On the 14th of last month my lovely little nephew turned 1 and a few days later all the family and a few of my sisters friends got together to celebrate. After asking if I could prepare the cake a while back (I think Charlie was less than 6 months old when I asked…) I was quite excited to finally get started on it and to really get creative when it came to decoration.
A few weeks before the birthday party I did a practice run of the cake to get to grips with using fondant icing and the recipe I’d tried out – Mary Berry’s Madeira Cake – went down so well with everyone there was no question that I’d be using it for the real thing. Mary’s recipe doesn’t include vanilla but I added this to increase the vanilla flavour of the buttercream.
Once I’d found out what kind of decoration my sister wanted, I set about baking the cake. Logistically this was quite a challenge, I had to bake it, transport it across London up to Wolverhampton and decorate it by 12pm on the Saturday. On top of this there was 12 chocolate cupcakes to be prepared which meant a very late night on the Friday was required, but it was worth it and I was so proud of the final result!
For the sponge, the subtle flavour of almond and lemon compliment the vanilla perfectly and it sounds silly but as soon as we tasted the test run we all knew we were eating birthday cake – I’ll definitely be using this recipe again in the future.
In typical Mary Berry fashion, this cake is made using the all in one method where, as the name suggests, all the ingredients are added to one bowl at the same time and beaten together. This method is very easy to follow and is useful when creating a dense cake with a large crumb – perfect if you have a cake that is being shaped.
Decoration Note. For my cake, I used Renshaw Ready to Roll icing to cover the cake, coloured desiccated coconut for the ‘grass’ and bought these adorable edible decorations from a baker on eBay (this one) as I didn’t have the time (or expertise) to make my own.
Ingredients – Serves 12 (Quantities in brackets serve 20-24)
175g Unsalted Butter, softened (290g)
175g Caster Sugar (290g)
225g Self Raising Flour (375g)
50g Ground Almonds (83g)
3 Eggs (5 Eggs)
Grated Rind of 1 Lemon
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
– Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F and grease and line your chosen cake tin with greaseproof paper.
* The original recipe quantities will make an 18cm deep round cake or 2lb loaf cake.
Add the butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs, vanilla essence and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl and beat using an electric mixer for 1 minute just until everything is combined.
* I used a good old-fashioned wooden spoon which took a little bit longer but worked just as well!
** It’s important not to over mix the batter otherwise you can get a heavy cake at the end, so once you can see no more dry ingredients or lumps in your batter stop mixing.
Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth off the surface with a spatula or the back of a dessert spoon.
Bake in the centre of the oven for at least 60 minutes. After these 60 minutes are up, check the cake – it’s ready to come out when a skewer can be inserted into the centre of the cake and comes out clean.
* I needed to bake my cake for just under 2 hours so don’t be put off if it’s taking a while.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning on to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
This cake tastes beautiful filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream but is equally as delicious when eaten on it’s own so decoration wise it’s the perfect blank canvas!
What’s your favourite cake to make for a big occasion?