Friday, August 20

A significant cake.

I asked P what cake he would like for his significant birthday and then proceeded to ignore his request for my Grandma's frankly delicious fruit cake. Fruit cake for a birthday? No, no, no. You can't put candles in a fruit cake. Well, maybe you can, but I don't hold with it. I know that the best birthday cakes are chocolate cakes. (You may wonder why I bothered to ask him. I do, too.)

The recipe is my mum's and was written on a scrap of paper by me in 1980-something when I first left home. A few years ago I scaled the recipe up as my cake tins are wider than my mum's (mine are about 8 inches) and the cakes were consequently coming out too flat. The recipe is for a straight sponge but includes instructions for making it chocolate. It is so easy-peasy to make that I honestly wonder why anyone ever buys a shop bought sponge.

8oz sugar (should be caster really but granulated does OK)
8oz marg/butter (my mum always used half and half. Proper birthdays get all butter around here. If you use all margarine and then you don't have to wait for the butter to soften.)
8oz flour (6.5 if making chocolate) My recipe at this point says 'sieved' but frankly I don't always bother.
4 eggs
a little milk or water

If you want a smaller cake then do 6,6,6, 3. A tiny one 4,4,4,2. A huge one? 10,10,10,5

If making chocolate cake
1.5oz cocoa (Green and Black's is my preference)
1tsp baking powder

1. Cream the fat and sugar. According to the Blessed Delia this is the most important part of cake making and you should cream until the fat/sugar mixture changes colour. I can't actually remember why.

2. Beat the eggs and add them slowly to the mixture. If you add them in a hurry then whole thing will go all curdled-looking which is not actually a problem, but you will feel much less of a domestic goddess.

3. Fold in the dry ingredients. If you are adding cocoa it's probably worth sieving it all in as cocoa can be a bit lumpy.

4. Add liquid if needed, says my recipe. Perhaps that's if you are using small eggs. I usually use medium eggs and can't say I have ever add extra liquid.

5. Divide the mixture between lined greased sponge tins. For goodness sake sake do line and grease the tins boring though it is. It is soul destroying when your cake sticks as I have learnt to my cost.

6. Cook in the middle of your oven at 350 degrees/Gas Mark 4 for 20-30 minutes. Try not to bang the oven door when you put the mixture in, and resist the temptation to check the cake for at least 20 minutes as a sudden change in temperature can cause the cake to sink. The cake is done when you can touch the centre and it springs right back. I also usually stick a skewer into the middle: When it comes out with nothing stuck to it then the cake is done.

7. Turn out and cool on a cake rack (aka the grill rack in our house).

For the buttercream filling soften 2oz butter (you can use margarine but it won't taste as good) and mix it with 4oz icing sugar. In my family we always flavour the filling in a chocolate cake with coffee. Mix a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee (I have tried making espresso and using that but it isn't really strong enough) with a little hot water, and mix slowly into the buttercream. Spread on the bottom sponge layer and slap the other one on top.

Normally I'd just dust icing onto the top, but a special birthday calls for a chocolate covering. I usually use supermarket cooking chocolate but I do make sure it's got a nice high cocoa content. Melt it in a bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Try and avoid getting water in the chocolate as it goes all funny and grainy (still tastes fine though, so not a complete disaster). When it's good and runny pour it over the top of the cake. A whole bar is very generous so it will probably run down the outside a bit (yum!).

I had a brainwave and decided to add silver balls to P's cake. I like silver balls.

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