Nigella’s birthday custard sponge

15 July 2010

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Last weekend a birthday cake was called for, and where better to turn than to the Domestic Goddess herself? Sometimes the occasion just demands a butter/sugar/syrup/chocolate-laden splurge of a recipe. This is a celebration staple that I return to again and again as it never fails to delight the recipient.

Birthday Custard Sponge, from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

200g plain flour
3 tablespoons Bird’s custard powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

For the buttercream filling:

125g icing sugar
4 teaspoons Bird’s custard powder
75g soft unsalted butter
1.5 teaspoons boiling water

For the chocolate icing:

60ml water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g caster sugar (or 50g if using milk chocolate)
175g dark chocolate
hundreds and thousands, or other decorations that take your fancy

Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start. Preheat oven to 180ºC and butter and line two 20cm diameter cake tins.

Put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor (or use handheld beaters). Process to a smooth batter, then add the milk a tablespoon at a time to make a soft dropping consistency. Divide between the two cake tins and bake for 20 minutes. The cakes will puff up nicely, this is because of the cornflour in the custard powder.

Let the tins sit on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning the cakes out to cool.

Make the buttercream icing by processing the icing sugar and custard powder (or passing it through a fine sieve) to get rid of any lumps, then add the butter and process or beat until everything comes together. Add the boiling water to make the icing easier to spread. Sandwich the cooled sponges together.

For the chocolate icing, combine the water, golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve over a low heat. Let it come to the boil and remove from the heat. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and add to the pan, swirling it around so it melts into the hot liquid. Whisk the icing briefly until smooth and shiny, then pour over the buttercream filled cake immediately, letting it drip down the sides. Sprinkle generously with hundreds and thousands before the icing sets.

[And if you need to make this at the last minute – an ’emergency birthday cake’ as it were – I’m pleased to report that it can be ready by lunchtime if you get an early start. I was up at 7.30am and had it done and dusted by 10.30am without too much of a panic :)]

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Katherine 15 July 2010 at 8:07 pm

Wow, that looks delicious, nicely done!


green apple sorbet 16 July 2010 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Katherine! It was pretty tasty, even if I do say so myself 🙂


Polly 19 July 2010 at 6:10 pm

Thank you so much for this super recipe – I baked it for a friend’s 30th birthday this weekend and even my amateur attempt went down a storm. It didn’t rise as beautifully as I would have liked (I blame my dodgy oven) but all manner of ills can be hidden with enough chocolate icing and sugar sprinkles! I’m pleased to say the birthday girl texted me later to say it tasted delicious for breakfast the next day as well… 😉


green apple sorbet 26 July 2010 at 5:13 pm

So glad you tried it Polly. And you’re absolutely right – enough icing and sprinkles will always save the day!


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