Meet Bob, the bass.
I made Bob–I have no idea why I named a fish–for my father-in-law’s combined birthday and retirement in July. After years of hard graft he’s looking forward to spending his days fishing, so I thought I’d start him off with an easy catch!
This is a bit of a make-ahead cake. The bulrushes need to be made a few days ahead so that they can dry out and (fingers crossed) stick to the skewers. You can also make the fish head in advance, too.
I’m afraid that I didn’t take many pictures of the cake process–sticky hands and cameras aren’t a good combination–but for the rushes I mixed 50:50 flower paste and fondant and coloured about half dark brown and the rest holly green. Getting the fondant to stick to the skewers for the bulrushes was a bit of a mission: I tried dampening the skewers by soaking them, brushing with sugar glue, and (of all things) some jam. I wedged the skewers into a polystyrene box insert that was lying around so that they could dry without resting on a flat surface and then draped the leaves over the rest of the skewers to give them the right shape. Once dried out the bulrush heads stayed in place (thank God) and the extra leaves I made were easy to stick straight into the cake for a nice pond scene.
The fish head was moulded from rice krispy treats, covered in fondant, and then I spent an hour smoothing the surface and adding details. Despite having a box of fancy tools in the cupboard, sometimes you can’t beat a cocktail stick and your fingers for fiddly work! This tutorial was very helpful, too. I painted it the next day with food colourings mixed with lustre dusts and vodka. A dab of piping gel made the eye nice and glossy for that freshly caught look. (This was my first time using piping gel and it is weird but very wonderful stuff–it made fantastic ripples on top of the cake as well as a shiny glaze for the pebbles. Totes amaze!)
For the cake itself I turned to my new favourite recipe: Lindy Smith’s Madeira cake. It makes a fabulously deep cake with a lovely flat top, so there’s hardly any waste. It’s really tasty, too, which is the main thing! It’s easily split into three layers and looks really impressive when cut.
Bob went down a storm with my father-in-law. He couldn’t bear to cut into Bob so, like a real fish, he’s been stashed away in the freezer. We did eat the rest of the cake, though!!