Category: Cake Club


Baking…

I finished work early so headed home. I decided to channel my inner Mary Berry and do some baking. Here are the results…

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Salted Caramel & Malteaser Cake…

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Banana & Fudge Cupcakes…

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Mary Berry’s own recipe, Fruited TeaBread….

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I was able to work at home today which was a good thing as the weather has been dreadful. The storms that struck southern England yesterday have moved north bringing masses of rain with them. Roads have been flooded, rivers like the Mersey and Irwell that run through the city are on flood alert. And an underground culvert has eroded the area around it so badly that part of the Mancunian Way, the motorway that carries traffic south of the city centre, has collapsed into a sink hole 13m wide and 5m deep. That’s going to be fun in the rush hour. They’re saying it’ll take weeks to fix.

So I stayed in. I didn’t have too much work to do and was finished by about 11am. What to do? I’m not used to having free time with work being so busy in the summer and then the garden.

I’d been to Cake Club on Wednesday. We’d make biscotti, the twice baked Italian biscuits, that Italians like to dip in their morning coffee or chocolate. Mine were flavoured with cranberries and almonds and came out rather well. We also made Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Biscuits. You have to make two different kinds of cookie dough which we did. You can’t cook them straight away, you have to chill them in the fridge for an hour. We took the dough home to do that part here but I had no time yesterday so mine had two days in the fridge. So I sliced the dough…

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They were in the oven for about 5 minutes and came out looking like this. They are delicious…

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I then decided to have a bit of an experiment and bake a cake. I’m going to be helping with a Macmillan Coffee Morning in September to raise money to support the nurses who look after terminally ill cancer patients. It’s a national thing. I decided to make…

Lemon Meringue Cake

To do this you need…

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300g SR Flour

300g Butter

300g Caster Sugar

3 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy…

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Add the eggs one of the time and beat in…

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Sift the flour into the mixture lightly…

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Grate in the rind of one lemon.

Divide into two cake tins and bake in a medium oven (180/160 Fan) for about 20 minutes until a fork can be inserted and come out cleanly.

Once cool, you can assemble the cake. I made some buttercream by mixing 140g of butter and 280g of icing sugar. Beat until smooth. I then crumbled some ready made meringue into the mix and spread on the bottom layer of the cake. On top of that I put a layer of lemon curd.

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I put the top layer on and then made some lemon glacé icing. I melted some butter in a pan. I then stirred in some more of the lemon curd. Then I beat in enough icing sugar so that the icing was thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. I poured it over the top of the cake and decorated it with more crumbled meringue and some lemon flavoured decorations I found in ASDA.

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Not content with that I made a…

Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake

For this you need…

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225g SR Flour

225g Caster Sugar

225g Butter

4 eggs

another 85g Caster Sugar

2 lemons

This is what you do. It’s almost the same as the cake above.

First cream the butter and the sugar…

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Beat in the eggs, one at a time…

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Fold in the sifted flour…

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Grate the rind of two lemons into the mix and turn it into a lined loaf tin. Bake at 180/160 Fan for 45 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out cleanly. Mix the other 85g of the sugar and the juice of the 2 lemons to make a syrup…

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While the cake is still warm, prick the surface of the cake all over with a fork and spoon the lemon syrup over it and allow it soak through the cake…

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I then decided to whip up a batch of…

Strawberry Cupcakes.

You will need…

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110g SR Flour

110g Caster Sugar

110g Butter

2 eggs

Mix the cake mix in a similar way to the cakes above. Split into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180/160 Fan for about 15 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean, they are ready. Watch them! I cheated a bit and used ready made strawberry icing and decorated them with strawberry flavoured decorations.

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Here’s the result of my baking frenzy….

