Dairy-free Hey Duggee birthday cake

For Henry’s first birthday I decided to take on the mantle of doting mother and make his birthday cake.

Like many a small person he is rather taken with CBeebies’ Hey Duggee. Grown-ups, this is one of the more watchable children’s programmes and worth cultivating if you want some amusement when they demand ‘more, more, more’.

I like baking. But I’m more a taste-and-hope-for-the-best person, rather than a follow-the-recipe sort. At least for cake. Which can lead to some interesting results, like the collapsible baked cheesecake.

Henry also has a cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) which is very common in babies and small children. I had also never heard of it until I had to clean up baby vomit and explosive nappies. Just a tip for future parents, it’s a thing!

So we have our main criteria. Dairy-free and Hey Duggee.

I researched cakes and it did not take long for me to find a whole host of receipes on the Hey Duggee website. They even had an adaptable dairy-free sponge recipe. AMAZING.

BAKING

Now I could have (probably should have) followed this to the tee and made a Duggee house as per the GBBF showstopper.

But I did not.

I decided to improvise.

I’ve recently heard about rainbow cakes. When I spotted some coloured gels on my hunt for ingredients, I had to try them.

The GBBF showstopper cake also called for square cake tins. I do not have square cake tins.

Which is how the massive five layer coloured sponge happened.

There are a few errors. I used a measuring cup to get the right amount of flour as I couldn’t find my weighing scales. I did not realise that I had used the wrong units for my first layer (the red layer) so it is a lot thinner than the others. Still tastes good.

The layers are stuck together with vegan buttercream. Every other layer also has strawberry jam. This is because I love strawberry jam.

I followed the recipe for each layer (except the cock up with red layer one) as per the dairy-free instructions on the Hey Duggee recipe. I used eggs rather than alternative milk (the recipe has an option for soya milk, though I suspect coconut or almond would work pretty well too).

I cooked two layers at a time. Except for the first layer.

This took most of an evening. I allowed each layer to cool for 20 minutes before sticking them together.

I then covered the rainbow sponge with foil, ready for decoration the next day.

DECORATING

I am not a natural cake decorator. Cake decorating requires patience. I am not good at this. But I am a mum now, which means I make cake. And children’s cakes should be bright and pretty.

I have heard good things about fondant icing. And anything has to be better than my attempts to make buttercream… right?

I loaded up on various colours. I thought a bright scene would be nice. One I could add Duggee and the Squirrels to (I wisely decided I would buy some figures to act as toppers, I am not that over optimistic in my fondant modelling abilities).

I got some white fondant and swirled in some blue food colouring to make a sky base. This was messy – but created an awesome marbled effect. I then added the icing – now quite sticky – to the cake. This may have been my first decorating error. Because icing can be pretty heavy. It started sagging. And I needed to make patches. Which I tried to do by mixing a white fondant paste. Which was too watery.

I panicked a teeny, tiny bit. And covered the icing with lots of cling film and put it in the fridge to try and get it to set.

Those familiar with fondant will be aware that this was ABSOLUTELY THE WORST IDEA EVER! Because fondant becomes malleable with water and sets in dry air. Fridges are not all that dry.

We now have a cake with rather drippy icing and lots of cracks and not remotely finished.

At this point I Google what I am supposed to be doing and realise my terrible mistake. No fear. I take it out and let it air dry for half an hour. I then embark on fixing the problem – with more fondant.

Kids like sugar right?

I finished my green lawn scene and worked on my wavy sea scene. Patching as I go. Adding more and more layers of fondant. The biggest crack I hid under a massive sun made of yellow fondant.

And it worked. It ACTUALLY WORKED. I left it under foil for a day to set before adding Duggee, Betty, Happy, Roly, Norrie and Tag.

EATING IT

The next afternoon was Henry’s birthday party. Where we finally cut the cake.

The layers looked amazing. The rainbow colours were bright and beautiful. The fondant thick – like children (and mummies) like it. Henry was impressed. His baby and toddler friends were impressed. And his mummy had a very blue tongue because of all the food colouring.

What could have been a disaster was a success and this mum learned a valuable lesson.

Read the instructions first and follow the recipe! Baking is science that tastes good.