Happy Birthday to…well, me actually! Yes I made my own birthday cake, I’m that person now! Actually, I don't really like to celebrate my birthday in a big way, not because I worry about ageing (I really couldn't care) I just don’t like the attention or the fuss, makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Normally I be happy to have a lazy morning in bed with a big mug of coffee opening cards and presents and have that be it. This year I decided *was convinced by friends* to change that so I have a weekend full of fun birthday treats and with the weather looking gorgeous I cant wait! But enough of my existential ramblings, back to cake, that’s what we are here for after all. Birthdays require a cake and come on folks, birthdays are not about subtle and elegant, it requires a taste level that just verges on the tacky. I also think there should be a law requiring all birthday cakes to include a ridiculous amount of sprinkles, but more on that later.
When it comes to birthday cakes I have one main rule, it has to be homemade. I don't care if you’re bringing your kid up on a no sugar diet or you're trying to watch your weight, a birthday is a day to indulge and enjoy yourself. My love of food and cooking comes from that slightly cliched idea of cooking and baking with my mum when I was still young, helping make the mince pies at christmas, making bread with Grandparents, spending a lot time in the kitchen with family, learning by doing. Key amongst those memories were the fabulous birthday cakes my mum made for my twin brother and me. These weren't complex cakes, topped with over the top ornate decorations, these were simple chocolate cakes with smarties and chocolate fingers used to create a train, chocolate buttons used to spell out our age that year. The key thing that I remember though is that they were homemade. I think it is this reason I equate baking with love; baking something for another person really shows you care, to my mind it is one of the nicest things you can do for someone. Short version of that rambling is - homemade birthday cakes are the way to go (even if you make it for yourself).
For my birthday cake I wanted a cake that was a little over the top, colourful and just a little bit garish. Yes I wanted to make a funfetti cake, sprinkles everywhere! Turns out with UK and EU regulations on certain colourings means it’s pretty hard to get really colourful sprinkles that give the right effect. The sprinkles I used, traditional 100s and 1000s, basically vanished once the cake was baked. So this was funfetti lite, just sprinkles on the top of the cake.
I have also been experimenting with a new type, new to me anyway, of filming video recipe content and this little example is my first attempt. I will be doing a few more over the coming months, with some being full recipes so let me know what you think?
Cardamon Layer Cake with Strawberry and White Chocolate Buttercream
Cardamom Cake Layers
325g plain flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
2-3 tsp ground cardamon (depending on how strong you want the flavour)
1/4 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
400g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
5 large egg whites, lightly beaten
250ml whole milk
Strawberry White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 large egg whites (roughly 120g)
240g caster sugar
360g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
165g strawberry puree, see below
150g white chocolate, melted and cooled
100g strawberry jam
125g diced strawberry
40g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
To make the cake first thing you need to do is make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature, everything combines better this way, no split or curdled cake batter!
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and lightly grease three 8 inch round cake tins, lining the bases with parchment.
Mix together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, cardamon and salt and set aside for the moment. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and using an electric mixer beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whilst continuing to mix slowly add in the egg white a little at a time beating for about 30 seconds between additions. Once all the egg has been added mix in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Divide the batter equally between the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
To make the buttercream first start with the strawberry puree. Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the fruit starts to release its juice. Mash slightly with a fork and continue cooking until the mixture is very juicy and the liquid has reduced slightly, this should take no more than a few minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender to puree. Set aside to cool fully before using.
For the buttercream place the egg whites and sugar into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. To test it is ready dip your forefinger and thumb into the bowl and rub together. If you can feel sugar grains, heat for a little longer. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk using an electric mixer for about 5-10 minutes or until the meringue is a room temperature. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the butter a little piece at a time. By the time all of the butter has been incorporated you should have a silky buttercream texture. Pour in the cooled chocolate and strawberry mixtures and mix to combine.
To assemble the cake place the first layer onto a cardboard cake round or a serving plate and top with half of the jam, spreading almost to the outside edge. Top with a layer of the buttercream and spread to the outside edge. Repeat with the second cake and finish by placing the last layer of cake on top, spreading the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.
To decorate scatter as many sprinkles across the cake as your inner child desires.
Kept covered this cake will keep for up to three days but really who is going to keep a cake lying around that long. Make it, light some candles, make a wish and dig in!