I’m feeling strangely patriotic. I’m actually thinking of putting up some Union Jack bunting around the house. Now anyone who knows me will understand how out of character this would be. But I have to admit – I’m being swept along with this Jubilee fever. Or perhaps the sun this week has simply gone to my head?
Everywhere you go, the red, white and blue theme is all pervasive. Every shop window, every catalogue, every advertisement – it all makes you proud to be British, in a kind of embarrassed, rather British sort of way, when we’re not sure we should but we want to go along with it anyway.
I’m not sure how much my children understand what it’s all about. It’s something to do with the Queen. It’s not her birthday but it’s something similar. Whatever the reason, it’s a good excuse for a party and what kid is going to knock that?
Most food blogs I’ve visited recently are getting into the full Jubilee spirit, sharing amazing and clever culinary creations for impressing the neighbours at the street party. So I began to think maybe I should be doing something too. In fact, it’s been the last thing I’ve been thinking about as I drop off to sleep for the last few nights now.
As you know, I’m not a particularly talented baker, so I’ve come up with a easy party cake to suit my limited baking skills, which still delivers the ‘wow’ factor for a juvenile audience. It’s not sophisticated, it’s not refined. It’s quite simply a big, white cake with red and blue running right through it. And it’s sweet and gooey and moreish with a tonne of Smarties on the top.
My daughter Jessie walked into the kitchen just as I finished decorating it, and her reaction was “Wow!” which was exactly the response I was after. From a child anyway. My husband on the other hand was rather less complimentary about my efforts. But I hadn’t made it for him so I didn’t care. Much.
It’s three tiers of simple Victoria sponge (based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe), smothered in red, white and blue buttercream, and embossed with red and blue Smarties in a crude Union Jack design. Great for Jubilee parties, especially the kind involving lots of young children.
Queen’s Jubilee Party Cake
For the Victoria sponge
330g soft butter
330g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon
300g self-raising flour
40g corn flour
1½ tsp baking powder
6 tbsp milk
For the buttercream icing
280g soft butter
560g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
red and blue food colouring
Lots of red and blue Smarties to decorate (I needed three ‘share’ bags to get enough reds and blues)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.
This couldn’t be easier. Put all the Victoria sponge ingredients except for the milk into a food processor and whiz until you have a smooth mixture. Then add the milk a spoonful at a time, whizzing to combine each time, until you have a good dropping consistency.
Grab your three 20cm sandwich tins. If they’re not non-stick, grease and line them, but if they are, job done. Pour in the cake batter across the three tins equally. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are golden and springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the tins and leave on the rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream icing: beat the butter until soft in a large bowl. Add 70g of icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add another 70g and beat again. And again add the remaining 140g of icing sugar and beat well until smooth.
Finally add the milk and beat again to loosen the mixture. Put half the mixture into a separate bowl and set aside.
Split the remaining buttercream into two more bowls. Add red food colouring a few drops at a time to one lot until you get a colour you’re happy with the tone. Repeat with the other bowl with the blue food colouring.
If you’re cakes are well-risen and peaked, you’ll need to use a sharp knife to shave them a little until they’re nice and flat. Enjoy the sponge shavings as a chef’s perk, as Nigella would say.
Put your first cake layer on a large plate, and carefully smother with the red icing almost to the edge but not quite. Place the next sponge layer on top and repeat again with the blue icing. Then add the next layer of cake and smother with a generous topping of the plain coloured buttercream icing.
Decorate the top of your cake with your red and blue Smarties. I attempted a Union Jack style motif but go with whatever takes your fancy – concentric circles, spirals, stripes, random patterns – go crazy!
And just in case you’re reading this, a very happy Diamond Jubilee your majesty!