Victoria Sandwich

The Victoria Sandwich is the quintessential British cake, resplendent in any village tea shop worth their salt. It is the cake which can be called upon for any occasion, a special afternoon tea, birthday, Friday treat and of course is the cake to always sit pride of place on any Women’s Institute cake stall.

Victoria Sandwich

What is a Victoria Sandwich?

An utterly perfect cake in every way. Named after Queen Victoria who wasn’t allowed sweet treats in her youth so made up for it with gusto in her later years. The Queen had many foods of the day named after her but I think the Victoria Sandwich or Victoria Sponge must have been the one she was most proud of. At that time sponge cakes had always been quite leaden affairs until the invention of baking powder of which this cake was one of the first recipients, giving the cake height and airiness. It is a lovely easy cake to bake consisting of two circular sponges sandwiched together with a hearty helping of jam (and buttercream if you’re adventurous) and then sprinkled liberally over with caster sugar.

Victoria Sandwich

The Women’s Institute, of which I am a member and proud President of Stroud Green WI since you ask, is fastidious about the rules and regulations of a Victoria Sandwich; the number of eggs used, the flavour of jam, what sugar you use for dusting. So it’s here that I confess the Victoria Sandwich recipe I’m about to give might not win you first prize at a WI cake stall as I like to go a little off piste but that doesn’t mean I don’t adhere to a few of the rules, the ones I deem most important.

Ingredient tips for making a perfect Victoria Sponge

Kerrygold Butter for Victoria Sandwich

Butter. Not margarine – ever! The butter should be creamed into your caster sugar. There is no place here for the all-in-one method. The end results will speak for themselves. The most nutritious butter for the job is the product of grass-fed cows which are loaded with Vitamin K2 and for that local butter is your best bet. If you can’t your butter from local grass-fed cows then Kerrygold butter is the next best thing, found in most supermarkets and is about 90% grass-fed.

Clarence Court Burford Browns for Victoria Sandwich

Eggs. Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court are the superior supermarket egg. Their yolks custard yellow and creamy creating a rich and very flavourful addition to your sponge. The WI insists that only 3 eggs should be used but in my mind 4 is the magic number for this regal Victoria Sandwich.

Doves Farm Plain White Flour for Victoria Sandwich

Flour. I don’t think you can go wrong with Doves Farm flours which are now agreeably prolific in the supermarkets. I used their organic plain white flour here to make a truly precious sponge. (update. Since I am now gluten-free I bake this cake using a blend of gluten-free flours. The cake is just as delicious but slightly different. The recipe for the gluten-free version of this cake is at the bottom of the recipe)

Vanilla extract or essence? The addition of vanilla in a Victoria Sandwich is not obligatory but I love the taste and if you do too then you will pass over the essence which is artificial and not nice and go directly to the extract for a pure vanilla taste.

Whole Milk. Not a WI approved ingredient but it certainly makes for a creamier and lighter sponge. Only 2 tablespoons are required to be added at the end of the mixing stage but it really makes all the difference.

Victoria Sandwich

Do I need to weigh my eggs beforehand?

The traditional method of measuring out your ingredients for your Victoria Sandwich is to weigh the eggs first, in their shells, then use that measurement to know how much butter, sugar and flour to use. Or do what I do and if you use 4 medium sized eggs (which are between 53g-63g each in their shells) then you can’t go wrong with using 240g butter, 240g sugar and 240g flour.

How do you ensure against a wonky cake?

Digital scales here are your best friend. Place one of your greased and lined cake tins onto the scales, set to zero then pour in about half of the batter. Remove from the scales, put the other cake tin on the scales and set to zero again. Add the other half of the batter. Once you have equal weights of batter in your tins and you have smoothed them out then they are ready for the oven.

How long does it take to bake a sponge cake?

I like to bake my sponge cakes low and slow. This is a tall sponge since the batter boasts 4 eggs plus baking powder so if baked at too high a temperature the surface could easily burn without being fully baked all the way through. If you are worried that the surface of the cake seems to be browning too much before it is baked all the way through then loosely drape some tin foil over the top of the cake tin. The foil must not touch the top of the sponge as it could cause the cake to fall. I bake my sponge at 160°C for about 30 minutes which helps protect the cake and ensure an even bake. It is also vital not to bake the cake in a fan-assisted oven as the cake will just bake too quickly.

