It was The Boy Wonder’s (my nephew) turn to pick a flavour for a cake this week. I was very impressed he picked vanilla because, while it’s often overlooked or dismissed as being boring, I actually think a recipe that uses vanilla well is about the tastiest thing in baking.
I like simple flavours and that’s why I picked this recipe – it allowed vanilla, so often pushed into being a background flavour, to be the star. Vanilla is in the sponge, the syrup and the buttercream….vanilla overload – hurrah!
This cake has a vanilla syrup poured over it as it cools. This obviously makes it a moist sponge but really adds to the vanilla flavour. I always like to make syrup cakes a day or two in advance to give the syrup to dry out a little but impart it’s flavour.
Often cakes that are to receive syrup come out of the oven rather tall and subside as the syrupy moisture sinks in. It didn’t happen in this case – the cake remained just as huge! I used a 20cm tin but, if you wanted to use a 23cm tin I think that would work too. Here is the cake ‘syrupped’ but not yet covered in buttercream:
Not sure that the photos will pick it up but each slice of cake is spotted with tiny black vanilla seeds; it looks ever so pretty.
The secret to this buttercream is to really whip it up; I started by whipping the butter on its own so it’s light and fluffy by the time the icing sugar is added. In total I probably whipped the buttercream for in excess of 10 minutes...my kitchenaid earns its keep on such tasks!
Judging by the reaction from my eatership, this cake is a crowd pleaser. Young and old, male and female, everyone tucked in and most of us went back for generous seconds!
For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
85g plain flour
100g full fat Greek yoghurt (I used Total)
250g self raising flour
3 tablespoons milk (I used semi-skimmed)
For the syrup:
50g golden caster sugar
Seeds from a vanilla pod – you can use a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead
For the buttercream:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/320˚F/Gas mark 3.
Line a 20cm deep round springform tin with baking paper ensuring that the paper comes up above the height of the tin.
Place the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl and beat until they are light and fluffy; you will also see the colour changing to a pale cream. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s important to get lots of air into the mix.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. If the mix starts to curdle spoon in some of the plain flour.
Beat in the yoghurt.
Fold in both flours using a metal spoon; this gives you a better cutting edge than a wooden spoon.
Fold in the milk.
Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.
Bake for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes (yes, this is a long time but it’s a low heat) or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Mine took 1 hour 35 minutes.
While the cake is baking make the syrup: place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Stir all the time. You can tell if the sugar has dissolved by checking the back of the spoon – if you can see any granules you need to heat it further.
Place the syrup to one side to cool.
When the cake comes out the oven leave it to cool for 30 minutes in the tin then use a skewer to poke holes all over the cake taking care to go right down to the bottom of the sponge.
Slowly pour some of the syrup over the sponge ensuring you get good coverage.
Let it absorb before pouring over more syrup – use a pastry brush to help the distribution.
Leave the cake to cool completely (still in the tin – it stops the syrup leaking out).
All of this can be done up to 2 days in advance of adding the buttercream and serving the cake. Store the cake in an airtight tin.
On the day of serving, make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is pale, light and whippy.
Add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time until it is all incorporated.
Beat in the vanilla and keep beating until the buttercream is completely smooth. Don’t be afraid of the time this may take to make properly– anywhere between 10-15 minutes is normal.
Use the buttercream to either cover the sponge or cut the sponge through and turn it into a layer cake.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.