once you've decided, using a clean ruler and a palette knife, score the icing being careful not to cut the whole way through. I slightly widen the gap using a veining too (or the wrong side of a blunt knife) although its really not essential.
Once you've finished the widths you can then divide the 'planks' into lengths. There are no hard and fast rules here, just stagger them so each plank is different to the ones either side.
Mark out the screw holes
Fairly self explanatory... poke small holes in each corner of the plank... a cocktail stick or skewer will suffice.
Using a veining tool (or blunt knife again) to draw on some wood grain markings... a mix of long and short lines, some smooth and some curved works nicely!
Leave to dry
That's a nice easy bit! Ideally leave over night but a couple of hours will do if that's all you have.
Let the painting begin!
Thin out some dark brown paste food colour with a clear alcohol (again vodka is ideal, Barcardi at a pinch but remember if I catch you wasting gin that will be it for us).
Using a clean, food safe paint brush (one only used for food... NOT one from the kids paint pot!), paint the thinned out colour into the first few scored lines and using a small tipped brush work it into the 'screw' holes. Using a broader brush, dip it into the alcohol and using back and forth motion, brush across the painted lines to disperse the colour.
When you're happy the colour has been worked in, repeat on the next section until the whole board is completed. If you have more than one shade of brown its quite nice to add some splashes of another colour on the main body of the planks to add a little depth.
As with anything, you'll gain confidence with practice and you can go a little more to town on the details, maybe painting in addition wood gain marks.
Finally, sit back and admire your work.
You did it!
Now you can go and enjoy feeling smug (this where the gin comes in).