In a world where shit seems to be hitting the fan (mostly thanks to the world’s biggest joke; President Trump) I thought I would mix the blog up a little bit this week and post something just plain old nice, and there isn’t anything nicer than cake.
I was really lucky growing up because my mum made THE BEST birthday cakes in Bristol. I’m not just talking a boring old dry sponge, I’m talking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all asleep in bed, a princess castle with turrets and a chocolate finger roof and what can only be described as something that looked like a very over the top loo brush holder (a Barbie doll stuck in a humongous pink cake skirt). Obviously she has set the bar high for me to do the same with Autumn’s birthday cakes but luckily for me a little bit of Mum’s cake genius has rubbed off, and a few years back I started The Cakery, a vintage style cake shop which specialised in cupcakes. Alas my official oven gloves were hung up once Autumn arrived, I couldn’t be dealing with trying to make a 3 tier wedding cake with a baby screaming for attention, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t dabble every now and again with a cakey creation. Below is a recipe for a good, full proof Victoria sponge. This is always my go to recipe when I have to make a cake for a special occasion and I can’t be arsed with doing something overly fancy. Autumn’s last two birthday cakes were Victoria sponges, I just jazzed them up with some over the top buttercream decoration, stuck on a plastic Peppa Pig or fondant animal and voila, a birthday cake fit for an awesome mini human!
225g butter (room temperature, it must be room temperature!)
225g self-raising flour (sifted from a great height, ok, maybe just a few inches above the bowl)
225g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence, that stuff is nasty)
1tsp baking powder
For the butter cream:
1.5 sticks of butter
A shed load of icing sugar (explanation below!)
Heat oven to 170°C / 160°C fan
Put all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl and beat together. I don’t bother with creaming the butter and sugar first then adding an egg one at a time, I don’t have the patience and the all in one method has never let me down. I use a Kitchen Aid to mix but an electric hand mixer will also do the job (or a whisk, but my measly arms don’t allow for that much of a work out). Beat until all ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth, be sure to take a spoon to it and have a good tasting session because it will taste like gooey heaven.
Now you’ve got the batter you can do anything you want with it. It’s enough for making an 8 inch cake (or a 7 inch if you want a deeper sponge), so you can line a cake tin with baking paper and pour the batter in. Make sure it’s smooth on the top so it doesn’t dome in the middle. A 7/8 inch cake will need at least 40 minutes in the oven but don’t open the door before 30 minutes are up otherwise the cake will sink. I go by the slow and low method, low heat and longer cooking time = a moister cake. When it's done a skewer poked in the top should come out clean.
Or alternatively you could use the batter to make cupcakes, I’m a bit of a cupcake Nazi and have to use 4oz soufflé cups as cases, yeah they might not come in all the colours of the rainbow but I think they look a bit different. They’re bigger than your normal red polka dot versions and you don’t need to put them in a cupcake tin because they stand up all by themselves. You can buy them on Amazon for £5 for 250 here (that’s a lot of cake!) Now if you want to be as OCD as me, you can measure the batter that’s going into the cases meaning each cupcake should come out perfectly baked and uniform. 60g of batter works perfectly in a 4oz soufflé cup (or just dollop the batter in willy nilly, you really don't need to be as weirdly strict as me!). It’s a bit faffy but you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with some freakin awesome, professional looking cakes. They only need around 20 minutes in a 170°C / 160°C fan oven.
If you wanted to vary this Victoria sponge recipe you could add a few heaped tablespoons of coca powder (I always use Bournville) to make it into a lovely chocolate cake, maybe even go a bit crazy and add a bag of chocolate chips into the mix. I mean, you only live once.
Or instead of the vanilla add mint or orange extract (works well with a chocolate sponge) or lemon extract for when you can’t be bothered to go the whole hog of a classic lemon drizzle. Cinnamon is a great substitute to vanilla too, team it with maple syrup buttercream and bobs your uncle, you’ve got a French toast cake!
I prefer using buttercream over any other icing and I’m afraid I don’t have any measurements for you as I have always made it by eye/taste. If you use 1 ½ sticks of butter you’ll have plenty of buttercream to ice all your cupcakes quite liberally or your 7/8 inch cake in the middle as well as all over the outside. I generally beat the butter (room temperature, of course) in the Kitchen Aid and then gradually add spoonful’s of sifted icing sugar until you get the sweetness you desire. I then add either vanilla extract / melted chocolate / maple syrup depending on what flavour cake I’ve gone for.
Now, to get the professional looking cupcakes that everyone will swoon over (believe me you always get a wow) then you need the right nozzle! After years of testing I’ve found that the Wilton 1B icing nozzle is the nozzle of kings for piping whippy buttercream on cupcakes. Fill a piping bag with your buttercream, start at the edge of the cake and work your way around in a circle coming into the centre and moving upwards. It’s really easy as long as you use the right equipment.
So there it is, my go to cake recipe, perfect for when you want to look like you’ve made an effort but in reality, you’ve just shoved all raw ingredients into a bowl, whipped them up and popped them in the oven. Boom.