Last week my dad celebrated his 60th birthday, which is pretty awesome. In honour of this my dad, family and friends dressed up as hippies for a ‘flower power’ themed party, totally normal! The gathering was a lot of fun, it is always surreal to walk in to a room of about thirty people who are all wearing fancy dress, with lots of laughs and lots of good food (and a little Eurovision snuck in for good measure!).
I was in charge of the birthday cake. I’ve had an idea of how I wanted the cake to look for a few weeks and wasn’t sure if I could pull it off but I’m so pleased with the way the decoration turned out. As the flavours of the cake were simple, a plain vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, I decided to try out a ‘funfetti’ style cake by stirring a handful of coloured sprinkles in to the mix. I think it makes for a colourful surprise when you cut yourself a slice of cake!
I used my tried and tested vanilla cake batter, plus a few drops of almond extract for a little added flavour, for the the sponges.
I must confess when it comes to cake most of my practice is with cupcakes, so the timing of sponges sometimes throws me off, especially using a different oven (I know a goof workman never blames his tools…or something like that), so the sponges were slightly over done but despite that they had a great flavour and texture.
You almost don’t notice the sprinkles in the cake batter from a taste point of view, which to me is a good thing, they just add some crazy colour (and I’m sure far too many E numbers, but it’s birthday cake, so nothing counts!)
For the decoration I make a couple of templates out of a cereal box, my five years at art school were not for nothing, you know. First a circular ones, to leave a blank area clear of sprinkles in the centre, which I lightly placed on top of the freshly iced cake before pouring on the sprinkles – sprinkling more lightly as I reached the edge.
Secondly I cut our a 60 so I could fill the numbers with sprinkles within the circle. You have to have a very light touch when places the template on the cake so you don’t want to mess up your super smooth icing. With my very technical cereal box template I used it shiny side down as this was easier to lift off the icing and didn’t absorb or stick.
Funfetti Birthday Cake
For the cake:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coloured sprinkles
For the buttercream:
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
9 (ish) cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
a few drops of almond extract
3/4 cup milk
strawberries, thinly sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Line and grease two 20cm cake tins.
In a stand mixer or in a large bowl beat the butter until pale and smooth. Gradually add the sugar, beating on high for about a minute between each addition. When all of the sugar is added the mixture should be pale a heading towards fluffy.
Add the eggs one and a time, beating the mixture well – for about 1 minute – between each egg.
Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking power.
Add the flour and milk to the mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix slowly and briefly after each addition as you do not want to overmix.
Fold in the sprinkles by hand. This will also give you the change to ensure all of the ingredients are well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 30-35 mins, until lightly golden and a knife/skewer comes our clean.
Remove from the tins and allow to cool on a cake rack.
To make the buttercream, in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk beat the butter on high for a couple of minutes until pale and smooth. Add 5 cups of icing sugar, the vanilla and milk and fold in lightly before mixing on high for 3 minutes.
Add the remaining 4 cups of icing sugar and the cream and mix on high for a further 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. If the icing is too thick add some more cream, if it is too runny add some more icing sugar.
To assemble the cake place one cake on to a cake stand. To keep the stand neat, place small squares of greaseproof paper underneath the perimeter.
Spread a generous layer of buttercream on top of the cake and top with the sliced strawberry.
Place the second cake on top, flat side up.
[note – if your cakes are particularly domed, like one of mine was, flatted off the cake with a serrated knife to make it easier to ice]
Cover the assembled cake with a light coat of buttercream, and refridgerate for a minimum of half an hour. This will seal in the crumbs and giver a neater finish.
Cover the cake with the final layer of buttercream using an offset spatula and decorate as you desire (my method is explained above).