I have always been a keen baker. My attempted journey from hopeless to Hollywood (Paul) started age 11, baking batches of cheese scones for my family. They were obliged to force them down and make encouraging noises despite them being chemically indistinguishable from glue. The arrival of kids of my own meant new forays into the world of cakes and the production of several buttercream heavy creations that no one of sound mind or steady hand would recreate. Cakes of Infamy (which by the way would make a great name for a board game) include an Octonauts cake that looked like I was trying to recreate “The One Where Kwazi Kitten Falls Into A Volcano And Gets Melted” and a Fireman Sam cake where I had to resort to printing out a picture of Fireman Sam to stick on top of the cake after my attempt to render him from fondant icing left him looking like it was him who needed to call the emergency services.
However, these disasters have not dimmed my love of a bake and the advent of Instagram has meant that there is now cake porn galore to inspire an amateur cack handed cook like me. Sugar Plum Bakes Kingston is my ultimate cake crush. The brains behind the beautiful bakes is Vaani Wadman.who designs and makes the most show stopping wedding cakes and has been known to bake for HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.
With Easter just around the corner I am thrilled that Vanni has shared with me the recipe for her delicious orange and cinnamon Easter layer cake. With it fortunately not featuring any cartoon characters whose features I would be required to recreate in fondant I rolled up my sleeves whilst on holiday last week and had a go at making it.
Waking early to visit an artisan food market full of fresh local produce (otherwise known as the Newquay branch of Asda) I picked the ingredients for the cake as well as a cake tin to bake it in.
Orange & Cinnamon Layer Cake Ingredients
200g Butter, 200g Self raising flour, 200g Light muscovado sugar, 3 Large free-range eggs, Zest from 2 oranges (unwaxed), ½ teaspoon of orange extract, 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp of vanilla essence
Cream cheese frosting:
175g cream cheese, 450g Icing sugar, ½ tsp orange zest (set aside from cake ingredients), ½ tsp orange extract.
Vaani’s first instruction was to preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4) and lightly grease 2 deep 6” (15 cm) cake tins. So far so simple you might think but, whilst I successfully turned the oven on (high five me) , in Aisle 13 of Asda I had made a fateful call on a cake tin that was to have massive ramifications for my bake. I accidentally chose a 22cm rather than 15cm tin. Whilst a girl would normally be delighted to take on board an extra 7cm, in this case it would turn out that bigger was definitely not better.
With my youngest son distracted by the TV I quickly sieved the self raising and ground cinnamon into a bowl before he could shout “I Help” and assume unhelpful control of the sieve. Unfortunately the Air BnB we were staying in didn’t come with a Kitchen Aid so instead of beating the sugar and butter together in a food mixer until the mixture was light in colour I had to go retro and cream the two together using a wooden spoon. I believe this may be the secret to obtaining #JenniferAnnistonArms as 20 mins in my biceps were bulging.
Closing my eyes and hoping for the best I let my six year old break the eggs into a bowl and beat them together (remarkably no egg on foot incidents occured) before adding them to the dry ingredients along with the orange extract and vanilla essence.
Vaani recommends mixing in half the orange zest separately and slowly folding the mixture together but to be honest with two helpers under 8 it was more of a jerky beating than slow stead folding. It was then time to split the mixture evenly between the 2 greased cake tins and place them on the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes or until the cakes appear to be well cooked.
Except that I only had one supersize Asda tin. So I had to bung all of my mixture in one tin and hope that it would rise sufficiently for me to cut it in half and obtain a layer. With the cake in the oven I got called outside to put in a turn as Jordan Pickford, popping back inside periodically from between the posts to perform the fork test on the cake to check if it was done. 45 mins later I took it out of the oven and turned it out on a cooling rack to cool.
I was relieved to see that the cake was looking more bouncy bake than biscuit so my plan to slice it in half would in theory work. However, upon slicing in it became clear I was not going to be in line for the Hollywood hand shake as instead of coming away cleanly in two the top, and my dreams of star baker status broke into pieces. Batting away questions from my junior helpers about whether Mummy’s cake needed to go in the bin I reasoned that will lashings of buttercream no-one would notice the jigsaw puzzle top layer.
To make the icing I sieved the icing sugar into a bowl., beat together the butter and the sieved icing sugar. and then added the cream cheese, orange zest and orange extract and beat until I had a smooth, creamy mixture . With the frosting made it became clear that I had nowhere near enough to cover my big 22 incher as whilst super sizing the tin I had forgotten to supersize my icing quantities. I prioritised covering the top on the basis that it would most obviously reveal my #botchedbake and hoped the icing spilling out of the sides would lend it a deconstructed rustic look. If, you are working with the correct size cake tins and therefore have plenty of icing thento achieve the look Vaani intended smooth your icing on using a palette knife.
To distract from it’s rather car crash appearance I liberally decorated mine (for instagram rather than edible purposes) with large yellow and purple pansies which definitely rescued it from looking like something someone had dropped out of a window and then attempted to piece back together.
Having quickly taken some shots of it looking pretty with the pansies (Vaani uses rannunculus on top of hers which I think look good enough to eat) I whipped them off and replaced them with the less visually pleasing but significantly tastier alternative of mini eggs.
The rustle of the mini eggs packet brought my minature helpers back to the kitchen who helped me to complete it’s Easter transformation. Whilst it definetely didn’t look like something I could pass off as a Mary Berry bake, I can confirm that it appearance aside it tasted absolutely amazing. Using light brown muscavdo sugar rather than caster gives it a lovely richer flavour and then orange and cinnamon mean it is far more interesting than your average Victoria sponge.
Thank you so much to Vaani for sharing your recipe with me. I hope you guys enjoy having a go at making it. If you manage to create something that looks more like Vaani’s than mine then post it to your instagram stories and tag me (@malmo _ and _ moss) and I will share my favourites. And if you are in need of more cake inspiration be sure to follow @sugarplumbakeskingston.