Personal Challenge: Baking a Novelty “Postman Pat” Cake

11 November

At the weekend, we celebrated the boy’s 3rd birthday. As previously mentioned, he’s a huge fan of Postman Pat, so I’d got it in to my head that, as he was now old enough to appreciate it, I wanted to make him a Postman Pat birthday cake. Baking a novelty cake has always been on my list of “things to do before…” so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It actually turned in to a fun evening with the husband, trying to construct the perfect Royal Mail van together out of cake, buttercream and fondant icing sugar. I don’t think I have the patience to make it in to a regular thing, but it definitely made a change to hanging out in front of the TV. 

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I took a little short cut by making the actual cake out of a package. Gluten free cakes (I wanted to be able to eat some too!) have a habit of falling to pieces if you don’t get your recipe just right and this was no time for experimenting. I chose a chocolate chip batter, and actually made too, one in a 28cm long loaf tin and one in a 22cm long tin.

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We “shaved the tops off” off both cakes, and then cut them to the right lengths – we eyeballed this bit – to make it look roughly like a van, slightly angling the side on the smaller top cake where the windshield would go.

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We stuck the two pieces together with buttercream icing, then slathered the whole outside of the cake with icing too. The lady in the cake shop told me this is not just to make the fondant stick, but also to stop the fondant being ruined by condensation if the cake starts sweating. Apparently this is something that can happen, and the icing layer keeps the two separate.

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We then covered the cake in red, roll out fondant icing (it took about 300g in total). This is the bit where you can tell we were doing this for the first time – we kind of measured it rule by thumb, then patched out any bits that didn’t match up properly. I’m sure a professional cake maker would have done a much more seamless job of it (and afterwards I learned we should have put it in the fridge for the buttercream to chill first, before covering it in fondant), but our boy loved it with all it’s little kinks – he probably didn’t even notice them, and added a few more himself when he was poking it! Here’s what it looked like half way through:

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And here’s what it looked like after added all the pieces. We’d consulted a couple of other cake pictures online, and decided that adding a grey border along the bottom would be best for making the wheels stand out. We mixed together black and white icing to get the grey. The black icing was really lethal in terms of food colour intensity, so we only needed to tiniest amount. We also mixed red and yellow fondant to get the orange headlights. The windows and other headlights are white marzipan, everything else was roll out fondant.

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And here is the final result after adding a few more details with a black icing pen, and a little stand up Postman Pat with Jess, printed off and stuck on to cardboard. Not bad for a first attempt at a novelty cake, don’t you think?

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We could hardly bring ourselves to cut the cake when it came to it, but at least our guests (our former neighbours from Edinburgh who have also since moved to Berlin!) appreciated who Postman Pat was – here in Germany no one has ever heard of him.

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And the verdict? Doesn’t just look great, tastes great too! Happy birthday!!

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