Cotton Anniversary

Hello my oh so dedicated followers and random blog generated hitters. I am back from working the Jersey Live Music Festival (hooray!). Not to say that I didn’t have an awesome time, it was pretty epic, but it’s good to be back in a warm, non-soggy tent. We were treated like kings for the duration, with good food every day and a sneaky upstairs shower to not be disgusting slobs throughout our stay. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore much more than a teeny corner shop, a few lovely views and a slightly hungover KFC visit so I don’t have a vast amount of food-related excitement to share with you unfortunately. But all the same, I got to see a few really awesome bands, Ed Sheeran was most definitely the highlight, he is a truly amazing live musician, if you ever get to see him, go for it! But there were a few others, I worked for a few hours in the VIP Hospitality tent manning the fences to stop people hopping over, and I caught a really immense band called King Charles. If they had an album out I would 100% buy it because this guitarist, he was an absolute ninja.
Back to food anyway. I’ve been up to some relatively exciting culinary adventures as of late. As was the reason for starting this blog (the making of the other half’s birthday cake), the time came round again to indulge my baking urges and make another try! After my relative disaster last year – I say only a relative disaster as it was still edible, but vastly undercooked – I went for something a little simpler, no painting mint leaves or awkward transportation. I was armed and ready, with triple cling-film wrapped layer cake and cupcakes, and ingredients to make the icing. The choice this year was kids party cake, as in vanilla and jam. The reasoning, not that it needs a vast amount of explaining, was that I kept remembering how awesome they used to taste at birthday parties when I was younger, simply enough. So I thought why the hell not, I don’t go to kids parties anymore, so I thought i’d bring a little child-like delight back into the world. This is possibly my new favourite vanilla sponge recipe for the record. Most times I make cakes I seem to find the faults ready to improve next time, but, not being cocky, I think I did relatively well this time round. This is by no means my recipe at all, so I’m not taking a single ounce of credit, I got it from a recipe book, so i’m just transferring it from page to screen for your delight and mentioning that it was a success!
I enjoy posting recipes that I know work, and if there is something not quite right I don’t think I would have the audacity to lie to you all. Plus, you know, what’s the point? So I give to you, if you make it right, a perfect vanilla sponge, or white sponge for the Americans amongst us… ps – it’s totally vanilla sponge. This recipe was originally for cupcakes and was just converted into a proper cake. It originally came with a vanilla buttercream iced on top, and it was yummy, but I’m still not sold on the whole crazy-über sweetness, so i’d pair it with perhaps a vanilla cream cheese icing around the outside for vanity’s sake or just leave it as it is! The icing is lovely for kids, but it might be a bit much for adult tastes, just so you know.
How they look when made by a professional

Vanilla Hummingbird Birthday Cake

Makes 3 layered cake (and 16 or so cupcakes on top of that)

160g unsalted softened butter
560g caster sugar
480g plain flour
2 tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
480ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
(Optional) Half a jar of jam for sandwiching the cakes, raspberry works well, so does damson, then again, I would say that!NB: This mixture is massive! Seriously, under the guidance of the recipe book I made double the mixture to make a layer cake, but it was alot, so I’d say this could feed an entire party in layer and cupcakes, or two two-tiered cakes. Also, as I briefly mentioned before, this recipe was originally for cupcakes, if you want to try it out to see if it’s up your alley, half this recipe to make 12-16 good sized cupcakes.– Oven at 190C/Gas mark 5. If you’re making cupcakes, line your tins, and if you’re doing a layer cake, greaseproof paper this mo fo, i’ve tried it with butter and flour and with greaseproof, and seriously, just make your life so much easier and use greaseproof, the end result is quite delicate.

– If you’re lucky, or rich, enough to have a posh electric mixer it will aid you well here, if not, you’re gonna have to get some elbow grease going on! Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until they’re all well mixed and resemble fine breadcrumbs. It’s definitely worth taking your time to make sure it’s really well mixed at this point may I add, it’ll make the rest of it a doddle. 

– Add the milk, vanilla and eggs to a jug and whisk together until combined well. Make sure that the yolks aren’t still all together, they do need to be relatively well mixed. Pour about three quarters of this mixture slowly into your breadcrumbs and mix as you go, scraping down all the sides as you go to get all the goodness together. Add the rest of the mix and go to town on this batter, make sure it’s really smooth. Beat the living hell out of it! 

– After much gasping and whisks switching hands (leading to the debate on whether you should actually be making this cake or eating a bag of carrots instead), pour into the prepared tins and baked for 18-20 minutes, but keep your eye on them. Oh, and if you really do need to open the oven door, wait until after the halfway mark.

– Take them out of the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes in the tins, then take them out and cool them properly on a rack, until completely stone cold. 

– When it comes to decorating this lovely morsel, heat the jam up before spreading, and then pour onto the top of the cakes and sandwich together. It might slip and slide a bit so perhaps cling film the cake to a plate to keep it from slipping apart and stick in the fridge. 

It looks a little something like that, woohoo!This sort of cooking isn’t exactly rocket science, and requires no particularly outlandish or expensive ingredients to make, so if you have a birthday coming up and were planning on buying a cake, just make one instead! You now have a foolproof recipe, it costs around the same, and if you buy good quality flour it’ll have no preservatives and you’ll have the satisfaction (and potential gloating rights) of making your own awesome cake. So yeah, the only thing I would say is to fork out for a decent vanilla extract, mine cost around £5 from Sainsburys but it’s a big bottle and lasts me for a good 6 months of baking often, and I am quite liberal. It is the highlight of the cake after all and why not make it taste even more amazing by using good quality ingredients.
After an entire year, I’m still rather content with this little diary; it sort of serves as a dual function now. The first is to document my general cookings on about town, and it’s also ended up doing something else I hadn’t quite anticipated. It’s kind of a nice addition that doing this has sort of spurred me on to make more stuff, and explore more things, and be generally a little bit more daring with my food. Hopefully it does instill a similar reaction in the few of you who do read this as well, as it fills me with that warm fuzzy feeling I can only describe as pride I suppose. The 8th was my anniversary, a moment of celebration that I’ve kept this going for an entire year, i’m quite proud of my dedication. But for now, I bid to you a farewell, a thankyou for keeping up with what I thought was my boring exploits, and a happy cotton anniversary to The Damson Tree!