Let’s talk about cake fails. I spoke to a real proper professional chef over the weekend, and she said that cakes fail if you don’t talk to them. In all seriousness.
I believed her. I usually worry a lot about my cakes, given my history of cake fails during the pre-Happy Bellea era. Nowadays, I generally plead with my cakes before I put them in the oven.
“Please cake, please rise. Please taste good. If you do, I promise I’ll eat you quickly, and you won’t be left at the back of the fridge for months. Please.”
I’m glad to hear that this tactic is condoned by a real proper chef. Now I don’t feel like such a crazy person.
But well, in this instance, I didn’t talk to my cake. I’m sure that was the problem. Not the fact that I played fast and loose with the recipe, doubled the cooking time because of the soggy strawberries, or that the cicak bandit living in my kitchen walked all over the top tier. And then I made all the same mistakes a second time, because I’m rather stubborn when I think I’m right. I rather not serve people cake that Mr Cicak has walked all over.
In any case, I shall now recap the lessons I (painfully) learnt. Don’t laugh at me too much.
- If you need to double the time the cake is in the oven because it won’t set, something is wrong.
- Don’t try to add a very high proportion of (wet) strawberries to a cake unless the recipe specifically says you can. You will get mush. Cakes that can take that level of fruit are special cakes.
- Always use a food cover when cooling cakes.
- Food colouring covers a multitude of sins. At night, food colouring becomes the Pivotal Distractinator, and no one will notice how dry the cake is. Except you, and you can just quietly go cry in a corner by yourself, thinking about how chewy and weird the texture is.
- Don’t do funny experiments on other people’s birthday cakes, do it on your own. That’s fair.
I really don’t like dry cake. Dry cake is a trick. The cake looks nice, smells nice, and you bite into it and…ugh. It’s one step above that special type of chicken sold in some fast food restaurants, that smells absolutely amazing but tastes like oily plastic.
So you may have gathered that this was a rainbow cake, except I decided to colour the icing instead of the cake batter (because who has the time to make 6 separate cakes, really). I would do it again. Perhaps not with this icing, it isn’t my thing. Everyone else liked it but I think I prefer straight up butter icing at the end of the day. Maybe I’m a bit boring. Oh well.
Rainbow Cake – (relatively) Lazy version
I’ve left the Victoria Sponge recipe in, as it was actually very nice on its own. Don’t add the strawberries like I did, and stick to the cooking time. It’s nice and light even with gluten free flour. I’ll probably use it again for something else, without soggy strawberries. Also it’s a one-bowl cake, yay!
Taken from BBC Good Food, edited just a bit. I made 1.5 times this recipe to get the 5 tiers (2 normal, and 1 skinny).
100g white sugar
100g brown sugar
200g butter – at room temperature
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour (or regular flour + 1 teasp baking powder OR 1/4 teasp baking soda) – I used gluten free
1 teasp baking powder (or 1/4 teasp baking soda)
2 tablesp milk
Oven temperature: 170 degrees C in a fan oven / 190 degrees C otherwise
- Cream the butter and sugars.
- Dump everything else in, and beat well.
- Grease 2 baking tins and put it in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and cake springs back when you poke it. Don’t poke your finger in it too early, you’ll burn your finger.
Lemonade whipped Buttercream
Taken from Joy the Baker, originally from Organic and Chic. Originally rose flavoured, but I thought lemon was nicer. I used 1.5 times the recipe and it was enough for everything.
1 cup butter – room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1 tablesp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemonade cordial
- In a small pan, whisk the flour, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of milk until it isn’t lumpy anymore. Turn the heat up to medium, and then add the remaining milk, whisking. Keep cooking until the mixture hits a low boil.
- Lower the heat and keep stirring. The mixture will thicken slightly, changing from a milk to a cream/custard consistency.
- Once this happens, immediately take the pan off the heat but keep stirring. Whisk really hard to get it smooth, or else strain it with a sieve. Let it cool to room temperature (I stuck it in the freezer for 5 minutes, pan and all).
- While the milk mixture is cooling, cream the butter until it’s soft with a mixer.
- Add the sugar to the butter, and beat til light and fluffy. High speed is useful.
- Pour the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, and beat it until the icing gets fluffy.
- Add the lemon, then keep beating until it is all mixed in.
- If you like colours, you can split it up and colour it now.
I think I’m going to take a break from all this cake-ing for a while.