This is one of my favourite cakes, Megan's princess castle. I made it last year and am not sure how I would do it differently now, so here's how I did it, and ways I could improve it. Mental note: take "in progress" photos from now on.
There are a couple of popular variations on the princess castle cake. The first is a square cake with turrets made from ice cream cornets in each corner. I love this idea as a homemade cake made with love but I wanted to offer something more professional. The second is a square cake with turrets at each corner. This just didn't appeal somehow: what about the blank space on the top of the cake?
I started off looking at castle cakes online to get the idea for what I wanted to do. The structure of my cake is a copy of a Jane Asher cake that comes in at £350. Here it is, if you're feeling flush (available from http://www.janeasher.com). Mine is very different both in design and price. In fact, I feel rather brave putting this up but I'm not a member of Jane Asher's professional team and have neither the resources not the experience to reach this standard. If I did, I'd be charging the price of a flat-screen TV for my cakes too.
First I had to get the body of the cake. For this I used a 23cm springform pan and the 10cm mini springform pan appropriated from my son's baking set. I've used this combination before, in this cake for my dad's 70th.
I set the small cake on top of the large one, off centre and iced them both with white royal icing to keep them fresh. Then the work could begin. To make the turrets I'll put my hand up and admit to using mini rolls from a shop. I'm not a fan of bought cakes as part of my cakes but at the time couldn't think of a better solution. Now, I think I'd bake another square cake then cut rounds with my smallest round cutter and pile them up. There's still an issue with keeping them straight though. Any ideas, I'd be glad to hear them. Next time around I'll put dowels through the length of them; for this, I stuck them down with butter icing and shored them up with the pink stones.
The castle walls I cut by hand and wrapped around each cake, and the stairs were simple enough. Then it was just a case of doing the fiddly bits: doors, windows, window sills. All done freehand, and I'm aware that they are slightly wonky but that adds to the cake in my opinion, making it more of an old, fantasy castle.
A couple of icing discs on top of the towers and pink piped turrets again took away any semblance of realism. I don't know if I would do the turret roofs differently next time. Ice-cream cones made them taller than I wanted, and I didn't think they would take the weight of moulded fondant. I'm pretty happy with them as they are though.
And then I found the pen. I genuinely had no idea these things existed until I was poking around Hopscotch, my local baking supplies store in Barnet (http://www.hopscotchsweets.co.uk). An edible pen! It's genius.
I'm no artist, but again an impression of creeping vines was all that was needed, and it changed the whole character of the cake. It took a long time - if you try this at home, I strongly advise you get a turntable - but I think it made the final cake magical.
And there it is: the cake that taught me structure and construction and introduced me to a favourite kitchen gadget. I would love to do another one, better, but I'm still proud.