The countdown to Christmas can never truly begin until we've celebrated my brother and sister's birthdays, three days apart at the end of November. This is the watershed between half heartedly compiling Christmas shopping lists and whole heartedly embracing the twinkly lights and hordes of Oxford Street. The turning point between the odd spontaneous shop-bought mince pie and hours spent stirring gigantic bowls of homemade mincemeat with warmed, ready to fill Kilner jars littering every surface.
And this year was a very special celebration: my brother's thirtieth birthday.
Four days spent celebrating as a family in a delightful rented farmhouse near Hay on Wye. Roaring fires, champagne, long lazy walks, board games....
... and lots and lots AND LOTS of cake. I baked my brother Steff's favourite: a Battenberg, closely following Fiona Cairn's Recipe:
It was a little damaged in transit. Oops.
Mum baked a family favourite: Delia's Walnut and Banana bread:
My sister Beth made us all French Toast and pancakes for breakfast:
And Mum made this (to topically quote Strictly's Craig Revel-Horwood) FAB-U-LOUS rugby ball Birthday Cake, complete with a green cake-board 'pitch' and biscuit 'mud':
Coffee 'Rugby Ball' Cake
For the cake:
12 oz / 350g softened, unsalted butter
12 oz / 350g golden caster sugar
6 large eggs, beaten
12 oz/ 350g self raising flour
3 level tsps baking powder
3 tsps instant coffee granules mixed with 50ml/3tbsps boiling water
For the buttercream icing:
300g unsalted softened butter
600g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp instant coffee granules mixed with 3 tbsps boiling water
50g white fondant icing
3 chocolate 'Bourbon' biscuits
1. Grease and line a 12" x 8" x 4" rugby ball / American football cake tin. Prepare the tin: Grease the tin with cake release spray or grease with a little butter and line with baking parchment
2. Preheat the oven to 160C/ fan 140C/ Gas Mark 3.
3. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl for several minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beaten throughly after each addition.
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder and stir in the coffee
5. Bake for 1 hr 15 minutes until well risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the edges begin to catch towards the end of the baking time, cover with foil until fully cooked through. Cool for fifteen minutes in the tin before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely
6. Meanwhile, to make the icing: beat together the butter and icing sugar until throughly combined. Beat in the coffee. Cut the cooled cake horizontally in two and spread one third of the icing between the two layers
7. Spread the rest of the icing over the cake and use strips of white fondant to create the . Place on a green 'pitch' cake board and crumble chocolate biscuits around the 'pitch' to represent 'mud'.
- As with any novelty cake tin with tricky corners, cake release spray is often much easier than trying to awkwardly line with baking parchment
- Also, be aware the edges catching and the middle remaining raw- consider covering with the cake with a foil 'hat' around three-quarters of the way through the cooking
- Later in the week... How to Prepare for Stir-Up Sunday!