Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Beautiful Birthday Cake

I am very pleased with how this turned out. I eschewed my usual taste-at-all-costs-appearances-be-damned school of baking to make something really gorgeous for R's birthday. It isn't really his birthday until later in the week but he was celebrating this w/e and I don't have the time to make something this excessive midweek. I woke up early on Saturday and did some of the most efficient baking ever and then lugged the results across and out of London - bus > tube > train > car - so impressed it survived so well! I got a couple of slightly odd looks on the tube but it was definitely worth it.

(It is a bit scruffy round the bottom - I should have taken the pictures on a glamorous presentational plate but this is still quite impressive after 2 1/2 hrs on public transport, I think...)

In my attempt to make my layer cake even and official looking I followed some of Deb's amazing layer cake tips and they really (unsurprisingly) worked. 1) I accurately divided and flattened the cake mix into the tins rather than flinging it into the middle of the tin in a slapdash manner. 2) I cooked the cakes on a lower heat and for longer - apparently this helps to stop the cake doming. 3) I flash froze the layers which made them a joy to handle and assemble, no cracking or crumbling or generally falling apart or being troublesome. 4) I crumb coated the cake - this is when you put on a thin, rough layer of frosting to cover the cake first as a base for your real frosting. I actually cheated a bit on the crumb coat, it is supposed to be refrigerated for 30 minutes and mine got max 7 minutes because I ran out of time, but I still think it definitely made a difference. 

To be completely honest, I think you sacrifice on taste and texture a little bit with the freezing/refrigerating but the aesthetic results are undeniable and, even for me, there are occasions that call for beauty. The cake was still delicious, it just would have been better hot out of the oven. That is my opinion on all cake really but it isn't one that is necessarily practical for parties. For pizzazz these are real winners.

I didn't follow any particular recipe for this cake. It is a classic Victoria sponge with the vanilla extract swapped for almond essence. I would normally use 3 eggs for a 2 tier sponge and I stuck with that and it still made more than enough mixture to completely baked cake tins. For a standard sponge I like to let the eggs lead the way and mine were large and weighed 200g so I matched that in my dry ingredients. The filling of the cake is simply mashed up fresh raspberries with a bit of sugar to bring out the juice and sweetness. It seemed like a waste to use jam when there is delicious fresh fruit. If I were to try something similar again I would think about macerated strawberries/raspberries with a hint of balsamic vinegar and black pepper - that could be interesting. For the outside I used the Baked 'Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake' chocolate caramel ganache which is a reliable winner for me. Raspberries, almond and chocolate seemed like a reliably delicious combination to me and it really was.

How were your weekends? Anything thrilling to report?

Chuck x


  1. Oh god, you must be the new Nigella, this looks amazing! And top marks for lugging it around too. xx

  2. Oh my god. Yum. Now I need someone to have a birthday.

  3. Drooling. Actual drooling.

  4. Here's a tip on how to have your cake and eat it, too. Take a long length of dental floss and use it to "saw off" the domes - which can be promptly eaten.
    When you get good at doing this, then step it up a notch and saw the layers in half. Handling the thin layers requires the skills of a true master, but I believe in you, Chuck.

  5. it looks so freaking delicious. & i definitely sympathize with the whole cake on the tube thing. it can be insanely difficult to transport baked goods.