It is both a privilege and a responsibility to make a birthday cake. I have lost count of the cakes I’ve made over the years to celebrate the lives of those I love; each one as different as as the people they were made for. Recent bakes include a cardamom loaf with citrus cream cheese frosting for a classmate, a deeply dark and moist chocolate cake for my mother and a raspberry-almond tart for my boyfriend. Birthday gifts are often welcomed but rarely needed, what we need most of all is the acknowledgment and love of those around us. And what better gesture of love is there than to present carefully crafted layers of sponge, chocolate, fruit and buttercream?
I take birthday cake baking seriously and, when the duty falls to me, I am deliberate in considering the personality, preferences and style of the person I’m baking for. Strangely, the people I’m closest to are the hardest to determine. Baking a cake is meditative in its own right, but baking for others is a mindful exercise in the appreciation of others. When I present a cake to a loved one, I am trying to show them how much I care. Spending an afternoon elbow-deep in batter and meticulously sprinkling pistachios is a gift of time and consideration. I have never felt quite as loved as when I am surrounded by friends and family, blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, it is a simple ritual that could warm even the coldest of hearts.
Last week I was tasked to bake a cake for a friend whose birthday falls at the peak of spring. The trees are in full blossom and the temperatures are creeping slowly upwards. I presented her an icing-sugar dusted, vanilla sponge filled with jam, strawberries and cream. A sweet, delicate cake in celebration of her and in anticipation of the coming summer months.
Strawberries and Cream Cake
This cake follows the simple rules of a classic Victoria Sponge with equal amounts of flour, sugar and butter. The resulting sponge has a delicate crumb and buttery taste, the perfect vehicle for fresh fruit and cream. Substitute with various fruit depending on season.
220g softened butter
220g self-raising flour
220g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
300ml fresh whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp. strawberry jam
200-300g fresh, chopped strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 160°C Fan
- Grease and line two 20cm cake tins (spring-form are best)
- In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Sieve in the flour and baking powder
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine all ingredients thoroughly
- Divide the batter evenly between the two tins
- Bake for 20-25 minutes (be advised not to open the oven door before the cake has baked for at least 20 mins, the change in temperature could cause the centre to collapse)
- Check that the cakes are cooked by inserting a skewer or toothpick into the centre, if it comes out clean the cakes are ready.
- Allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool completely
- Once cool spread the bottom layer with jam
- Whip the cream and vanilla extract into stiff peaks
- Spread the cream on top of the jam and top with fresh strawberries
- Place the second sponge layer on top and press lightly
- Dust with icing sugar to finish