How do I turn out my cake to avoid any ugly cooling rack marks?

This is not for the faint hearted but if you do want to abide by the WI’s rules then the surface of your cake must not be marred by the criss cross pattern of your cooling rack. The Victoria Sandwich is a sturdy little number and is unlikely to fall apart in your hands if you are careful enough. Leave your cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes exactly. Run a small palette knife around the edges of your cake which should have come away from the edges of the tin anyway. Get as close as possible to your cooling rack then turn the cake gently out into your hand so you are holding the surface of the cake for just a moment, as you use your other hand to thrust the cake tin aside and quickly place your cooling rack to the underside of the cake, flipping over with caution then leaving to cool. Perhaps don’t try this on your first Victoria Sandwich attempt as broken cakes can be very upsetting.

Victoria Sandwich

But what jam should I use for my Victoria Sandwich?

Any jam you ninny. Jam is delicious. Buuuttt… Again, my contemporaries at the WI are not so casual about the choice of jam and insist the only true jam for a Victoria Sandwich is raspberry jam. I may have deviated here slightly and used my Raspberry and Coconut Jam but really, can you blame me? Also it is important to use a nice thickly set jam. You can warm it up in the saucepan slightly to aid in spreadability but if your jam is too loose there is a high chance it won’t sit happily within the cake and will spill out before serving.

Victoria Sandwich

To buttercream or not to buttercream?

Gosh, now we are entering some choppy waters. The WI does not like their Victoria Sandwich buttercreamed, instead preferring the jam to sit uninterrupted in the middle of their cake. Delicious? Of course. But you know what would be more delicious? That’s right, buttercream. Any sort of fancy swiss meringue, boiled icing, French-this, Italian-that is not the thing for our schoolmarm of a cake. We need straightforward butter plus icing sugar and that-is-that buttercream. The buttercream adds moisture to this sturdy sponge and also gives the jam a bit of a helping hand in the luxury department. There is nothing better than a squidgy piece of Victoria Sponge oozing with jam and buttercream. Without buttercream is far too austere for this baker.

How do you make buttercream icing for a Victoria Sponge?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The rule of thumb for the easiest and most traditional of buttercreams is equal amounts icing sugar and unsalted butter. Beat these two lovebirds on high for 5-10 minutes and you will achieve the lightest fluffiest buttercream which pipes like a dream and melts in the mouth. For creaminess add a dash of whole milk and then for a little bit of flavour add a drop of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

Victoria Sandwich

Icing or caster sugar for dusting?

Ha! Use icing sugar at your peril. I am in complete agreement with the WI that caster sugar is the only sugar to use here. It glistens on the top and adds crunch, a most welcome texture.

The simplicity and importance of a Victoria Sandwich at teatime cannot be stressed enough. It is the cake I cannot possibly refuse and the one which is always the first to fly off of every single WI cake stall I have ever managed. It is a perfect cake.

Victoria Sandwich
Print Recipe
Victoria Sandwich
A classically perfect Victoria Sponge Cake
Victoria Sandwich
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
12 people
Ingredients
  • 240 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 240 g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 240 g plain flour for gluten-free flour blend recipe see notes
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 175 g raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar for sprinkling at the end
  • Buttercream
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
12 people
Ingredients
  • 240 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 240 g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 240 g plain flour for gluten-free flour blend recipe see notes
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 175 g raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar for sprinkling at the end
  • Buttercream
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Victoria Sandwich
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line and grease 2 x round 20cm sandwich tins.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar on a high speed in a food mixer for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until completely incorporated, then add the vanilla extract.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together in separate mixing bowl, then add into the food mixer. Beat until just combined.
  5. Stir in the milk to lighten the batter then divide the batter equally between the two sandwich tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to settle for 5 minutes in their tins, then turn out onto cooling racks and leave to cool completely before filling.
Buttercream
  1. Beat the icing sugar with the unsalted butter for up to 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  2. Add the whole milk, vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.
Assembly
  1. Take one of your sponges and slather on the raspberry jam very evenly over the surface, spreading to the edge.
  2. For an even layer of buttercream pipe your buttercream in concentric circles over the top of the jam then use a small palette knife to gently even it out.
  3. Place the second sponge carefully on the top of the filling and sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the surface.
  4. Serve to happy smiling faces.
Recipe Notes
  • Since originally writing this post I have since transitioned to 100% gluten-free. That's not to say that I don't bake this cake anymore though. I do! I just use a few gluten-free flours in place of the plain flour. The substitution is this: 85g sweet rice flour, 60g gluten-free oat flour, 50g millet flour, 25g potato starch, 25g tapioca starch. Whisk these flours together well and then use as you would the plain flour in this recipe. Happy gluten-free baking!

