After much delay, then frustration at not being able to upload photos, I can finally post my simple birthday cake recipe as promised. Brace yourself this is a long post, but I’ve included detail that I have gathered from a lot of experience, and countless mistakes.
(There should have been more photo’s, but Google is having a little fun with me at the moment, and is selecting what it will and won’t upload to the blog)
As someone who no longer buys birthday cakes but makes them, I can guarantee that this recipe will work. I’ve used it time and time again.
Follow these steps to make your own.
To bake the cake – You will need:
350g (12oz) Margarine or Butter. I use soft cooking margarine, as it’s easier to cream and is also less expensive.
350g (12oz) Caster Sugar (Superfine in US).
1 tablespoon (15ml) of Vanilla Extract.
6 Medium Free Range Eggs. I keep these at room temperature for baking.
200g (7oz) Plain Flour (All Purpose Flour in US)
200g (7oz) Self Raising Flour (see here on how to make SR flour from All Purpose - very easy)
Pre-heat your oven to a moderate temperature. In the UK it would be 160 degrees in an electric fan oven (180 in non-fan), or Gas Mark 4. I’d say 375F in the US.
Grease a round cake tin minimum diameter size 8″ but you can go up to 10″. My tin is about 9.5″. I use a ‘cake release’ spray rather than oil or butter. It’s very effective.
In a large bowl (as this will be the bowl you add the other ingredients to also) cream together the margarine and sugar until it is pale in colour light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and stir in well.
In a separate bowl, or jug, whisk together (lightly) the 6 eggs until consistent (yolk and white mixed well).
Then gradually (approx one egg amount at a time) add to the marg/sugar and stir in well.
Sift the 2 flours together into another bowl. The gradually sift the combined flour into the large bowl, taking time to fold in the flour slowly. Do not add all at once. This takes me about 6-8 additions to work all the flour in.
I was always a little confused as to what ‘folding’ meant. Basically you are trying to get air into the mixture. It needs to be done gradually and slowly. I fold over the mixture back on itself, lifting it and dropping it. Hard to explain. I may post a video on You Tube next time I do it.
Once mixed thoroughly pour into the cake tin and smooth as evenly as possible. The cake will rise more in the middle, there’s little you can do to stop that. However I try to make a slight dip in the centre before placing in the oven by resting the back of the spoon in the middle (remove spoon before baking!)
Place in oven and set timer for 45 minutes. Don’t open the oven door before 45 mins as it may flatten the cake. Oven’s vary, and depending on what size tin is used this will alter cooking time. In my oven it needs about an hour. After 45 mins I check the cake by pressing lightly the top to see how ‘firm it is’ – it should be firm but springy to touch. Normally it needs another 15 minutes. After an hour I remove from oven and pierce the thickest part (top to bottom) with a wooden (not metal – too smooth) skewer. You can use a ‘cake tester’ but I don’t have one. The skewer should come out ‘clean’ – this doesn’t mean it won’t have crumbs on it, but rather there won’t be any gooey cake mixture on it. Use common sense with this. I’ve made over-cooked and under-cooked cakes in the past. It takes a little practice. If unsure – over-cook, but try not to burn!
Once cooked leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove cake and place on a cooling rack (if you don’t have one, you’ll find a grill pan will do quite nicely also).
Leave to cool. Then the cake will need to be levelled. You can buy fancy schmancy wire cutters to do this or you can do as I do and use a bread knife! Cut the top off, the cut side will be face down (as you turn the cake over) when decorated so it doesn’t have to be perfect! It’s also a great way to check its cooked inside. With this particular cake, I made the Rabbit’s ears out of the leftover cake – No Waste Tastes Great !
To ice the cake – You will need
1kg (35oz) of Ready-Made Icing (sugarpaste in US)
Margarine and Icing Sugar Powder (confectioners sugar in US) to make the buttercream
Firstly make the buttercream. You won’t need a lot. It is to cover the cake so that the icing will stick. It also softens the crust of the cake.
Take 40g (1.5oz) of margarine and add in 120g (4oz) of icing sugar and cream together. This can be messy as the powder flies into the air. When it’s dry I try to do this quickly outside. You can add a drop of vanilla extract, but not too much, to improve flavour.
Spread all over the cake (making sure the levelled side is face down) and put to one side. I have a turntable that I use. But you could use a large plate balanced on top on a turned over bowl. Or just on a plate/board. Don’t do this directly onto your cake board if using one as it can be a messy affair.
Lightly powder your worktop/counter if rolling the icing directly onto it. I can’t, as I have granite worktops, they are too cold – the icing tends to stick even if powdered. I have a plastic large worktop mat.
I often use cornflour (less sticky) instead of icing sugar. It doesn’t matter which you use. But don’t be too liberal, only use what you need. Too much additional powdered icing sugar will dry out the ready-made icing and it may develop cracks when placed on the cake.
Knead the ready-made icing until it’s soft, smooth pliable. Bear in mind the longer you knead the greater chance of it starting to stick to your work-surface. Keep the surface dusted, but try not to use too much. Shape the icing into a smooth ball.
(In the icing shown below I have kneaded in a tiny amount of yellow food dye)
Dust your rolling-pin and start rolling from the centre of the icing ball outwards. When you roll move the icing round rather than change the direction you roll. This reduces chances of the icing sticking. It also increases the likeliness of the icing being an even thickness. If you change direction the pressure you place on the pin differs. Keep the shape as round as possible.
By using 1kg of icing there will be plenty to cover the cake. The thickness needs to be about half an inch (2.5mm). Any thinner and the icing may split and crack. The thicker it is the easier it is to drape over the cake also. Icing isn’t something you should scrimp on, its false economy. I ensure that the icing covers all of the cake and also overhangs by at least 2″. If it doesn’t overhang you won’t get it neat and smooth on the side of the cake.
To lift the icing, roll it over your pin slightly, but don’t try to roll it all up and let it overlap. It doesn’t work, it sticks together. Place your other hand under the remaining icing to support it, and then go for it! Try and get the icing as centrally on the cake as possible, so the overhang is as even all the way round that you can manage. Smooth with your hands (this is as effective as anything – I have a cake smoother but rarely use it). Tuck the sides into the bottom of the cake. There should be a good overhang and no wrinkles.
Trim the overhang by firstly cutting near to the cake. I find scissors is the easiest way to do this. I keep the extra icing for decoration. When the majority of the excess is removed, cut closer. I use a sharp knife and cut downwards (against the cake) to get a smooth, neat edge – this works well if the icing is thick.
Lift the cake onto the cake board and place a dollop of buttercream in the centre, to reduce the cake moving around.
I’d already decorated my cake board, but you could place straight onto a silver board.
Step 7 - Decorate!
The cake will last about 7 days from baking, as it is madeira. I tend to bake mine 4 days before the occasion, and ice the day after baking to allow enough time to cool thoroughly.
Top Frugal Tip – Take care when cutting the cake, and if the foil isn’t broken, the board can be re-used, this can dramatically reduce cost if using an expensive cake drum (which should last).
I’ve tried to post a photo of the completed cake here, but Google won’t play ball. Check out Facebook for the finished article.
Any questions please ask! And if you give it a try, please let me know how it goes!
** Please note that I am not a qualified nutritionist or professional cook. My recipes are what I put together at home and all amounts etc… are approximate. What I write is my own experience of cooking the recipe. Ovens and ingredients do vary – just go with it, have fun and apply common sense at all times! Practise makes perfect!