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A Carpenter’s Cake, Part 1

*Now here’s this week’s disclaimer – I have never been taught sugarpasting and am not claiming to be advising this as the only way of doing it. But I have dabbled with it for many years now and am teaching myself until I can afford to do a proper course :). So what follows is just what I cobbled together after googling a few relevant terms and reading Planet Cake, my one and only sugarpaste book.*

And now we have got the “legal” bit out of the way, here’s what I’ve been upto over the last week – making my Daddums (that’s my dad for those who don’t know me!) a big fat cake as it was his 65th birthday yesterday. He is an incredible man I love dearly – he’s been my best mate for years and is always there for me when I need him. In return, I bake him this cake on a regular basis as there is no man with an appetite for fruit cake like Daddums!

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This is Nigella’s chocolate fruitcake from her Christmas TV series and I have been making it for years. It has orange zest, pulp/juice and cocoa and lots of Tia Maria and it is DELICIOUS! My Daddums will cut off small slithers each day for several weeks after I have made him it and take it to work with him with his afternoon Earl Grey tea. He is semi-retired but is trade is carpentry and friends, you will never find a finer joiner in the business. The man’s work has brought tears to my eyes before now with his incredible attention to detail and care for each and every job his does. His fleur de lys work is stunning. So wish I had photos!

Anyhoo, back to the cake! As it’s his birthday, I wanted to do something extra special for this extra special man so I thought I’d make him a carpenter’s bench – I can’t think of my dad without picturing him in our garage working away on his bench, saws, wood planes, spirit levels, sand paper all neatly laid out, perpendicular to one another and in pristine condition always (I got my OCD from him ;) !) So I Googled and Flickr’d and saw some interesting takes on the theme then went with a simple plan – make a square cake, cover in wood effect sugarpaste then make tools and seaside to decorate. I am still very much learning, so I wanted to keep it simple and aim for achievable. So here’s the finished article:

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Be gentle with the criticism over my piping – I know it’s wobbly but I was too scared to make my icing thinner incase it ran all over the cake! But apart from that, I’m super pleased with how this turned out. Lessons learnt, challenges overcome, one proud Daddums who is showing off his cake to anyone who stops by! Sadly, he has been in hospital for 13 weeks tomorrow with acute severe pancreatitis. He nearly died several times and it’s been hell on earth but thankfully, with the support of my incredible foodie family and my Hungry Hubby to help me personally deal with this, we’ve gotten through the worst (we hope) and he is looking more and more like my Daddums every single day. Isn’t it remarkable how him being able to stand up and hug me now (a new event in the last week) when I arrive on his ward, brings such joy to my heart when it is something I took for granted every time I saw him before all this?

Right, onwards and upwards! Here is how I made the above cake:

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I brushed the cake with a tablespoon of marmalade whisked with a tablespoon of boiled water to echo the orange flavour in the cake itself, then painted it all over the cake. I then rolled out some marzipan nice and thinly as you can see.

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I used this to cover the cake (which I turned upside down first FYI to get a very flat top) and smooth out some of the little bumps from the dried fruit. I left it almost a day to dry before covering this – had I been more organised, I would have waited a whole day.

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So, you lay the marzipan over the cake then smooth with the palm of your hand, bursting bubbles with a pin if necessary. Then I used a sharp knife to cut off the excess at each corner of the cake, like so:

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I then used a “cake smoother” or piece of flat, shiny plastic with a handle on the back to buff, polish and smooth the marzipan and also to crispen up the edges of the cake. Once this was done and dried enough to then cover with sugarpaste, I got to work on making the wood effect. What you need is a few shades of browns etc to weave together to produce the layered, knotty effect. I went for one, yellow and brown:

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Note I left the brown slightly streaky to aid the final effect. Next, you roll out very long, thin ropes of each colour…

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…then you twist and braid in a fairly random fashion so the grain ends up not looking too, um, “regular”, iykwim!

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Next, chop the lengths (or bend in two) so you have rows for ing a rough square (as the cake is square!) and roll out.

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Not convinced this will look wooden? No neither was I! Even with much rolling, I figured this wouldn’t look how I wanted so I folded it up, concertina stylee across the grain, folded again to make it square then rolled out and produced this:

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Not bad hey? This really pleases the 5 year old girl in me who really only wanted to be a palaeontologist and collected interesting looking rocks no end! Look how it appears like the strata of a sedimentary rock formation out in the bad lands of Montana… Or is that just me?!
So that was how I arrived at this:

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Which I laid over the marzipan, lightly moistened with a little water only first. Then I buff, buff, buffed with my smoother – honestly, it is worth spending a lot of time doing this part well to produce a professional looking finish you don’t have to cover with decorations to hide it’s wonkiness lol!

As this is in danger of becoming the longest post IN HISTORY, I’m taking the liberty to call it a day and leave you all in suspense until tomorrow to see how I made those tools and my favourite bit – the sawdust!

Later people, and MWAH! Xxx

8 thoughts on “A Carpenter’s Cake, Part 1

  1. Fabulous post Jo, I love how you have done your wood grain effect, very clever. Onwards & upwards from here then …. :)

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  2. Oh my goodness – that is the most impressive cake!!! I would have loved to have seen your dad’s face when he was presented with this work of art! You are just the sweetest daughter – I bet this cake cheered him up plenty :-) Btw, are you sure you’ve made the correct career choice ;-)

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    • Well Creme, it made him cry! It was a rare moment – just the two of us (and the 5 other patients in his ward!) and he shed a little tear at the cake, I think because it reminded him of what he’s missing out on by being in hospital – a big family party. When I saw him today he said he hadn’t eaten any of this cake (his partner brought in a shop bought one too) as it was “just for show”. Lol, he’s got it on his little hospital bed table and is showing every doctor, nurse, student and relative that passes him which is lots as he is right by the door! He certainly is proud as punch especially as it’s an excuse to talk about his work which he loves so much.

      And as for my career choice – no I’m not sure at all!!! :P

      Sent from my iPad2

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  3. Fabulous Jodie, love how you explain how to smooth the marzipan and I was dying to know how you got the wood effect!! well done looking forward to part 2! Brilliant you have a great way with words also x

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  4. I’ve been dying to work out how you got the wood effect on your icing Jo and now I know! That is just inspired. Brilliant work!

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  5. Pingback: I Dreamed A Dream (Kitchen) :) | Jo Blogs

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