Let them eat cake

It’s birthday season for friends and family at the moment, and so I have been baking cakes (which is one of my favourite hobbies anyway). I use a fail-safe sponge recipe from Nigella’s Domestic Goddess book which forms the basis of many of my cakes, and so I thought it would be worth sharing here, along with how I tweak it for different recipes.

Basic sponge recipe (taken from How to be a Domestic Goddess, basic fairy cake recipe)

  • 125g self raising flour
  • 125g butter (stork margarine makes a very light sponge)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Dash of milk

I chuck everything into my kitchen aid (minus the milk) and beat for a couple of minutes until combined and airy … add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture and then bake the fairy cakes for around 12-15 minutes at 200 degrees.


  • Replace the vanilla with lemon juice and add some poppy seeds to the mixture for lemon and poppy seed loaf cake
  • Add a spoonful of cocoa and / or chocolate chips to make a choc choc chip cake
  • Add halved glace cherries and a spoonful of desicated coconut to make cherry and coconut cake.

For my friend Annette’s birthday (today!) I doubled the mixture and added a chopped Terrys Chocolate Orange to make orange flavoured chocolate chips. I filled a greased bundt tin with the mixture and cooked it at 180 degrees for around 45 minutes as there is a lot of mixture and I wanted it to cook through without the cake burning on top. Once cooled, I topped with a ganache: heat 200ml double cream and break in 200g chocolate (I used milk) and the zest and juice of an orange (or use an orange extract flavouring). The ganache was quite liquid and so had to be applied in 3 separate sessions which a break in the fridge to set in between each application – so overall a bit messy! I topped the cake with a crumbled flake, silver balls and candles!

My mum’s 60th is on 9 Feb and as she is coming over for dinner on Tuesday I am planning to make her a chocolate sandwich cake. I’ll once again double the sponge recipe and add cocoa to the mixture (and maybe some chopped chocolate for choc chips – I will decide when I start baking). As I still have double cream left from Annette’s cake, I will whip that and sandwich the cake with cream, and then top and side with chocolate buttercream icing (whip butter (never use margarine as an alternative for icing) and add cold melted chocolate and icing sugar – beat quite heavily until you have a light fluffy icing. I have never measured the specific ingredients because I just taste it until it tastes good! Probably use 200g butter and whip with a couple of spoonfuls of icing sugar until well combined, and then pour in 200g melted chocolate – I suspect that would fill and top / side a large round cake. This icing is quite stiff so you could also spoon or pipe it onto fairy cakes. It’s very more-ish as well so leave some space in your tummy to lick the bowl.

I also made some gingerbread cat shaped biscuits – the recipe is here. It’s very easy to make (and hardly any work)  but be warned that the dough is quite unforgiving – it’s quite greasy / wet to start (and warm as you melt the butter and sugar first and add the dry ingredients to that), and breaks easily, and then toughens as it cools. I find it is best to work with it immediately, but don’t worry when it tears – just press the dough back together and keep rolling / cutting!

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