Honey and pear layer cake, pg. 224; crystallised fruit, pg. 248; frosting layer cakes, pg. 242, Cake Days, The Hummingbird Bakery

Last night as a family, we celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday. His actual birthday isn’t until next week but everyone’s busy lives meant that yesterday was the only date when we could all get together (having said that, one of my sisters was still unable to make it as she’s currently out of the country). My mam was initially against the idea of having a cake at this ‘mock birthday’ because she was already planning a cake for his actual birthday. But nothing embarrasses a person more, or marks their birthday more appropriately in a restauarnt than when the lights are dimmed and someone you don’t know who works in the kitchen brings out a flaming baked good. Also, two birthday cakes is always better than one.

Defying my mam’s apprehension, I volunteered to bake this cake. It is essentially how my challenge began, as it meant hauling all my cake books down from the dresser to find the perfect recipe and me, once again thinking what a shame that I would never ever get round to baking all these cakes. Or so I thought.

I don’t know why I chose the honey and pear cake. Maybe it was the beautifully shot image in the book, or the page’s rich purple colour, I really don’t know but it was decided.

I had four things I needed to do before we headed out to the restaurant, finish all my work before the bank holiday weekend (I run my own business and was working from home yesterday), bake and decorate my dad’s cake, exercise and make myself look fabulous.

I managed one out of four.

I started preparing the cake in between sending emails and came across my first hurdle immediately. At the foot of the ingredients list, I read four 20cm (8in) diameter loose-bottomed sandwich tins. I only own two. So cooking time would have to be doubled as I would need to bake two layers of this cake at a time. It was at this point that I knew exercising was out of the question.

I must admit, following the recipe itself was very straightforward and I didn’t come across any complications. Also surprisingly, I didn’t make any mistakes (I often spoon cake mixture into tins and realise that I’ve left out a crucial ingredient). It stated that you could use a hand-held electric whisk to mix the ingredients which is always a bonus for me as I don’t yet own one of these. And in actual fact, because I had to bake two cakes at a time, I was able to prepare the frosting and the crystallised fruits (pg. 248) before all the layers were ready.

I have never attempted crystallised fruits before and I found the process quite stressful to begin with. Mainly because I wasn’t keeping my bowl of sugar free of lumps.

As you dip your fruit in whisked egg whites then the sugar, some of the egg whites will inevitably fall into the sugar and create clumps. Just rememebr to remove the clumps. I had to rince my fruits a couple of times before I was happy with them but for a first attempt, they didn’t look too ‘clumpy’.

As for the frosting, I love cream cheese icing. Just eating it on its own means I can taste carrot cake. But what was even nicer about this frosting was that it contained honey. The sweet taste wasn’t too overpowering, rather it gave nice subtle honey tones, the likes of which you get when eating a Toblerone.

Once all four layers were out of the oven and cooling on the side, and the decorative items were done, I headed off for a shower. With only 30mins to go before we had to leave I then remembered something I hadn’t done for work so I sat down by my computer, 15mins later I was on my way to get ready. I managed it but wasn’t wearing or looking like anything I’d envisaged, I even forgot my put my engagement ring back on in the rush.

So, with my husband feeding the dog and starting the car, I was in the kitchen hurriedly and gently decorating the cake. I must admit, the icing tip on pg. 242 was so simple but made the cake look great. And here is the outcome, candles optional (I nearly forgot to take a picture because we were in such a rush but I wasn’t going to be able to write this entry without some hard evidence of my achievement!):

We had a great evening with 11 close family, and I don’t think we stopped laughing all night. The compliments for the cake were gracefully received (!) by myself and there was only a quarter of it left when we all bundled into our cars to go home. Stupidly, I told my parents to take the rest of the cake home with them – something I’m still regretting.

The overall taste was great – every flavour, from the honey to the cinnamon were subtle and complemented each other, and the slices of cooked pear in between the layers gave it a nice bite.

If you want to bake this weekend, I would highly recommend this cake.

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