The Fresser

Birthday cake - do you bother

I have a real problem with shop-bought cakes. Make your own!!!

August 20, 2017 20:38

My mother had a birthday last week. I won't give any numbers, but it wasn't one with a zero on the end. 

Generally, I make a cake for every birthday in my immediate family. I can't abide a mass-produced, shop-bought cake. It's just wrong. No love has gone into that bake. They're vile. The only exception is — Colin, Marks and Spencer's oh-so-chocolatey butterfly larva which has us fighting for his many feet.

I digress. Children's birthdays and big birthdays — milestones — warrant a proper royal iced cake. All other birthdays get the person's favourite flavour. 

Mr F likes a cheesecake. For the chilldren, it has to be chocolate with white chocolate buttercream (the more buttercream the better) but my mother is more difficult. She's not a lover of sweet things.

Needing inspiration, I went to my favourite cake book, gorgeous cakes by the wonderful Annie Bell. I've had the book for more than 12 years and it remains my first port of call when deciding what to bake. If she fails me — rarely — I pull out the first Hummingbird Cake Days book and if it's a cupcake i'm after, I go for the Primrose Bakery's Cupcake book. I always use their icing recipes. 

What I particularly like about Bell is that she dumps all the cake ingredients in a food processor and whizzes it up quickly — no faffing. It works. 

Bell didn't let me down, but too many of her cakes had nuts in the ingredients. Not a problem if you've time to shop, but I only had plain Vic Sponge ingredients in — butter, sugar, eggs and flour plus some vanilla extract. So I had to adapt. I baked a plain sponge cake and, wanting to use up a 250g pot of ricotta, chose the icing/filling from her raspberry ricotta cake. 

One pot short of the two pots of ricotta cheese that she listed, I substituted a pot of half-fat creme fraiche. That was whizzed up with apricot jam to make a slightly yoghurty, not-too-sweet cake topping. Perfect for my mother who's also not a fan of cream.

The sandwich was filled with the ricotta mixture and a few raspberries and after spreading the topping over the cake, I tumbled blueberries and raspberries on top. Job done. A marginally less guilt-inducing cake that was birthday beautiful. Mama was delighted and i've a new recipe.

Mummy's birthday sponge:

For the icing:
3 tbsp apricot jam
250g ricotta cheese
250g half-fat creme fraiche
For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
A large pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 medium eggs, room temp and beaten 
1tsp vanilla
100ml milk
150g raspberries
150g blueberries


  • To make the ricotta icing, whizz the jam with the ricotta and creme fraiche in a food processor until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and leave in the fridge for several hours to firm up a little. 
  • To make the cake: Heat oven to 170°C fan and line a 20cm loose-based cake tin. 
  • Either follow Bell's method of putting everthing in the bowl of a food processor and mixing until just combined OR if you're feeling a bit old school, as I was that day:
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and light — about 3 minutes.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a smaller bowl and whisk to mix together. 
  • Beat the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time.
  • Add the vanilla to the milk.
  • Beat the flour and milk into the batter in three goes, using a third of each, each time. 
  • When the batter is homogenous stop mixing and scrape it into the tin. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes until a knife pushed into the cake comes out clean. 
  • Loosen the edges with a knife and leave to cool in the tin. 
  • When ready to assemble, turn out onto a board and cut in half horizontally with a bread knife. Place the bottom half on a cake plate and spread with enough icing to cover.  Top with a few raspberries. Place the top half on top and spread with more icing — you may not need it all. Cover with berries, plop a candle in the top, light and carry out to the table singing to the birthday person. 
August 20, 2017 20:38

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