When my children were little, this was a very popular cake, and it’s not just nostalgia that makes me cook it still. Adding cornflour along with the plain flour makes for a wonderfully light and tender sponge, but it is definitely one of those cakes that needs to be eaten on the day it’s made. And while it’s the perfect, smile-inducing birthday cake, I often make it without sprinkling hundreds and thousands – just the dark gleaming icing that drapes over the top and drips thickly down the sides – for an anytime treat for older eaters.
Makes up to 12 small slices
For the sponge
plain flour 200g
Bird’s custard powder 3 tbsp
soft butter 225g
baking powder 2 tsp
caster sugar 200g
bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp
milk 2-3 tbsp
For the buttercream filling
icing sugar 125g
soft unsalted butter 75g
Bird’s custard powder 4 tsp
boiling water 1½ tsp
For the chocolate icing
dark chocolate 175g
golden syrup 2 tbsp
hundreds and thousands 1-2 tbsp
caster sugar 125g, or use 50g if using milk chocolate
Make sure everything you need is at room temperature before you start. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4, and butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins.
Put all of the above ingredients, except the milk, into a food processor. Process to a smooth batter, and 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 have risen and feel spookily puffy; this is because of the cornflour in the custard powder.
Let the tins sit on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and then turn them out on to the rack, peeling away the paper.
To make the buttercream filling, process the icing sugar and custard powder to get rid of any lumps, and then add the butter, processing again to make the buttercream come together. Feed the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running to make the filling easier to spread. Then sandwich the cooled sponges together with the custardy buttercream.
To make the chocolate icing, combine the water, syrup and sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve over a low heat. Let it come to the boil and then take it off the heat.
Break up the chocolate into small pieces if you are not using chocolate buttons (as I do for cooking, but good quality not confectionary standard), and then add to the pan, swirling it around to cover in the hot liquid. Leave to melt for a few minutes, and then whisk the icing to make it smooth and shiny. Pour over the buttercream filled cake, letting it drip down the sides, and then sprinkle generously with the hundreds and thousands before the icing sets.
Prong with candles, light them and sing.