The Birthday Cake Recipe

30 March 2013

Following my last post about Lily's birthday celebrations, I've had a few requests for the birthday cake recipe.

One such request came from my friend Sarah who now lives with her husband and little boy in California. We go back a long way, first having meet at Art school (Sarah was in the year below me, but we were on the same Fashion Promotion & Illustration degree course). My first job on graduating was working for the then newly relaunched fashion label Biba. I had an 'untitled' creative role that involved all manner of things, including sorting out the promotional imagery for the said season's collection. 

I remember holding a fashion shoot in the hallway of my old house, using Sarah as my model (she was, and still is stunning). At the time, the house (which had previously belonged to my grandparents and still featured much of their decor) had the most amazing metallic blueish/silver wallpaper in the hallway which we used as a backdrop for the shoot. This wallpaper, which I'm pretty sure had been around longer than me, had a certain air of vintage glamour about it thus providing the perfect, if rather unconventional, shoot location. 

The amateurness of it all makes me laugh now: the label has changed ownership over the years and is nowadays sold through House of Fraser. Their glossy advertising campaigns feature celebrity models of the moment such as Daisy Lowe and are shot by serious fashion photographers. How times have changed! 

Mine and Sarah's paths crossed once again, when we both worked for Urban Outfitters during their UK launch. But today, despite our distance, the wonders of social media has allowed us to keep up-to-date with each others life. Sarah is a longtime follower of Buttercup days, so I can only but oblige with the sharing of this recipe. So from Brighton to Santa Monica, here is that recipe for Rose & Almond Cake.

For the sponge:
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
2 tbsp distilled rose water
2 tsp almond essence
4 medium eggs, beaten
60g plain flour
225g ground almonds
3 tbsp milk

For the lemon butter icing:
150g butter, softened
115g icing sugar, sifted
Juice and zest of a lemon

For the rose icing:
1 tbsp distilled rose water
1 tbsp lemon juice
140g icing sugar, sifted
Rose petals to decorate

Preheat the oven to 200C / GM6. Lightly oil two 18cm-wide Victoria sandwich tins. Line their bases with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the rose water, almond essence and a quarter of the eggs, until throughly combined. Beat in the flour and remaining eggs, then mix in the almonds and milk.

Divide the mixture equally between the two tins. Bake for 20 mins, or until risen and golden. Press the sponge lightly with your fingertip - if done, it should bounce back. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the butter icing, beat together the butter, icing sugar, lemon zest and 2 and a half tbsp of lemon juice. Spread over one of the sponges and top with the other, best side up.

For the icing, stir the rose water and lemon juice into the icing sugar until thick and smooth. Spread over the top of the cake, allowing a little to drizzle down the sides. Finally just before the icing sets scatter with rose petals.


25 March 2013

This weekend Lily had her eighth birthday. She'd been counting the days since the Christmas decorations came down. Some weeks ago, I struck up conversation about her birthday, asking her what she might like to do. Her response was 'I'd like a birthday surprise'. Good. I like arranging surprises. She'd also muttered something about quite liking the idea of a party, but reluctantly felt that, at eight, she would be rather too old for that sort of thing.

Anyway, needless to say I started scheming, plotting and planning. The result of which was the most wonderful surprise. A total surprise. I invited 8 of her closest girl-friends, a mix of life-long and newer friends, over for lunch without Lily knowing. 

I made pizza's - plenty of them and served Birthday cake and ice-cream for pudding (for those interested, her cake this year was a Rose & Almond Cake - really delicious with a taste that reminded me of Battenburg cake).

I made each guest (Arthur had a boy-ish variation) a crepe paper flower tiara (as seen on Oh Happy Day), and dressed the table with place names, grown up cutlery & china and jam jars full of fresh spring flowers. It could have been a wedding reception! Needless to say 'the look' and the crazy effort that went into it wasn't lost on a bunch of eight year-old girl's - they simply loved it!

While I was busy setting everything up, David had taken Lily to work for an hour, by the time she came home all her guests were ready, waiting and hiding behind the sofa ready to jump out and  'Surprise!' her. Lily's face was a picture. She stood speechless, beaming ear to ear, then after a moment or two very calmly and matter-of-factly said 'Hello'.

After Pizza, cake and a play each guest left with their pretty hair piece and a party bag and Lily sat down and drew breath.

On Sunday, her actual birthday, we had a day at home (plans to go out were cancelled due to the bad weather), Her uncle, aunt and cousin came over (another surprise) and we had a 'Lily style lunch' of Pesto Pasta and Chocolate Brownies.

A perfect weekend for the perfect little girl.

Where I Am, Right Now.

18 March 2013

Almost a month has passed without as much as a short & sweet post on this blog. There has been no shortage of topics I could have shared with you: there have been birthday's, Mother's day and a very busy March so far, but I have held myself back allowing the opportunities to bypass this blog. The reason though is a very good one. 

For the last few months now I have been thinking and trying to work out exactly where I am going with Buttercup days. In fact it is more than that, I've been trying to work out what I want to do creatively going forward. Arthur starts school at the end of the summer and for the first time in eight years my weekdays won't be child centred (until 3.15pm) as they have been. It's a shift: a move into the next phase.

Alongside parenting and working for the business, the last four years have seen me writing my own blogs (Buttercup days is my second one) and writing for other blogs and magazines. The core of what I write about stems from cooking - something else I've done more of during the last four years than ever before.

So, I've taken these last four years and am busy working at transforming my experiences into a next phase for Buttercup days, one with a bit of longevity I hope. I need to invest time in learning a few new skills in order to move forward, so please do bear with me over the coming months if the posts become few and far between at times. Hopefully you will see the results over the coming months as this blog smartens up somewhat and gains a focus. I, for one, am rather excited.