Last weekend was the Minx’s birthday party with a Mad Hatter’s theme. The “centrepiece” was her homemade birthday cake shaped like a teapot with a surprise inside. People are under the illusion that this is a tricky cake to make so I thought I’d tell you how I made it, here. Please note that I am not an expert cake maker so I’m not going to get particularly technical, and a wide variety of food colourings are used – if you don’t like your children to eat a lot of food colourings, don’t make them this cake, though each layer takes far less colour than you’d think.
You will need: a 6 inch (15cm) cake tin (beg or borrow extra 6in tins to save you time), baking parchment, a rack to cool the cakes on, a cake board to display it on (I have been known to use a chopping board…), preheat the oven to 180°C.
Ingredients for the Cake
- 175g (6oz) self raising flour
- 175g (6oz) caster sugar
- 175 (6oz) unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- a variety of food colouring (pastes work best)
Plus butter & flour for preparing the tin.
- 300g unsalted butter
- 700g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- food colouring if you wish
- a little milk
- Sift the flour into a bowl with the baking powder then add in all of the other ingredients. I usually try to remember to beat the eggs first but it hasn’t made any difference when I forget.
- So long as I haven’t left the butter in the fridge till last minute, I usually just mix it with a hand mixer at this point, though you could beat it with a wooden spoon if you prefer. I mix until the mixture turns almost white in colour and it should drop off the spoon if you give it a wee tap on the side of the bowl. If it doesn’t drop off then you can add a little water. I add a teaspoon at a time till the consistency is right. (I made this twice last week and it needed about 1tbsp of water each time.)
- Divide the mixture evenly between 7 bowls (or as many bowls as you wish to have layers.) I did this by eye the first time, and the second time I weighed the bowls to make sure they were each roughly the same weight.
- Add a little food dye at a time until you achieve the colour you’re looking for. It doesn’t really take as much as you’d think – especially if you use food colouring pastes rather than liquids. I find that the colours very quickly reach a maximum colour, and adding more dye after that point makes no real difference to the final colour, so start small. I use Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue & Purple – in that order, like a real rainbow. Yes, I’m sad.
- Butter a 6in cake tin then toss flour round it. There’s only a small amount of cake going in so you don’t need to worry about doing a great job right to the edges. I always butter the (loose) base and then add a circle of baking parchment over the top. That may be the belts and braces approach but so far it works. I then spoon in the first layer of cake mixture and level it off.
- Pop it in the oven for 8 mins – or until a cocktail stick came out clean. Yes, it was a little golden brown on top and on the sides but this does not impact on the stripes when it is sliced.
- Allow it to cool a little in the tin then remove it to the wire cooling rack whilst you clean and prepare the tin again for the next level. Repeat this for all the layers.
Whilst the layers are cooling you can make the butter icing. I used 150g of butter mixed with 350g icing sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I beat all of that together with the hand mixer until the mix is white and can be spread but still hold its shape. If it’s too stiff you can add a little milk.
Assembling the Cake
- Spread a little butter icing on your cake board and place your first layer on top (I use purple.)
- Cover this layer in more butter icing (as thick or thin as you’d like) and then put the next layer on top (for me that’s blue). Keep going until you’ve added the last layer.
- If you’re just doing a straight cake then you can get right on with the icing but otherwise you need to start to shape the cake. This is really easy – I ran a sharp knife around the bottom layer to make it curve in, and did the same round the top.
- Normally at this point I’d warm a little apricot jam with water in the microwave and brush it all over to help with crumbs but this time I used the butter icing for a crumb coat. I pushed it into the edges of all the layers so there were no gaps when it was sliced open, and I ran a thin layer all round the outside.
- Then, I made a second batch of icing but this time I coloured it pale pink. You can use whatever colour suits you, and you can have more colours and elaborative detail on the outside of the teapot than I went with. I spread this all over the outside of the cake as smooth as possible (though after a few hours, once it’s got a slight crust, you can smooth it down a bit further.)
- I made the handle and spout in two different ways:
- The first time I used a pack of coloured Regal Ice ready-to-roll icing. I found it impossible to make a spout but I did manage to make two handles into which I stuck a couple of cocktail sticks (to hold it to the cake.) I let these dry over night. Unfortunately, one broke but it made a substitute tiny spout (the green one in the picture) and is the reason I like to make a trial cake. I also used this coloured icing to make the wee “dormouse” to add to the side.
- The second time I made a basic biscuit recipe and hand cut lots of spout/handle shapes and stuck cocktail sticks into them before I baked them. I baked them longer than I would to eat them but I wanted to be sure they were solid. I then used a bit of the left over butter icing to cover them. If I’d had more time I would have made a circular biscuit for the lid and made it look like the dormouse was keeking out from under it but I had procrastinated.
After all that, it’s time to display then eat it!
This served a party of 16 kids and about 20 adults – some they ate at the time and some went home with them.