It was all going so well. The madeira cake looked and smelled like madeira cake should look and smell. I actually managed to slice it horizontally without wobbling so I had two roughly similar sized pieces between which I could spread the jam and buttercream. The ivory fondant icing rolled out beautifully and covered the cake creating a blank canvas on which I could work.
The plan was to do a design that represented the ballroom dancing that my husband and I love and around which my wedding anniversary party was based. It seemed like a fairly foolproof idea to do a step pattern using little cut out feet, arrows and numbers.
I bought ready to roll black icing to make the cut out footprints. I asked daughter Ivy to draw a footprint on a piece of card that I could use a template. Dozens of footprints later, I had everything from hobnail boots to something resembling a fancy blown glass vase. I actually used the very first footprint she drew but modified it to make it less symmetrical so there was a discernible difference between the left and right foot.
Using the template to cut out my feet was a mission. The black icing was much harder to work with than the ivory had been but I managed a reasonably good looking pattern, although I doubt it bears any resemblance to any dance in the known universe.
The next stage was to add arrows, numbers and a little bit of musical notation just to make it absolutely clear that this was about dance (and not just that someone with dirty feet had walked over a cake).
This is where the problems began.
I mixed up my black glace icing ready for piping. It was far from black. Purple, even dark purple, but not black. I kept adding the food colouring in the hope that It would miraculously achieve the desired hue, all the time wondering at what point this mixture would be considered too toxic for human consumption.
It was about now that it was pointed out to me that my black food colouring had actually passed its sell by date in May 2010. Maybe that was why it was struggling to be what it said on the bottle!
I desperately needed a plan B.
I wondered if the ready roll fondant icing could somehow be watered down to piping consistency. It was worth a try. Amazingly it worked really well but I had only managed to make a very small amount. It would have been completely lost in my icing bag.
The same person that had highlighted the dubious freshness of my food colouring suggested that I make an icing bag out of greaseproof paper. I vaguely remembered how to do that and after a bit of experimentation I was ready to go.
It was far from ideal but sometimes you have to make the best of what you've got.
The cake is not perfect but I am quite proud of my efforts and hope that if nothing else, it will be eaten and enjoyed!