Sunday, 21 April 2013

Chocolate Bicycle Birthday Cake

Over the last year or so, I've been making cakes and cupcakes for friends and neighbours birthdays. This is something I really enjoy doing, and I'm noticing that my technique is improving each time.

Usually, if a covered cake is requested, I make a basic vanilla sponge as it's one of the most broadly liked sponges. 

As my Twitter followers already know, I've recently been asked to make a birthday cake for a bicycle lover. This time, the cake was to be a chocolate cake rather than my usual vanilla.

After talking about designs with my work colleague (the cake was for her partner), we decided that a plainer style cake would be more effective.

The cake was due for Friday - to make sure I had plenty of time, I baked and crumbcoated the cake on the Wednesday evening, and covered and decorated it on the Thursday evening. They were both rather late nights!

To make the chocolate cake, I used the recipe from my previous post Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes.

I adjusted it slightly to make sure I had enough to fill two 7" cake tins.

I used 4 eggs rather than 3, so the total weight was 230g. I substituted 75g of butter with melted chocolate (rather than the 50g), but stuck with substituting 25g of the flour with cocoa powder. As the cupcakes came out quite domey last time, I didn't add the baking powder this time.

I hummed and ha'd about baking powder for quite a few minutes, but decided to trust in myself and go without...

I baked the cakes at 160 (fan) for about 25 minutes, watching the like a hawk for the last few minutes to ensure they didn't catch!

I needn't have worried about not putting baking powder in, they ended up with a lovely rise - much more than I expected! 

I usually leave a good 3" of greaseproof above the top of the tin when lining the sides - I'm really glad I did this time!

Once the cakes had cooled, I gave them a slight trim to level them off, and started to make the buttercream.

I wanted to use a chocolate buttercream, but I was worried about it possibly showing through the sugarpaste (or fondant/ready to roll icing), so I decided to make a white chocolate buttercream instead.

Again, I used the buttercream recipe from Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes, but substituted the milk chocolate with white chocolate. I also wanted a thinner consistency to make it easier to crumbcoat, so I only used about 375g of the icing sugar.

I sandwiched and crumbcoated the cakes (as per Sandwiching and Crumbcoating Cakes), then put the cake in the fridge overnight.

As you can see, the shape is slightly wonky. I think I need to get an angled and a 90 degree pallet knife to get the best finish.

I evened the buttercream out a little, then rolled out around 700g of white sugarpaste to cover the cake (as per Covering a Cake)

The edge is not quite as sharp as I'd like - this is partially due to the buttercream underneath. I'd also like to get a second smoother to help achieve a cleaner edge.

I transferred the cake over to a cake board and put it to one side so I could start colouring the sugarpaste for the decoration.

The colour of the bike was to be red. I coloured some sugarpaste red (for the main frame), grey (for metal parts to be painted later), and black (for tyres, pedals and handlebar grips).

You can buy ready coloured sugarpaste, but see Colouring Sugarpaste and Flowerpaste for details on how to do it yourself.

I cut out two black circles for the tyres, then cut two smaller circles from inside these circles.

I then cut some strips of red sugarpaste and started to assemble the frame around the tyres; trimming it to size as I went along. Once I was happy with the frame, I cut sections from the tyres so the whole thing would sit flat.

I made the handlebars, pedal and seat stems from small pieces of rolled grey sugarpaste, and used three small circles for the wheel centres and pedal sprocket.

For the pedal sprocket, I made small holes with a veining tool, and pressed indentations into the other two circles.

The seat was cut out of black sugarpaste, and the handlebar grips and pedals were made from small pieces of rolled black sugarpaste.

Here are all of the pieces ready for assembly:
The next step was to attach this to the top of the cake, and as I was piping the spokes on with Royal Icing, I decided to use this as the glue too.

I mixed 3Tbsp royal icing sugar (available from larger supermarkets or online) with a few drops of water and a small amount of black paste colouring to make a grey icing paste. I made it grey as it would show through the silver paint less than white icing later on.

I stuck all of the pieces on top of the cake with some royal icing, and then piped the spokes.

I mixed some black royal icing and piped the "Happy Birthday" lettering onto the top.

I wanted to pipe some grass around the edge of the cake with the multi opening nozzle that I used for the nests on my Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes.

I made up some green royal icing, but could not get the icing stiff enough to keep its shape without bursting my piping bags.

Once this box of piping bags is used up, I'm definitely going to try some of the Lakeland ones I've been recommended by Sam of Planet Bake Life.

I changed to a closed star nozzle, which still gave a reasonable grass effect, but I would have preferred to have used the other nozzle.

By this time, the icing for the spokes and lettering had set enough to paint.

I don't currently have any silver paint, but I do have some edible silver Rainbow Dust. I mixed some of this with a drop or two of vodka (you can also use gin or food grade IPA) to make a paint.

To finish the cake, I painted this onto the spokes and other metal parts of the bike, and also on top of the lettering.

And that's it - all done! I hope you've found my techniques useful!



  1. Great cake Kate! Love the detail of the bike, it looks great! Whenever I've done the grass effect around the cake before, I've used buttercream as I find it's easier to pipe and get the effect.

    1. Thanks Leanne!

      I had leftover buttercream too... I never though to colour and use it - thanks for the tip!


  2. The cake looks really good kate, love the detail that you've got on the cake.


    1. Thanks Stacey!

      I'm really pleased with how it turned out, I'm getting a bit better each time :)


  3. Thank you Kate :-) cake was yumie and beautiful. Tom was well impressed:-)

    1. Thanks Zofi!

      I'm really pleased that Tom (and you!) liked it, and even more pleased that it was yummy!


  4. Oooh looks good, Kate! I bet it tasted good too.
    I only learnt to ride a bike when I was 21 so I can't say I'd pick this as my first choice of birthday cake considering I always fall off anyway but it looks picture perfect!

    1. Thanks Sam,

      I got to taste the offcuts with some left over buttercream, and Zofi assured me that it was yummy!

      Well done for learning to ride - even if you fall off! I can ride, but generally my balance and co-ordination are *ahem* appalling...


  5. Well that looks superb, well done.

    I need cake now, the cravings have started

    1. Thanks Gary,

      I'm really pleased with it!

      Your cravings are contagious, you're making me want cake now too :)


  6. I love this cake it looks amazing. I love the detail of the bicycle and the grass around the bottom of the cake. The recipient must have been so pleased with the cake. I know I would have been :)

    1. Thanks Emma,

      I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I like the how the grass turned out with the star nozzle, but I'll definitely try Leanne's tip of using buttercream with the grass nozzle next time!

      Tom and Zofi really loved the cake so I'm even more pleased :)


  7. Oh wow, I love this and your creativity. I adore the bicycle moreso, such a shame it had to be consumed, so pretty. At least you got to take a fantastic pic to share with us and inspire us.

    1. Thank you Shaheen,

      I must make sure I get a piece of cake next time :)


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