One of my best friends Janine, is getting married in June and last weekend we celebrated her hen party. Her sister Nataline, who was organising the weekend, asked if I could make a cake for her. The plan was for us all to meet up at the hotel and have cake and champagne before heading out for the day.
I tried to subtly find out from Jan what her favourite cake is but I kept being met with “I don’t have a favourite” or “I like most cakes”. Not helpful! Eventually I opted for a red velvet cake since it looks a bit different and then I decided to make it a little more special by making it heart-shaped. So I popped onto Amazon and bought yet another baking tin to add to my ever-growing collection.
It had to be ready by Saturday so I started baking on the Thursday night. I wanted to make a 3-layer cake so I made the first two sponges on Thursday, the third on Friday night and added the frosting on Saturday morning before heading to the hotel.
This recipe is from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, a book I bought a few weeks ago. This is a great book by the way, well worth a look. The ingredients below are for a 2 layer 20cm cake. The measurements below are what I used on Thursday night. On Friday night I halved them to make my third layer. If you’re doing a 2 layer cake, use the measurements below.
120g/4.2oz unsalted butter
300g/10.6oz golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
300g/10.6oz plain flour sifted
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
20g/0.7oz cocoa powder sifted
about ½ tsp red food colouring, preferably paste. DO NOT use Dr Oetker! It comes out brown instead of red. I used Sugarflair Red Extra.
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g/6.3oz softened unsalted butter (this needs to be REALLY soft)
150g/5.3oz sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g/18.9oz full-fat cream cheese (ideally Philadelphia)
Have ready 2 (or 3 if you have them) 20cm loose-bottom sandwich cake tins. Butter these and line the bases with baking parchment. (When I did this, I only had one heart-shaped tin so I halved the mixture and used the same tin twice so don’t panic if you only have one tin). Then preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/375F/gas 5.
Start by creaming the butter and caster sugar together for about 3-4 minutes until really light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
Now add the flour in three goes, alternating it with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.
Add the salt, vanilla and cocoa powder.
Start to add the red food colouring very gradually, a knife tip or drop at a time, until the mixture is a dramatic dusky red. I think I used more than half a teaspoon but I really wanted it to go really red. Sugarflair’s Red Extra was great.
In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, which will fizz, and add to the mixture.
Then divide the mixture evenly between the two tins (weighing is the best way to ensure even sponges).
Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until shrinking from the sides and firm when pressed in the centre.
Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack, remove the paper and leave to cool.
To make the frosting, cream together the butter and icing sugar then fold in the vanilla extract.
Now, it is vitally important that the butter is very, very soft. If not, you will have lumps in your frosting, no matter how long you whisk it for. So please remember to have the butter out of the fridge for a long time before you need it.
Personally I whip the cream cheese in another bowl then add the whipped cream cheese to the butter and sugar mix. Mix well until smooth and combined.
Now its time to add the frosting to the cake. I wanted the surface to be flat so I trimmed off the rounded surface so I had a nice flat, even surface. Then I spread about 3 tablespoons of the frosting over the base sponge using a palette knife.
Repeat with a second layer.
You can coat the sides of the cake if you wish, many people like this. Personally, I like to see the layers. So I repeated this process until it looked like this…
Once you’ve finished frosting it the way you like, chill for about one hour for the frosting to set. I put it in a cake tin with the lid on and then popped it in the fridge. If chilling it any longer than this, remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
You can decorate this in whichever way you wish. In this case, I sprinkled edible red glitter around the edge. But you can sprinkle with red velvet crumbs as many shops tend to do, or you can dust it with cocoa powder, even using a stencil.
And luckily…it turned out red and Jan, her family and friends seemed to love it.
This is a great cake for a special occasion…engagements, hen parties, weddings, Valentines Day, anniversaries, birthdays…whatever you like. Enjoy!