Yummy Birthday Cake

I had been asked by a good friend to make a birthday cake for her hubbies 40th Birthday. I had never made a proper birthday cake before, you know a sponge with buttercream and jam in the middle, buttercream around the sides and top, then fondant icing on top with fondant icing decorations. The nearest birthday cakey type item I made was a Christmas Fruit cake, which had marzipan then fondant icing on top but the decoration consisted of fondant stars made by using stampers!! No difficult decoration techniques there.

My mother in law makes Wedding and Birthday cakes and she is really good at it, so I asked for her sponge and buttercream recipes. Part of me thought I could make the cake then run over to my MOL’s and get help with the decoration as she has all the proper tools and experience. However, I was running short on time to do this, so I had to forge ahead using my limited cake decorating skills, hubbies artistic input and google!

Sponge recipe

Ingredients for a 9 inch cake– 350 grams of softened organic Scottish butter, 350g grams of caster sugar, 350 grams of self raising flour, sifted and 7 eggs ( which should weigh 350 grams when out of their shells) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Preheat the oven to 160 °C. Grease and line a 9inch cake tin. You can use a smaller tin, just reduce the quantities but make sure that you use the same  weight of butter, caster sugar, flour and eggs e.g for a 8 inch cake reduce all to 250 grams.

Place the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy.

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Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoonful of flour. Make sure it is beaten and mixed well. Add the vanilla essence and the remaining flour.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin, smooth the top and place in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean.

Then leave to cool in the tins, for about 15 minutes, then remove from tins and remove the greaseproof paper. Once completely cooled cut the cake in half to make two layers.


Buttercream

Ingredients– 255 grams of Scottish Organic butter, softened, 680 grams of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Add butter to your mixer and whip until light and creamy, then add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla and whip until combined.


Sugar Syrup

Ingredients– About 100ml Water and  100 grams Sugar. Optional add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or any other flavouring that compliments the flavour of your cake.

In a pan add some sugar and water and place on low heat until sugar dissolved. Then take off heat and add the vanilla or other flavouring

Brush the layers of the cake with the sugar syrup to keep the sponge moist then leave to dry. Don’t put too much on as you don’t want it to be soggy.

Then place one layer of the cake on a plate or board and add a layer of jam, then add buttercream on top of the jam to create the filling. Add the next cake layer and cover the top and the sides with a thin layer of buttercream to create a Crumb Coating. As you can see my layer was a bit too thick! Then place in fridge to chill until set.

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I then gave the cake another light coating of the syrup sugar after I took it out the fridge and before I covered with fondant icing.


Decoration

I can not take credit for the design as to get inspiration and ideas for how to decorate the cake I went to google and Pinterest, of course. There were lots and lots and lots of images of cakes made for doctors, most of which seemed to have the cake as the doctors coat and then scattered on the top over the coat, the instruments doctors use.  “The Doctors Coat” cake by My Sugar Creations was a particular inspiration and design that I utilised elements from.

This was the first time I had decorated a cake so was a bit rough looking! I also was limited by the colour of fondant icing that was available in my local shop, hence the white, red and black theme.  Mistakes on the side of the cake where covered up by using an icing pen to ice surgical stitches, although I forgot to take a piccie to show you.

Can you guess what all the instruments are supposed to be??

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Nanaimo Bars

Trying to show the layers, hence the two photos in different lights and both still pretty crappy pics!

Nanaimo bars ( which I always end up spelling slightly differently every time I write it !) were my choice of recipe for the No bake tray bake class at my local show.  I wanted a recipe that was a bit different. The usual recipes people tend to go for is the classic rocky road, but I wanted a recipe that no-one else would have made and also a recipe that I hadn’t yet made myself. I like to try new things.

