Gunpowder, treason and plot!
I'm very aware than bonfire night is far from over and most people are too worried about Christmas to even think of the fifth of November. Not me, I finished all of my Christmas shopping a month ago, with the exception of my dads which I bought today. An MP3 player I'm planning on filling with pretty songs, to further his musical education...awwwwh! And, since most of my uni work is now behind me (hurrah) I can finally catch up on some well deserved blogging.
Bonfire Night in Newcastle usually involves a group of people huddled round a spindly rocket desperately trying to light the fuse despite the biting wind and icy rain. And this year was no different. I guess you could go to a professional display, but I believe Bonfire Night without a glass of mulled wine is a sin and I wasn't about to trail all the way to the local park, soaking wet, for the pleasure of a few fancy explosions in the sky! No way, no how. So, being a natural hostess, don't scoff, I decided to buy a pack of sparklers and hold a wee gathering. Upon sending invitations, by text of course, to my nearest and dearest it was brought to my attention that my 'party' was to fall on the birthday of a dear friend. I'm horrible with dates, the only birthdays I can actually remember is my own and my mothers. So of course, this called for a birthday cake.
Stick a few sparklers in the top and I think it tops even the biggest of bonfires. I mean, how many bonfires have a red velvet cake center? None, that's how many! The cake was a roaring success, cream cheese frosting with mint match makers surrounding a beautifully soft cake. Sadly, I enjoyed a little too much of the high life and had to retire to bed before the cake was cut. This seems to be happening more and more in my old age, eeep. But from the mountain of text messages on my phone the following morning, it was a hit.
Recipe taken from Anne Bell's Gorgeous Cakes:
For the cake:
120g unsalted butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs (free range, think of the chickens)
300g plain flour
230g buttermilk (for love nor money I could not find buttermilk in my local supermarket, so I went with extra special, Channel Island full cream milk. I seemed to work fine)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
20g cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp red food colouring
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp bicarbonate of soda
For the frosting:
180g unsalted butter
150g icing sugar, sifted
450g full-fat cream or curd cheese
1tsp good quality vanilla extract
2 x 150g boxes of matchmakers (I used mint)
Cocoa for dusting
Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C normal. Butter two, three is you have them, 20cm sandwich or deep cake tins with a removable base and line with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor till really light and fluffy, Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Now add the flour in three goes, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Add the salt, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Add the food colouring with the tip of a knife until the mixture is a dramatic dusky red.
Mix the vinegar and bicarb together (it should fizz, fun!), and add to the batter. Divide the mixture between the three tins or, if using two put a third into each tin and bake the final cake while the other two are cooling. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes until they are shrinking away from the sides and firm when pressed in the centre. Leave to cool for ten minutes then turn out onto a wire rack, remove the paper and cool the right way up.
To make the frosting, cream the butter and icing sugar together in a food processor (I did this by hand) then blend with the cream cheese and vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl.
Sack the three sponges on top of each other. With a bread knife carve the stack into a cone, starting about an inch from the centre, to make the shape of a tall bonfire (it says in the book that trimmings can be saved for a trifle, but I just ate them as a pre party snack). Separate out the layers and spread 2-3 tbsp of frosting over the base layer using a palette knife, top with the middle layer and smooth over 1 1/2 tbsp and top with the final layer. Coat the sides of the cone in the remaining frosting then stack the matchmakers upwards around the outside, braking them in half towards the end to fill in the gaps. Dust the whole cake in cocoa powder and place on a cake stand. Cover with clingfilm and chill for one hour. If chilling any longer than this remove the cake 30 minutes before you intend to serve it.
The cake keeps well for several days.