A big thank you from me goes to the lovely Sam at Sams Kitchen for the inspiration for this cake, when I was at a complete loss for what to make for my Dad’s 60th birthday Sam came to the rescue. You can visit Sam’s blog here and catch her on facebook too – you’ll love her baking, she won’t disappoint!
Now Dad doesn’t eat cake but we all do! I can honestly say I have never ever seen a cake of mine disappear so quickly! I was dishing up, misjudged numbers and there was none left for me. Fortunately Mr Clemens stepped up and shared his – there’d have been trouble if not 😉
So if you’re looking for a cake to impress that doesn’t need a ton of decorating then this Vanilla Layer Celebration cake is just the recipe you need.
375g butter, softened
375g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
6 eggs, large
375g self raising flour
Approx 1/2 jar of strawberry or raspberry jam
200g butter, softened
400g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1-2 tbsps hot water
200ml double cream
125g dark chocolate
A selection of chocolate e.g. Crunchie bars, Mistrels, Chocolate Buttons and chocolate curls.
You will also need 2 x 8″ cake cards
Makes 1 x 8″ layer cake.
Preheat the oven to 160c(fan)/180c/Gas Mark 4.
Ideally you want 3 x 8″ sandwich tins, all the same design. I only have 2, but the cake mix is happy enough to wait in the bowl until it gets a turn in the tin if you’re in the same boat as me! Grease and line the bases of your tins.
Cream together the butter and sugar until nice and light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla followed by the eggs one at a time, beating it really well after each so that the mix stays aerated and doesn’t become soupy. This will stop it from curdling for you.
Add the flour and fold in.
Divide the mix into thirds and fill the tins you have, bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and springy and just coming away from the sides of the tin. (If you only have 2 tins, bake 2 leaving the remaining 1/3rd of the mixture in the bowl until the first 2 have baked)
Turn them out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.
Once all 3 layers are fully cooled you need to trim them with a sharp serrated knife, cut the tops off and level on 2 of the cakes, and with the third cake cut the crusts off the top and the base.
Set one cake onto an 8″ cake card, trimmed side up and spread with a layer of jam.
Add the doubled trimmed layer and top again with jam before placing the third layer into place. Set it onto a larger board for working on or a suitable plate or chopping board.
Now wrap it up in clingfilm to stop it from drying out and chill it in the fridge. Ideally for 4 hours or overnight. The firmer the better at this stage. Don’t worry it won’t dry out if you’ve wrapped it well.
Once the cake is firm its on to the buttercreaming. It looks like it might be trickier than it actually is so don’t worry. A well chilled cake is what you need to help now.
Mix up the buttercream beating together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla. Add some hot water just a tablespoon at a time to make it smooth and easy to spread.
Set the second cake card on the top of the cake centrally.
Now with a palette knife coat the sides of the cake, holding the cake card in position with one hand. Use the blade of the palette knife against the edges of both the top and bottom cake card to help you coat it evenly.
Go for a rough coat to begin with and then scraping away, using the cards as a guide to level it out.
Keep working around the cake until you have a rough coated cake. There will still be some swipe marks in it at this stage but no bumps that are wider than the cards.
Chill it in the fridge once again for 30 mins to an hour until firm again.
Once the buttercream has firmed up, coat the sides of the cake again, evening out any thin patches, still using the blade of the palette knife against the edges of the top and bottom cake card.
Now fill a pint glass or a tall jug with boiling water. Clean your palette knife and set it in the water to warm.
Dry the palette knife off on kitchen roll and use it to swipe around the sides of your cake again. Keep warming and drying the knife as you work. This smooths out the buttercream beautifully.
Keep turning and smoothing until you are happy with the sides and then its back in the fridge to chill completely again.
Once the sides have set up nicely, take a sharp knife and slide it under the edge of the top cake card. It should just pop off for you.
This leaves a space for you to fill in the top. Work the buttercream across the top to meet the edges, levelling with your palette knife and gently scraping away any excess at the sides.
Smooth it off with the hot palette knife and chill again.
You will no doubt spend a fair while fiddling with this edge or that, more buttercream, hot knife, sharp knife. There’s always one bit that won’t go just right but don’t obsess about it, the top and edge are being covered with ganache so it doesn’t have to be perfect! Go for as smooth and neat as you can!
Now for the ganache and decoration.
Warm up the cream to just below boiling and pour it over the chocolate finely chopped. Let it stand for a couple of minutes before stirring into a smooth glossy ganache.
Now the melting of the chocolate brings down the temperature of the finished ganache which ideally you need to be liquid and pourable to get the right kind of drizzle action going on so warm it up gently again.
Slowly pour it onto the top of the cake, then spread out evenly towards the edges with a palette knife. Once the ganache is just at the edge, use the tip of the palette knife to push over small amounts to create the drips in an artistic fashion 😉
Last job left to do is top it with the chocolate – chopped up Crunchies, Cadbury Buttons, Minstrels and chocolate curls – use your favourites and munch the excess yourself!
Vanilla Layer Celebration Cake
Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire