My cousin bakes and decorates cakes for a living. She creates jaw-dropping artefacts that really have no business being sliced up and eaten, and I certainly do not have a hope in hell of recreating. When I was asked to bake the cake for her 30th birthday tea, I had absolutely no intention of rolling out fondant icing. The problem is, I really don't like fondant, which gives me no inclination to dedicate the necessary patience to working it. It's a fact of my kitchen that my cakes tend to be as ugly as sin.

They tend to taste fine, though.

This one tasted more than fine. And even better, it wasn't the kind of cake that could be decorated with fondant; fresh cream and raspberries were the perfect adornment.

The recipe was something that I found whilst trawling through the BBC Good Food website, but of course I've jiggled with it. I couldn't help myself.



Grease and line two 20cm (8") loose-bottomed or spring-form cake pans and pre-heat the oven to 160°Celsius (fan) (180° conventional; Gas Mark 4; 350° Fahrenheit).

Melt together the butter and chocolate. You can do this properly, over a bain-marie, or very gently over direct heat. When everything is melted and combined, transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Tip in the sugar, crack in the eggs, and add the vanilla extract. Beat thoroughly, ideally with an electric mixer.

Next, fold in the flour gently but thoroughly.

When mixed, divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans and distribute the (frozen) raspberries across them. As the batter rises in the oven, it will envelope the raspberries, clafoutis-style.

Transfer the pans to the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out the centre of the cake clean (barring raspberry juice). You might find that you need to cover the cakes with foil after about 30 minutes.

Allow the cakes to stand in their pans, out of the oven, for about ten minutes before removing them and allowing them to cool completely.

Then it's just a case of sandwiching them together using freshly whipped cream and some raspberries, and decorating the top with tallest, proudest raspberries and a scattering of icing sugar. Candles are optional.

Music to cook to: Josh Ritter, The Animal Years

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