Helloooo! After the birth of our own baby boy a little over two weeks ago, the days have kind of blended all into one long and lucid time warp. These weeks have flown by SO QUICK watching our new born grow and getting to know him, yet I've found myself feeling like some nights are oh.so.LONG. Oh the crying, the on-demand feeds, the super long feeds, the annoyingly short cluster feeds, the poonamis, the surprise pee-in-the-face fountains, and the warm new born cuddles (he smells SO GOOD! Better than any cake I've ever baked ;)). I'll say one thing, as much as I am sleep deprived I have never had so much joy just being with a sleeping, crying, pooping, peeing little human.
The actual birth didn't go to plan (does anyone's??). Sadly I didn't get to have my idyllic zen hypno-birthing, yoga posing "natural" water birth that was much romanticised during our ante-natal classes and our baby was in intensive care for 5 days after but once the dust settled and the drugs wore off and we were finally home all that mattered was that we were both safe, healthy and together as a family. All of the cliches, they all came true. Welcome to the world, Xavier Ray Bennett, aka X-Ray!
Maternity leave won't really be exactly how I always thought it would be either. We run a small business - there's no "time off" as such. What I am enjoying, however, is juicing a lot more of my creative brain bits and trialling new recipes with our awesome team as I rear the tiny terror. I'm also looking forward to sharing some of them with you as it's so lovely seeing my popular chocolate drip recipe and white chocolate drip recipe be used over and over again.
The best recipes are those that are simple to execute and consistently work well. So this post will be about the most perfectly simple, yet impressive birthday cake - a lovely light vanilla sponge layer cake, with beautifully buttery Swiss meringue butter cream and that glossy dark chocolate drip off-setting the sweetness that we love so much (to those few thinking "noooo not another chocolate drip cake!" - what are you like?! Why would you EVER say no to more chocolate?!)
Ok, I will be upfront and say this is not as easy as flinging an all-in-one batter in the oven and producing a generally crowd-pleasing Victoria Sponge. Sometimes you need something with more of a wow-factor, more oomph, more pizzazz. And as good as a Victoria Sponge is, it’s not quite up to special birthdays or really impressing the guests.
Catherine Frawley, my friendly food photographer friend and novice baker, tested the recipe (and also took all the lovely photos) and had this to say about it:
"Whilst I’m a pretty confident cook and baker, masking a cake competently (and not just saying it’s rustic) is something that needs some practice. And two non-negotiable tips from Reshmi are a turntable (not the musical variety! Affiliate link) and an angled palette knife.
Holding the palette knife at a 45-degree angle and turning the cake on the table will take some getting used to but buttercream is forgiving and you can keep adding and taking away until you have a smooth even crumb coating.
I followed Reshmi’s recipes exactly as stated and it turned out to be my most impressive bake ever."
Bookmark this and keep it in your arsenal of sturdy, fool-proof, impress-everybody recipes.
The Birthday Cake Recipe
The Vanilla Sponge
250g Butter (softened) and a little extra to grease tins with
250g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs, medium
250g Self Raising Flour (sifted)
5g Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
½ tsp Vanilla Extract
1) Preheat oven 160 degrees Celsius.
2) Cream butter and sugar together till light and fluffy with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or if you have the guns, whisk).
3) Add in the eggs and beat on medium speed till incorporated. Toss in the dry ingredients and vanilla and beat till just combined and no lumps are remaining - be careful to not over mix.
4) Grease two 6 inch tins well with the extra butter. Divide the batter evenly between both tins and level the tops with the back of a spoon. Bake for 25-30 minutes, checking for doneness by inserting a cocktail stick or paring knife in the middle of the sponge - it's ready when it comes out just clean with no wet smears.
5) Leave them to cool in tins at room temperature for 15 minutes before releasing from tins and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
6) Once cooled completely, wrap cling film around each sponge individually to preserve moisture and freshness. At this point you could even freeze the sponges for up to a month to use at a later date.
The Swiss Meringue Buttercream
250g Egg Whites (or roughly egg whites of 6-7 eggs)
375g Caster Sugar
500g Butter, cubed and softened
¼ tsp Salt
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1) Place egg whites and caster sugar in a clean stand mixer bowl with no traces of fat over a simmering saucepan of water over medium heat. Make sure the water in the saucepan does not touch the bottom of the bowl containing the egg whites and sugar. Whisk with a hand whisk until all sugar is dissolved, the mixture is frothy and has reached 60-degrees C or is hot to touch.
2) Place the stand mixer bowl into the stand mixer and whisk on high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture has reached glossy stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to touch. This is now the Swiss meringue base.
3) Add in vanilla, salt and soft cubes of butter on low speed till all combined. The mixture will look curdled and scare you. Don't worry or panic. Increase the speed to high and beat until it all comes together as a smooth and silky buttercream (takes about 5-8 minutes to reach this stage). You now have the most delicious buttercream known to man and can further flavour it with cocoa powder, fruit purees, lemon juice, caramel, spiced rum, anything you fancy.
4) Place your cake board on the turntable and smear two tablespoons of frosting in the centre. Fix a sponge layer in the middle of the cake board and using an angled spatula spread a layer of frosting evenly on top. Sandwich with the other sponge layer and spread another even layer of frosting on the top.
5) Spread a thin layer of frosting on the sides using the angled spatula to smooth and take off any excess buttercream. This layer is called the crumb coat. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up before smoothing another layer of frosting around the sides (unless you want to keep things naked, that's cool too!). You can smooth any lumps and uneven spots by running the spatula under hot water to warm it up and drying it before smoothing over the bumps. Stick it back in the fridge for 10 minutes.
You can now glaze the cake using our tried, tested and highly hailed Chocolate Drip Cake Recipe. We used sprinkles and piped stars of buttercream using a large star nozzle and a piping bag over the top. And more sprinkles. Cuz...it's a birthday cake!
Please don't forget to show off your creations to me by tagging @angesdesucre and #angesdesucre on Instagram. I'm sure they'll be worth all the heart-eye emojis in the world. Okay, maybe not all, because they're all for my little Xavier :)
Lots of love,
And if baking your own birthday cake isn't possible check out our Birthday Cakes here which can be delivered anywhere in London and nearby.