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It’s been a while since I posted about Cake Club. It has been on but life has been getting in the way as it does. But I was there last Wednesday when we made Cowboy Cookies. I’ve eaten a lot of cookies in my time but have never actually made any. Deb lead the session. They are called Cowboy Cookies because you can choose what ever you like from your store cupboard to flavour the basic cookie mix. Here’s the recipe…

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First you have to cream the butter. Lots of beating will get some air in and lighten the cooked cookies. This bit was tough with cold butter and a metal spoon. Electric whisks are SO much easier…

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Next beat in the sugar. More vigorous beating to get in some more air. Add an egg and some vanilla flavouring…

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In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and Bicarbonate of Soda. Fold it gently into the butter/sugar mix. Not too vigorously as you don’t want to knock all that air out of the mix that you took so much time and trouble to beat in. That was hard work. Next, gently mix in the oats…

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Now the fun bit. Fill about 2/3 of a teacup with what ever you’d like to flavour your cookies. I chose dried fruit with some candied peel, some chocolate chips and some smarties…

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Fold your ingredients into the mixture carefully…

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Split the mixture into twelve equally sized balls. Flatten them out a little onto a lined baking tray. Not too close together as they do spread in the oven. I got six on each tray,lined with baking paper, and it worked perfectly…

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Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them so that they don’t catch at the edges. Let them cool. They will be crusty on the outside and deliciously chewy in the middle. Well mine were anyway…

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I’m not a great fan of macaroons, at least the English version, with the chewy texture and the taste of coconut. Coconut is the work of the devil and shouldn’t be added to anything in my opinion. I much prefer the French version, macarons, with the soft meringue texture and almond flour sandwiched together with flavoured Grenache. They seem to be everywhere at the moment, the Christmas markets were full of them. They are more versatile that macaroons as you can flavour them in lots of different ways.

I suggested to Cake Club at the Post Box Cafe that we make them. I haven’t heard that we will be doing them but when I called in for coffee and cheesecake on Saturday I saw some had been made. Maybe Chris was trying them out. I hope so.

I bought some of Chris’s to take home. These ones are chocolate, strawberry and, I think, vanilla. They look beautiful and are delicious. But my favourite ones have to be the salted caramel ones that were giving out one afternoon, as free food, at ODDEST Bar, just along the road from the Post Box Cafe. They were wonderful.

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When I decorated the Yule Log that I made at Cake Club, I overdid the amount of chocolate buttercream I made. So I put the remainder in a bowl and froze it. Today I was part working from home. I went into the office really early, did a lot while it was quiet and was home by 11. I like working from home. There are no where near the number of interruptions and I can do other stuff, like posting on here, and still do my daily quota.

I remembered the icing in the freezer and between calls, writing reports, sending emails and loading stuff onto this blog, I made a batch of Chocolate Sponge Cupcakes. The sponge was the same as the Halloween ones but I substituted 30g of cocoa powder for the same amount of the flour. They rise the same as with all the flour but have a nice chocolate taste to them. I decorated them with the, now, thawed chocolate buttercream and then decorated them with more of the Christmas sprinkles that I used on the Yule Log. I think they came out well. Not tasted them yet but, if I say so myself, I’m getting quite good at them. Maybe not ready for The Great British Bake Off yet but these might have got a nod of approval from Mary Berry…

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People who read this blog away from the UK, or away from a country like Australia or New Zealand that have been heavily influenced by British culture, may not be familiar with the ides of the Yule Log. It’s a tradition that crosses cultures in Northern Europe. In the darkest part of the year, a tree would be cut down and dragged into the house. Over the darkest, coldest days of the year it would be burned to bring warmth and cheer to the people there. When Christianity took hold across Europe, the tradition was taken over in two ways by the new religion. In Germany it transformed into the idea of the Christmas Tree. And there it might have stayed but for Prince Albert who brought the idea to England and set up one in Windsor Castle to delight his young family after he was married to Queen Victoria. From there it went around the world. And the idea of bringing in an entire log to burn carried on, but moved slightly around the calendar to the twelve days of Christmas starting on Christmas Day. When it is done in England, the last piece of that year’s Yule log is kept to be used as tinder to start the fire for the following Christmas. The word, ‘Yule’ betrays the tradition’s pagan past. Many other of the things we do at Christmas have their roots in our distant pagan past but have been given a Christian gloss to make them more palatable.

