I come from the Woman’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Cookbook generation.
Hands up if in years gone by you’ve been lucky enough to be the birthday recipient of a carefully constructed piano cake? How about a Dolly Varden – a slightly morbid creation of a plastic Barbie sandwiched between layers of sponge and over frosted with pink buttercream?
Growing up, one of the most exciting activities in the lead up to birthdays in our household was choosing which birthday cake we wanted that year. As a young child, it always seemed like an impossible task, leafing through that treasured book and selecting the masterpiece for mum to create.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have chosen many of those classic novelty cakes from that book, but some of the most special creations were ones that came from my mum’s imagination.
For my 12th birthday, I had a ten pin bowling party at the local centre, complete with a menu of dodgy hot dogs and questionable hire shoes.
And yes, I thought life couldn’t get any better than that.
The strongest memory from that day however was this incredible cake my mum had made – a mini ten pin bowling alley complete with milk bottle pins and jaffa bowling balls. It was a total surprise and the most incredible gift because she had put so much thought into creating something she knew I’d love.
In recent times, she seems to be creating more wedding cakes than jelly swimming pools, so I felt up to the task of continuing the tradition.
I adore baking for people and get even more excited when birthdays roll around, the perfect challenge to try and create something special.
I believe the first time I converted this lovely lady to Pimms was on a trip we took to Byron Bay a few months ago. We called in to stay with my grandparents and my grandfather offered us a sneaky cup of Pimms – the only condition being that we had to go and collect the mint from their garden.
There almost was an incident involving collecting an obnoxious weed instead, given the darkness in their courtyard, but thankfully my grandmother came to the rescue and saved us all from a trip the the emergency room.
If you’re not yet a Pimms convert, you must put down your second rate drink of choice and get down to your local stat. I like mine served with ginger ale and mint, but the traditional way calls for strawberries, citrus, mint and cucumber, which this cake aims to mimic.
We took this cake out with us to the restaurant and let’s just say our more than friendly bar and wait staff came and shared a slice.
Pimms. It’s clearly a movement.
Recipe adapted from Rasberri Cupcakes
Start this recipe with plenty of time. There is a reason I have minimal, slightly dodgy photos. I was running out of natural light!
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Prepare an ice water bath and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add citrus slices and remove from the heat, stirring until the slices soften. Drain slices and then place them in the ice water bath. Bring water + sugar to boil in a large saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, add drained slices of citrus. Reduce heat and simmer until rinds turn translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from pan using tongs and transfer to a tray lined with baking paper.
Use your tried and trusted sponge cake recipe, doubling it for the two layers and adding two teaspoons of ground ginger in each. This one from Gourmet Traveller is a winner – plus there are handy hints for first time sponge cake bakers.
300ml thickened cream
3 tsp Pimms
1 tsp vanilla essence
Whip cream and fold through Pimms and vanilla
Strawberry Pimms icing
250g unsalted butter
575g (about 4.5 cups) icing sugar, sifted
1/3 cup 100% fruit, no sugar strawberry jam
4 tsp Pimms
Remove the butter 30 mins before starting. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Gradually add sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add strawberry jam and Pimms and beat until combined.
Sandwich sponges with 1/3 cup 100% fruit, no sugar strawberry jam and Pimms cream, ensuring the sides are smooth and filled to the edges.
Top with Strawberry Pimms icing and decorate with candied citrus and mint.