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream
Cake Friday, woo!

At the moment I’m embarking on the heinous task of cake testing. I know, I know it’s a pretty abrasive chore but I’m knuckling down and getting it done like the true professional I am. All in the name of whittling my recipes down so I can take only my very favourite cakes to the market stall I am launching next month.

My baking to-do list is a little overwhelming at the moment. I have several notebooks full of scribbled down ideas, flavour combinations and inspiration gleamed from the efforts of others. This is not to mention the highly disorganised long yellow stickie that I keep on my desktop which is covering my screen so completely that it hinders any view of the perfectly chosen photograph of our holiday to Vietnam where we are smiling, having never been more happy, clinking our bottles of Saigon beer in front of the idyllic vista of Halong Bay. No, that’s being covered up with a stickie.

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have to get my obsessive recipe writing and note scribbling under control so that some of these baking ideas actually get to the next level, i.e. I make some of these suckers. So this week I have launched an initiative to start at the top and work my way down each and every list which seems very logical and sensible and not at all unmanageable.

Which is how the world’s best cake came into being. Actually, no it isn’t. No sooner had I launched this brilliant initiative, collated my various lists and put them in some sort of order then I completely cast them aside when I suddenly had the craving to make banana cake.

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have run several cake stalls in the past and it’s very noticeable the kind of cakes people like, proper grown up adults like the victoria sponge or lemon cake, people in their 20s like the chocolate cake and kids like the cupcakes. I, on the other hand, have a bit of a thing for banana cake. I don’t necessarily mean a dense intense banana bread, which is yumola, don’t get me wrong, but banana cake, light and fluffy with a pinch of icing, is what floats my boat. And that is why I always keep bananas in the house as I don’t know when the mood will take me.

So what I’m saying is that my quest to make some sort of inroads into this baking to-do list wasn’t particularly helped by the fact I had to make a banana cake right here right now. This poor innocent banana cake didn’t even know I had a list, but in it bounced, eager to please, oblivious of all the other recipes seething with jealousy that this precocious young upstart had leapt to the top of my to-do list without putting in any of the grunt work in the early rounds. And then, like a spoilt young prince it then claimed the hallowed crown of the best damn cake I have ever had.

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream  |  Stroud Green LarderIt all began with some homemade almond and cherry ripple ice cream. Which was on the list and which I ate. Mmm delicious research. However, during the making of the almond ice cream base my recipe required me to soak some ground almonds in milk and cream, then once my recipe had decided enough soaking had been going on I was required to strain the mixture, dispose of the ground almonds and carry on making my ice cream with the infused milk and cream. Now, I don’t like to dispose of anything which would have a better home in my tummy so, although it wasn’t clear what their immediate use would be I covered the almonds with cling film and put them in the fridge.

soaked almonds

They lasted in there about a day which was when my banana cake craving hit and they were soon drafted in to participate in the banana cake of dreams. And that my friends is how I made the best damn cake I have ever had. Plus I learnt a valuable lesion, from now on I am always soaking my almonds before adding them to any cake. The moisture it added was unbelievable. without dampening the sponge. It means a little more preparation has to go into your batter but sometimes you just have to go the extra mile to reap your sugary rewards.

