strawberry milkshake cake

My lovely friend Jennie is always so patient and generous with her time when it comes to helping me out with little sewing projects (and teaching me how to make amazing quilts! Well, her quilts are amazing. And so are her classes - bookable here) that when she offered to spend her actual birthday helping me to prep a quilt for Pablo I thought it would only be right to make her a big old cake...

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Jennie is one of the more colourful folk I know (literally - she was dyeing her hair turquoise as we sewed) and made a special request for no chocolate, so I was excited to have an excuse to hunt out a suitably colourful cake. As usual, Sweetapolita did not disappoint and I went with an adaptation of her Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

350g Granulated Sugar
85g Strawberry flavoured gelatin crystals (don't be a moron like me and get block jelly. I had to send husband on a last minute urgent errand to buy crystals and all he could find were raspberry vegetarian jelly crystals, which worked perfectly, just fyi...)
227g unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
300g cake flour (this is not widely available in the UK - see tips on how to make your own here)
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
240ml whole milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
60ml strawberry puree (blend a handful of slightly defrosted frozen strawberries)

Preheat oven to 170C. Line 3x6in round cake tins with parchment and flour, tapping out any excess. Ensure strawberry puree is not icy, then combine with milk and vanilla. In a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and jelly crystals until light and fluffy. I usually cream the butter a minute or two on its own first to make sure it's soft enough, or this can take ages... Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. 

Add eggs to the creamed butter and sugar one at a time and mix well after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything is combined. Next alternate adding your dry ingredients and strawberry milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Mix well between additions but be careful to only mix until combined, not over mix. At this stage I also added a couple of drops of Americolor Neon Pink gel colour to give the cake an extra pink kick. 

Divide the mix between three pans. I thoroughly recommend weighing the batter so that this is as exact as possible. Bake in preheated oven approximately 30 minutes - my oven is pretty hot, but I recommend carefully (and speedily) checking the cakes with a skewer after 25 mins and keeping an eye on them every 5 mins beyond that. 

When the cakes are done, leave them in the tins 10 mins before transferring to racks to cool completely. Then make the icing!

250g unsalted butter, softened and in cubes
330g icing sugar
10ml milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
30ml strawberry puree (as above - it can be cold but make sure it isn't icy)

Whip the butter for 8 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add sifted icing sugar slowly with the milk and vanilla and mix on slow 1 min and then on high for 6 more. Then add the strawberry puree, and a drop of pink gel colour (optional - and you can of course add more than a drop! Just be aware that the colour does add a slightly yucky taste, and that it MUST be gel colour or you will be adding too much liquid). 

Stack the cakes and ice generously between layers before doing a very thin crumb coat to cover the whole cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for 30 mins before removing and applying a thick final coat of icing. 

The cake was DELICIOUS, really moist and tasted just like those naughty strawberry milkshakes I'd get at the seaside as a kid. It also looked pretty spectacular in all its pinkness. Definitely one to make again. Two large slices was probably a bit much but I needed to keep my strength up for cutting all those quilt squares...

october-fest

Why is everyone born in October? The obvious answer is because we are all AWESOME, but either way I am struggling to cope with the amount of celebrating going on. It's just not possible to ever catch up on the sleep lost to a night of excessive prosecco and destroying Heart songs at Karaoke, all for the worthy cause of a birthday or ten. And then there are the cakes to be baked, decorations to do, gifts to forget, heart-to-hearts to cringe over the next day... My super soul sister Antonia's big fat 30th was particularly unmissable and especially messy. The theme was Brazil & samba and gorgeous Chris turned up topless and painted gold, there were lots of feathered headdresses and tons of lovely, loved up friends who are more like family. I made a giant red velvet two tier megacake topped with a feathered Carnivalesque Ryan Gosling (obvs), and many, many tassels and banners and sparkly things! This one was just about worth the suffering...

eating rainbows

The most delicious one year old in all the land was celebrating her very first birthday, and I got to make the cake! Holly isn't a super fluffy pink girl, but I thought I'd indulge and make a mega-pink cake regardless, because I'd been wanting to for AGES, and I was certain Holly wouldn't mind at all. The word "ombre" has been annoying me everywhere lately, so I thought I'd be bang on trend and copy this beautiful cake and this beautiful cake (I just realised both of those are from February - once again I have failed to be bang on trend...) 

I was going for neon...

I was going for neon...

Holly's birthday cake

The recipe I used is this one and I have to say I've been looking for a really all-American white birthday cake recipe forEVER, and this ticks all the boxes. I've reproduced it below, doubled for the purposes of this cake, and with conversions for the UK. I've also altered it for use with plain flour (cake flour isn't available over here, anyone know why?!)

440g plain flour 
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites (i bought a carton of liquid egg white and used 240g)
675g caster sugar
340g butter (room temperature)
1 pint/473ml milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Heat oven to 170C, line four 9in round pans (I only have one so I had to do four rounds in the oven! Fun.)

Measure the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Then sift together three times. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then gradually add half a cup of the sugar until soft peaks form. 

Cream the butter and once it's definitely creamy add the remaining sugar and cream them together until light and fluffy (this can take a while.) Alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, beating until smooth in between each addition. Mix in the almond and vanilla and then beat in the meringue until all is well combined. 

Weigh your mix and then use the scales to split it evenly between 4 bowls. Add varying degrees of gel food colour and mix each thoroughly (I used Americolor Electric Pink). Pour each different colour into a different tin and bake 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in tin for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack and cooling completely. 

Once the cakes are completely cool you can begin to ice. I wanted a reliable, yummy buttercream so used Sweetapolita's whipped vanilla frosting - it's super easy and delicious and perfect for birthday cakes. The link above gives you exactly the right amount for this four layer cake. Once made I iced the cake between layers with a little vanilla frosting and a little raspberry jam, to offset the almond in the cake. Then I stacked and crumb-coated the cake and sat it in the fridge for an hour or so.  

To do the rainbow swirly icing I split the icing into three bowls and mixed each with different colour gel icing (Americolor Electric Pink and Electric Blue, I think, but barely any of each). I started with the top of the cake, smoothing it so that the icing hung over the sides a little, then I very roughly added rows in different colours to the sides. Once the icing was on, I vaguely followed these instructions from Apt 2B Baking Co to swirl the icing upwards using the end of the palette knife and the cake turntable. Topped with some garish sprinkles and edible gold stars it was pretty much PERFECT! 

We had to miss the party and zip off on holiday to Wales, but I hear Holly ate the entire cake, and loved it.

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