Rocket shower – wot so funee?

Even though Andrew is old enough to go to preschool (he qualified for the 15 hours funding at Easter, the term after his 3rd birthday in January), he won’t start at one until September because we are still in the middle of moving and won’t be in our permanent home until the summer. I must write a post on our choice of preschool soon, I keep meaning to. But I digress. So I tend to call him a toddler still, even though I know he’s really a ‘preschooler’. Andrew himself is also keen to point this out, and insists that he’s a “toggler”. ‘D’ sounds in the middle of words aren’t his strong point, though he can do it if he tries.

He’s keen to learn, and is doing well with numbers and letters. If he’s in the right mood, he’ll ask me to speak in French or German with him (if he’s not in the mood, he covers his ears if I try to speak them with him!), so I take the opportunities when he asks, which have been quite frequent recently. The other day we were listening to a German CD of songs in the car as we often do, and suddenly he came out with: “When I’m older and I can speak German, I’m going to teach Daddy how to speak German too!” I told Daddy this, and he was happy with that being as he’s forgotten most of the GCSE German that he did.

For a couple of weeks now Andrew has been saying the word “chameleon” at weird times, seemingly randomly inserting it into sentences when it doesn’t make sense. I’ve tried to ask him what he means and prise out of him what ‘chameleon’ means to him. But I was unsuccessful. Then Granny experienced the same thing with him one day, and figured it out: they were looking at a book and there was a tall thing, a little thing, and something in the middle – it was “chameleon”, or ‘medium’. Aha!

We’ve also been talking about hot and cold recently – the sun is hot, the weather is warm, and the water in the paddling pool is cold when it first goes in or it’s “just the right pretenture” when it’s been sitting in the sun a while and has warmed up to luke warm.

A game that the boys have recently got into is pretending that the shower cubicle in the bathroom is a rocket. I can kind of see the similarity – it’s tall and cylindrical. Andrew closes the doors, narrating what he’s doing, and counts down to blast off. Then they go to wherever it is that they’re heading and enjoy their space flight. (I say ‘they’, I don’t think Joel really quite understands what he’s doing, but he thinks it’s funny nonetheless.) The other day I asked him where they were going in their rocket. His answer was this: “I’m going to ‘costamel’ and Joel is going to church, it’s 9 miles away”. I thought I hadn’t heard the ‘costamel’ bit right, so asked him again where just he was going, and he said it again. So I asked what this ‘costamel’ was, and his reply was (rather predictably) “it’s costamel Mummy”, said in a ‘why, don’t you know where that is Mummy?!’ I asked if he meant hospital? No, not hospital. Costa?! Nope not Costa either. This will remain a mystery until someone has a ‘chameleon’ Eureka moment with it at a later date.

The last funee for this week is more of a cutie. We spent the morning at the park on Monday. It was a lovely day. When we got there, it was only us there, but within 15 minutes or so, another 2 girls with their mummies turned up – they were a similar age to Andrew, who these days likes parks even more if there are other kids his age to play with. He immediately went over to them at the large tyre swing that they were climbing onto. They all had fun on that for 5 minutes, with one of the girls’ mummies pushing them while I ran around after Joel on the rest of the playground. Then Andrew proceeded to follow them around for the rest of the time we were there. He got on particularly well with one of the girls, called Bella – he found this out by asking her name and age (and other details) as he usually does to random strangers. We all had to leave at the same time in the end and we said goodbye. Later when Daddy came home and asked what we’d done, Andrew was quick to tell him: “I went to the park and met a girl called Bella, and another one but I don’t know her name.” This is particularly cute because his usual reply when Daddy, Granny or Grandad ask what we’ve done in the day is “I don’t know” in an uninterested manner. She clearly made a lasting impression on him 🙂

Wot So Funee?

Birthday cakes – ‘3’s and a crowd

I still can’t quite believe that Andrew and Tom share a birthday. I know it’s a 1 in 365 possibility, but still, that seems quite small to me. This year is particularly cool because they are 3 and 30 on the same day. To celebrate, we had a family weekend with all four of the boys grandparents, two aunts and a cousin – so quite a crowd to eat the cakes that I baked. Since Andrew’s first birthday, I’ve instated the tradition of baking him, and then Joel too on his birthday, a celebration cake – do you remember the ‘o n e’ cakes, the Thomas the Tank Engine cake and the racing car cake? Most years I’ve baked Tom a cake for his birthday too, though usually just a plain cake with no fancy decoration or modelling involved.

This year I wanted to make a special cake for both birthday boys, and include a number 3 on both cakes. I should say now that this wouldn’t have been physically possible if we weren’t living at Granny and Grandad’s house and therefore have extra pairs of hands to entertain children, go shopping for ingredients and clear up afterwards.