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Especially the Yule Log! This has been give a coating of chocolate butter cream icing and has been covered with sugar sprinkles to make it extremely palatable. In the 20th century, the Yule Log has been transformed into a kind of Christmas cake that we like to eat at this time of year. Perfectly acceptable Yule Logs can be purchased from Marks & Spencer’s Food Halls or from Waitrose or any supermarket of your choice. But at Cake Club we decided to make one  ourselves…

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To start with you need a basic chocolate sponge recipe. Here’s the one we used…

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Cream the sugar and butter…

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Add the eggs and the flour and cocoa mixture. Mine had a couple of dashes of orange syrup (the kind you can flavour coffee with) for a bit of added flavour…

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Here it is all mixed and ready to go in the baking tray…

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You have to grease the base of the tin with butter. Put in a layer of grease proof paper and butter that as well so nothing sticks. Chris demonstrates…

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Here’s mine ready to go into the oven…

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While it was baking I covered a chopping board with some cling film. I also softened some chocolate buttercream. We cheated a bit and used some courtesy of Betty Crocker…

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Once baked, it is carefully is taken out of the tin and placed onto the cling filmed chopping board with the greaseproof paper between the cake and the cling film. I then coated the cake with the softened buttercream…

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Then the bit I was dreading. Rolling it up. A few weeks ago I saw bakers, far more proficient than me, come to grief on the Great British Bake Off when they had to roll a sponge like this. But this is what you do. Tease a little of the cake off the edge of the grease proof paper and roll it, tease a little bit more and roll again…tease…roll…tease…roll… until you have about 2/3 of the cake rolled. At this point you use scissors to cut off the grease proofed paper you have liberated. Once done you bring the cling film over you cake and wrap the cake, the remaining grease proof paper and the cling film into the roll you see below. You can then squeeze into a tidy shape. I was VERY impressed with my first attempt at this…

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We took our baked rolls home to decorate. I kept mine at the back of the fridge which helped with the decorating as the cake was chilled and didn’t crumble easily. I mixed up a batch of chocolate butter cream icing using butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder, some vanilla and milk. And I have to say it tasted a lot better than Betty Crocker’s if I say so myself. I overdid the amount of chocolate butter cream I needed so I’ll have to make some chocolate cup cakes. Damn! Could my life get any worse?

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I cut the log into two pieces and stuck them together to make them look ‘loggy’…

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Here it s covered in a layer of the chocolate butter cream…

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I used a fork to make the bark effect…

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Sprinkled with Christmas sugar snow flakes and pearls…

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And here it is all decorated and ready to take pride of place on the Christmas Day afternoon tea table. Except this one will be well gone before the great day arrives…

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Debra led Cake Club this week. It was Halloween treats. We made Witch’s Fingers which are a kind of cheese straw. They were surprisingly easy to make. Here’s the recipe…

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First weigh out 200g of plain flour, 100g of butter, add a pinch of salt…

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Work the ingredients together with your fingers to make fine breadcrumbs. It’s a pastry so it’s important not to work it too much as you don’t want gluten to develop. It’s not a bread…

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Add the 75g of mature cheddar and 25g of parmesan cheeses…

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Mix 1 egg yoke, a pinch of English mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper…

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Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg yolk mixture and gently bring it all together. Don’t work it too much because of the gluten thing…

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Roll it out into a rectangle. Cut the pastry into fingers. A pizza cutting wheel is good for this…

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Mould the rectangles of pastry into spooky ‘finger’ shapes. Press 1/3 of an olive to one end to make the finger nail. Bake in the oven (190C/375F/Gas 5) for 10-15 minutes. Keep your eye on them. Let them cool and enjoy. These were delicious. Sometimes cheese straws taste of nothing much but these were deliciously cheesy. I’m going to make a batch to serve with the Roasted Tomato and Pumpkin Soup for Halloween supper…

