Few things in this world taste as good as birthday cake. Cake is always good, of course – but birthday cake is special. Each bite is happy; every last crumb a celebration. It might taste of chocolate and sugar and sprinkles, but the strongest flavours are love and nostalgia and the very happiest of memories.
My mother went through cooking phases when I was growing up. There were times when she cooked more, and times when she cooked less, but she always found the time to make my birthday cake. The recipes evolved over time. For the first quarter of my life, it was the same chocolate cake every year: a rich chocolate cake, fudgy to the point of almost being raw in the middle, layered with sugar-sweet buttercream icing, chocolate too, and covered all over with smarties so the cake looked like a rainbow. Back then I thought it was the height of sophistication. For a few years after, I had a spongy confection layered with jam and whipped cream. For my 18th birthday, it was a cake covered with pink sugar roses and my name inscribed with dark chocolate. When I think back, I can’t remember what I wore or what I was given or what was said that day, but I can taste that cake.
There are many things my mother taught me, but perhaps one of the lessons I took most to heart is that birthday cake should always be homemade. I’ve found that of all the culinary wonders that make up this world, birthday cake is my favourite thing to eat and to bake. Like my mother, I go through phases: my current favourite is this soft, marzipan‑laden sponge, layered with pastel pink icing and jammy raspberries. It is happiness and joy. It tastes like love and friendship and celebration, like everything that is good about life.
For the Cake
300g salted butter, softened, plus more for the tins
340g caster sugar
270g marzipan, grated
180g self-raising flour
fine sea salt
For the Filling and Icing
370g fresh raspberries
450g icing sugar, plus 2 heaped tablespoons
3 tablespoons boiling water
120g marzipan, grated
230g salted butter, softened
Heat the oven to 170°C. Butter and line 2 x 23cm round cake tins.
Combine the caster sugar, marzipan and a generous pinch of salt in a food processor and blitz to something resembling sand. Add the butter and blitz until smooth.
Add the eggs, one at a time, blitzing after each to make a smooth batter. Add the flour and blitz again until thoroughly blended.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 50–60 minutes until lightly golden on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted to the middle. Let it cool in the tin for 20 minutes or so, then turn out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.
To make the icing, combine 120g raspberries in a food processor with the 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and blitz to a smooth puree. Strain the puree through a sieve. Discard the seeds and set the deep-pink liquid to one side.
In a small bowl, add the boiling water to the marzipan and mix it with a fork to melt it slightly (this stops it going lumpy when you add it to the buttercream).
In a large bowl, use a hand-held electric whisk to mix the 450g icing sugar and the butter until pale and fluffy, then add the marzipan and beat until smooth. Add a dash of raspberry puree and beat, then add more, depending what intensity of colour and flavour you like.
Spoon a large dollop of the pink icing over the first cake and spread it out evenly, then top with a layer of fresh raspberries (reserving just a few for the top). Sandwich on top the second cake and smother with the remaining pink icing. Decorate with the last of the raspberries. While the cake tastes best on the day of baking, it will keep happily in an airtight container in a cool place for 2–3 days.
SKYE MCALPINE’S NEW COOKBOOK A TABLE FULL OF LOVE IS OUT NOW.
Published in ed#684