My niece, Violet, is pretty specific about her birthday cakes. Over the past seven years, she's given me her annual brief, which invariably fills me with a combination of excitement and dread. I've been introduced to a cheerful cast of commercial characters - Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty, Moshi Monsters and Octonauts, as well as classics like Alice and the Mad Hatter, and Violet's very own imaginative creation - the Princess Queen Ballerina Hamster. Sometimes their innocent cuteness hides an evil streak - replicating their features in sugar paste, they smirk mockingly at me as they teeter, lose their balance and a head rolls towards the floor.
The latest addition to the cake crew is Boo, officially titled the cutest dog in the world. Not much to live up to there then. Now when it comes to birthday cakes, I've developed a bit of a knack. Sugarcraft figures keep indefinitely so I take my time, pacing the creation over several weekends. I bake the cake a day or two before it's needed and then it's a fairly simple task of assembly the night before it's needed. Until this year. Violet decided that she didn't want a cake with a little sugar Boo on it, she wanted the cake to be Boo. And so the decoration window narrowed from weeks to hours, and suddenly I'm transported back to the realms of time limited baking.
With the help of a garlic press, I extruded strands of fondant fur and proved that I can rise to a technical challenge after all. Vanilla dog biscuits added a touch of authenticity and a sugar paste bowl of chocolate dog food provided a suitable spot to stick seven candles.
Happy Birthday Violet! Whatever you have planned for next year... bring it on!