How to finish a cake in 4 hours (whilst suffering the holiday blues)

I’m exhausted. I got off the plane last night in grey, grey Hong Kong at 7 pm from sunny Phuket. As if the thought of getting up for work wasn’t enough, I also had to bake a cake for my mum’s birthday, which is today.

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I like giving myself plenty of time to bake a cake, mainly so that if anything goes wrong, I have time to fix it. The work usually starts 3-4 days before I need to deliver a cake:

4-day countdown: Bake the cake, level, cling wrap and into the freezer it goes

3-day countdown: Make the frosting, stack and crumb-coat the cake, thaw in fridge

2-day countdown: Final coat of frosting, and prep the decorations

1-day countdown: Finish all decorating, box and put in fridge to await delivery

This time, I had to compress everything into a 4-hour window. On top of trying not to fall asleep face-down in the frosting, I had to deal with a layer that nearly broke in half, which also threatened to fall apart when I tried to ice it back together. Bastard.

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If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to bake a cake in 4 hours, here are a few pointers:

– Use cake mix. Full stop. I’m usually a snob who likes making my cakes from scratch, but with limited time, you don’t want anything to go wrong. I used white cake mix and gave it an edge with freshly scraped vanilla seeds (my boyfriend brought back 50 pods of Madagascan vanilla from London!).

– Let your cake layers cool down and freeze them until firm. Don’t skip this step. Trust me.

– When you’re done with all the decorating, pop the entire cake into the freezer to let it set and firm up.

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I went for a rustic finish of mint green Bailey’s frosting, and decorated the cake with a halo of sprinkles, fresh blueberries, crushed pistachio and mini Reese cups. I love how the colours turned out in the end! Sadly, the white chocolate letters look like MUN instead of MUM, but let’s pretend that’s not a big deal.

I may grumble and be in need of a good night’s sleep, but to be honest, it’s the first birthday cake I’ve ever made my mum, and it was all worth it. Happy birthday mummy!

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