My hubbie has often spoke about his grans baking when he was younger. She still bakes today, but not to the same scale and I’m led to believe that she would bake so much she would forget what she had made and tins of baked goodies would be found in the cupboards weeks after being made. Hubby had often mentioned Nanaimo bars with great fondness. His gran however does not keep recipes, or rather the recipes are all in her head and not written down and they often start with, ” oh I just put a handful of this and a wee handful of that…..” so I had to search online to get a recipe.

It was during this search that I noted that these seemed to be really popular in Canada, but not so much here. In fact not many people had heard of them so not sure how they managed to find there way to a Scottish farmhouse of my hubbie’s youth in the 80’s!

They are a very sweet, chocolate and custard bar and they reminded me of a bar that my hubbies Uni flatmate used to make for going rock climbing. Full of sugar, fat and energy! Maybe not the best advertisement and I’m not sure I would allow children to have these too often.

I got this recipe from the GoodtoKnow website and it was the first and only recipe for Nanaimo bars that I tried. My practice went really well, much better than when I actually made them for the show.

Ingredients

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Bottom layer- 125 grams of Scottish organic butter, 2 level tablespoons of golden caster sugar, 2 level tablespoons of cocoa, 1 medium egg, beaten, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 300 grams of digestive biscuits and 60 grams of desiccated coconut.

Middle Custard Filling Layer-60 grams of Scottish Organic butter, 2 tablespoons of custard powder, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 250 grams of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Topping- 150 grams of Organic dark chocolate, 30 grams of Scottish Organic butter, 4 tablespoons of strong black coffee.

First of all line your baking tray with greaseproof paper. My baking tray was a 9 inch x 7 inch.

For the bottom layer, in a pan over a low heat add the butter, sugar, cocoa and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves. Now in my pracgice go this step went fine. Nice and simple you would think, however the second time I made it, the butter itself seemed to separate into two distinct liquids,the mixture looked awful and was really runny. I binned that and started again. This time around, it worked fine and came together and melted perfectly. My thought was perhaps the butter had been left out too long, so when it melted the grease separated??? Not sure if this is the case however I think the key is also to keep the mix on a low heat and stir continuously. Once melted take off the heat.

Place the digestives in food bag and use a rolling pin to mash into crumbs.

Add the egg, vanilla,  digestive crumbs and coconut into the mix. To stop the egg curdling I add a bit of the mix into the egg and mixed then add the egg/ choc mix into the pan. Mix together well then add to your lined baking tray. Press the mix into the tray, making sure it is even and then leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Middle custard filling layer-  In a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the custard powder, vanilla and then the icing sugar and lemon juice and mix until all combined and until it has a spreadable consistency.  Then evenly spread this lovely mix over the top of the biscuit layer and pop back in the fridge for 2 hours.

Topping- Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water in a pan. Once melted, whisk in the coffee and then spread the chocolate/coffee mix evenly over the top of the custard layer. Leave outside the fridge until set. Now the first time I made this, the chocolate layer set beautifully however, this time when I checked to see whether the layer had set, there were butter/ grease streaks on the chocolate. Now I think this was due to having the butter out on the counter getting soft and sweaty for longer than I should have. However, as I had no time to start again, I melted another 15o grams of chccolate, leaving out the butter and coffee this time, then spread this over the top of the choc/coffee layer. This was the reason I did not have enough chocolate for my intended brownie recipe!

The coffee/ choc layer doesn’t really harden all that much in comparison with a layer that is just chocolate, so it actually worked out well that I had the biscuit/ coconut base, custard layer, choc/coffee layer then a chocolate covering.

Cut into small bars, a little of this goes a long way!

Sorry, there are no pics of the actual cut pieces, turns out baking for competition and remembering to take photos ( and good photos at that) do not go hand in hand for me.  I’m working on it though.

 

 

Local Show Baking results

Some of you may already be aware from my previous posts that I have been baking in an attempt to perfect cakes and recipes for entry into the local show. Well, the show has been and gone and I can tell you that even with all my practice, the day before was still a chaotic blur day of baking, making mistakes and frantically trying to get everything done on time for the Saturday. Entries had to be at the show and exhibited before 9am, so really Friday was the day to get it all done. There could be no last minute baking or amendments on the Saturday morning, hence why I had dutifully practised my recipes. But to be honest, no matter how much practice you put in, things can inevitably go wrong, as I found out.

