Friday, 4 January 2019

Paint your wagon

Way back last year, when it was my birthday, a good friend, C, gave me a rather special present. It was a model of a long wheel base Series 3 Land Rover, which he had painstakingly assembled and painted. It has pride of place on top of a bookshelf in our lounge.

C is rather keen on modelling, as in the building of scaled down kits variety rather than the tottering up and down a catwalk in high heels. When Our Lass and I visit L and C, I usually spend a bit of time gazing in awe at his patience with his latest project. Occasionally, if we're headed south, we might be asked to source a particular shade of Humbrol paint. Oddly enough, the shade is usually one of the many greys, but that has more to do with military aircraft markings, rather than any saucy fetish shenanigans.

After my birthday, I pondered how I could return the favour for C's upcoming anniversary of time spent on the planet. It was a biggie, too. Searching online, I discovered that the Humbrol paint code which matched the number of his years was a metallic green. I then wondered if Humbrol ever made scaled-up versions of their tiny 14ml tins, and whether they could provide me with an empty one, maybe big enough to hide a present in?

No, no they couldn't. Oh well, no harm in asking, eh?

We had now reached the end of November, and what with not being such an organised sort of chap, I was concerned that I would run out of time to come up with a suitable alternative idea. Then, I had a brainwave. A cake! Of a tin of paint! Scaled up to giant size! And I could pay someone else (and more importantly, much more skilled) to bake and ice it! What could possibly go wrong? Well, all the novelty cake bakers who were recommended to me had full order books (either that, or for some reason, a tin of paint cake wasn't floating their boats), so there I was, back to Square One.

Unless... unless I baked it myself? Hey, I can make a mean Lemon Drizzle cake, a not-too-shabby Ginger and Rhubarb cake, and I'd even recently mastered chocolate brownies. This might just be possible, and it would be handmade for that personal touch. Right, I thought, let's do this! I contacted L for advice as to which flavour of cake C would like. A Victoria sponge with jam, came back the reply. Next, I asked her to measure a Humbrol tin, so that I could calculate how to scale it up to birthday cake size. Three centimetres high, by three centimetres diameter, she said. Oo, nice and symmetrical, thought I. Wandering to a kitchen cupboard to look for a suitable cake tin (my repertoire hadn't so far included circular cakes), I discovered Our Lass's eight inch tin for Christmas cakes. At this point, I was yet to realise that an eight inch tall sponge cake might be a bit of an ask.

During early December, whilst we were in town shopping for Christmas, I managed to buy an actual tin of the correct birthday shade. Number 50, metallic green. Wow, I naively muttered to myself, this project's steaming ahead! Later that week, the enormity of the task was beginning to impinge upon my sense of well-being. Discussing the problem with another good friend, I was given some great advice. You'll be needing ready to roll fondant icing. You can buy it online in different colours. You will need to watch a Youtube video of how to ice a cake. So off I went into cyberspace armed only with a credit card and a blithe sense of hope. A few days later, I was the proud owner of an icing turntable, several spatulas of various sizes, a couple of icing paddle thingies, and three colours of fondant icing: white, green and blue.

A brief chat with L, just before Christmas, brought me back down to earth again. How big a cake tin? Eight inches? That's a lot of cake! Perhaps I might've bitten off more than I could chew? Around about this time, the festive season more or less took over all our attentions, so with less than a week to go to the big day, I began the actual baking on New Year's Day. My sister-in-law, A, was an invaluable source of information and advice, gently nudging me in the correct direction for icing two different colours for the side of the tin cake. Leafing through an ancient copy of a Delia Smith's recipe book, I commenced to bake two eight inch diameter biscuits, about half an inch high. They tasted great, but I probably wouldn't have sufficient time to bake all the bazillion layers I would need. Take two was a Mary Berry recipe, which produced slightly better results, but it still meant I would need at least another two layers to approach the scaled-up size required. This morning, and my third attempt brought a further improvement, which briefly lifted my mood until I realised that the curvature of the top of the cakes would mean I needed to trim them to achieve a flat lid for the tin cake. Then I had a bit of a good idea. How about if it was just a six inch scale model? With a bit of deft knife work around a saucer, I had four cakes that stacked to nearly six inches high, even with one of the layers trimmed for flatness. With the application of some jam and a little shoogling of layers, I had the beginnings of a birthday cake.

At this point, I opted for a slightly easier method (though probably no less sweary) and used ready-made butter icing for the initial sponge covering. Then it was time to roll the icing and smooth it over the tin cake. Once the initial white icing was done, a green circle was cut for the lid, complete with an embossed '50'. For the blue stripe around the base, I followed A's advice and cut a strip of icing to wrap around the cake. I had purchased some black gel, in case I wanted to put any text on the cake, but I wasn't confident enough to try free hand on a curved vertical surface. In the end, I opted for a printed paper wraparound to mimic the style of words on the front of the cake tin.

So here we have it, a tiny tin and a big cake.

Tomorrow is the big day, and it only remains for me to transport said confectionery to L and C's home. Up a steep hill, onto a steeper track, round a hairpin bend and, finally, along several hundred yards of bumpy roughness. Talk about shake well before use.

As I don't wish to risk spoiling the surprise (or possibly nightmare, depending upon whether he likes it or not), this post is scheduled to appear the morning after Calum's birthday.


Coastal Ripples said...

What a labour of love. You had me laughing out loud at all your endeavours. I now know where to come if I need a tin of paint cake. Hope it went down well :) B

Sian said...

OOooh that looks excellent.... what did it taste like? I bet he was chuffed to bits!

Um.... I was pondering whether to tell you the trick that when you need a flat surface on the top of a cake you flip the top layer over so the slightly domed layer is pushed in the the cream/other layers and you have a nice flat surface for the rolled out icing. But I decided I probably wouldn't tell you that AFTER all your efforts.... I will wait till next time. ;-)

Imperfect and Tense said...

Thank you, Barbara, it did go down well! I dropped by in the morning with the tiny tin of paint, then again in the evening with the cake. I may not add baking skills to my CV, but it was certainly a learning experience.

Lol, Sian, you helped immeasurably, thank you. I did figure out the flatness thing, but only after I had attempted to slice the top off a layer.

Lesley said...

As the said L in the above I wish to confirm that the cake was the best we have ever had, both in the work and thought and effort and also the finished article and taste. We are currently partaking of another slice with a nice cup of tea with many, many thanks and much love.

Mark said...

Small minds talk about people, medium minds talk about 'things' , great minds have Ideas!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Lesley, Welcome and thank you!

Mark, I am minded to... er... I'll remember in a minute :o)

Spadger said...

That is amazing- well done Mr W