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream  |  Stroud Green Larder

To prepare the almonds you just need to lay 250g of whole unblanched almonds onto a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes at 180°C. Remove them from the oven and pour into the food processor so you can grind into crumbs. Once the almonds are completely ground then pour some whole milk (or half milk, half cream) over so they are not quite covered. Give a good stir then leave overnight for the nuts to soften and absorb the milk.

The banana and almond sponge is made even more glorious by the cloud-like whipped toffee buttercream adorning each layer, adding the perfect amount of dreaminess to each bite. I adapted Delia Smith’s Sticky Toffee Icing for the job which I then whisked into my favourite whipped vanilla buttercream. This amount of buttercream is perfect to ice about 12-14 cupcakes or 3 thick layers in a layer cake. If you would like to ice the outside of the cake as well it’s doable but you would have to double the buttercream ingredients.

Banana and Almond Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream  |  Stroud Green Larder

So, fun and cravings now over, I’m returning to my to-do list, whereupon I am now sentencing myself to the completion of a chocolate and whisky bundt cake with chocolate caramel drizzle. As I said, it’s a heinous task.

Banana and Almond Layer Cake with Toffee Whipped Buttercream

175g soft light brown sugar
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
100ml buttermilk
120ml light olive oil
3 large bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g ground almonds soaked in milk
325g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt

For the buttercream:
8 tbsp evaporated milk
325g unsalted butter
6 tbsp dark brown soft sugar
¼ tsp salt
30g plain flour
250ml milk
1 vanilla pod
100g caster sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C and line and grease three 20cm sandwich tins.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat the sugars, eggs, buttermilk and olive oil.
  3. Mash the bananas well then add them to the mixing bowl along with the vanilla.
  4. Drain any loose liquid from the ground almonds then add them in as well, beating everything together until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Add the flour to the rest of the batter and mix together until just incorporated.
  7. Pour evenly into the three sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until golden and coming away from the sides.
  8. Turn each cake out of the tin onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile make the buttercream by melting the evaporated milk, 100g of the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 4 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  10. In another saucepan whisk the flour, 100ml of the milk and the vanilla seeds until smooth. Heat on low until the mixture has thickened then gradually add the rest of the milk in a slow stream, whisking all the while to avoid any lumps which would be quick to form. Whisk hard until the mixture just touches a boil and has thickened. Remove from the heat immediately and continue whisking for about 3 minutes. Strain to guarantee no flour lumps then leave to cool.
  11. Whilst the toffee sauce and the flour mixture are cooling, beat the rest of the butter (225g) and the caster sugar for about 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled flour mixture and beat for a further 3-4 minutes until even lighter and fluffier.
  12. Finally pour in the toffee sauce and beat the buttercream for a final 2 minutes to fully whip it all together.
  13. The buttercream can be applied as soon as the cake layers have completely cooled.

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

(Escape) The Pina Colada Cake
One of the film websites I read recently had a feature where all the contributors had written about the worst tropes which are fallen back on time and time again on film and TV. One particular entry on this list decried the timeworn use of characters dancing in the kitchen. The writer said it was clichéd, unrealistic and twee. ‘C’mon, who does that?’ they lamented. Well, I do as it happens. I do it a lot to boot and I don’t mind who knows it. Obviously.

The two examples of this common trope which immediately spring to mind are at the end of Mermaids which I re-watched last week where they wiggle along to ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ whilst setting the table. This scene not only led me to become obsessed with that song when I was young, but also made me desperate to be part of their wackadoo family. As a sidenote, I was extra surprised and saddened to hear of Bob Hoskins’ passing a few days ago as it felt like I had only just seen him on top form, I had forgotten he was in Mermaids and on my re-watch his was the performance I enjoyed the most. Such a wonderful actor.

The second example is in the classic episode of Dawson’s Creek when the gang all band together to save the Potter B&B by dancing around the kitchen at breakfast time. Of course their dancing seduces the grouchy critic Mr Fricke into thinking that the Potter B&B is the best place he’s ever stayed in the world and they get a stellar write up. Works every time; Four in a Bed take note. I refuse to believe that these moments are embarrassment ridden or cheesy but they certainly serve as encouragement for me to dance more, for better or for worse.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

In our house we love to dance badly everywhere, the poorer the dancing is the better. We throw ourselves around to the radio first thing in the morning, in the sitting room to perk us up on a Saturday afternoon and most importantly and significantly for this post, in the kitchen. Whilst waiting for butter and sugar to cream, whilst thumbing through cookbooks and most common of all when we are doing the washing up. It is the only thing that makes the dreary chore remotely bearable.

