Musical Happy Birthday Cake

For my opera-singing, music -teaching friend I wanted to make a cake with the score of “happy birthday” as the main decoration. As this was going to be black on white, I decided on a chocolate mud cake frosted with white chocolate ganache. Some of you might remember the chocolate mud cake recipe from the cake decorated with little chocolate filled fondant pigs, lying about in chocolate ganache mud. If y0u don’t remember it here’s the link. The musical birthday cake tasted amazing and here how it looked:

To decorate, the first thing I had to do for the music birthday cake was to find the score for happy birthday, made easy by a google image search. I decided to pipe the notes flat onto a long piece of rolled fondant cut to size. WARNING: on a cake this size, one strip of fondant to place around the cake is not a good idea. If I do this cake again, or something similar I will do two strips and join them. Anyway, after a lot of nerves here’s a picture of the finished decoration – the score of “happy birthday” :

Not being particularly musical, I was pleased that the professional musicians who were at the party recognised it straight away.  Here’s the recipe for the lovely fudge-y chocolate, moistest ever chocolate mud cake.

Chocolate Mud Cake

It’s moist. So, so moist. And choclatey. The recipe makes two 10-11 inch cakes.

Serves: 16-20 Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 30-35


230g butter (room temperature)
230g caster sugar
230g light brown sugar
8 medium eggs (room temperature)
340g self-raising flour
100g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
generous pinch of salt
10 tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 350F and prepare two 10 or 11 inch cake tins with baking parchment.
2. Sift dry ingredients together.
3. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
4. Gradually beat in the eggs. If it looks like curdling add two tablespoons from the flour mixture.
5. Fold in the flour mixture, and creme fraiche, alternating between the two -starting and ending with the flour.
6. Divide evenly between tins and gently encourage the mix to the sides.
7. Bake for 30-35 mins, until they smell ready and a skewer comes out clean.
8. Let cool 5 mins in tins, then turn on to a wire rack to cool.

It looks like Pizza Cake

Quite some time ago a take-away food loving friend had a birthday, so naturally I made a pizza cake. He likes cake too, so that was all to the better. I wanted something naturally good tasting as well – which it was – fresh strawberries and cream sandwiched between two large, flat Victoria sponge layers. All the decorations are fruity – made from various fruit leathers, exept the marshmallow mushrooms.   Strawberry jam and white chocolate shavings make up the tomato sauce and cheese!

Here’s how it turned out:

First – the decoration procedures, then the recipe! After baking the two, large flat sponges, I simply sliced fresh strawberries and whipped some cream to sandwich the two cakes together. Here’s a shot of the inside of the cake:

The decorations on top of the cake were marshmallow mushrooms, strawberry fruit leather pepperoni slices, fruit leather olives, green fruit leather peppers. Here’s a shot of the pizza topping decorations:

To construct the decorations, I hit up the local health food store, and supermarket and bought a wide variety of fruit leathers. Most were already flat, and some I rolled out even flatter. I cut out the pepperoni with a cookie cutter, and cut out the olives with a frosting piping nozzle – which worked for the hole in the olive as well. For the mushrooms I sliced marshmallows and cut shapes that vaguely resembled sliced mushrooms – then I brushed them with a little cocoa powder to turn them brown(ish). The peppers were made from long slices of green fruit leather, and shaped into pepper slices – you can see the joins in the picture above – the beauty of fruit leather is that it will stick to itself reasonably well – certainly well enough to hold its shape for a few hours on top of a cake.

Once all the decorations were made, I topped the top cake layer with strawberry jam, and grated white chocolate over this for the cheese. Then I added the decorations, and finished the lot with a little more grated white chocolate. Then I used a brulee torch to melt and brown some of the chocolate for the final touch!

It looked so authentic that it was hard to eat. My eyes said savory – my mouth said sweet!

Here’s the cake recipe I used:

Victoria Sponge Cake

 This version of the classic Victoria sponge also makes great cupcakes. The amount here can be easily halved to fill 2 x 6 inch sandwich tins.

Serves: 10-12. Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 25 – 30 mins Difficulty: Easy – for beginners Dietary guidance: v


230g/8 oz butter
230g/8 oz caster sugar
230g/8 oz self raising flour
4 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
2-4 tablespoons tepid water
generous splash of good vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 180F/350C and prepare 2 x 10 or 11 inch sandwich tins with baking parchment.
2. Cream the butter and sugar very well, until pale and fluffy.
3. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, and if mixture threatens to curdle, add a little of the flour (1-2 tablespoons), then add the vanilla.
4. Fold in the remaining flour, and add enough of the water so that the mix is of a slow dropping consistency.
5. Divide the mixture evenly between tins.
6. Bake sandwich tins for 25-30 mins, until well risen and a skewer comes away clean.
7. When cool, decorate.

Mother’s Day Apple Pie

Today is mother’s day in the UK and my mother requested apple pie to celebrate. I have a very good, tried and true recipe based on the  Martha Stewart recipe for mile high apple pie. If you don’t have time to make the pastry from scratch (although the recipe for pate brisee is very easy – only hot weather will scupper this) store bought shortcrust is a fine substitution. Bramley apples are my favorite to use, or Granny Smiths come a close second, but you do need to use a sharp, crisp cooking apple.

So, first things first here’s the recipe for the pastry:

Pate Brisee


  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 US sticks = 12oz = 340g) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup ice water


1. Place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade; process until combined. Add the butter pieces; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. If you dont have a food processor – this can be done with hands.
2. Add the ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube with the machine running, just until dough holds together. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing dough; if it is still crumbly, add a bit more water.
3. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Divide the dough in two pieces with one piece slightly larger than the other. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press dough into a flat circle with your fists. This makes rolling easier than if the pastry is chilled as a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Easy! Like I said, the only way that this pastry recipe can be awkward, is if its a very hot day. In this case, don’t mix with your hands, definitely use the food processor and try to handle it as little as possible. Also, the time the pastry spends in the fridge can be lengthened.

Now, for the apple filling – recipe here:

Mile High Apple Pie

Serves: 6-8 Cooking time: 45-55 mins Dietary guidance: v


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 5 1/2 pounds firm tart apples pref. Bramley or Granny Smith.
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Deep dish pate brisee (see seperate recipe)


1. Preheat oven to 230 degrees (yes, very hot). On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the smaller piece of pate brisee into a 15-inch round about 1/8-inch thick, dusting surface with flour to prevent sticking, as needed. Brush off excess flour. Roll dough around rolling pin, and place over a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate. Line plate with dough, pressing it into the corners. Trim dough to within 1 inch of the pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
2. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 18-inch round. Transfer round to a baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
3. Peel and core apples, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices in a large bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon; toss with apple slices.
4. Remove remaining dough from refrigerator; place apple mixture into prepared pie plate, mounding it in a tall pile. Dot filling with butter. Place dough round over the apples. Tuck edge of top dough between edge of bottom dough and rim of pan. Using your fingers, gently press both layers of dough along the edge to seal, and crimp as desired.
5. Using a paring knife, cut several vents in top of dough to allow steam to escape. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk with 2 tablespoons water to make a glaze. Brush surface with egg glaze; sprinkle with sugar. Place on a baking sheet, this will catch any juices that may overflow during baking. Bake until crust is golden, about 15 minutes.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 180 degrees and continue baking until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool before serving.

Here’s what the inside of the pie will look like – you can be neat or messy when stacking the apples, it all comes down to the time you have and how high you want your pie. If you want to go as high as you can, it does help to place the slices more neatly.

Yum! I like it still warm with vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy!