Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Don't Try to Reason with a Headless Man

Disney Classic # 11 - The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Ichabod and Mr Toad (particularly the Ichabod part) have been favourites of mine since childhood. This feature consists of two really rather good shorts - Disney's adaptation The Wind in the Willows, and their adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
For the cake I decided to try something a little more technical. One of the reasons I started this "challenge" was because I enjoy making novelty cakes and love trawling the pictures in cake decorating books of cakes in fantastical shapes. It amazes me what some bakers are able to do with a bit of cake and a good idea! Now that we're moving out of the uncharted territory (films I hadn't seen/don't really remember) and into the much loved movies of my childhood, I imagine that there will be a fair few more novelty cakes popping up.

Anyway, returning to Ichabod and Mr. Toad... As this was a double-feature I decided to place focus on my favourite of the two features for my inspiration for this week's cake. Whilst a lot of food features in the movie (Ichabod is constantly eating!) I decided instead to base my cake on a prominent image of the film: the Headless Horseman's flaming jack-o-lantern head, which he throws at his victims in exchange for their own head! I had thought about making this cake pumpkin flavoured, but decided against this, firstly because pumpkins aren't in season right now, secondly because I'm not sure if the texture/consistency of pumpkin cake lends itself to be easily carved, and finally because I'm not sure if the flavour would go too well with the icing. I do think it's best when trying something a bit out of the norm to focus either on experimenting with flavour OR experimenting with appearance, you don't want to do too much!!

Our Horseman was not best pleased when he found out Ichabod had eaten all of the cake

As with the majority of novelty cakes I make, the sponge inside is a simple but delicious vanilla sponge - the recipe my mum passed down to me. I'm not sure where it originated, it's just permanently ingrained into my brain from years of use. The design of the cake is based on a cake which appears in Debbie Brown's 50 Easy Party Cakes. (Mouse House, pg 40)

Prep time: 30-40 minutes (significantly longer if you colour your own icing!) Cook time: 2 hours 30mins Serves: 12


500g margarine
500g caster sugar
500g self raising flour
4 large eggs
1tbsp vanilla essence
700g ready to roll/fondant icing
Orange food colouring (I use Sugarflair Gel Paste Colouring as it gives a more vibrant colour)
Black food colouring
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
4 tbsp granulated sugar
75g butter
125g icing sugar
Strawberry jam

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a round oven-proof/Pyrex bowl with foil.
  2. In a very large bowl, beat together the margarine and caster sugar until creamy.
  3. Sift in around a quarter of the flour and fold into the margarine mixture. add one egg to the mixture and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all on the eggs and flour are incorporated into the mixture. Add the vanilla essence and mix well.
  4. Separate the mixture into 3 bowls. Using the food colourings, turn one bowl of cake mixture red, one orange and one yellow.
  5. Using half of the total cake mixture, layer the different colours into the lined Pyrex bowl. Run a bamboo skewer through the bowl to create swirls.
  6. Bake the cake until firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. For me this took 1 hour 15 mins, but it depends on the size of the dish you are using (mine is small but deep). My advice is to check the cake after 45 mins, and then every 10-15 mins from then onwards.
  7. Whilst the cakes are baking, prepare the icing and the sugars for decorating. Colour the ready to roll icing orange by using a toothpick to place a small amount of orange food dye onto the icing and kneading it through until the colour is even. Start off using a small amount of dye and then add more as necessary.
  8. To make the "ash": place 2 tbsp granulated sugar into a food bag, 1 tbsp into a second, and 1tbsp into the third. Add a small drop of black food colouring to the bag with the most sugar and tie the bag off. Rub gently between your hands until all of the sugar is evenly coated and gray in colour. Repeat this process with the other two bags, making one red and one orange. Put these to one side until ready to use.
  9. Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, gently remove the cake from the Pyrex bowl and allow to cool on a wire wrack.
  10. Wash, dry and re-line the Pyrex bowl and repeat steps 5-7 for the second layer.
  11. Once both cakes have completely cooled, make the buttercream. Beat the butter until soft and then sift in the icing sugar.
  12. Cut the top of both cakes level, and spread a thin layer of jam on one of the layers. Place the other layer, flat side down, on top of the first layer, so that they create a ball shape.
  13. Using a serrated knife, cut 1cm ridges/grooves around the cake to create a pumpkin shape. cover the cake in a thin layer of butter cream (this is to keep the ready to roll icing in place.)
  14. Using icing sugar to prevent the icing from sticking, roll out the orange icing and cover the cake. Gently press the icing into the grooves with the side of your hand, and trim any excess icing from the bottom of the cake.
  15. Mix a little of the black food dye with a drop of vanilla essence and carefully paint the face onto your jack-o-lantern.
  16. Mix the grey, red and orange sugars together to look like ash and burning embers, sprinkle this around the base of the cake. (this is optional, but I like the way it looks, and it covers any rough patches at the bottom of the cake...)
  17. Slice and serve!

Next time we'll be watching Cinderella, and I'll be taking on the iconic castle in cake form!

Happy Thoughts

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