My friend G has had a friend visiting for the last few weeks, and when she came around for dinner at our house a fortnight ago, she enquired about the tankard which contains Ken’s top half (his legs float around the kitchen, awaiting their inevitable destiny as decorations in a shark attack cake), and we had to explain about Ken’s history of cross-dressing in Dolly Varden cakes. (Actually, Ken has appeared on at least five occasions prior to this year’s Eurovision, and one day I’ll find all the photos and post them here)
In passing, I suddenly feel compelled to ask – is it just Australians who do Dolly Varden cakes, and children’s birthday cakes made to look like animals or trains or sewing machines or pianos, with confectionery providing the detail? I made an open cut coal mine cake for a German once (at the request of his Australian girlfriend), and he was completely confused by it. And I’m pretty sure I’ve had other Americans look at me oddly when I talk about Dolly Varden cakes. Then again, a lot of people look at me oddly when I talk about cake, so the nationality of my interlocutor and the shape of the cake may not have anything to do with it.
But I digress. With G’s friend still in the country, and G having a birthday and being in need of birthday cake, it was naturally inevitable that Ken should make an appearance (in a vegan and gluten-free form) for G’s birthday cake this week.
I have to say, Ken does not adapt especially well to gluten-free. I am yet to come up with a gluten-free recipe that really rises well, and the vaguely tropical chocolate, orange and amaranth cake I designed was no exception. Faced with a far-too-shallow skirt for Ken, and the unfortunate need to attend work yesterday, I left Andrew with a recipe for gluten-free and vegan chocolate cupcakes (yes, he does get to use the kitchen occasionally, and he’s actually a pretty competent cook, especially when I’m not watching and thus interfering), which got piled on top of the cake to give it a more dome-like form.
Ken traditionally wears luridly-dyed buttercream or white chocolate ganache, but both of these contain dairy, so I went completely decadent and bought some cocoa butter which I substituted for dairy butter in the icing. And let me pause here for a moment just to say that cocoa butter buttercream is possibly the most delicious thing in the world, even if the consistency of cocoa butter does tend to lead to a slightly lumpier icing, at least when made by hurrying me. It tastes chocolatey and buttery and almost coconutty, and is absolutely divine.
Ken also tends to wear a fair bit of confectionery, most of which contains all sorts of forbidden ingredients. On this occasion, he opted for a Carmen-Miranda-Meets-Barry-Manilow look, with glacé fruit and nuts decorating the skirt of his gown, a glacé cherry strapless bikini top, and, of course, a glacé fruit hat.
With a hat like that, he could just about go to the Melbourne Cup, don’t you think? And speaking of cups, let’s just say I’m refraining from the obvious pun and consider the fact that if you are trying to store half a Ken doll in an upright posture, a cup is pretty much your best option.
As usual, he looked fabulous. After all, fabulous is pretty much what Ken does best…
I don’t think anyone else could wear glacé fruit with so much flair, really.
The cake was very rich – cocoa buttercream will do that, and I probably didn’t actually need to make vegan jaffa ice-cream to go with it – but the glacé pineapple to go with was a very nice touch. So much so that I’d be tempted to make the recipe next time as a pineapple upside-down chocolate, orange and amaranth cake, which is a lot of ingredients, but I think it would be worth it.
Alas, O my readers, I have no more photos to share with you. I did, in fact, take some photos after Ken was removed from the cake, but I made the mistake of placing the hat on top of Ken’s hips in order to spare his blushes and the effect of two cherries with a segment of orange sticking up in between was, shall we say, less than modest, and more indecent than I am willing to provide visual evidence of in this milieu. You will just have to imagine it. Or make your own Cross Dressing Ken Cake! You’d be amazed at how easy they are…