Let’s be honest: I have been waiting to make this cake all year. At least. Maybe I even thought of the idea before Rata was born. Whatever the case, today I baked two doubled recipes of my standard chocolate cake, cut them into shapes, fitted it together and iced it. Twice. It took all day.
A piwakawaka (fantail) (yes, I am training myself to think of it that way around, breaking the habit of a lifetime in calling the bird a fantail) is native to New Zealand, flits about from shop to shop just like a butterfly, eats insects from your ceiling cobwebs and chirps in a squeaky kind of a way. I can imitate the noise, but I can’t really write about it. It rarely stays still for a millisecond, and that is why there are no decent photos of fantails, I mean piwakawaka, on the internets. But there are some nice drawings. And some really ugly ones. Search ‘fantail’ on TradeMe and you’ll see what I mean.
The cake recipe was very well suited to cutting into shapes – firm and able to hold its shape, not too crumbly so it could be iced, but moist and spongy as a cake should be. I was also stoked that the doubled quantities fit perfectly into the roasting dish. I am making a note of this in my recipe book as we speak.
Astute icing archaeologists at Rata’s birthday party will note that there are two layers of icing, suggesting *gasp* TWO attempts at decorating the cake. I did what is known in some circles as a ‘crumb layer’ with chocolate icing, but then tried to ice over this with a lighter tone for the detail, even though the thin crumb layer had dried a bit. For my next attempt I had both colours ready, and iced them at the same time: the body first and then the fan. I didn’t bother doing another layer on icing down the sides as that was fiddly enough the first time. Then I got my new icing pen (which has somehow broken already) and did the rata flowers for the piwakawaka’s perch.
Here is the first attempt at icing:
The cake looks a little disoriented, perched on a rata branch in the middle of a Queensland pineapple plantation (the tea towel beneath). I used my entire quota of cling film for the year, covering the cake in the hope that no ant will dare sniff it out. Those ants seemed to be hungry on Friday. And manic. They swarmed the cleaned icing bowl on the dish rack. I hate ants. I hate their purpose. They are so selfish. I wish I could kill them all. You may also care to note the token health food in the corner there. This spread looks rather sweet-heavy, but I farmed out savoury duties to my mum and step-mother and they had not arrived at this point to cram the table with delicious salty alternatives (asparagua rolls, feta tartlets, filo triangles, sausage rolls and bread and dips).
One guest described the cake as ‘the most awesome cake I’ve ever seen’ (I think I have more or less captured what he said without this being an exact quote). It also tasted freakin’ amazing. I’m taking orders now for your next special occasion. Yes. Yes I am.
Special mention should also be made of Clementine and Alexandra, without whom the cake extravaganza would have been a flop: by helping entertain Rata, I was able to bake up a storm. They also did the dishes and licked the bowl. But not in that order…