Wandering around the Colosseum in Rome on a Thursday last October, I received a call from my friend who was reminding me of the cake I had agreed to make for her that was due to be delivered on the Saturday afternoon, asking how it was coming along!
Slight panic ensued as I was not due to arrive back in London until Friday lunchtime and I had got the date wrong! So as soon as I had thrown my suitcase in my front door, i set about making a tortoise cake, one I had never made before. Pinning up a picture of a tortoise on my cake shelf, I ascertained the best shape to use would be a pyrex bowl and with the spare Madeira mix I put in a 6 inch square tin. The carving of it was the hardest as always and it must have taken me a couple of hours at least to get anywhere near what resembled the shape of the tortoise. I shaved the edges to make it more rounded and I used the square cake to lift him up at the front, making an indentation so as to place his head and feet. Once i was happy with the overall shape, I butter-creamed him and rolled out pebble shaped fondant and plopped them on top to give the shell like appearance.
Initially using a light brown fondant, I covered him completely, shaping the shell as I went. Whilst it was drying a bit, I rolled MMP to make the head and legs and inserted them in the space I had created and spent the next hour rolling tiny bits of MMP to stick all over them. Looking more like a tortoise now, my initial panic was subsiding but he didn’t look right. I deduced he needed to be a different colour so using my paint palette, I mixed a light and dark brown food paste to the desired hue and painted him. The brush strokes accentuated the shell like appearance.
With no time to cover the board, I placed the cake on it, brushed it with a little glue and poured coloured caster sugar all over. Last job I did was to spray him all over with clear lustre spray which made him shiny. After 8 hours I could not see this cake! I delivered him still wet from the paint as I just about finished in time and the paint left a mark behind him looking like he had poo’d! the recipient, a 7 year old tortoise fanatic refused to cut him and share it out for his birthday party as he was worried the tortoise would be hurt! and when it was eventually cut, he had to keep the front third intact! I to this day do not know how I managed this in such a short space of time and of all the cakes I have made, this one gets the most comments! Lastly it won a joint first prize on Edible Artists Network on Facebook for most realistic cakes!