Arabella has just celebrated her 19th birthday. While this was not a birthday carrying the weight of other milestone birthdays like an 18th or 21st, it still had huge significance to Arabella who was keen to ensure the date didn’t slip by without a loud splash.
We booked a clubhouse on Balmoral Beach that has glass doors that slide away leading to a balcony overlooking one of Sydney’s best views. On Saturday night 40 of the ‘young and hip’ crowd gathered to celebrate. It was a drinks party with pass-around food and of course, a cake.
In order to keep the costs under control we chose to self-cater which means the kitchen is locked off so you can’t do any cooking on-site or any re-heating. Not a problem! I made three different vegan dips that were served with gluten-free crackers then I dialed the number of a gourmet pizza company that delivered two dozen pizzas halfway through the night.
Our little Alfie didn’t want to miss the occasion and not knowing what else to do with him, we brought him along. He is not at his best when given nothing to do so I said to him, ‘Alfie; you’re the barman’. And his eyes lit up as he just loves responsibility and with a big brother and sister he also likes to feel important and that he’s included in events and not just a hanger-on. He snapped to attention and ran behind the bar. I showed him how to open champagne bottles and beer bottles and twist tops and how to pour beverages without them frothing and foaming and spilling over. He was in overload and I’m sure he probably loved this party more than the birthday girl.
The crowd kept the barman very busy; in fact he was on his feet the entire night. But not only does Alfie like to be involved, he also seizes on opportunities. Early on there was a lull in activity and he took a serviette and a pen from my handbag and wrote on it, ‘Tips’. He put it at the front of the bar with a plastic cup on top of it and before the night was over he’d made $48.80 in tips. Nice work if you can get it!
I asked Arabella what cake she would like for her party. She said, ‘Can you make a Vodka bottle?’ And I was sure that I couldn’t. She said, ‘A Vodka O bottle, mum; that would be so much fun’. Yes. So much fun if you don’t have to make it.
The good thing, is that these days you don’t have to go out and buy a bottle of Vodka O to work out what it looks like or visit the library and try to find a photographed image. You can just google from the convenience of your own lounge room and up pops the image you need to copy. Having never bought a bottle of Vodka in my life, I found an image on google and copied it. Making this cake wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
I made a large cake as in, very large. This cake has enormous quantities so there’s too much mixture to fit into a Kitchen Aid. I mixed mine in a large bowl using a hand-mixer. The hardest part is shaping the cake into a bottle and you really need to be a little artistic with perhaps some sculpting skills. Those aren’t my strengths but my husband is a talented artist and so like Michaelangelo finding David in a block of marble, he found my Vodka O bottle in a slab of cake.
The cake is from a Donna Hay Weddings Magazine. It’s dense and heavy and utterly delicious and if you only make one cake this year, you really should make this one – you won’t regret it and if you don’t need a massive cake you can always halve the quantities.
And as for the birthday girl, she had a fantastic evening and declared it, ‘the best party ever’.
White Chocolate Cake: Begin this recipe a day ahead.
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Very affordable considering how many it feeds. This would be a cheap dessert option for any function.
- 1 kg (2lb) butter, chopped
- 1ltr (2 pints) milk
- 8 cups caster (superfine) sugar
- 600g (20 oz) white chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
- 8 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 1/2 tbspns baking powder
- 1 tbspn vanilla extract
- 8 eggs
Preheat the oven to 160C (325F).
Place the butter, milk, sugar and chocolate in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until smooth. Place the flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use an electric hand mixer to mix until smooth.
Line a 40cm (15.5 inch) x 30cm (12 inch) cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Pour in the mixture and bake for 2 hours 20 minutes or until the cake is cooked when tested with a skewer.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin then upturn and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer overnight.
To Turn the Slab into a Vodka O Bottle:
Serves: Cake will now serve 30+
Degree of Difficulty: 4/5 (Because of shaping involved and the time factor)
Cost: Not too much but biggest expense is definitely the chocolate.
For the Ganache:
- 60ogm (21.5 oz) dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
- 3/4 cup pouring cream
For the Cake:
- a cake board larger than the cake (a rectangle shape would be good but I couldn’t source one, hence the square cake board on the diagonal)
- 2 x packets of royal icing
- edible glue
- blue colouring
- black icing (best to buy this)
- alphabet stencil (I bought mine from a Newsagency)
- edible glue
- green colouring
- primrose cutter
- black candy writer
For the Ganache: Combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon until smooth. Remove bowl from heat. Set aside at room temperature to cool, stirring occasionally, until ganache is thick and spreadable.
To Decorate the Cake:
Cover the cake in ganache and use a metal spatula to make as smooth as possible.
Take the royal icing and set two small amounts aside to tint later. Knead remainder until smooth. Roll out on a bench dusted with icing sugar until a few millimetres thick. Collect the rolled icing with the rolling pin then roll over ganache and make smooth to ensure all air bubbles are removed. Trim around edges and trim top of bottle.
Take one lot of reserved icing and tint blue. Roll out and use to cover top of bottle.
Take black icing and roll out until a few millimetres thick. Try to use as little icing sugar as possible as it will affect the colour of the icing. Use stencil to cut out letters and set aside. Using a paint brush, brush underside of letters with edible glue and stick onto cake.
Take the remainder of the icing and tint green. Use a primrose cutter to make flower shapes. Stick onto cake using edible glue.
Soften the contents of the candy writer in accordance with directions on pack. Print writing on top and bottom of bottle. (I practised first on paper towel). Cake is now ready for the party!
With a sculptured cake there is always plenty leftover and it isn’t good for this to go to waste. As luck would have it, there was a birthday at Carl’s office on Monday morning. Traditionally a cake is bought by the office however, I used the leftover ganache to cover the leftover cake and Carl took it in to the birthday boy. There were no leftovers and better yet, no waste!
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