Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Double-take Birthday Cakes - Supersized and Minimized

I promised I'd post the recipe for the birthday cake I made for hubby Jan's big birthday celebration recently, which I wrote about here.

So here it is - it's simply a very big Victoria sponge cake with butter icing - lots of it. It went down a treat at the party, people seemed genuinely surprised that I'd made it which made me wonder if baking is really going out of style.

There are lots of specialist bakeries now which do amazing things with photos in edible icing on top of the cakes, or cartoon characters, but I guess they rely on the technology of edible teeshirt-printing equivalence.

I still prefer the home-made cakes to the shop-bought ones as the home-made variety have more substance and can have a fair bit of style as well - at least that's what I was aiming for, and I hope I achieved it to some extent.

Here goes - not for the fainthearted and have plenty of ingredients in stock - and at least a day to prepare and bake unless you have a couple of roasting tins and a large oven. I don't, so I made one cake at a time, and baked them individually in the same roasting tin, lined with baking parchment. I made three large cakes but only used two and a half - I kept the other half for a small cake on the actual birthday which was the Saturday after Thursday's party. You can see both cakes - little and large - in this post.

Prepare a sturdy cake board if you don't have one - I cut some strong cardboard from boxes that housed some garden chairs from Lidl, and stuck two big squares together with packing tape and covered them with tinfoil/aluminium foil. The cake board will have to carry a few kilos of finished cake!

Ingredients (for each cake)
  1. 500gm/1lb Self-Raising Flour (or plain flour and 5 teaspoons baking powder)
  2. 500gm/1lb Vanilla Sugar (I use normal white/caster sugar kept in a Kilner jar with some vanilla pods - the best flavour and beats concentrated vanilla essence hands down. If you use essence, get natural vanilla)
  3. 500gm/1lb Butter, softened
  4. 8 Eggs
  5. 4-5 tablespoons hot water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 189 degrees Centigrade/350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Using a hand-held electric mixer, mix all the ingredients to a soft dropping consistency.
  4. (You can be purist about this and cream the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour slowly - I find the one-step method worked fine and didn't curdle on me. I like short cuts!)
  5. Spoon the mix into a large square or rectangular tin - a roasting tin is ideal - lined with Baking Parchment (Waxed paper).
  6. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes until well risen and golden brown, and firm in the centre - test with a skewer or knitting needle in the middle, which should come out dry.
  7. Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out by wax paper and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Bake two or three of these cakes, then when completely cool, prepare to decorate to your liking.
Butter Icing /Frosting
  1. 1.5kg/3lbs Icing Sugar
  2. 750gms/1.5 lbs Butter, softened
  3. 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice to tone down the sweetness, if liked
Icing Variations:
  • Cocoa powder - if making Chocolate Icing.
  • Food Colouring - if making coloured icing
  • Instant Coffee dissolved in a little hot water - if making Coffee Icing
  • Orange juice and zest - if making Orange Icing
Beat the butter in large bowl, then sieve in the sugar and continue beating until smooth and creamy, and add lemon juice or any preferred flavourings/colouring.

  1. Place one cake upside down on foil cake board, and cut another cake to square if off if you like a square cake. Otherwise a rectangle is fine.
  2. Spread with Strawberry Jam.
  3. Spread stiff whipped cream on the jam.
  4. Place the second cake on top of the cream - right side up.
  5. Spread butter icing over top and sides of cake.
  6. Decorate as wished - I used Chocolate icing for piping and writing, and 70% chocolate buttons/chips to decorate border.

Handy Tip

I used a piping syringe and nozzle to pipe the top decorations and then another nozzle for the continuous border around the cake sides near the board.
For the writing I didn't have a fine writing nozzle - lost in the mists of time and the kitchens of Africa or Asia - and I improvised with a freezer bag - put the icing into the bag, a few tablespoons is enough for writing a few words like I did - and snip a very small bit off the corner so you can squeeze a small trail of the icing through and guide it for writing whatever you wish.
No need for fancy sets, I know you can make greaseproof piping bags, but this was handier as I think you need nozzles for the greaseproof paper bags.

