Sunday, 1 April 2012

Flowered Birthday Cake - Vanilla Sponge

Today was the birthday of my boyfriend's Gran and I was asked to make the cake for the occasion.  Now, it has to be said that big cakes are not something I consider myself to be very good at.  My layers always come out ridiculously thin and it frustrates me to no end.  However, for my birthday last year I found a somewhat different way of making one which turned out rather successful.  It has since become my go-to method for baking large cakes.  Admittedly I've only made it twice before but have always been happy with the result.

Unfortunately, I ended up making this particular cake twice and still was not entirely happy with the final result.  It just did not seem to rise as well as the previous times.  The first attempt at this cake was a complete disaster.  The layers were too thin and they stuck to my pan!  I now know that despite investing in a lovely silicone baking set, I'm sill going to have to grease it for cakes.  Luckily, despite falling apart, the sponge still tasted good (according to my boyfriend who kept stealing pieces of it) so I've put it in a bag in the freezer to use for a later project.

I put the thinness of the first attempt, in part, down to the size of tin.  The ones I used were slightly bigger than the ones I used to use.  I went back to the old tins on my second try.  I also put the lack of thickness down to having slightly less batter due to the amount of ingredients used being dependent on the weight of the eggs.  For the first attempt I used shop bought eggs, which were about 20g less in weight than the eggs provided by our hens.  I know that does not sound like much but trust me, it made a difference.  Anyway, after my first attempt failed I had a bit of a sulk and a cuddle (I really don't like it when things go wrong) and then tried again.  The second attempt certainly came out better but I still think it came out shorter than my other cakes made with this recipe. Reviewing the recipe I realised my mistake.  I was meant to use 3 eggs.  I only used 2.  Oops.  Obviously I should not do things from memory unless I actually know it properly, like my vanilla cupcake recipe.  I've made sure to correct that in the recipe below.

The cake is a very simple sponge cake with a vanilla buttercream and jam filling and then ready to roll fondant icing for the decoration.  Originally I envisioned something more elaborate for the design involving piped flowers but that did not work out too well so modelling everything out of fondant was the way I had to go.


Cake - adapted from a post on The Good Food Channel
  • 3 eggs
  • Caster sugar - weight equal to that of the 3 eggs in their shells
  • Unsalted butter - weight equal to that of the 3 eggs in their shells
  • Self raising flour - weight equal to that of the 3 eggs in their shells
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Prepare two 7inch/20cm cake tins.
  3. Weigh the 3 eggs together so you know how much of the other ingredients you require. 
  4. Separate the eggs and use a whisk to beat the egg whites until the soft peak stage (this means when you pull the whisk out on the mixture it will form a peak but the tip will fall over).  DO NOT OVERWHISK!
  5. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fluffy and pale in colour.  Usually this is about 5-10 minutes of beating by hand.  The paler the mix the better incorporated the sugar is with the butter.
  6. Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla together and add to the butter mix a little at a time, folding it in to add air to the mixture.
  7. Sift in the flour and fold that in also.
  8. Add the egg whites and fold those in too (lots of folding in this recipe) until you cannot see any white in the mixture.
  9. Pour half the mixture into each tin and then put in the over for about 30 minutes.  Do not open the oven before 20 minutes have past.
  10. Once baked. removed and let stand in the tins for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

  • 2oz/60g icing sugar
  • 1oz/30g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tbsp raspberry jam (or other fruit jam of your choice)
  1. In a bowl mix the butter and icing sugar until it makes a nice, creamy looking paste.
  2. Add the vanilla and mix in.
  3. On one of the cooled cake halves, spread the buttercream out in an even layer.
  4. On the other one, spread out the jam.
  5. Sandwich the two halves together.

  • 415g packet of ready to roll fondant icing
  • Green food colouring
  • Pink pearl cake decorations (or something similar)
  • 1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
  • Lots of icing sugar
  • Some water
  1. I recommend making the flowers first.  My cake has 30 flowers on it.  They are made by taking small pieces of the fondant icing and shaping into diamonds by pinching the ends into points with my fingers.  Make five of these and then gently push them together to make a flower shape.  Then place one of the pearl decorations into the centre, pushing it down gently so it stays in place.  Set the flower aside to set.
  2. Repeat until you have as many flowers as you want.  With this amount of fondant icing though, 35 is probably the maximum amount.  If the icing gets too dry due to constant handling, just add a tiny amount of water to your fingers.
  3. In a small saucepan, boil the jam for a couple of minutes (without burning) and then set aside to cool.
  4. With the rest of the icing, add the green food colouring and knead to spread the colour evenly throughout.  Keep adding colouring until you are satisfied with the colour.  Be warned, it will stain your hands so you may want to wear gloves and protective clothing.  The food colouring will make the icing very sticky if using a water based one so you'll have to roll and knead it in icing sugar to combat this, especially when rolling it out.
  5. Roll out the icing into as even a circle as possible, making sure it is big enough to cover the top and sides of the cake.
  6. Plate up the cake and cover the top with the cooled jam.
  7. Carefully lift the rolled out icing.  You'll probably need to use your rolling pin to support some of the weight.  Drape over the cake and then gently smooth it down, starting at the centre and then working down the sides.  Trim off the excess icing.  It doesn't matter if you trim a bit too much off.  That's what the bow is for!
  8. To make the bow, add more food colouring to the remaining icing to dye it a slightly darker green than the 'grass'.  Again, add icing sugar to stop it become too sticky. 
  9. Break off a smallish piece to use for the bow and roll out the remaining icing into a sausage long enough to wrap around the base of the cake.  Transferring it to the cake is quite tricky.  It took me several attempts before I got it around without it breaking in transit.
  10. Fashion the bow out of what is left.  I made a bow pretzel and a separate 'knot' to hide where the bow joined the cake.  I used a bit of leftover jam to stick the bow edges to the top of the cake.
  11. In a small bowl mix up some icing sugar with a teeny bit of water to make a thin paste.  You don't need very much.  Using something with a thin tip (I used a knife) put a small blob on the bottom of each flower and place on top of the cake wherever you like.  Repeat until all the flowers are stuck down.

No comments:

Post a Comment