Dairy free, nut free, egg free
RIGHT – FIRST disclaimer is I have never in my entire life iced a sodding cake, so the results that you see here are (a) fluke and (b) disguised by the blurry Hipstamatic lighting, which fuzzes over the cracks and wrinkles.
That in mind, the actual vanilla sponge cake recipe itself – plundered from the very talented Gemma McFarlane’s book Gluten, Nut, Egg & Dairy Free Celebration Cakes – is a winner. What you do with the outside of it is your call.
But, even if I do say so myself, the end result was a pleasant surprise. I had left it so terribly late (the night before tot’s birthday party) to attempt to make a Peppa Pig cake, the relief was massive when I realised it had actually turned out OK.
When Sidney turned one, he had never eaten cake before and we had never made an egg or gluten free one – plus he was still allergic to banana – so our concoction was pretty passable but definitely not perfect. A liberal coating of fresh cream and raspberries and a ‘1’ candle was enough to pass muster then.
When he turned two, we were still wheat free but the banana allergy had gone, so I went for a banana and carrot cake, topped with lemon buttercream and flaked curls of Kinnerton dark chocolate.
But, now Sidney is three and wheat is back on the menu, I am painfully aware that every other kid’s birthday party we go to culminates in the presentation of a cake so elaborate and exciting that it seems unfair to leave it at a raspberry and a candle. We’ve had Postman Pat’s van, a giant yellow duck, Peppa Pig and George, an entire farmyard replete with iced cows and sheep, Mickey Mouse and a mammoth chocolate pirate’s ship.
In all honesty, Sidney himself probably doesn’t care. When I asked him what he would like to eat on his birthday he requested salmon sandwiches and a “little cake with a cherry on top” but as the perpetually guilt-ridden Allergy Mum I wanted to give him as good as his tiny pals get.
He got the “little cake with a cherry on top” during a birthday trip to the zoo, but for his actual party at home I wanted a Proper Cake.
Like an idiot I felt myself welling up when we brought the finished thing out to him, three candles flickering, and had to gulp down the warble in my voice as we trilled ‘Happy Birthday’.
His little eyes lit up, and even after stuffing a plateful of sandwiches, sausages and two cupcakes he managed a hefty sized slab, immediately wolfing down the two ducks.
“Do you like your Peppa cake?” I asked, misty-eyed and fondly.
“It not Peppa. It’s a hippo,” he said.
(Makes a 20cm 8″ round cake)
510g self-raising flour
335g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1tspn baking pwder
150ml sunflower oil
5tspn white wine or cider vinegar
Few drops of vanilla extract
1. Line two 20cm 8″ round cake tins with baking paper
2. Preheat oven to 180˚ non-fan
3. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl
4. Measure together the wet ingredients, mix, and then stir into the dry ingredients. The mixture should form a smooth, loose batter.
5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until firm to the touch or a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning on to a plate, then a cake rack (do it cools the right way up).
For the icing, I followed Gemma McFarlane’s instructions on first sandwiching the two cakes together with a thin layer of raspberry jam and buttercream (I used lemon buttercream, mixing 250g room temperature unsalted butter with 500g icing sugar and a little lemon zest and juice – for dairy free use 200g dairy free marg and 800g icing sugar). I use Tate & Lyle icing sugar as Silver Spoon contains egg traces.
1. Using a palette knife spread a little buttercream on an 8″ cake board and sit the cake on top.
2. Spread buttercream all over the cake, on the sides and top, and smooth out as much as possible.
3. Using Dr Oetker White Regal-Ice Ready to Roll (don’t buy the ‘ready rolled’ – it contains traces of almond) add a few drops of Dr Oetker Hot Pink Gel Food Colour and knead the fondant until it is an even, pale pink. (UPDATE Oct 2015: Dr Oetker Regal-Ice is no longer nut free, see here for info and alternatives)
4. Lightly dust your work surface and an icing rolling pin with icing sugar and roll the fondant icing out until it is big enough to cover the entire cake. Keep moving the icing around the work surface to avoid sticking.
5. Gently lift the icing and place it centrally over the cake, so the the edges ‘flop’ over the sides. Use your hands gently to pat the icing down and then use an icing smoother to even it all out. My efforts were decidedly iffy, with holes and crinkles all around the bottom, which is why I decided to roll out some Dr Oetker Coloured Ready to Roll green icing and use a sharp knife to turn it into ‘grass’ and stick it (with a little icing sugar and water) to the lower edges of the cake. (I covered a larger cake board in green icing and plonked the whole lot on top of that, too.)
6. Use any of the Dr Oetker ready to roll icing to create the topping. Without royal icing (which contains egg) you’re working with pretty soft fondant, which will start to melt and slide after two or three days – so this needs to be made ideally the day before a party. I ‘glued’ pieces together (e.g. Peppa’s head to her body) with a little icing sugar mixed with water.
Voila! Hippo cake. Done.