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.
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).
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.
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.