The brainstorming wasn't going well. My mother-in-law's birthday was on the horizon, so I asked Mr Finchley Kitchen for cake ideas. "Old people?", he suggested, since MIL volunteers with the elderly. I couldn't think that a geriatric-themed cake would be very cheerful. And as for his next suggestion - Arsenal, for his mum is a season-ticket holder, I thought a Gunners t-shirt might be a bit too five-year-old.
Luckily, it was sister-in-laws to the rescue: they reminded me that their mum loves the beach. So beach cake it was.
Birthdays are a chance to bake a cake that is too time-consuming for everyday occasions, like the fact that it's been raining all day, which I fairly regularly regard as a great reason to get the scales out. But as with the house cake, here I made the fondant bits in advance and baked the cake on the actual day, to ensure it was fresh and the decorations were solid.
So for the toppers: I went for hand-formed flip flops, and shells, (little stars prodded with a fork for star-fish shapes), rolled out red and white stripes of fondant to create a beach towel, and then spent ages trying to get a free-standing parasol.
TIP: if any decorations are flopping or sticking, put them in the fridge to harden. And if fondant is cracking, a little water brings it back to life.
Then, the cake-baking. I used Nigella again, this time the Malteser cake from Feast: Food that Celebrates Life.