My youngest turned five today. While of course I’m brimming with maternal joy and have loved sharing every moment of her anticipation in the run up and bubbling over of excitement on the day, my emotions are also tinged with a touch of sadness. It feels like my little baby is growing up too fast. When she was four I could just about get away with thinking of her as big toddler. But now she’s five, she’s a proper little girl. Bye bye baby.
We celebrated Mia’s birthday on Saturday with a party. It was a small do at the house with a handful of school friends from her reception class; quite an old-fashioned party really, without any party entertainers, bouncy castles or spectacular cake sculptures.
The highlights of our party were simple delights: playing with balloons, a messy chocolate cake covered in hundreds and thousands, fizzy flying saucers, old school games like pass-the-parcel and musical bumps, getting gluey making Easter bonnets, telling fart and poo and bottom jokes while gobbling chipolatas and party rings, and playing a new game we invented called pin-the-nose-on-the-Mia. Turning five is lots of fun!
The chocolate birthday cake is very easy to make, especially if, like me, you’re not a natural-born baker. It’s the kind of cake that actually looks better if it’s not too perfect. Fill it with whipped cream and your child’s favourite soft fruit – we went with raspberries. Pour over the icing and cover liberally with sprinkles, Buttons, Smarties or whatever your little one’s favourite happens to be – this also happens to be the perfect way to disguise any imperfections.
The end result is a celebration cake fit for a five-year-old. It’s a tried-and-tested party cake recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s early cookbooks, The Return of the Naked Chef. I first made it when my oldest daughter turned one, and have been baking it ever since.
Chocolate birthday cake
3 tbsp cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
200g soft butter
200g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp flaked almonds
200ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
2 large handfuls raspberries (or any soft fruit of your choice)
For the chocolate icing
100g cooking chocolate
100g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk
Decorations – hundreds and thousands, Smarties, Buttons or the like
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.
In a cup mix the cocoa with 4 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa mixture, eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well. Fold in the almonds.
Split the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven. The cakes are ready when an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing the cakes from the tins.
To make the chocolate icing, place the butter, chocolate, icing sugar and milk into a bowl and place over gently simmering water in a pan. Stir until it’s all melted and blended together. Allow to cool a little.
Whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks and sweeten with icing sugar.
Remove the baking parchment from both cakes. Place one a wire rack, over kitchen towel or newspaper, and spread the whipped cream over the top, almost to the edge. Scatter the raspberries on top.
Place the second sponge on top and press down. Drizzle the chocolate icing over the top – you’ll be glad of the kitchen towel or newspaper at this point as the chocolate drips and gloops everywhere. Decorate with your chosen treats. Leave the icing to set before adding the candles and serving to your young birthday girl or boy and their party guests.