1 jar of Strawberry Jam class

I haven’t made jam very often, but I inherited my Nannies Jam pans and wanted to continue her tradition of jam making. I made the Jam a couple of days before, but to be honest this could have made weeks before.

There’s not much to strawberry jam, but here’s the recipe anyway……

Ingredients

1kg of British Strawberries, now I was told to not use overly ripe strawberries however I saw punnets reduced to £1.30 each in the local supermarket  due to them reaching there use by date and thought, sod it I’ll just use those or it would have cost me £8. 96 otherwise.

750 grams of Jam Sugar  which also has pectin in it and it really good for using with fruits that have little pectin in them. The Pectin helps the jam to set better.

The juice of 1 lemon

A knob of butter ( optional)

Place some small side plates into your freezer.

I washed the strawberries using a damp cloth to try and not get too much moisture into them and them hulled and halved them. Fortunately half way through I got a phonecall so I forced my hubbie to take over this bit!

Put the Strawberries, Sugar and lemon juice into a pan and place on the stove at a low heat. You basically want all the sugar to dissolve. Make sure it does not boil at this point! To test if all the sugar has been dissolved I place a spoon in the mix and take it back out and check for granules on the back of the spoon. Also the sugar will stick to the sides of the pan, so occasionally get a brush dipped in warm water and brush the sides of the pan with it to help dissolve all the sugar.

Once all the sugar has been dissolved bring the mix to a boil and boil rapidly for between 5- 10 minutes until the mix is set.  I don’t use a thermometer  ( nether did my Nannie) so what I do is get a plate from the freezer and place a dob of jam on it, leave it for a few seconds and then press the jam with your finger. If the jam wrinkles and doesn’t move to fill the gap, then the jam has set. I do, however know that my hubbie’s gran made her jam runnier and missed out this stage!

If there is any scum on the top, skim this off and you can also put a knob of butter in the jam to help get rid of any scum. Leave the Jam in the pan for a wee while maybe 8-10 minutes. Its usually during this time I sterilise my jars. I put them in a preheated oven, 130° C for 8-10 mins and I usually put the lids in a basin of boiling water and pat dry with a clean cloth.

Then once jars are sterilised, fill the jars up with jam, not quite to the top and then I usually put in a wax disc on top of the jam, then add the lid.

Given that I had not made jam that often and the number of entries in this class on the day, I didn’t have high expectations, but I actually won 1st Prize! Apparently the judges, according to my mother in law, look for a really vibrant red jam. I have no idea how I managed it, but my jam was the brightest out of the bunch.

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I also entered home made lemonade, brownies, lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars in their respective classes.

Glass of homemade lemonade class

For homemade lemonade, I used the recipe I had posted about previously but without the strawberries. I was surprised that I was the only entry in this class, so I ended up getting 1st Prize and a Highly Commended for my lemonade.  But given the lack of competition this doesn’t count!

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4 pieces of brownie class

My brownies were a slight problem given that after making the Naniamo bars, I did not have enough chocolate to use the recipe I wanted to. So much for forward planning! However, good old Delia stepped in with her classic brownie recipe that only used 50 grams of chocolate! I must admit though that the Brownies looked quite ugly, as they sank a bit in the middle, leaving big high crusty ends. I almost did not enter these, but thought I may as well since, despite their looks, they still tasted yummy. I dusted them with icing sugar and called them good. Surprisingly, I got 3rd place with them!!

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See how ugly they are!!

 

My lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars did not place, but all in all I was well chuffed with getting prizes for my jam and brownies as I had not expected to get anything at all. I had been watching a cooking programme where professional chefs travel around Britain entering classes in the Local shows and it has shown me that even professionals can get it wrong and don’t always meet the criteria set by the judges!