Along the same train of thought that I had for Andrew’s ‘o n e’ cakes, I decided on a big 3-0 for Tom – after all, it is his big 3-0 birthday. And actually it’s quite easy to make a 3 and a 0 from round cakes baked in conventional tins. The 0 was just a round cake with a hole cut out of the centre, and the 3 was cut from two smaller round cakes – I drew a diagram on paper first of how the two almost semi-circle bits would fit together, so I could better visualise what I had in my head, and made myself a template to do the cutting.

30 cake

It had to be chocolate cake for Tom as this is one of his favourites. I chose a chocolate fudge cake recipe from the BBC website, which turned out to be very brownie-like in consistency. Chocolate tastes good (sorry, stating the obvious there!) but it’s a bit boring in colour, so I wanted to decorate the cake in bright colours. That’s where several packets of Smarties came into play. Granny managed to find some big boxes for only £1 each at a local newsagent, and I spent an evening sorting them into each colour (I was going to get Andrew involved in sorting out colours because he likes that kind of task, but then I wondered whether I’d end up with enough at the end?!…one for the plate, one for me, one for the plate, one for me…) It was surprising how many I needed to cover the cake in a rainbow design, because there were more of certain colours in each box, so I had to go and buy some more to have enough of each colour of the rainbow. Stuck on with some cholcoate buttercream, they gave the cakes an eye-catching finish. The final detail was a set of candles in rainbow colours that spelled out ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’.


It was more difficult to decide what to make for Andrew – he has lots of ‘favourite’ characters and vehicles, and they seem to change from one week to the next, with a few being long term such as Brum. Since living with Granny and Grandad, Andrew has become rather obsessed with Thunderbirds (or Wonderbirds as he prefers to call it). Grandad is a massive fan, and is keen to encourage Andrew in his enthusiasm for the models and puppets. So when I was thinking out loud about Andrew’s birthday cake planning one evening when he was in bed, we all knew straight away when it was suggested that a Thunderbird cake – of course Thunderbird 3 – was perfect!

I studied Grandad’s DVDs and books that feature the rocket, and made sure that I had all the bits to model and decorate the feat of engineering that was to become the Thunderbird 3 cake. All of it was edible, except for some red straws and cocktail sticks for the three shafts that run down the side of the rocket to the engines at the bottom, and some wooden skewers that held the main structure upright inside and that slid out once we’d cut into the top. The cake was a simple 6,6,6,3 sponge – 6 ounces of self-raising flour, butter and sugar, plus 3 eggs – made in Granny’s new Kitchenaid mixer. I baked it in a deep square tin and it rose to about 3/4 full.

Once the sponge was fully cooled, I cut out cylinders using a long metal cutter (actually it’s the equipment they use in fancy restaurants and on Masterchef when shaping rice or mashed potato (for example) into neat piles on the plate). I then stacked these on top of each other, sticking them together with buttercream, and then sliding 3 wooden skewers down through the layers to hold it all together. I added the straws for stability, attaching them to the sponge at the sides using cocktail sticks, and anchoring them at the bottom into a big lump of white royal icing shaped into a small cylinder for the engines. To achieve the pointed top of the rocket, I crumbled some cake and mixed it with some buttercream, then shaped the mixture (just like you make cake pops) into the right conical form.

tb cake

Then came the trickiest part – covering with red royal icing. In hindsight I should have covered the main body of the rocket whilst it was lying down rather than already stood up and fixed into place, but hey, this is the first (and probably last) time that I’ve ever made a Thunderbird 3 cake. I covered it in sections after glazing the sponge with warmed apricot jam to make the icing stick.

The finishing touches made it all come together after the stress of getting it covered in red to my satisfaction. The black stripes on the long side shafts were a liquorice Catherine wheel unraveled and twisted around the straws. Other bits of black were the same liquorice, including the small number 3s on each of the three engines at the bottom. White features were added using white butter icing piped through a rectangular nozzle, or a writing nozzle for the ‘THUNDERBIRD’ down the centre. The silver fins all the way around the centre were white royal icing sprayed with silver shimmer spray for cakes – I cut these triangles out and sprayed them earlier in the week, then left them open to the air to dry out a bit so that they didn’t flop when stuck onto the side of the upright rocket.

Finally I added three white candles, and waited to see the face on one very excited little birthday boy – it was amazing! I enjoy making these kind of cakes, even though parts of the process can be challenging, because it’s all worth it when the boys show their appreciation. The rest of the crowd were pleased with the cakes too, and I was assured that they tasted just as good as they looked (no style over substance, to quote a Great British Bake Off phrase).


I have no idea what will be on the cards for next year’s birthday cake, but he has a whole year to change his favourite characters, and Joel’s special day will come before then too. In the meanwhile, I’ll sit down with a cuppa tea and a slice of cake – we still have enough to feed another small crowd….any takers?