From his very first afternoon in our house whilst we were making the Sunday lunch Puppy has found our love of crazy dancing the best thing in the world. All I have to do is start to shimmy a little bit in time with Katy Perry and he has jumped up ecstatically, paws reaching for my hands so we can prance round the kitchen absurdly like a couple of escaped lunatics. The cats aren’t as impressed.

There are a few songs which absolutely guarantee a good old bop, our current favourite is Pharrell Williams’ Happy which is just invokes such joy but also sends me into fits as it goes hand in hand with those gosh darn hilarious minions. A particular favourite though, and you’ll be happy to know I am now coming to the crux of the matter, is Escape (The Pinã Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. We always put it on when feeling gloomy to cheer ourselves up. As soon as its opening drum beat kicks in Puppy immediately assumes the Tom Cruise from Cocktail swagger, well if Tom Cruise were tiny, furry, four-legged and drunk; still he has the charm in spades.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was obviously listening to this song when I dreamt up this cake and the thought of it makes me smile, not just because it’s delicious but it also incorporates all the happy-go-lucky flavours of sunshine and paradise. It reminds me of dancing round my kitchen with my family and most importantly, it has glace cherries.

I have made this cake several times now and usually when I make something repeatedly I like to tweak things here and there, perhaps modify the icing, take a layer out, change the decoration. This incarnation though was perfect the first time I baked it and I have made it the same way ever since, even down to the number of cocktail umbrellas on the top.

This cake was made this week for a double celebration, it was a request from my husband whose birthday it was a few days ago and I also wanted to include it here to mark my official 99th post. Now, many people may choose to celebrate going into triple figures but hey I like 99. Plus it’s the bank holiday so I wanted to make sure this recipe was on offer to you should you want to make it and dream you are escaping to a tropical island.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

Coconut and Malibu Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe in Short and Sweet

150ml coconut milk
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60ml Malibu
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
275g plain flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder

  1. Heat the coconut milk until boiling then remove from the heat and stir in the desiccated coconut, vanilla and Malibu. Leave to soak for 30 minutes so the coconut softens.
  2. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180°C then line and grease 3 x 20cm round sandwich tins.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on high for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time until evenly combined.
  5. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Fold into the butter, sugar and eggs alternately with the coconut mixture until just incorporated.
  6. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Pineapple Curd

1 227g tin pineapple chunks, whizzed up with juice in blender
3 egg yolks
2½ tablespoons cornflour
75g caster sugar

  1. In a small bowl blend the cornflour with a bit of the whizzed up pineapple until it’s formed a smooth paste.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir constantly on a medium heat until it begins to boil. Turn down heat and keep stirring as it thickens. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Pineapple Frosting

8 egg whites (or 240g egg whites)
400g caster sugar
540g unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
250g pineapple curd

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain-marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 160°F.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will curdle curiously. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the salt and the pineapple curd. Mix in quickly and lightly.

Decorate the cake with toasted desiccated coconut, sun-dried pineapple, glace cherries and cocktail umbrellas.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

The reason I have been absent from posting for a few days is a very good one.  I have been baking this lovely Chocolate Gingerbread Cake extravaganza with stem ginger frosting and decorated with gingerbread houses, each representing one of beloved buildings in Stroud Green where I live.

