I am writing this from our holiday. I meant to write it before we set off, but birthday demands, end of term shenanigans and holiday packing left spare time in short supply. Apols, therefore for formatting of a poorer standard than usual – there are a number of things I am struggling to work out on my iPad!
We are currently in Cornwall (having a lovely time, thank you.) Last week we were in Bude, the sun beat down on us, the skies were azure; as we lounged on the sand and swam in the beautiful bays we could have been back in Ibiza. In a bid to stop us becoming unbearably smug, however, it has now been raining for three days.
Yesterday we went to St Ives. It is the most lovely place – gorgeous beaches adjoin the town, artists line the streets, there are myriad lovely cafés and interesting shops – and I had been looking forward to visiting it for weeks. Sadly, it just wasn’t destined to be. In direct and tiresome, contradiction to the iPhone forecast, the heavens opened as we waited for the train to take us into the town and the tone was set for the day.
Leaving home for hols after weeks of sun made me a little lax in packing and consequently the first, lengthy, costly and aggravating task was patrolling the heaving shops to fit us out with umbrellas and raincoats. By the time this was achieved we were all rather fractious and damp and despite spending money like water (including more than you’d imagine in a shell shop), the day was doomed to be filed under ‘unsuccessful’.
Today we are being less ambitious as we wait for the storms to pass. Milkshake is on as indolent children laze across the sofas, colouring is lined up for when Shimmer and Shine finally palls and I’m taking to opportunity to catch up on a few things.
As alluded to, we had a birthday in the last week of term. It is incredibly exciting to be 6 and I seem to have been tricked into double parties to celebrate this momentous event. The recipe below is for the cake I made for the first of these festivities. I am renowned for my poor presentation and often have to pass off my handiwork as that of my children. It is a standing ‘joke’ that the cake I made for my oldest daughter’s second birthday was the least appetising number 2 anyone had ever seen.
Anyway, this year’s cake went down a storm, was madly easy and looking like it was decorated by a 5 year old was all part of the appeal. In a feat of particularly poor planning, I have arranged her ‘proper’ party for the weekend we return from our hols, so I shall be rustling up another of these. Or possibly nipping to Waitrose.
The recipe is based on one from Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can by Miranda Gore Browne, which is a brilliant book and one I use a lot. The brownies from it are the best I have ever made. I lent the book to my mum, so jotted down the ingredients and then had to make some substitutions based on the things I had in; there are therefore a few differences in ingredients and method, but should you want a cake recipe book, I would heartily recommend buying this one and looking up her version.
Easy peasy chocolate birthday cake.
- 250g Stork/softened butter
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 200 g plain flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp milk
- 100g chocolate chunks
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Line a large roasting tin (tray bake tin if you have one) – approx 20cm x 30cm with greaseproof paper. The cake remains in the tin, so do this as neatly or rustically as you see fit.
- Beat together the butter and sugars until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Don’t panic if it looks curdly, it’ll be fine.
- Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix until just combined.
- Add in 1-2 tbsp of milk and mix until a texture that will drop off a spoon is achieved – not stiff, not runny.
- Fold in the chocolate chunks (gently – if you overwork it, the cake will be tough.)
- Tip the mixture into your baking tin and spread out evenly. Don’t worry if it looks a bit thin – it will rise, and doesn’t need to be too bouffant anyway.
- Pop into the oven. If your tin is large and the batter spread very thinly, check after about 15 minutes – you want it to spring back when you press the top. If it’s nowhere near, leave for about 10 mins more before checking, otherwise check every 5 mins.
Any buttercream icing will be nice – chocolate, orange, lime, caramel… I used my standard vanilla recipe, but there are loads of ideas here.
Vanilla butter icing
- 250g unsalted butter, at room temp (v important.)
- 300g icing sugar (sifted)
- Approx 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat together the butter and icing sugar quite slowly until combined then add in the milk and vanilla and whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until the icing is very pale and fluffy. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon but it’s going to take a while and you won’t be able to make it so fluffy. It’ll still be nice, though.
Finish off by throwing on a selection of sweets – I used chocolate buttons, marshmallows, Smarties, Maltesers and Minstrels.
You’ll only need very small pieces because it’s so sweet, so this could easily serve 20 little revellers.