Enjoy the end product - I did enjoy making it, the guests loved it and then we had a small cream sponge cake with the leftovers for the birthday itself, which had a candle per decade!

It keeps well for a few days, once in an airtight tin or wrapped in greaseproof paper.


Unknown said...

looks delicious!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Thanks for sharing your recipe and methods with us. I like your tip about adding lemon juice to the icing if it is too sweet ... and I couldn't agree with you more when you say 'but I guess they rely on the technology of edible teeshirt-printing equivalence'. Homemade is definitely best !

Irish Mammy said...

Fantastic I have a 1st birthday coming up and my last chocolate birthday cake came out a bit compact, is that supposed to happen with cocoa powder or am I doing something wrong (too much flour?) I will try your recipe thanks a million! I prefer homemade but I haven't found 'my' cake recipe yet...maybe this is it!

Rudee said...


Happy Birthday, Jan.

Marilyn Miller said...

60 is a very good year to celebrate. My best wishes to your husband.

Just to let you know I posted my 5 gratitudes today. I hope you enjoy.

Val said...

Looks lovely! Thanks for reading my blog - I look forward to returning the favor, and spending some more time on your site.

I agree...people do look at you weird when you tell them that a cake is homemade. What always makes me mad is when people comment about how store bought goodies taste better - yuck! I'll take my creamy buttermilk icing over the store bought stuff anytime!

diane b said...

The cakes sound delicious but I am a hopeless cook.

Gill - That British Woman said...

that looks so good, especially with the chocolate buttons on it. We can't get chocolate buttons over here in Canada.

Gill in Canada

Catherine said...

Thanks every one for your comments - I will reply collectively here!
Maeve - thanks a lot - looks and tastes delicious! Just downloaded the Miriam O'Callaghan interview - Lilly posted the link on her blog so I look forward to podcasting it and listening to it soon. Well done! (I love Fancy Vittles too!)

Lynda - I think you know all the handy tips about baking there are to know - yes the lemon juice is a great saviour of over-sweetness. And you can't beat home-made, hence all the effort is well worth it. I just commented over on your Arusha post.

Treasa - if your cake is compact from the cocoa powder, try using a tad less flour and replace it with the cocoa powder - and make sure you use either self-raising flour or plain with enough baking powder for the quantity of flour you use. And use good fresh eggs, large is what I use, or an extra one if they're small. Trial and error is the only way to go too, experiment. and good luck with it all!

Rudee - thanks for the birthday wishes for Jan, passed them on. He still feels only a young fella! (well he cycled over 100km on Sunday last and wasn't even winded!)

Marilyn - thanks for that - of course 60 is a great age to be at - the new 40 it is I believe! And I loved your 5 gratitudes, went over to read and comment on them. Very heartfelt indeed!

Val - thanks for visiting and I don't get it either when shop stuff is deemed better - it may look more perfect but that doesn't do it for me. Teen daughter has a home ec. exam in 2 days so made yummy chocolate muffins tonight - I think they deserve a blog post of their own!
Diane - don't be too dismissive of your skills - you never know till you try! I went to Africa with none and armed with a bunch of ghastly casserole mixed (powdery additive/MSG laden spices and dried stuff) and no idea how to do anything only bake. So I learnt very fast I can tell you, beans with goat and chicken bought at the market - alive - for dinner that night - a very steep learning curve indeed! So never say hopeless!

Gill - The chocolate are choc chips and I got these in a local artisan shop while a few days later I got a present of a bag from a patient who got them from the States. Strange that they don't have them in Canada - they are small buttons and I got a half-kilo for about €6, which wasn't too bad. I think the US ones are cheaper and they are pure chocolate. So happy huting!

All the best to everyone,
Love Catherine