Tag Archives: cake

Birthday Party for a 4 year old boy. Part 1, The cake

19 Jun

David's Cake

 

I was, with great reluctance, bounced into holding a small birthday party for my son.  I was hoping the promise of a big present instead might dampen his enthusiasm, but to no avail. Usually I love to hold a party, but with the house move looming, I was hoping that this year I might be able to give it a miss. 

I know that I could just go to the supermarket, and buy everything ready cooked, ready-made etc, but, I hate to serve food that I am not keen on myself. So I find myself knuckling down, to a lot more preparation than I had the time for. 

I had a brief glance at the cakes in the supermarket, which offer both convenience and the kind of decor that children love.  But one look at the cocktail of ingredients that look like something from a chemistry experiment, leaves me fleeing without a second look. 

A standard sponge cake, is of course, a doddle. If I am really pushed for time it will be Nigellas Never Fail Victoria Sponge. The trickier issue is persuading my son that my ‘home-made’ confection, can rival those of his friends who have elaborate designs, created courtesy of the supermarket. 

I do not do the whole sugar paste/cake modelling thing. I do not have the time, any sort of artistic skill, and more importantly, I am not all that patient. 

So here are my quick fixes 

  1. Ice the cake as usual. Decorate with small toys or figures from the them that your child would like. For Davids 2nd Birthday it was plastic figures from In the Night Garden. For his 3rd birthday, it was Pirate Lego on a chocolate cake.
  2. The second option, which I have elected for this year, is to buy a cake topper. I bought one on ebay. Personalised. Edible. Has his name and age on. And only £4.99.

This year I made a fatal error. I decided to make something I had never made before, and at the last-minute. Armed with the comfort of the cake topper in reserve, I decided that a red velvet, cream cheese frosted cake (from Hummingbird bakery book) would be just the thing. Ha ha. I measured the cake tins. They were a bit on the small side for the cake topper, but I (foolishly) thought that I could thicken it up with the frosting and all would be fine. 

Great idea. Then, the great buttermilk shortage occurred. It’s a key ingredient of the cake, yet was absent from the shelves of every supermarket in a 5 mile radius. After much huffing and puffing, I decided to ‘make’ butter milk by combining crème fraîche, yoghurt and a little milk (to get the consistency right). It seemed to work. 

The cake turned out surprisingly well, despite my ‘buttermilk’ concoction.  However, the heat in of the day caused the cream cheese frosting to go all runny and it kept falling off the side of the cake.  I then put it in the fridge for half an hour. that did the trick, but when I got the cake topper out, it was still 1 inch too wide. So, there was nothing for it but a last-minute dash for my failsafe standby, a chocolate version of Nigellas Never Fail Victoria sponge made in tins that were (this time) the right size. There was not even time to ice the cake. I filled it with buttercream (left over from the cupcakes I had made) and just stuck the cake topper on using jam. I think I used too much, as it went a little ‘glisteney’ but on the whole, it looked ok, and kept my four-year old and a bunch of his friends happy. And the bonus was I served the red velvet cake to the party mums, who were all very grateful for my birthday cake disaster. 

Red Velvet Cake

 

Total effort for cake. 30 minutes (for each cake). Happiness for 4 year old son. 10/10. Warning. The finished product (good-looking, great tasting, home-made cake) might lead to just a teeny feeling of smugness!

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Fruit Cake Anyone?

8 Jun

Before you start to gag, and think of musty, dry, traditional christmas cake, just check out the picture! 

Fruit cake, Watermelon, Raspberries, Blueberries and Grapes

 

This is not my work, but the genius idea of one of my yummy mummy friends Marcy. She created this healthy alternative to chocolate cake for her daughters 2nd birthday. And I think it looks so fabulous, that I am going to have to steal the idea and use it next time we host a summer party.

Nigella’s Never Fail Victoria Sponge

10 May

Let me dispel a few myths. You don’t need to be any sort of domestic goddess to make a good Victoria sponge. You don’t even need much time. If you have all the ingredients in the house, you should have it all prepared and in the oven in under 5 minutes. And the washing up is  courtesy of the dishwasher.

I am not sure that any cook can honestly claim the rights to a ‘recipe’ for a Victoria Sponge, as the ingredients and quantities seems to be almost identical in a number of cook books. On this subject I am slavishly devoted to the teachings of Ms Lawson in her first (and to me her best) book, How To Eat. Since I first made this speedy, all in one, processor method of making a Victoria Sponge, I have resisted the siren call of all other cookery prophets and remained loyal to this easy peasy never fail recipe.

To those of you that buy your cake in the supermarket, or make your cake from a packet mix, I would like to prevail upon you to cast aside your prejudice and to try this, just once. You will not look back. You are likely to have everything you need without even stepping into a shop. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla essence, Jam. All storecupboard staples.

Just follow a few simple rules and you cannot go wrong

  • Use the size of tin that is recommended or the cooking times will change
  • Know your oven temperature. They can vary widely. Cooking it at the right temperature is key.
  • Relax. Even if it does not look as pretty as a shop perfect cake, the first bite will have you hooked.
  • To make life easier I use pre-cut cake tin liners. This saves the step of greasing and lining the tin..

So successful and easy has this cake been, I have made it on numerous occasions, to cheer up a sad friend, to fuel a tired new mum, and when I am calling in on friends for coffee and realise I have not even a packet of biscuits to take.  And I made it for myself twice a week, when I was an almost sleepwalking tearful and tired new mum, just to give me something to look forward to in the afternoon.

A few tips

  • The recipe suggests room temperature/soft butter. Not many people are so well prepared that they get the butter out of the fridge a day early in anticipation. I use the defrost facility on the microwave, until it gets soft but not runny and melted. It takes about 60 seconds on defrost in my microwave. Try it in 20 second bursts. You are looking for a glossy, gooey, about to melt texture.
  • I recommend keeping your eggs in a cupboard at room temperature, then you don’t have to remember to take them out in advance.
  • If you are using fridge cold milk I would recommend 15 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off.

You can find Nigella’s recipe at page 26 of her book.

I have adapted the quantities to suit the size of tins that I have (18cms)

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees for a fan oven)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz  or 170g plain flour

6 oz  or 170g soft unsalted butter (but you can use salted if thats all you have – it just alters the taste a little)

6 oz 170g sugar

3 large eggs – if you only have medium eggs just add a little more milk

2tbsps (ish) milk.

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence)

Place all ingredients into processor. Blend until combined, adding enough milk to give the mixture dropping consistency.

Put in oven for 25 minutes. If you are not sure if it is cooked put in a skewer (or knife if you don’t have one). If it comes out clean (ie without sticky cake mixture on it) it is done.

Just out of the oven

Once the cakes are out of the oven, leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out on to a cake rack (or grill rack if you don’t have one)

Allow to cool for about 45 minutes.

On the rack

Add jam to one sponge then put them together. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve

I don’t generally add whipped cream, unless I know it will get eaten that day, as it doesn’t keep well.If you have just used jam, it will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

Ready to eat