How Mr Owl taught me to be a better baker

Meet Mr Owl. A delicious, spongy, moist chocolate owl cake covered in chocolate butter cream and lots of yummy owl decorations. Oh and of course, all his yummy chocolate cupcake friends. This was by far the hardest bake I have done but I definitely learnt a few things along the way.

I made this cake a few months ago for my nephews 1st birthday party. I knew he loved owls so as always I started browsing Pinterest for owl cake inspiration.  I saw the cutest little owl cupcakes and I really wanted to make them but I had to feed 20+ people so thought I would attempt a cake and cupcakes. As I said before, this was a few months ago and I am only writing a post on it now because this was THE MOST STRESSFUL thing I have ever made. I really don’t know how people make these amazing, immaculate and perfect cakes…. this cake took me over 10 hours to make and it is anything but perfect!!! I am so proud of the final cake and it tasted lovely but I had so many issues and hiccups along the way. I actually sat on the kitchen floor crying for a good 30 minutes and ended up calling my dad for help ( he lives 2 hours away …). This was my first time making a character cake, first time using fondant ( just a little for the eyes and nose) and even my first time using a cake board, so I really set myself a challenge. Looking back, there are a few things that really hindered the bake and things I will think about before attempting something like this again

 

Make sure your cake board fits in the fridge

I was baking on one of the hottest days of the year and my cake was literally melting before my eyes. I needed to stick it together with buttercream but nothing was holding. I knew I needed to keep it chilled but my cake board was too big to fit in my fridge ( this is when I sat on the floor and cried). I rang my dad ( he used to make all our birthday cakes when we were kids) and he suggested I cut the board to fit. Incomes the trusty toolkit and Stanley knife. I managed to peel off the silver paper, cut the board and fold the paper back around – it didn’t look too bad but set me back about 2 hours. So, the moral of the story …check that your cake board will fit in your fridge!

 

Chose the right cake recipe 

I wanted to make sure the cake was really nice and didn’t just look good on the outside. I was planning on making a chocolate sponge but I thought that would be a bit boring so I decided on a chocolate cake recipe from Cupcake Jemma that promised to be moist and spongy. The cake was delicious and everyone said what a gorgeous cake it was however it had big chunks of chocolate in ( which is why is was so delicious) but it made it VERY difficult to cut out all the different shapes. Each time I cut the cake I would hit a chunk of chocolate and then the cake would tear and pull out huge pieces of cake ruining the shape. This was unbelievably annoying as I had a great template and it just wasn’t working because of the cake I chose. Some parts were better than others but the little bits, such as feet and ears, ended up being moulded by hand – sort of like a cake pop. Even though the cake was delicious, next time I would chose something a little more robust like a Madeira.

 

Planning is key 

I had a template that I was going to use to get the owl shape and knew I wanted to use chocolate buttons to get a feather effect but if I am honest I didn’t think much further. After all the tears, tantrums and Tequilas ( joking!) I finally got myself to a place where I needed to decorate my cake. Again, I used Pinterest to find similar cakes and see what other people had done. Some of them were amazing but the piping and fondant work was far beyond my ability and whats more,  it was midnight on a Friday and all the shops were shut so I had to make do with what I had. Half a pack of white fondant and a couple of food colours. I am really happy with the result but I did completely make it up as I went along. I wanted a blue owl but I could not get the right colour ( sorry but the Dr Oetker gel colours are total rubbish!) so I ended up mixing all my colours together to get the pale green. I then spontaneously added some red and then started putting that on ….. I think it looked really cute but next time I would definitely print out some pictures or sketch out what I wanted to do so that I had something to follow.

As I keep saying, I am so proud of what I managed to bake ( especially after all the problems I had) and the cake was really delicious but it did put me off baking for a few months. I have definitely learnt a few keys tips from this bake and next time I will plan, plan, plan.


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If I haven’t put you off attempting your own owl cake and you want to have a go, here is the template I used for Mr Owl.

6 Comment

  1. Great blog and I feel your pain. I created a monster truck cale for my nephew and had a crisis of confidence several times along the way.

    1. Thanks Louise. Hope the truck turned out ok in the end, I am sure it was delicious whatever it looked like. Thanks again for commenting, Chonnie xx

  2. Mr Owl looks absolutely fantastic! What a gorgeous cake! I always use Lindy Smith’s recipe if I need to carve a cake, and for 90% of all my chocolate cake. If ever you need to make another try this one http://www.lindyscakes.co.uk/2011/02/02/lindys-chocolate-fudge-cake-recipe/
    Although you’d never know you’d had problems with yours. It really looks perfect. Love it!

    1. Ohhh thanks for much Corrina. I have just looked at the link and its looks delicious, thank you so much for the heads up – I think this will save a lot of tears 🙂

  3. Sammie says: Reply

    Oh this owl is so cute and perfect. To look at it you would never know you had problems. I love your blog because you are honest about what actually happened. Way before my blogging days when our eldest was about 7 years, I made her a pink, buttercream iced, castle cake. I couldn’t bake or look at pink buttercream for months after. Most importantly your nephew and my daughter loved their cakes.

    1. Always appreciate your support and kind words Sammie. I just had to write about the trials and tribulations because it was the most difficult thing I have ever baked and just made me respect our fellow bakers even more, I just don’t know how they do it! Exactly, as long as it tastes good and our families know we have tried our best. Thanks again xx

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