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We also made Parkin. This is a northern English ginger cake that is made at this time of year. Sadly I loathe ginger in all its forms so I passed on these little Parkin Cupcakes with spider’s web icing. I tried a little of Debra’s recipe for Parkin to see if I liked it any better than other’s I’d tried. But ginger really isn’t for me. Along with peanut butter and coconut as well. To make the spider’s web you cover the cupcake with orange icing. Then you pipe a spiral of black glace icing onto the cake. You use a cocktail stick to pull the icing into the web shape from the centre to the edge…

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Here’s my attempt. I think I need practice. Mary Berry makes it look so easy. So did Debra…

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Friday is usually a quiet day so I was able to get home early. I decided to have a go at making some Vanilla Halloween Cupcakes. I was quite pleased with how they turned out. If you feel like trying some here’s how you make them.

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I cheated a bit with the icing and decorations. Chris, who runs the Post Box Café in Chorlton, had showed us some ready made Halloween icing and sprinkles he’d found at the ALDI supermarket. They looked fun so I went in search of them. I’ve never been in ALDI before. I’m a Waitrose/Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall/Booth’s kind of boy. ALDI came as a bit of a shock. I’ve never seen a jumble sale in a food store before. I found a baking section but none of the cool Halloween stuff seemed to be there. Then I spotted a Halloween section with decorations and stuff and there is all was.

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This is how you do them…

VANILLA HALLOWEEN CUPCAKES

110g of self raising flour

110g of caster sugar

110g of butter

2 medium eggs

vanilla extract

I like to weigh out all the ingredients first…

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Cream the butter and sugar together with a fork to beat in air. Add the vanilla extract to taste…

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Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon full of flour. Use a fork to beat them in, it adds more air and makes the cakes light…

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Sift in the rest of the self raising flour. Fold it in gently with a metal spoon so you don’t knock all the air out of the mixture…

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Here it is all mixed…

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I wanted all the cup cakes to be the same size so I divided the cake mixture equally. Something which is easy to do with our new digital scales. Each one was 35g precisely…

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You put the muffin cases into two muffin tins, the mixture makes 12…

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Bake in the oven at 180C (160C fan oven) for 10 to 15 minutes. When they are golden brown on the top and a sharp point can be inserted and taken out clean of mixture they are ready to take out of the oven. I have a cup of tea and keep a beady eye on them. They can go from undercooked to cinder in seconds… 

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Use you fun bought icing and decorations as you like. Mine have mini chocolate pumpkins and blood shot beady eyes on them. I’m quite happy with them…

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Last night was my third evening in a row at the Post Box Café. This time it was for Cake Club. But, as we were making the classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu, it was really Pudding Club I suppose. Tiramisu is one of my favourite puddings, I can eat any amount. Here’s the recipe, we did the one on the left…

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First you mix the Mascapone cheese and the cream in a bowl…

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Beat it together until it begins to thicken…

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Add some Amaretto, Brandy, Masala wine, Whisky to taste…

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Mix some strong coffee with a little more of the alcohol of choice. Allow it to cool before use…

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Dip the sponge fingers quickly into the mixture, don’t leave them in there to get soggy…

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Put a layer of the soaked sponge fingers at the bottom of your container. You can make individual Tiramisus in dishes for a dinner party or make a bigger one in a bigger dish to share…

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Spread a layer of the cream and cheese mix over the fingers…

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Grate some dark chocolate…

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Sprinkle some of the chocolate across the cream and cheese mixture…

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Another layer of soaked fingers…

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More of the cheese mixture…

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More grated chocolate and then add some cocoa powder. Chill in the fridge for a while. Chris said the longer you leave it (within reason) the more the flavours develop. So I’m leaving my two until Friday evening. Something nice to look forward to at the end of the working week…

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Last Friday I took a cake I’d made to the Macmillan Coffee Morning at the Post Box Café. It’s a national event designed to raise funds for the excellent Macmillan nurses scheme, the nurses who support cancer sufferers and their families in their final weeks. They are a much loved and respected institution and many will know of someone who has been helped by them. We are lucky enough to have one of the longest life spans on the planet in the UK due to our excellent health service and because science has eradicated many of the diseases and conditions that used to carry people off early in other ages. Even cancer isn’t the death penalty we used to think it was but it does seem to be the thing that does kill people in later life. It’s part of the body shutting down I suppose as we age.

