Never make a birthday cake in a heatwave!

It was my husband’s 40th birthday last week so I said I’d make him a cake. I wasn’t anticipating the relentless heatwave we’ve been having here in the UK so it all went a bit wrong. After a minor breakdown, I managed to rescue it and posted pics of the finished product online where it got 1000+ likes and loads of requests for the recipe, so here it is! To be honest, in keeping with my other “recipes” , it’s really just assembly instructions as I do everything the easy way. There is a bit of baking involved though – that’s unavoidable, I’m afraid!

Top tip!

You will probably need to start baking this a couple of days before you want to eat it!

Step one :

Bake the cakes! I used this recipe but you can use your own. Instead of splitting this recipe between two 8″ cake tins, I put it all in to one 9″ inch tin and baked for about 35 mins (until a skewer comes out clean). For this cake I made 3 layers – which makes for a big cake! From here on I will refer to the quantities I used for this 3 layer, 9″ cake, which can be adjusted for your particular requirements. After the cakes have cooled on a rack, wrap them individually in cling film and refrigerate. I left mine in the fridge overnight.

Step two:

Stack the layers (on a cake board). The first thing you’ll need to do is trim the tops off them – a sharp bread knife will do the job well. I used Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream and Hartleys Black Cherry Jam – I covered the sponge first with buttercream then jam. It’s easier to spoon the jam on then spread it around gently with the back of the spoon to avoid mixing the buttercream and jam up too much (I popped the cake back into the fridge between layers but that was just due to the heatwave making the buttercream melt -you won’t usually need to do this!).

Try not to have them spilling out of the sides as this will get in the way later, though you can scrape off any excess with a palette knife. Once you’ve sandwiched all the layers together, pop it back in the fridge until the buttercream has hardened a bit.

Step three :

Next you need to apply the crumb coat. This is just a thin layer of buttercream that traps all the loose crumbs, helping you get a good finish on your cake. I don’t have a photo of this stage I’m afraid, but the linked video tells you everything you need to know.

Step four :

The next stage is where it all went wrong and I nearly threw the whole thing in the bin – covering the cake with chocolate fondant! As you can see, it was impossible to do this bit properly as it was so hot the fondant fell apart every time I lifted it up. I had to stick it on in several pieces and try to blend the edges together with my fingers. As I was doing this, the buttercream inside had melted so much that the middle layer, which had a small crack in it, broke in half completely, with one of the halves trying to make a break for it and causing a bulge in one side. I tried to squish it back into shape then put it back in the fridge in the hope that the shape would set while I thought of a way to rescue the cake. If you want to see how to do it properly, there’s a video here.

Step five:

So, I rummaged in my cupboards to see what I had to rescue the cake with. I found partial pots of the frostings I’d used so far, an icing comb, a cake turntable/lazy susan and a 3 colour piping set, and a plan formed! I spread some of the chocolate fudge icing around the sides of the cake with a palette knife, smoothing any of the rough edges along the top edge over on to the top of the cake (they’ll be hidden later). I then used the icing comb and the turntable to create the lines around the sides. Once I was happy with those, I put the cake back in the fridge while assessed what I had left.

Step six:

I had roughly equal amounts of the chocolate and vanilla left so I filled one icing bag with chocolate, one with vanilla and one with half of each. I assembled the 3 colour piping bag using the star nozzle, and piped “blobs” all around the top and the base of the cake. I flipped the bag over between each blob to get the alternating colour effect you can see in the photos. Then – you’ve guessed it! Back to the fridge!


Step seven:

It now looked a million times better than it had at the fondant stage but it still needed a bit of something extra to make it special enough for a special birthday. Luckily, I love a biccie so I had a pack of Birthday Party Oreos in the cupboard, and I have a cupcake loving 5 year old so I also have an impressive stash of vegan sprinkles. I stuck them both on the cake and lo, and behold! The finished article!

So, hopefully, this is proof that anyone can make a decent looking cake, even under conditions that are less than ideal! This is only my third cake so if I can do it, any one can! Please don’t be put off by the specialist equipment I have used. I only have it as I inherited it when my mum (who made AMAZING cakes) passed away last year. There are ways around most of it, though if you want to achieve the same effects, you can get most of bits you need quite cheaply online.

If you have any question, please get in touch. In the meantime

Happy Baking!


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