I’m no master baker and I certainly wouldn’t be selected to appear in the Great British Bake Off …but I can bake a birthday cake and you can too!
I baked a cake earlier this week for a family birthday and in order to share the process with you, I took some photos along the way. I’ve used a take on the simple all-in-one sponge recipe that Delia Smith devised – you can see that recipe right here. I covered my cake in rolled fondant icing but you can simply dust with icing sugar to make things super-easy.
Apron on, cup of tea made, hands-washed? Let’s bake…
Two things you need to check before you get started. Firstly, make sure you’ve got all the ingredients, at least for the sponge. For the butter cream, jam and icing you can go out and buy those later but you do need your sponge ingredients. Let the eggs and butter stand at room temperature for a 30mins or so as they’ll be easier to mix then. Secondly, make sure that you’ll be around when the cake needs to come out of the oven (it bakes for about 30mins).
Pre-heat your oven. You want your oven to be at the right temperature (170c) when the sponge goes in, so before you get started whack your oven on. I stuck mine on at 200c and I remembered to turn it down to 170c once it had reached temperature.
Line your cake tins firstly with a light coating of butter, followed by grease-proof paper (also greased with butter). Cut two circles of grease-proof paper to cover the bases of your 7inch tins …mine went up over the sides as I used a three-egg mixture and I didn’t want it to spill over the side.
Get some butter on a folded sheet of kitchen roll and rub it over the grease-proof.
Do this and your sponges will come out of the tin easily when baked.
Get out and weigh out your ingredients for the sponge mixture.
If you weigh out the non-sticky stuff first and leave the butter/cooking margarine until last it’s easier to pour the flour and sugar into your large mixing bowl. If you want to avoid washing your scales, put the butter onto a sheet of kitchen roll.
Make sure that you’re scales are set to zero before you start weighing things out. I know from experience that if you don’t do this you’ll end up using the wrong amounts of ingredients and you resultant cake will not taste nice!
Use a sieve when you pour the self-raising flour and baking powder into the mixing bowl to sift and make it nice and airy.
So you’ve got the eggs, flour, baking powder, butter and sugar in your mixing bowl. Now use you electric hand mixer and thoroughly mix.
You know when it’s ready when using a wooden spoon, get some mixture and bang your spoon on the side of the bowl …if it falls off easily then it’s ready. If it’s too thick add a teaspoon splash of tap water and mix in.
Lick the spoon if you fancy, but remember it’s not cooked yet so if you’re not keen on raw egg then maybe not.
Pour the cake mixture into your two cake tins.
Use your wooden spoon or a spatula and share out the mixture.
It’s not an exact science, just go on what looks like half each and level it out.
Don’t waste your mixture, scrape out your mixing bowl with the spoon or spatula.
Spread the mixture evenly in each cake tin, trying not to get it all over the grease-proof if you’ve got it like I have (pictured).
Plonk them in the oven on the middle shelf. Make sure your oven is at 170c and make a note of the time the cake tins went in. They’ll bake for about 30mins. Don’t keep opening the oven door until you think they’re ready.
When they look ready (they’ll be a light golden colour) to make sure you can stick a cocktail stick in the sponge and if it comes out clean then they’re done.
Take your tins out of the oven (using a tea towel or oven gloves) and leave them for just 30 seconds. You’re now ready to carefully take the sponges out of the tins.
Have your cooling rack ready.
You might need to run a spatula around the edges of the sponges to loosen them a bit. Because my grease-proof went up the sides I didn’t need to do that. Put the sponges upside down on the cooling rack and they should pretty easily come out of the cake tins. Carefully and slowly pull the grease-proof off. I managed to break a little bit of sponge off the edge of one of mine …taste test opportunity! Now let them cool while you do the washing up.
You’ll want some jam for the middle. I chose strawberry but use what you fancy …raspberry or apricot maybe. You’ll also need to make some butter cream too. How much buttercream is your call really. I didn’t want too much in the middle but I needed some to spread over my cake to stick the icing to (see step eleven below). Use about 4 or 5oz of butter and about 8 or 10oz of icing sugar and mix with a fork or a spoon, fork’s probably better even though I used a spoon. Use room temperature butter and sift your icing sugar (or just forget to do that like I did).
Start by mixing in half the icing sugar. When that’s mixed add the rest. Add a tiny dash of milk if it’s too thick – you want it nice and smooth. Have a taste and add more icing sugar if you want to.
Spread a layer of jam on the inside of one of the two sponges using a knife or a spatula. Spread your buttercream on the other sponge and simply plonk one sponge on top of the other.
You’ll have something that pretty much looks like a cake !
In fact you’ve just made a Victoria Sandwich cake …how ace is that 🙂
Now you can ice your cake. You can simply dust it with icing sugar by putting some icing sugar in a sieve and gently tap the sieve over the cake …you don’t need much at all. However, you might want to go the extra mile and use some fondant icing.
To make the icing stick to the sponge either spread some apricot jam or buttercream over the sponge. I made extra buttercream and simply spread a thin layer of it over my cake.
Clean and dry your work surface and dust with a little icing sugar (not flour!). Get your fondant icing and knead it to loosen it up – it works better if it’s at room temperature. Dust your rolling pin and roll out a big enough circle of icing to cover the top and side of your cake. When rolled, carefully lift it and place it centrally on top of your cake. Do your best to smooth it gently around your cake and just cut off excess icing with a knife. Some of my edging wasn’t great but I simply hid that with some ribbon pinned to the cake.
Add a cake topper such as Happy Birthday, stand back and say “I made that!”.
Give your cake lovingly to the person intended. When complimented just say “oh, it was nothing, it didn’t really take me that long actually”.