My cake, which I’d invented, was a tribute to one of my favourite drinks; a tall, vanilla caffe latte but in cake form. It was three layers of coffee sponge sandwiched with vanilla buttercream and the top was drizzled with vanilla glace icing and dusted with powdered cinnamon. If I say so myself it looked good. But it had a bit of an accident on the way to the café. It was a little too tall and the icing stuck to the top of the container I was carrying it in. Fortunately I was able to patch it up at the café and it all went.

I’d told a few people about it and I had a request to make one. It’s for some Muslim friends. It’s the second celebration of EID this weekend. They celebrate EID at the end of the holy month of Ramadan and then this second celebration comes a few weeks later. They offered to pay me to make it but I liked the idea of giving it as a gift. They are nice people and if a coffee cake can cement a friendship in a world where some Muslim people can be at odds with the rest of us then I’m more than happy to add to their feast.

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Here’s how I made it. For the sponge you will need….

400g self raising flour

400g caster sugar

400g butter

4 eggs

3 tablespoons of coffee powder dissolved in a little warm water

I like to get all these weighed and ready before starting.

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1. Cream the butter and sugar together with a metal fork. You do this to get some air into it. Mix the coffee powder into the water. I used some of Whittard’s delicious caramel flavoured coffee…

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2. Using the fork, mix in the coffee mixture a little at a time until it’s all fully incorporated. Using the fork to do this will get more air into the cake, making it lighter…

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3. Using the fork, add each egg in turn with a little of the flour. Repeat for each egg…

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4. Sift the remaining flour into the mixture and fold in gently until it’s all incorporated. Use a metal spoon and be gentle. You don’t want to knock all that air out of it…

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5. Line the base of 3 cake tins with greaseproof baking paper and grease the sides. We only had 2 the correct size so I had to bake the cake in two batches. Note to self…buy a third cake tin…

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6. Divide the cake mixture equally into the three tins…

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7. Bake in an oven for 30mins at 180C. Adjust the time and heat depending on your oven. You know it’s done when a needle come out clean and the top is firm to the touch. If the top is done and the interior isn’t cook through, I cover the tins with aluminium foil so the top won’t burn…

8. Take out of the oven and allow to cool…

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While the cakes cool you can start of the vanilla buttercream. You will need…

300g of butter

550g icing sugar

vanilla extract to taste (the more expensive the better)

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1. Soften the butter in a bowl with a fork…

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2. Add the vanilla extract to taste…

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3. Sift the icing sugar into the butter/vanilla mixture…

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4. I like to cool the buttercream in the fridge a little then. When the cakes are properly cool sandwich them together with the butter cream and then I like to put the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes so the butter cream can ‘set’ a little.

Here’s the cake sandwiched together by the vanilla buttercream…

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The Vanilla Glace Icing for the top isn’t an exact science. The amounts of each ingredient needed will vary depending on the season and how warm the kitchen is. You will need…

butter

icing sugar

vanilla extract

1. Melt some butter in a pan.  take off the heat. Allow it to cool slightly but not solidify again. The butter will give the icing a nice shine. Then add some vanilla extract to taste…

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2. Beat in the icing sugar until the icing is still somewhat runny but is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon…

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3. Pour the icing over the centre of the top of the cake and allow it to move where it wants, even down the sides. Make sure it isn’t too runny or it will just run off…

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4. When the glace icing is set a little, sift a little powdered cinnamon over it. I like to put it in the fridge for a few minutes at this point…

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ENJOY!