P.s I will post the recipe for Brownies and Naniamo bars at a later date.

 

 

Out and about

SAM_7097.JPGI was out and about for a wee walk and had to take this picture.

The castle was forfeited in 1745, after the Jacobite rebellion when the owner was hung, drawn and quartered for treason . It was bought in 1765, but the new owners preferred to live in Edinburgh and it was abandoned.

The train line is the main East Coast line that goes South.

The Scottish Countyside, blending the old with the new!

Any thoughts?

Does the train spoil the view?

Add to the view?

 

 

First bread making attempt!

SAM_7045The other day I was in the living room pretending to study whilst watching the latest episode of Outlander, when a tractor stopped outside the house and a few moments later I heard hubbie come in the kitchen door. I looked up in time to see him smile, wave and head out the door again. I found this quite curious, but didn’t think anything off it until he finished work and he asked if I liked the present he dropped off.

Present? What present?

When I entered the kitchen I saw 2 bags of Organic Strong bread flour and 1 bag of organic self raising flour from one of the local farms. Now to most people, this wouldn’t be a present, but I was delighted. I’m sure other bakers will understand this too, as anything related to baking whether ingredients or utensils or gadgets are very much welcome.

Hubbie had been at the farm that mills and sells the flour and had been given 3 bags to take away with him. Lucky me!

As you will know from previous posts ( Pizza and Cinnamon buns) I have had mixed success with using yeast and making bread items. However, since the Cinnamon buns turned out well and since I now had a lot of strong bread flour I thought I’d try my hand at making bread.

This recipe comes from a cookbook I got from my mum and I remember her cooking from it when I was younger. Its the Diary Book of Home Cookery and the copy I have was published in 1978. This book came with me when I went to University and has been my bible ever since. Its the book I go to first when looking for a recipe  and it was from this book I learned how to make various sauces, Victoria sponge, pancakes, fruit loafs, macaroni and even how to line cake tins! Oh, of  course there are recipes I would never make such as tripe, kidneys espagnole, creamed liver, tongue with mustard sauce…… belugh…lets not dwell too much on those recipes.

The Ingredients for making White Bread are…..

450 grams of strong bread flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 15 grams of butter, 2 level teaspoons of yeast, 1/2 pint of warm water.

Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl.

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The yeast actually has an unpleasant smell to it!

 

Add the yeast to a separate bowl and add a small amount of water and mix to form a creamy paste then add the remaining water and mix well.

Place the flour/ salt mix into the bowl of your stand mixer. However, if you are smart, unlike me, you will have sifted the flour and salt into this bowl in the first place! What can I say, I had a D’uh moment.

Attach the dough hook to your mixer and place your mixer on low and drizzle the yeast/ water mix into the flour. When it all comes together, take out the mixer and knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface or you can leave in your mixer and knead for 5 minutes. I kneaded by hand as I had never done that before and wanted to try the technique.

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Then place the dough in a bowl and leave to double in size. I turned on my top oven, left the door open and placed the bowl on a seat in front of it. It rose very quickly.

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Take out the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and knead until firm. Then shape the dough so that it fits inside a 1lb loaf tin. Melt some butter and brush the inside of the loaf tin then place the loaf inside.

Leave the dough to rise again, until it reaches the top of the tin. Again, my dough rose really well and quickly too. I had placed it back in front of the oven door!

Preheat oven to 230°C. Before placing in the oven, brush the top with milk or beaten egg or a mix of both. I just used milk. Then put in the oven for about 30 mins or until golden brown. After 30 mins my loaf had risen to well beyond the top of the tin and on one side was very very brown, probably too much for a loaf. Therefore next time I make this recipe I would check on it earlier.  I would probably also put the mixture in a 2lb loaf ti too.

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Remove from the tin and cool on wire rack and salivate over the wonderful smell. Bread has got to be my favourite smell in the kitchen.

