Monday 11 February 2013

Happy Birthday, Sweetness


It was Séan’s birthday last week. He insisted on making his own cake to take into the office. I’m fairly certain this is the first cake he’s baked in the 15 years we’ve been married. I did not help. It turned out brilliantly. I was slightly irked. I threatened to install the new router on the computer, fix the dodgy loo cistern and put a new blade on the lawnmower.
2013-02-05 09.34.05
The cake Séan made.
Of course, I did none of these things. They don’t sound much fun to be honest. Instead, for his birthday party yesterday, I made three cakes. That’ll teach him. Eighteen of us went to The Russett, a great café along the road from our house, for roast chicken and then piled back into our kitchen for crisps, cakes and prosecco.
I’ll blog the rest of the recipes over the next week or so, but I’m starting with the red velvet cake because this is the one the birthday boy requested. As it’s his birthday, I bent my usual house rules about using only seasonal fruit and veg. Don’t judge me (yeah, Nick).
Marmalade and chocolate cake, red velvet cake and apple and cinnamon bundt cake.

Red Velvet Cake
I’ve made this cake loads of times, for birthday parties, engagement parties, bridal showers and just for the plain old love of the light sponge combined with the tangy cream cheese icing and mountain of fruit. It’s very easy, very pretty and is always a big hit. I was once stopped in the street by a woman I didn’t know who’d had a slice at a friend’s party to say it was the best cake she’d ever tasted. Sweet.
Leo, being patient.
For the cake:
300g plain flour, sifted 2tbsp cocoa, plus a bit more for dusting the tins 1 tsp baking powder 1tsp bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp salt 250ml buttermilk 1 tbsp red food colouring 1 tsp cider vinegar 1 tsp vanilla extract 320g caster sugar 120g unsalted butter, softened, plus a bit more for greasing the tins 2 large eggs

For the icing:
110g unsalted butter, softened 500g full-fat cream cheese, room temperature 1 tsp vanilla extract 300g icing sugar, sifted A couple of punnets of raspberries A couple of punnets of blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Lightly butter two 23cm springform cake tins and dust them with cocoa powder.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl. I like to sift everything twice so all the ingredients are well blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, food colouring, vinegar and vanilla. It will be the most beautiful colour.
Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar. Don’t expect it to become light and fluffy, but it should be well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in a quarter of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat until all of the ingredients are incorporated, ending with the final quarter of the dry ingredients (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry, wet, dry).
Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tins, on a rack, for 10 minutes. Turn out of the tins and cool completely.
To make the icing, beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese a little at a time until everything is very well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the icing sugar until everything is smooth.
When the cakes are completely cool, place one cake on a plate, spread some of the icing on top and arrange a generous layer of raspberries and blueberries over it, pressing lightly so they stick to the icing. Place the second cake on top and cover the whole thing with the remaining icing. Top the cake with the rest of the fruit.
A slice of red velvet.

Not much left …


  1. Absolutely beautiful, only one thing wrong...I didn't get a piece! ; )

  2. how beautiful. I've been scratching my head over what to make my son for his first birthday and I think this may well be it!

  3. Don't they look just delicious! Don't think either of my boys would have been as patient as Leo!

  4. Ah Debs, next time ... X
    GG, One already? How lovely. Hope you have a wonderful party whatever cake you choose. X
    TW Thank you! X

  5. Hi Deborah,
    Thanks for your visit to my blog and your kind comments. I got great response to my review of your book. They all loved it!
    Looks like you had a fantastic party with lots of lovely cake!

  6. Hi Ingrid, Thanks so much for featuring Gifts from the Garden - I'm delighted you and your readers like it. And, yes, the party was lovely.

  7. Wow! The 'completely smothered in a creamy icing' look is fab, would never think to do that. I agree...if a man can make a need to make 3. It just makes sense.

  8. TWM, Exactly. I'm delighted you agree. X

  9. And a happy birthday to the beautiful, kind, funny Sean - the best son in law ever. And the second best cake maker (I have to say that!) Mum

  10. oh look at the CAKE he made! Yours are pretty good too obvs. xx

  11. Fi, I KNOW! I think he's been reading cookbooks on those evenings I force him to have solo dinner in the sitting room on a tray.


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