I love this sponge because it’s versatile; it’s just as happy being a big cake as it is a cupcake. I also like it as it has more guts to it than a lightweight, taste-free, puff-of-wind sponge. It’s dense-but-still-light texture makes it perfect for more ornate cake tins as it shows off the detail of the design. The other reason I love this recipe is that the cake keeps in an air-tight tin for up to a week without any loss of quality (I only know this because I made far too many cakes last Christmas and it took a while to eat our way through them- in normal circumstances I would never have found out that it kept for a week) .
I made it as cupcakes – I split the mix in two and left one half natural whilst colouring the other half red to suit my Arsenal theme; the icing is simply icing sugar and water. I made this by trial and error adding more of either ingredient until I found the consistency I wanted (you'll notice the icing on number 11 is a bit runny so I thickened it up):
I love this aerial shot as it makes me think of synchronised swimmers. They look great in the cupcake tree:
And I made it as a big cake:
You can really see the beautiful texture of this cake in this shot:
The cake is less dramatic without candles but you can see the 'difficult' playing surface the players are contending with - no wonder things are getting dirty. One of the blues is down but the ref's spotted it:
This is to make approx 14 cupcakes/2 x 20cm sandwich tins/1 x 23cm deep cake. Scale recipe up/down as required.
225g Unsalted butter
225g Caster sugar
225g Self raising flour
4 large eggs, beaten
How to make:
- Preheat oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3
- Grease (or brush with cake release) your chosen tins
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the key to creating an airy sponge. I like to beat the butter on its own and then add the sugar as it seems to give a paler, lighter result..
- Add the flour and eggs a little at a time. Because you’re adding them alternately in small amounts the mix will not curdle.
- Add the vanilla and beat the mix until it’s fluffy, pale and glossy. Taste a tiny bit to ensure it tastes smooth – if you can taste any grittiness it isn’t properly mixed.
- Spoon into your tin(s) and fill ¾ full.
- Bake. The larger your cake the more cooking time it will need. Cupcakes should be checked after 20 minutes but may well take longer. Larger cakes can take anything from 40 minutes to over an hour. The key, as always, is the look and whether a skewer comes out clean. If you’re making one large cake ensure that you skewer it in different places as I often find the edges may be cooked but the centre still very raw. Be patient – it’s worth the wait!
- Let cool in tin before turning out.
- Decorate it as required – it works with anything: fresh cream and fruit, buttercream, ice cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.
Buttercream benefits from prolonged beating on a high speed. The more you beat it, the lighter and smoother it becomes. There is nothing worse than gritty or greasy buttercream. It should be whipped and light so that although you’re aware it’s sickly and you’re starting to feel ill, you have to have more.
It takes colour well – here it is in a fetching shade of green to replicate the grass of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium:
The starting ratio of icing sugar to butter is 2:1. Why ‘starting ratio’? Well, it’s not an exact science and you have to use your eyes and taste to guide you. Too greasy looking? Add more icing sugar. Dry and crumbly? Add more butter. Put a tiny amount on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth – if you can feel any grittiness it needs further beating.
It takes any flavour but I love it with vanilla. My favourite vanilla extract is provided by Vanilla Bazaar – what they don’t know about vanilla really isn’t worth knowing.