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The email exchange had been going for some days: we’d begun researching venues and finalised the guest list. The birthday boy didn’t suspect a thing, since his fiancée and I had been planning it quietly. And then an urgent message: “We need a race car cake!”. He recalled a memorable cake when he was four, shaped like a racecar, she hinted. Since he and I are of the same generation, I immediately knew where the cake had come from. The Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book. A testament to whose value can be seen in the fact that my Mumini made me and my brothers many cakes from it, and retains a copy in anticipation of grandchildren’s birthdays. It’s just that damn good.

And then while we were out visiting, I forgot to borrow the blasted thing. So I had to make it up as I went. All birthday cakes in that book begin in more or less the same vein: a plain butter cake. I sourced one from Baking Tales and Fails (thank you!) and proceeded.

I’ll be honest: I blogged this because I thought it was going to be disastrous and thereby hilarious. In fact, it more or less proceeded without incident, a joyful unfolding of uneventful delight. And waaaay too much food colouring.

An initial cake

Start here!

You can, of course, begin with a square cake, but our square cake tin leaks terribly. We really should get rid of it. (M suggested making it in the bundt cake tin, which, he argued, would be easy to carve into a pair of VW beetles.) And then, well, you just cut away everything that doesn’t look like a racecar.

Carve the body of the car

First cut

I had decided specifically on a stylised Formula One car. Once I had carved the base, I cut up the carvings to form the rest of the parts.

Putting the car together

Beginning construction: side view

Pro tip! If you accidentally carve away too much, you can glue it back on with raspberry jam and everyone will think it’s a special bonus!

Starting to build the cake

Rough construction

Above: an aerial view of the preliminary construction. This was a testing build, to make sure the final thing would ultimately look like a racecar. Confident that it would, I proceeded to the next stage: icing.

Initial coat of red icing


The undercoat was your basic go-faster red, as you’ve seen on many a racecar. This is more food colouring than I have ever used ever, except when I was dyeing yarn.

Close up of the iced spoiler

Spoiler alert!

And check out this professional spoiler attachment! Toothpicks! Eh? Pretty fine, huh?

Iced and attached cockpit


M suggested some contrasting parts, which I though was an excellent idea: here’s the cockpit and some mad racing stripes. I let the icing dry a while, and then it was time to add the details:

Completed cake: side view


HOLY BALLS that’s cool. Do you see the silver cachou decorations? Do you see the jellybean headlights? DO YOU SEE THE OREO TYRES?

The finished product

Ready for delivery!

Friends, that is one killer cake. I’m especially proud of the 32 written in silver cachou on the bonnet! M did the air intake grille on the hood.

And then it was off to the party! The birthday boy was completely astonished, and the cake gratefully demolished by friends who pretended it wasn’t a totally plain cake gussied up with far too much sugar. An all-round success!

I now have a pantry full of cake decorating ingredients, which I foresee having no relevance to my future life. Any suggestions?

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