Decorating a cake is an opportunity for you to use your imagination, explore ideas you may have seen in shop windows, or those you remember from home baking in years gone by. For some of us, one of the happiest childhood memories is of time spent in the kitchen with your mum or gran, chatting and sharing stories while you made the cake look as good as it was going to taste.
Modern bakers will often choose to use an electric whisk or food processor, to get the sponge just right. This method works because sponge cake batter needs to be blended together quickly in order to keep the mixture light. Prolonged beating, either by hand or your electric blender, will result in a cake that has a denser consistency and is far less light and spongy. Another factor of great importance, is the correct oven temperature and preheating.
To make this extra special, use fresh fruit or your favourite homemade jam, with fresh whipped cream. If you do, remember the cake will need refrigerating and is best eaten within one or two days.
The basic sponge.
225g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
1tsp natural vanilla extract
225g unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
3 large eggs
4 tbs milk
100g unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
510g icing sugar
3 tbs milk
1tsp Vanilla essence
Tiniest drop of pink food colouring
Use the same buttercream recipe as for the topping but leave out the food colouring.
Or fresh whipped cream.
To begin, preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 or 180 degrees. Then line two 20cm round cake tins with baking paper. Alternatively, grease with butter and dust with a light sprinkling of flour, which should ensure your cake slides out effortlessly. Put all of the ingredients for the basic sponge mixture into your food processor and mix until blended. Take care not to over beat the ingredients. As I have mentioned, this causes all the air trapped in the mixture by sugar crystals, to be forced out. Like cooking any other dish, it’s fine to taste your batter before baking. In this way you will begin to recognise how the raw properties of each cake you bake, affect the end result.
Divide the batter between the two tins, spreading evenly to the sides. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife or skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cakes. Turn out and allow to cool completely or you risk melting the buttercream icing.
To make the buttercream icing, beat the butter with the icing sugar and vanilla essence. Then add enough milk to make the consistency smooth and creamy. For the topping, add the food colouring carefully, to produce a light pink colour and blend well.
Then spread the jam or fruit onto the top of one cake and the cream to the bottom of the other. Sandwich the two together, some of the sweet creamy mixture will be soaked into the sponge, so you can be quite generous with your fillings.
For the topping use a palette knife to smooth on the glossy pink buttercream, some will ooze over the edges, don’t worry, this can be tidied later. Once the whole cake is covered, smooth around the sides, right down to when the cake meets the plate. Do this in one movement if you can, turning the cake if you need to. What ever works best for you is fine. Then you can use sweeping ‘s’ shaped movements to ensure the marshmallowy mixture evenly covers the top of your cake.
Garnish with fresh raspberries and sprinkle with some icing sugar, you can use a small sieve to do this, achieving a more evenly spread dusting. However, the cake is sweet enough, so you only need a small amount as a garnish. The whiteness acts to contrast with the deep pink of the raspberries and the baby pink of the icing, bringing the whole piece together.
I would suggest serving with a couple of raspberries or strawberries if you have used those.