I owe you a birthday cake recipe. All of the cake above have been made and iced by myself, but as you can see not all of them are plain sponge cakes. I do like a bit of variety… AND CHOCOLATE!!!
This recipe is the basis of all of my cakes that I make, as it is an adapted basic sponge recipe, but the real treat is the butter icing, which isn’t conventional. I use a Swiss buttercream recipe. It is light and smooth and almost tastes like fresh cream, in fact a lot of people ask me whether it is a fresh cream cake and are always surprised when I say no.
If you want to make the sponge cake like it says in the linked recipe then by all means follow that, but I like a thicker cake to give it some substance so I double up the recipe. When making a cake for someone special, you want a nice tall sturdy cake and this way you’re guaranteed to get that specific look.
Classic Sponge Cake
450g self raising flour
450g butter (at room temperature)
450g caster sugar
8 eggs (at room temperature)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins and put aside. Place the butter into a mixer and whisk until pale in colour, then add the sugar and whisk again on high until light and fluffy. Crack all of the eggs into a measuring jug or a container with a lip and beat until they’re just broken up and mixed. Gradually pour them (about half an egg at a time) into the butter and sugar mixture while on high until combined. The trick is to do this as slow as possible to stop the mixture from curdling. You will always get some curdling towards the end as it is A LOT of egg, but if you do it slowly then you won’t get so much. Once all combined, add the vanilla extract and then stop the mixer and scrape down from the sides. I personally like to transfer it into another bowl and continue with a hand whisk here, as the flour part is very delicate (you don’t want to over beat it). Tip the flour in all at once and beat on slow until it is all combined. Once combined, separate into the tins and give them a tap on the work surface (or floor) to release any air bubbles and I also spin them around. You might want to do this on the floor, as you might end up spinning the tin off the surface and then you’ll just have a very big mess!! The floor is safe!! The reason for this is to make sure that the centre of the cake doesn’t rise too much, so by spinning it you make the mix go up the sides alightly and thus evening it out. It does work, but only slightly. I usually turn the cakes upside down to ice and decorate them anyway, so I always work with a flat top.
Bake in the oven for roughly 30-40 minutes, but I would keep checking them and turning them if your oven isn’t even. When you think they’re cooked, poke a skewer in the middle and it should come out clean. If they wobble even slightly when you go to touch them, leave them and shut the oven door as they’re nowhere near cooked and you may make them sink!
For the buttercream recipe please be aware that if you don’t have a freestanding cake mixer, you’ll be here a while. You need a good quality mixer that you can leave on its own (but careful it doesn’t overheat). If you have a hand mixer, be prepared for the long haul because this buttercream takes your blood, sweat and tears! Mostly sweat!! I didn’t used to have my mixer, so I remember standing in the kitchen for about an hour making this stuff… but my my is it worth it!!
5 egg whites (at room temperature)
452g butter (slightly soft)
1 cup (plus 2 tbsp) caster sugar
Water (see method)
Pinch of salt
200g white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk the egg whites on a high speed until they form soft peaks and set aside. Place the sugar into in a heavy based saucepan (preferably one with a lip) and enough water to give it some movement and place on a medium to high heat to dissolve, but keep an eye on it as it only needs to get up to 220 degrees (or soft ball temperature on the thermometer). Once it reaches the desired temperature, whack the food mixer on high again to get the egg whites moving and poor the sugar syrup very slowly into it, taking care not to get any on the blades. Once all incorporated, the mixture will seem like it has lost its firmness, but this is completely normal, just keep whisking it until it cools down. Remember I said that this will take a while!? You want to keep checking this mixture, as once it is just warm you can start to add the butter in chunks to the mixture (which is why I said that it needs to be slightly soft) so that it blends well. Once all incorporated, keep the mix whisking and then melt the white chocolate. Pour this into the mixture and keep on whisking. If at this stage it isn’t coming together to form a buttercream consistency, you can take it off and put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This should cool is sufficiently to come together once whisked again. Once you have achieved the desired texture, you can set this aside for icing your cake. TIP: Don’t put this mixture in the fridge while it is in the mixing bowl, as it will not be spreadable when you come to use it! You can leave it in there for a short time, but be aware that it sets quite firm! TIP: I use seedless raspberry jam and I melt about two or three tablespoons in the microwave until it is pourable and then I use the back of a spoon to slather this across the cake. TIP: To be able to create the jam and buttercream centre, spread the top half of the cake with the jam and the bottom half with the buttercream. If you spread the bottom half with the jam and then try to spread the bottom half again with the cream, you’ll be slipping all over the place! The two halves will slide a little but this will stop, especially when you cover the cake with icing!