I have taken photos but forgot to bring the cord that will let me download them, so I will post them at a later date. But I'll at least tell the cake story as it's fresh in my mind.
Last night after dinner, we put the girls down to bed and then the cake baking began. We discovered that morning that not only was the oven in our condo a poor one, but it also must have needed to be cleaned somewhere because it STANK when it was on. My MIL was kind enough to let me bake the cake in their condo, which worked out perfectly because I forgot to bring mixing bowls and the hand mixers and their condo kitchen was WAY better stocked than ours which made my life so much easier on the cake baking front.
I mixed the mix, heated the oven, prepped the pans, and baked the cakes - a 13x9x2 and a 9x9x2. The 13x9 would make up the two bottom layers of the cake and then I had to cut two 2.5" x 4.5" pieces out of the 9x9, so I figured I'd use the extra cake as mini-cakes for the girls. I believe each person should have their own little cake on their birthday so it's not a "joint birthday" even if they were born on the same day.
I had super coated the pans with Pam Baking Spray and it worked perfectly. I barely turned the cake and it came right out once baked. I actually used my arm to guide the cake down to the surfaces I was using. Once the cakes were almost room temperature, I (with the help of my MIL's great advice) cut the cake pieces, and then Mr. Darcy and I brought everything back to our condo to do the decorating because it was almost 11 pm at this point and we wanted his parents to be able to go to bed.
Once back in our condo, I constructed the bottom layer while Mr. Darcy was busy assembling the castle turrets. Then I tried to ice. The top of base was no problem. Then the side... it started to crumble a little and I started freaking out. I was dropping the F-bomb left and right. Mr. Darcy took over from there and I can only presume that from his skills as a model builder from his college years... not to mention being used to using spackle, he made it work with as little crumbling as possible (and you can't even tell that there was crumbling... or a crack in the top layer of the base). Then we dealt with the top layer to finalize the form of the cake castle. Mr. Darcy continued icing because he didn't want me to cry if there was any crumbling. We both decided that we do NOT like Wilton's frosting (no matter if they are the leaders in cake baking) and I'm going to try to make my own if we ever decide to do this again. You put it on and then about 2 minutes later if you try to add any, then it's going to want to peel off. Not cool.
Finally the cake was iced in white. We opted to skip carving bricks into the icing because 1) it was LATE already and 2) we were afraid the icing would peel off. So I mixed together the coloring with the icing to make a nice pink color, filled a decorators bag and realized we didn't have the right tip to make large lines on the cake. Thus, small pink lining on the top of each cake layer. Not much of fake battlement, but it looks pretty. Next we inserted the turrets into the corners of the cake and the door way on the front of the cake. It looked cute. Mr. Darcy piped a little bit of a door into the archway (not like the picture, but we were happy with it... we were not able to do it anyway we didn't have the talent or experience stocked up). The cake had turned out in such a way (and the lateness of the hour) we decided not to make icing roses, but the candy flowers I had bought were perfect for the sides and the top of the cake so I was really pleased. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Darcy was pleased too because that meant I didn't think I wanted icing flowers. : ) Then we put the top of the castle (plastic) on the top, inserted the bases and tops of the turrets and so I could take a good picture - put the princesses in place. Mr. Darcy got inspired to decorate the non-cake base that the cake was on and made a little walk way out from the front door and then put the girls names next to each side of the walkway.
Professional looking cake? NO. We are not the Cake Boss or Publix Cake Decorators (those ladies and gents are simply awesome). A cute homemade cake? Yes. And in the end, that's really what I was going for. Sure, I would have loved to have a cake that looked professionally made. But we're talking about the woman who really only knows how to bake cookies and apple pie and how to cook really good Polish food. I'm great with a recipe. You give me a recipe for a meal, and I can make it happen. Other than that, I am not an accomplished chef by any stretch of the imagination. Mr. Darcy's help was definitely a life saver and the cake looks as good as it does because of him. As he put it, I had the vision and he could make it happen the best he could. I was impressed that I was good at the cake construction though. Icing skills are needed, but all in all we worked it out. I have been referring to Mr. Darcy as the Master Cake Decorator this morning now that we've gotten a little bit of sleep.
After the big cake, I constructed mini two layer cakes for the girls out of the left over cake. But icing them literally was ripping them apart, it was 1 am (quite literally) and Mr. Darcy was at the end of his patience. I gave it a try and realized that Publix would get some of our money for something like cupcakes so we could have mini-cakes for each of the little ladies because this was a mess - crumbling cake and icing that refused to stick. I thanked the Cake Gods for holding it all together for us for the big cake, and trashed everything else.
And then... I slept. Like. A. Baby. The night before I had 4 dreams about the cake, waking up each time in a nervous state. But now it is done.
We've hung out in the condo pretty much all morning, and are thinking of going into Old St. Augustine with the girls to walk around a bit. There are jellyfish in the water... Aunt Sue and Cousin Julia were stung the day before yesterday, they're washed up all over the beach, and Mr. Darcy was stung yesterday. I'd like to avoid the girls getting stung, so we're staying out of the ocean water. We've been in it a bit every day of vacation though, so I think we'll survive.
Dinner time-ish we'll have the girls' birthday party with the family. I'm looking forward to seeing the girls' faces when they see their cake... of course, I'm sort of scared of that too. My little fear that they won't like it somehow. I'll get over it though, but I have a feeling they're going to like it.