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!
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!