IMG_3127I was asked by our WI President to make the cake for our Christmas outing to the panto.  A big group of giggling women trooping off to the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park to see Sleeping Beauty is an occasion in and of itself and we definitely made our presence known.  However, the cake was also in celebration of the two year anniversary of the founding of Stroud Green WI.  It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages and backgrounds and we meet once a month for a catch up about local events and charities that we are involved with and also for some brilliant activities.
Stroud Green WI Cake

This year has been an amazing year for our WI, we have has some fascinating talks about design and forensic science, a visit from Wildes Cheese, dress-making lessons from Clare-Louise Hardie from the Great British Sewing Bee, quilting, sugarcrafting, a local history walk, a summer picnic.  And a hell of a lot of cake, which is the most important thing obv.  So I was only too happy to bake this cake and I wanted to make sure it was really special.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake7

The templates for the houses were made the WI way, using card and a craft knife.  The sizes I went with were 10cm x 4cm for the tall thin houses, 10cm x 6cm for the stations and big buildings like Rowans bowling alley, 9cm x 5cm for the average sized buildings and 8cm x 4cm for the diddy ones.  To calculate how many you will need, wrap a piece of string around the circumference of the cake tins then measuring it against a ruler.  I then divided the circumference into the various widths I had chosen, deciding which houses would fit best where.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake3

The Stroud Green WI banner was made with sugarpaste, hung on string and tied to cake pop sticks.

To assemble I placed one half of the 23cm cake on a 25cm cake drum, spreading a good layer of frosting on before putting the second layer of cake on top.  I then lightly frosted all over for a crumb coat.  I did the same with the 20cm cake but built it on top of a 20cm cake board.  I put both cakes in the fridge to set overnight.  The next morning I gave them both a second layer of frosting, inserted four dowels around the centre and into the 23cm cake to act as support then placed the 20cm cake carefully on top.  I added a white sugarpaste border to the cake drum and also a ribbon to the side.  Next I stuck the gingerbread houses onto the cakes which clung to the sticky frosting.  Finally I erected the Stroud Green WI banner onto the top of the cake, pushing the cake pops down as far as they would go so the banner would stay upright.  Then I took along to the panto where it was swiftly demolished – just like our local landmark Rowans bowling is soon going to be (an absolute travesty – what can we do!!??!!)

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake6

Oh, and in case you are wondering – the panto was excellent too!

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake5

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

For the cakes:

495g plain flour
180g cocoa
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
360g unsalted butter
300g light brown sugar
335g caster sugar or golden syrup sugar
9 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
180g dark chocolate with ginger, melted then cooled
360ml whole milk
360ml boiling water
70g dark chocolate with ginger, chopped into chips

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease 1 x 23cm round cake tin and 1 x 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the butter and the sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. At this point the mixture usually looks curdled but don’t worry it will come back together.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed.
  7. Pour in the boiling water and mix until just combined.
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tins, then scatter the chocolate chips on top, pushing them down slightly into the batter. Bake for 45-50 mins but do check after 30 mins and if your cakes are browning too much then place some foil over the top for the rest of the baking. Check they are ready by inserting a metal skewer into the cakes – it should come out clean.
  9. Leave the cakes for 10 mins in their tins before removing then cool on a wire rack completely before cutting in half width ways then frosting.

For the stem ginger frosting:

300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
680g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 balls of stem ginger, chopped very finely or whizzed up in the food processor
1 tbsp of the stem ginger syrup
Good pinch of salt

  1. Heat the egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, the stem ginger plus the syrup and the salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.

For the gingerbread houses
Makes about 28 houses

680g plain flour
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
180g treacle
1½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and bicarbonate of soda together.
  2. Rub in the unsalted butter with the tips of your fingers so it resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the sugars with the eggs, treacle and vanilla extract until fully combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and bring together with your hands to form a dough until everything is combined and you can pat it into a smooth ball.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Whilst it is chilling you can make your templates.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and start your rolling and cutting. I rolled just a small amount of dough at a time due to space.
  8. Form each piece of dough into a round ball then roll out using a silicone roller to avoid sticking. The dough will be a little tough at first but will soon start rolling out beautifully.
  9. Use 5mm spacers on either side of your dough so you can ensure it is all evenly rolled to exactly the same depth.
  10. Place your card templates on the dough then cut out with a knife.
  11. Place each house on a baking sheet with about 2½ cm gap in between. They shouldn’t spread out but it’s good to be careful.
  12. Put the baking sheets in the fridge and chill for 30 mins.
  13. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180°C.
  14. Bake the gingerbread houses for about 6-8 mins each. They are ready when you can barely see the corners just start to crisp but the middle of the biscuits should still be a pale golden brown.
  15. Leave to cool on the trays.
  16. Decorate with royal icing any way you wish.
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Bounty Cake {gluten-free}

