So, Barbie. Love her or loathe her, chances are those of you with a daughter of a certain are becoming more and more familiar with the pert-breasted, well-endowed plastic one. My own eldest daughter turned 5 recently and happened to spot a confection of Barbie-perfection in the window of a local bakery – a Barbie doll cake. Enquiring within, I hear that these creations sell for close to €50, I remembered seeing recipe for such a thing in Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”. I remember not being able to work out what she meant about plunging a doll into a cone of sponge, and then seeing this in Terenure, I realised what it was; a cone shaped cake with a Barbie doll sticking out the top, the whole thing covered in icing and decorations. So, despite never having attempted any sugarcraft work before in my life, I decided that what with the cost of the party entertainer and presents and whatnot, I would easiIy be able to save myself €50 and make the damn thing myself.
To start with, I had to locate a tin. My usual source, www.lakeland.co.uk came up blank, but a trawl of the internet sorted me out and there are loads of sites that have them. Kitchen Complements in Dublin’s Chatham St also stock both the basic tin that I got on the internet (they were out of stock, otherwise of course I would’ve supported the Irish economy and shopped local!) and a very fancy kit one, that is a lot more expensive. Expect to pay just under €20 for the basic tin. However, you can also build up your own by layering up cakes and cutting them to shape – there are lots of YouTube clips showing you how.
Which brings me neatly to YouTube. As I mentioned, I’ve never done any sugarcraft work in my life. I remain forever indebted to the fabulous ladies in Kitchen Complements who gave this novice endless free advice. I was about to purchase a small amount of ready to roll and ready coloured pink icing when I thought to ask the shop assistant who’d been advising me about tins how much I’d need to cover Barbie’s skirt. Thank God I asked! She laughed (politely, of course) at the notion that a single packet would be sufficient and she recommended I buy a big block of ready to roll icing in white and colour it myself. There would be way too much, but of course it keeps. So that was another €15. Lots of pink sugar flowers - get them in specialist shops and even in your local supermarket. Colours - luckily I already own colour pastes, so that saved me about €4. (Top tip, it’s much better to colour with pastes, even though they are expensive you use very little so they last literally for years and using so little doesn’t affect the consistency of what you are colouring, whereas the liquid colours will.) She also suggested I check out YouTube for video demonstrations of how to go about using the icing. All I can suggest is that if you are planning such an undertaking, you follow their advice and have a look at YouTube and also do searches on Google Images for “Barbie Cake” to get decorating ideas (I think I’ve mentioned before, I am not very creative and lack imagination, but I am a great copier!).
Anyhow, to steal a phrase I used in every primary school essay I ever wrote, “finally, the big day dawned”. Barbie turned out to be a ROARING success, and the twenty-odd 5 year olds screaming around my house were in awe. I have to say, it was worth it, I felt a million dollars, although the astute accountants amongst you will doubt have worked out by now that it really would have been cheaper to get the cake from the bakery!
Since then, I’ve used the same tin to make a “volcano / dinosaur” cake, using a couple of plastic dino’s from a bucket from the €2 shop (incidentally also the source of my “Barbie” dolls, why pay €6 for a real one when you can save?! Also, it is easier to use a legless Barbie, and believe me – there’s a reason the one I got was €2, it’s much easier to pull her legs off!). For the volcano, I again used Google Images for decorating inspiration, and chose buttercream as the easier option – it worked a treat, although I over-estimated the amount of green I needed and still have lots over, whereas I really needed more red and yellow for the fire – also, my red is actually “ruby”, I might have to invest in something more convincing next time! You can also buy dry ice on the internet and insert that in the top of the cake, add water and have a smoking volcano – IMPRESSIVE!
Oh, PS, for this type of cake, a basic sponge won’t work, as it is too light and wouldn't hold all the icing. I believe madeira sponge is the most commonly used, although as I mentioned above, Nigella Lawson does give directions for a Barbie cake in her “Domestic Goddess” book, it’s the buttermilk birthday cake. I suggest though, if you choose the Nigella cake, that you use the yoghurt and milk option rather than the buttermilk – again, it’s a UK versus Ireland thing. Buttermilk in the UK is sold in small pots (like cream or yoghurt) and is much thicker than what we use here. My first cake was fairly ropey and slightly under-done in the centre (luckily the 5 yr olds didn’t give a damn as it’s pretty much all about the visuals for them!) so I changed tack to the yoghurt option and it’s working much better.
So, get creative! Do expect your kitchen to look like a volcano exploded in it afterwards, though... Or if you like, you can always get me to make one for you, I won't charge €50!