What’s a birthday party without a cake? Well, I guess it can be a perfectly respectable affair, but to me it just lacks a certain celebratory flair. When a friend’s birthday came our way, we knew we had to bake something special and beautiful. There were only two criteria: it couldn’t be a chocolate cake, and, as students with limited kitchen facilities (not even a handheld mixer!), it had to be something simple and easy to put together. Since we even lack round baking tins,Tina and I opted for a yellow, vanilla-flavoured sheet-cake which could be baked in a rectangular brownie pan, the recipe of which we found on Baking Bites.
Since we made this all by hand, the cake was dense rather than fluffy, but it was absolutely wonderful and came together quickly and easily. The icing was a spectacular surprise; although caster sugar is used, the result is smooth and buttery, with absolutely no crunchy bits of sugar throughout.
the beautiful finished product, which we decorated with decorative sugar flowers and candles bought from Waitrose. The dark splodges on which we’ve placed the white flowers are little dollops of dulche de leche (Argentinian milk jam) which Tina bought at Borough market some time ago. The dulche de leche also makes a great topping for a classic banana cake…
Sheet cake (the instructions reflect what we did, lacking a mixer)
2.5 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups sugar (we used golden caster sugar)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius
Grease 9×13 inch sheet pan with vegetable oil
Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Note: we don’t have a sifter, so we improvised by tossing the dry ingredients around a bit to aerate them. This might have contributed to the cake’s denseness, so if you like a denser, moister cake, don’t sift the ingredients.
Add sugar and mix to blend
Cut butter into four or five chunks. Drop into bowl with flour (we cut the butter into small pieces and rubbed them into the flour mixture). Blend until mxiture looks sandy and no chunks of butter remain (one or two minutes with an electric mixer on slow)
Combine milk, eggs and vanilla in large measuring bowl. Beat lightly until combined, using a fork.
Pour one cup of this egg mixture into bowl with mixer on low. Turn speed up to medium and mix for one and a half minutes (we mixed this until smooth. You could use a fork, spatula or even just your hands for this).
Reduce speed back to low and pour in the rest of the egg mixture. Continue to beat at low speed for about 30 seconds (or until smooth! It does take a bit more time by hand) until liquid is fully incorporated. Scrape down sides of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds if necessary
Pour batter into prepared pan; spread it evenly with a spatula. Tap gently a few times to eliminate any bubbles
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes clean
Let cool for 30 mins in the pan before tuning it out onto a rack to cool completely
the paste of flour, milk and salt. It is not tasty, but it is the start of something beautiful (and tasty). Anyway, once you have this product, let it cool for about an hour and a half before adding it to the butter and sugar
the fluffy gorgeousness of this sweet, rich frosting
1 and 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/3 cups sugar (we used golden caster sugar)
1 and 1/3 cups butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine milk, flour and salt in medium saucepan with heat turned off. Whisk until smooth.
Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 5 – 7 minutes.
Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat
Strain into medium bowl and cover. Cool to room temperature, about 1.5 hours
When flour mixture is cool, beat together sugar, butter and vanilla until mixture is creamy and light (it is possible to do this with a fork and whisk, as we did, it just takes a bit longer!)
Add flour mixture a dollop at a time, beating it in until frosting is creamy and light