You could give into the tempting smell and cut off a piece and cover with butter………given that it was 10:30pm in our house with a 6:00am start the next day we refrained and went to bed with thoughts of fresh bread for breakfast.

 

 

Class 31, Lemon Drizzle Loaf

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Refreshing lemon drizzle loaf basking in the sun!

Euro 2016 has started, although not in our household as we are a football free zone. We aren’t big football fans ( you probably know from past posts that we are all about the rugby) and Scotland failed to make the cut anyway, so no footie is being watched by us.

Instead preparation is under way for the local agricultural show which takes place in a few weeks. No, we are not entering any sheep, cattle or horses into any of the livestock/ showing classes but I am entering some preserves and baked goods into the Produce classes. Some of the recipes I’ve not made before, so I need to practice to ensure I can actually make them and also to get the timings of each recipe right. I want to be super organised the day before the show down to even having a timetable written out to keep me on track!  Hopefully I will catch any issues during the practices rather than be faced with a horror the day before the show.

I will be also be making Strawberry Jam, but I’ve made this a few times before so I can make a batch a week before the show. In addition to the lemon drizzle loaf and jam, I will be making  brownies ( still have not decided out of the 101 recipes I have for brownies which one to go for!), Nanaimo bars and Lemonade.

I entered 3 classes last year, but I’m entering 5 different classes this year, which I think is all I can handle at this stage!

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Awards from last years show.

 

 

Class 31, Lemon Drizzle loaf ( 1lb tin) 

Surprisingly I have never made Lemon Drizzle loaf before unless a madeira cake with extra lemon in it counts?! I know there are countless recipes for this, and you probably don’t need me adding to them therefore I decided to use Mary Berry’s recipe for Lemon Drizzle cake.  Her Banana loaf recipe won me first prize at last years show so hoping this recipe will be equally as successful. Thank you, Queen of Baking!

This lemon drizzle cake recipe is really simple to make, however I felt there was not enough cake batter, even for a 1lb loaf, as the cake batter barely came up to the half way point of the tin and the cake only rose about an inch. I would prefer to double the quantities in order to pour enough of the batter into the tin to fill until about 1 inch/ 1.5 inches from the top. Obviously this will affect the baking time, so I will try this recipe out one more time before the show to gauge this.

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Ingredients

1 and 1/2 large eggs or in my case I used two medium eggs, 87.5 grams of self raising flour, 87.5 grams of Caster sugar, 87.5 grams of softened butter, 3/4 level teaspoon of baking powder, finely grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of half a lemon. The original recipe only used zest from 1/2 lemon and no lemon juice at all however I felt that this would not give the cake enough of a zesty lemon flavour. I like to be able to taste the lemon in Lemon flavoured cakes!

Topping– juice of 1/2 lemon and 50 grams of sugar.

Preheat oven to 180° C. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.

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Simply beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, lemon zest and juice in a mixer until well combined and smooth. When the lemon juice comes into contact with the baking powder it starts to fizz and bubble, which delighted me very much! Science in action.

Pour the cake batter to the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and springy when touched.

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Mix the juice of 1/2 lemon and the sugar to make the topping and pour over the top of the still warm cake. Once cooled remove from the tin.

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Sun, Sea, Sand, Running and Champagne Cake

SAM_6844So every year since about 2009, the last weekend in May we go to the Mull of Kintyre and every year ( apart from 2011) my hubby runs the half marathon along with friends of ours. It’s the only half marathon he does and he runs it simply due to the fact that every year he gets forced into by our friends, although secretly I think he enjoys it! In the evening there is a Ceilidh where previously exhausted runners take to the floor for the Dashing White Sergeant, The Gay Gordons,  Orcadian Strip the Willow , Canadian Barn Dance, the Highland Schottische…..

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Hubby in the white top and black shorts running to the finish!

This year we got beautiful sunny weather, whilst lovely it caused hubby and a few of the other runners problems. Some of us Scots don’t tolerate hot weather very much and  definitely not running in it as we are simply not used to it!

