My Mum turned 60 in December and to celebrate I decided to bake a special birthday cake. I made a vanilla layer cake with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam. It is not often you get to make such a decadent cake and this was probably my favourite and most impressive bake to date.
I decided to design this cake from scratch myself without a proper recipe for the first time. This cake recipe was a 3 layer vanilla cake, with each layer sandwiched with American buttercream and strawberry jam. The buttercream was then used to cover the cake and decorated with a dark chocolate drip layer, some piping and chocolate.
Designing the perfect cake batter
I designed the cake by weighing the eggs. I knew I needed at least 300 g of eggs to make a cake this size. I figured that out using this BBC good food cake calculator. I weighed 5 eggs in shells and they came in at 320g so I weighed the sugar, flour and butter to match. A pretty basic cake batter.
How to make self-raising flour?
I had no self-raising flour in the house so used plain flour with 4 tsp of baking powder. This is because you can make your own self-raising flour by replacing every 150 g of self-raising flour with 150 g plain flour and 2 tsp of baking powder. Whisk it together before adding it to the cake batter.
Making the cake
Cream the room temperature butter with sugar until when combined, then add the lightly beaten eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. This is also the point to add the vanilla extract. Your batter might look a tad curdled at this point but it is still fine.
Proceed to add your self-raising flour and baking powder to the batter and mix until combined. Finally, add the milk to loosen it a tad.
Split the cake batter between 3 x 23 cm baking tins. I only had 2 tins so I left the final third of the mixture aside to be baked later. Smooth the batter in the tins with a spoon to create a flat top and bake in an oven at 170 C/150 C Fan/Gas Mark 3 for 20 mins or until a pricked skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely before decorating.
Assembling the layers
You will notice that my cake layers are not entirely flat so to create flat layers I cut the domed tops of the cakes off using a serrated knife. Cut until you have 3 flat layers and enjoy the cake offcuts.
I then made my buttercream by creaming the butter with sieved icing sugar until they are well combined then add vanilla extract and a splash of milk to loosen up the thick buttercream. Fill the buttercream into a piping bag.
Place layer 1 down. Pipe the buttercream around the circumference of the cake layer to create a circular border. This creates a filling border to avoid any jam filling out. Fill the inside of the border with strawberry jam, then cover that jam layer with buttercream. Add the next cake layer and repeat. Then add the final cake layer.
Cover the sides and the top of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream to create a crumb coat that traps any crumbs and avoids them getting into the final icing layer. Refrigerate for 30 mins.
After the crumb coat layer, spread a thick layer of buttercream on the cake using an angled cake spatula and smooth using a cake smoother. I feel like I could have added a few more layers as I could see the cake layers underneath the icing.
I wanted a fancy looking drip coat on this cake so I decided to make a chocolate ganache drip layer. To do this I heated 75 ml of cream up on the stove then added this to 100 g finely chopped dark chocolate. I left it for 5 mins then stirred it together to give a shiny, smooth ganache. The plan was to leave it to cool for a tad longer so it was not too drippy but I think I left might for maybe a few minutes too long as my drips were very thick. I added it on the top using a piping bag and a small circular nozzle. Leave this to cool before continuing to decorate.
I then piped some vanilla buttercream on top of the cake and at the bottom using a Wilton 1M. Finally, I added some Galaxy counter chocolate between the piping on top to finish of the cake design.
I was really pleased with how this cake turned out. This was my first time decorating a cake fully from scratch. I’m pretty proud of this one and it looked pretty professional to me. It also tasted pretty great. It was lovely to celebrate my Mum’s birthday despite the pandemic getting in the way and for that, I’m really happy.
Vanilla and jam birthday cake covered with American buttercream icing and a dark chocolate drip layer
Prep time: 20 mins, Bake: 40 mins
Cooling time: 1 hour
Decorating: 2 hours
For the sponges
320 g Unsalted butter
320 g Caster sugar
320 g Self-raising flour (or 320g plain flour + 4 tsp baking powder)
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Baking powder
Bon Mamam Strawberry conserve (enough to cover two layers)
American buttercream icing
600 g Unsalted butter
1200 g Icing sugar
3 tsp Vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp Milk (or enough to loosen the icing)
Decorating Dark chocolate ganache for drip layer
100 g Dark chocolate
75 ml Double cream
Galaxy counters for decoration
For the cake
Grease your sandwich tins with butter chocolate and line with baking paper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170 C/150 C Fan/Gas Mark 3
Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix well and make sure the sugar is well incorporated
Add the eggs one at a time and beat well (the mixture might look curdled at this point but it is fine)
Add the vanilla extract
Add the flour and gently fold in
Add the milk
Split between your tins if you have 3 tins. If you only have 2 tins, save the batter for the 3rd sponge for later
Bake for 20 mins
Cake assembly and icing
Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar until fully incorporated.
Add the vanilla extract and milk to loosen the buttercream.
If the cake is domed cut it using a serrated knife to get flat layers.
Add the icing sugar to a piping bag with a 1M nozzle
To sandwich the layers add the first layer and pipe icing sugar around the circumference. Fill in the inside of this border with jam filling then pipe icing on top.
Top with the next cake layer, then repeat step 5.
Top with the final cake layer.
Add a thin layer of icing on the top and sides of the cake, spreading with an angled spatula to create a crumb coat layer.
Pop in the fridge for 30 mins
Add a thick layer of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake and smooth with an angled spatula until you are happy with the finish.
Drip layer and final decorations
Finely chop the dark chocolate using a serrated knife. place in a large bowl and set aside.
Heat the double cream in a saucepan until just simmering but not boiling.
Add to the bowl with the finely chopped dark chocolate.
Leave to rest for 5 mins then stir to combine to create a shiny ganache
Leave the ganache to cool slightly.
Add to ganache to the top of the cake using either a spoon, piping bag, or squeezy bottle.
Finally, decorate the top of the cake as you wish. I piped icing on the top and bottom of the cake using a 1M Wilton tip and finished it off with galaxy counters.