Adventures in baking: A slice of Frank Sidebottom

Frank Sidebottom cake

My Frank Sidebottom cake

When my colleague Marc White (Chalky) announced he was leaving Media Wales after 25 years, we knew we had to see him off with a bit of a fuss. Paul, who sat between us, often joined Chalky in renditions of Frank Sidebottom songs and asked if I could tackle a cake version of his face.

While I’m totally confident in my ability to knock up a sponge, I’ve never really experimented with fondant icing or character cakes. We found this picture of a Frank cake online, which we printed out at roughly the same size as my cake tin and I traced some of the shapes from it using baking parchment.

After some research, a madeira sponge seemed to be the way to go as it’s dense and could take a lot of icing on top. I made two of these sponges and a batch of buttercream icing, which I used to cover the sponges so the fondant would stick and also to glue them together and to the cake board.  The cakes rose quite a bit in the oven so I had a bit of butchering to do to flatten them out – I must buy the cake equivalent of builder’s spirit level!

Chalky with his Frank Sidebottom cake

Chalky with his Frank Sidebottom cake

As this was to be my first foray into using fondant icing, I decided to buy ready roll stuff for the larger areas (black and flesh tone) and bought a pack of white stuff for the eyes and to colour for the mouth and irises. It turned out to be pretty straightforward to colour, I added it bit by bit until I got the shade I wanted. The only problem I found was when it got too warm, it was very sticky so I kept washing my hands with cold water and drying them to avoid getting most of it glued to my palms.

The flesh-tone fondant I bought online wasn’t of the best quality – it had dried out around the edges which made it a bit crusty and difficult to work with in places. In hindsight, I would’ve sent it back and got some from somewhere else. I bought a plastic rolling pin as I’d read it would stick to a wooden one but it was so hard to stop it sticking to the work surface. In the end, I pulled out a large sheet of baking paper and covered it with icing sugar, which was a bit easier to peel the icing from than my worktop. It did crack a bit while I put it on to the cake but some strategic placing of the hair and ears hid the worst and any other bits I kept wetting and flattening until they were almost invisible.

The hair was the worst part. Because it was black I only really had one go at placing it on or it would colour the base and make a total mess. It’s the bit that bothers me most when I look at the picture now – it could have done with being higher on his face to give the other features a bit more space. I stuck the icing bits to each other by just wetting the back, which seemed to do the trick but I laid out all of them first before dedicating myself!

It was a total labour of love and while I think I could do better a second time round, I’m really pleased with it and, as you can see, Chalky was too. Bobbins!

 

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