The weather was so unexpected that I had no summer clothes packed, no shorts or vests or swim wear instead I had about 5 thick jumpers and long sleeved and long legged flannel PJ’s! Its normally still cold in May, hence the sunbathing in jeans in pic above! Any way this year I managed to get sunburn on my feet and some of my friends actually decided to take a very refreshing ( read extremely freezing) dip in the Irish Sea, I, on the account of having no swimwear (fortunately) declined to go in the sea.

Every year we also celebrate one of our friends birthdays as this falls around the same time. This year I decided to make a cake for her and immediately thought of a champagne cake. However, I have never made a champagne cake before so searching the internet I came across the perfect recipe, Pink Champagne cake from Joanne at Joanne Eats Well with others.  Although, if you take a look at her page you will see I did not decorate mine as prettily as Joannes, however this recipe turned out really well and was straightforward to make, very pleased with the results and would definitely use this recipe again. You can really taste the champers in the cake and frosting, very yummy.

I have detailed the ingredients, methods and how I got on with the recipe, but you could also click on the page link above to get the recipe direct from Joanne Eats Well with Other page.

Ingredients

85 grams of softened organic Scottish butter, 400 grams of sugar, 360 grams of cake flour…… erm what?  Cake flour is not available in shops near me , actually I’m not 100% sure if its available in the UK, so this confused me slightly as I had never seen this before! However, by the powers of google I found a substitution. I used plain flour but for every cup of plain flour I took our 2 tablespoons of the flour and replaced them with two tablespoons of Corn flour…. voila Cake Flour!

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Never turn your back on a woman who had flour covered hands! Hee Hee

 

Any way more ingredients were………1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda ( although I questioned the need to use this given there was baking powder in the recipe but dutifully followed the instructions), 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 6 egg whites ( I kept the yolks and added some to a quiche I made as I really hate when they go to waste), 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 500mls of champagne, well I used Asti Spumante instead which is more of a sparkling wine and cheaper at £6.00 rather than £30.00 a bottle!

I didn’t get photos of the baking process as I had 101 things to do and was running very late to get everything done in time for leaving to go the Mull of Kintyre.

Anyway, Preheat your oven to 180° C and grease and line the bottom of two 8 inch cake tins. I always take the bottom out of the tin and place on the greaseproof paper and draw around the bottom.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, the cake flour, baking power, baking soda and salt.

Slowly add the egg whites to the butter/sugar mixture, then add the vanilla.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixer then once incorporated add 250 mls of the champagne, then 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 250 mls of champagne, then the remaining dry ingredients until all combined.

Split the batter between the two cake pans.  To do this I used a ladle to ensure each pan had the same amount as one of my pans was deeper than the other being a springform pan so it was more difficult just to eye ball.  Place in the oven and cook for between 35 -45 minutes or until cake tester or cocktail stick or knife comes out clean. One of the cakes took 35 minutes however the other pan took nearly 45 minutes until a cocktail stick came out clean, so just keep a careful watch on the cakes. Remove from the oven and wait till cooler then remove from pan and place on cooling rack.

Once cooled remove the greaseproof paper. I then used a knife to level off the cakes.

Frosting ingredients– 370 grams of softened and cubed butter. For me this meant leaving the butter out overnight to get it soft! 480 grams of icing sugar, 65mls of champagne, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract , pinch salt and red food colouring.

In a mixer add the butter and mix until creamy. Then add the icing sugar , champagne and salt and mix until light and fluffy. Add a few drops of red food colouring to the desired colour and mix until combined.

I placed one of the cakes on a plate then added some of the frosting on top of this, then added the remaining cake on top and added the rest of the frosting. However, you may want to cover the whole cake with frosting including the sides or try something fancier. I still had a reasonable amount of frosting remaining, even with slapping a fair amount on top and in between, so in future I would reduce the amount of frosting I make .I also added some edible daisy flowers I had left over.

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