Sunday, 22 February 2015

Madam Sophia's Birthday cake

My husband and his grand daughter have birthdays four days apart. My husband is a Valentine's baby which means that it is impossible to forget his day, but allows me to push the boat out and cook something really special to celebrate both occasions. However little girls are a different matter. Last year we held a small celebration with close family and friends, the occasion being marked with a decadent chocolate fudge cake to please children and adults alike.

She is known affectionately by me as Little Madam, mainly because she has a very strong personality, in the nicest way possible. She has a very healthy interest in food and cooking and for her age (she is now four) asks some incredibly mature questions. She came to cook with me just before Christmas, we made some pastry for a quiche and she was questioning why the pastry needed to go into the fridge to rest, why it needed another resting after rolling out, why I was using baking beans etc. We also made a Victoria sponge, with balsamic strawberry and cream filling and she was well and truly the chief taster, telling me that she thought the strawberries needed more flavouring, before declaring them "yummy"And she is very opinionated about what she will and will not wear so at this stage it's a toss-up between chef and fashion designer!

This year it has been different. She is now at the age when a proper children's party, complete with the usual sugary and generally unhealthy foods are de-rigeur. Like most little girls at the moment, she is totally in love with the movie Frozen, and has a whole host of Frozen related items to boot. As her party clashed with Valentines day, celebrations took place across two separate weekends, with this weekend being a family celebration. This did mean however that the lucky girl ended up with more than one cake; the children's party was a generic Frozen themed affair, together with themed cake, with my contribution this weekend being a variation of the Primrose Bakery's triple layered confetti cake, albeit made more grown up with the addition of rose water to the cake mix and buttercream covering. I also tried to make it a little more adult with the addition of edible rose petals and pearlescent sprinkles on top. The rose water is not overpowering, instead it lends a very subtle flavour and aroma to the cake and icing, but don't be tempted to go over the top.

I'm pleased to say that it went down a storm, although Sophia went straight for the icing first. My take on the Primrose Bakery original is below.

Cake mix (makes one 3-layer 20cm cake)

315g self-raising flour
35g cornflour
1 ½ tsps baking powder
335g golden caster sugar
6 large free range eggs
335g unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsps whole milk
2 tbsps rose water
1½ tsps vanilla extract
¾ tsp red food colouring
75g hundreds and thousands

Pink rose and vanilla buttercream icing:

230g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml semi-skimmed milk
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 capfuls of rose water
1kg icing sugar, sifted
pink food colouring (I prefer to use the paste as you get a more vibrant effect without diluting the buttercream
edible rose petals
white sugar pearls


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Then put the flour, cornflour, baking powder and sugar in a mixer and combine.

Add the eggs, butter, milk, rose water and vanilla extract and mix until combined, but do not over mix as the batter will become tough.

Divide the batter between three identical bowls. Weigh them to ensure you end up with three equal-sized sponge layers. The best way to do this is to weigh the empty mixing bowl before you start, then weigh again once you have made the batter. Subtract one from the other, then divide by three and you'll get the correct weights you need. Add 25 grams of the hundred and thousands to each bowl. For the different shades of sponge, add ¼ tsp red food colouring to one bowl, ½ tsp to another and mix thoroughly. Leave the third uncoloured.

Pour the batter into three greased and lined 20cm sandwich tins and put in the pre-heated oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into each tin comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool.

For the icing, beat the butter, milk, rose water, vanilla and half the icing sugar for a couple of minutes until it’s a smooth, creamy consistency. Add the rest plus enough food colouring to reach the desired shade of pink and mix.

When the cakes are cool, remove the greased paper and put the first layer of sponge on a plate or cake stand. Spread with 1 cm of buttercream. add a second layer of sponge and repeat to make a three-tier cake tower.Finally, cover the sides and top of the cake with buttercream, spreading evenly with a spatula. To finish decorate the top with the rose petals and sugar pearls.

If not serving straight away, or if it is a warm day, it is a good idea to place in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to allow the buttercream to firm and and make the cake easier to slice.

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