Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Breaking Bad cake for Rachel Boot

Last weekend, my good friend, Rachel Boot, turned 30.  This whole 'turning 30' phenomena is picking off my friends one-by-one at the moment, and it's coming for me in the not too distant future.  But you know what? I'm down with it.  I can take it.  I've been prematurely middle-aged for the last ten years so I may as well have the digits to correspond. 

And if you do have to deal with the big Three Zero, then you deserve to make a big fucking fuss about it; see all the people you like, drink till you don't recognise them, and hope that one of your awesome friends makes you a cake. OH HELLO, OVER HERE, THAT WAS ME!  And by the time the candle on said cake was lit I had drunk so much that I spent the rest of the time shouting, "DO YOU GET WHAT IT IS, DO YOU GET IT, DO YOU GET ITTTT???".

Not that you care - you want me to get to the cake, I know - but as it happens I had a wonderful time at the party. I got to have a weekend back in civilised London, drank a lot of stuff that I don't even remember, and nattered and screeched in the faces of lots of people I love. AND I drove to London.  I know you're all terribly clever and probably do that every day or something, but I was quite impressed with myself.  I did some massive roundabouts and didn't cry and everything.

So, how does one choose a theme for someone's 30th birthday cake?  Well, during the course of our friendship I've come to learn that Rachel Boot regards all of the below very highly:

1. Pugs
2. The phrase, "I know, right?"
3. Zombie apocalypses
4. The all consuming hatred of Tim Lovejoy
5. Pork products
6. Breaking Bad

Well I've already done option 1, option 3 isn't particularly appetising, and I wouldn't even know where to start with 2, 4 or 5, so I went for option 6.  Rachel Boot loves Breaking Bad as much as I do.  In fact she loves it more than I do, as she caught onto it in good time, unlike me, who catches onto everything late (see also: denim shirts, twitter, top-knots, BLOGGING).  So it was an obvious cake theme, albeit one which I came to severely regret when I was boiling molten sugar at half past ten on a Thursday evening.

If you haven't ever seen Breaking Bad then a) you need to take a long, hard look at your life and b) I'm sorry, this cake will make absolutely no sense. But seriously, hop to it, it's great, and Jesse gets hotter in every series despite being an intermittent meth head.

The most important element of a Breaking Bad cake is that you need to get some blue crystal meth in there.  If you don't then you might as well make a My Little Pony cake. It's not easy, you'll probably burn yourself and ruin your saucepans, but you just need to do it.

What you need is a solution of one part water, one part caster sugar (I used 2 cups of each for this).  Put this in a high sided pan, add food colouring, and boil to buggery.  You want it to get to boiling point quite slowly, but then keep it going till it gets hotter and hotter and bubblier and bubblier, making sure it doesn't start to catch and go golden coloured. It'll take about 10-15 minutes to get it to the state you want, which is basically a pan of glossy, crazy bubbles. A thermometer helps - you want to get it to 300 degrees Fahrenheit - but I sort of melted mine and had to freestyle. Corn syrup also apparently helps, but I'm English and don't really know what that is or have a supply of it in my pantry, but if you do then google 'hard candy' to find a recipe which incorporates it.

This is what you want your 'meth' to look like. Glossy bubbles, see? If you're not sure if it's hot enough then drop a little on a plate and see if it hardens. 

Once it's there you need to pour out onto a greased sheet of baking paper (take a piece of kitchen towel, dab it with a bit of vegetable oil, then give the sheet a rub), set in a baking tray. 

Give it about an hour to set and cool, it should be like boiled sweets, then SMASH IT UP. If it is still sticky then I'm afraid you didn't get it hot enough and there's not much to be done about it.  The lack of the corn syrup means it might go sort of hazy, and lose it's glassiness, so use it right away. I added some blue edible glitter as well, to up the sparkle.

The lettering on the cake is based on the titles of the show, which in turn is based on the periodic table, duh.  The letters Ra, helpfully fit with Radon, but there is unfortunately no element for which the symbol is Bo.  In this case I favoured the aesthetics over the facts.  And obviously the atomic numbers for both are not thirty, but those are the current atomic numbers for Miss Rachel Boot. 

It's not so easy to tell you how to do the lettering, but basically it's all the work of firm icing, stencils and colouring.  I use (click for links) this flower paste, these gel colours and these letter presses.  So you press your letters, then simply cut out a rectangle of black and two squares of green.  Do them the night before, to give them time to firm-up. To stick the pieces together just dab a bit of water on the back and position.

Then the cake.  Well that's just a basic sponge with buttercream, which I firmly believe everyone can achieve.  To prove this I invited my colleague Emily, a self-confessed baking novice, round this week (on the basis of a work matter, of course) and showed her how.  And she pulled off a blinder.  Look at her proud face.

So your basic sponge recipe, which you can multiply as appropriate (this was an 8 egg sponge), is:
1 free-range egg
2oz plain flour
2oz stork
2oz golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all together well and bake in a greased tin, checking after the first 20 mins, then every ten minutes until it's done (at which point you should be able to insert and remove a skewer, without any mix sticking to it).  For a cake of this size you'll need a rectangular tin, about 12"x8" and it'll take about 40 minutes.

The rule for buttercream is one part unsalted butter, two parts icing sugar, then a tbsp at a time of milk until you've reached the desired consistency.  In this case, 500g icing sugar (sifted), 250g of very soft butter and 4 tbsp milk.  Put all your ingredients in your mixer until done.  Use a palette knife to apply to the cake - do it gently, so you don't end up with crumbs in the icing. If there are a lot of crumbs then just apply a thin layer, then put in the fridge till firmed, then apply another layer on top and the crumbs should be covered.

Once the cake is iced, add your lettering to the top, then scatter the 'meth' around the edge.  Then....slice, eat and get off your tits on E numbers.

So, happy 30th, Rachel Boot.  I'm sure you'll agree that by using a 2 year old photo I'm doing both of us a favour.

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