The Coconuttiest Gluten-Free Bounty Cake in town

Did Bounty ever have a TV ad? If it did, I don’t remember it. Does this mean that it was such a popular chocolate bar that it didn’t need to advertise. The Bounty knew how amazing it was already. Adverts were for loser chocolate bars, Bounty was far too superior for that, it didn’t need to tarnish itself with lame slogans and cartoon rabbits. There is a word in our house for that kind of attitude Mr Bounty, Smuggo. But it shouldn’t be too complacent in its glory as I was not a big fan growing up. I think it was a chocolate bar designed for adults. I certainly remember my mum always choosing Bounties which we could never understand. Although I think this was clever planning on her part, as she could be confident that we wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. The chocolate was good but the coconut? Yuk. Give me a Boost and be done.

Now though, I’m partial to a bit of coconut (Chocolate has long been my soul mate. I love you chocolate, always be mine) which is present here four fold. This recipe includes coconut milk, dessicated coconut for that authentic Bounty taste, coconut flour and in keeping with the idea that Bounty is really adult terrain I have gone one better and added grown-up Calpol just to seal the deal. Malibu. Which did have a commercial and a slogan which I love to sing-song with glee whenever I bring it out of the drinks cabinet ‘the sun always shines when it pours’. It does, it really does.
The Coconuttiest Gluten-Free Bounty Cake in town

I almost didn’t mention that this wonderful cake was gluten free in the title as I didn’t want you to get all huffy and skip it. Please don’t though as this cake has seriously passed the gluten-free haters test, namely my husband, and I would happily make this time and time again for anyone and everyone. As with the gluten-free sticky toffee cake last week the key is adding in as much extra moisture as you can. This time around, as well as the Malibu and the coconut milk in the cake batter, I used a sugar syrup which is brushed over the cake after baking. The warm sponge soaks up the delicious Malibu syrup, making the cake sticky, moist and scrumptious.

If you have never tried swiss meringue buttercream then you must have a go on your next cake. Do not be put off by the slightly complicated method, it’s really quite easy. If you find normal buttercream a bit sweet and heavy then this is definitely the frosting for you as it’s the most light velvety buttercream you will ever taste. Rosie Alyea, on her blog Sweetapolita, gives an extremely thorough explanation with photos if you are a bit nervous. You could use fresh egg whites but since you need so many then I recommend you use Two Chicks egg whites which come in a handy carton. You only need half the carton so you can freeze the rest ready for your next swiss meringue buttercream cake as after you’ve tried it once you will never go back.

The Coconuttiest Gluten-Free Bounty Cake in town

Bounty Cake (gluten-free)

For the coconut cake:
200ml coconut milk
60ml Malibu
50g dessicated coconut
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
300g unsalted butter
6 eggs
250g gluten free flour
50g coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the sugar syrup:
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp Malibu
2 tbsp water

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and prepare 2 x 8” sandwich tins.
  2. Pour the coconut milk, Malibu, dessicated coconut and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes, giving it a good stir, then turn off the heat and let sit for 30 mins.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs in one at a time, don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy it will come together.
  5. Sift the flours and baking powder together.
  6. Add the flour alternately with the coconut mixture, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed and mix until just combined.
  7. Divide the cake batter between the two sandwich tins and bake for around 18-20 mins until the cake starts to brown and come away from the sides.
  8. Meanwhile you can make the sugar syrup. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for around three mins then turn off the heat.
  9. When the cakes are ready, take them out of their tins after five mins resting. Poke the top of the cakes several times with a cocktail stick.
  10. Brush the sugar syrup all over the two cakes, then leave them to cool before slicing in half horizontally to make four sponge layers.

For the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
8 egg whites (240g)
400g caster sugar
560g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
300g dark chocolate, melted then cooled.
A pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g coconut flakes to decorate

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the salt, the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. After frosting the cake, decorate with the coconut flakes.