Sunday, 6 January 2013

Pippa's Rainbow Cake



I sometimes worry that I might be a witch. It would make sense - I am not totally unsinister, with my weird red hair, beady black eyes, fearsome straight nose and strong Welsh ancestry (full of witches, Wales).

And it would explain a series of terrible things happening to people I hate. Three people, whom I have had cause to dislike intensely, have come to sticky ends - one had a near-fatal heart attack and was then made redundant, another broke their leg in an horrific accident and the other one actually died of cancer. All completely true. All in the last 3 years.

I cannot deny that I wished bad things for all of these people. But at the same time I cannot feel too guilty about any of it, because that would be to acknowledge that I think I really might be a witch - and that question would bring the priest and the doctor in their long coats running over the fields.

And anyway, terrible things happen to people I like, too - for example the woman I know whose newborn suddenly died last week, or my mother-in-law who had to have an emergency operation at Christmas. So if I do have any magical powers of Wicca, it probably isn't that I bring great pain and suffering to people who cross me - it's probably just that I bring shitty bad luck to everyone.

It is in this contrite mood that I turn to Celebrate, by Pippa Middleton. Everyone made terrific fun of this book when it came out, so furious were they all that she not only has a marvellous bottom and lovely swingy hair, but that she had landed a £400,000 book deal for writing about how to make paper chains.

But the thing is, this book is really terribly good and very inspiring and completely worth it if you are halfway inclined to throw parties but have, like me, little creative flair. And those famously obvious tips everyone scoffed at are actually perfectly sensible and not so obvious and stupid when you think of the awful, charmless parties you have been to where there's nowhere to sit, nowhere to put your coat and not enough to eat. If I turned up at any party even half as pretty as the ones shown in the pictures in Celebrate I'd be fucking beside myself with excitement.

So anyone who says this book is no good is just a bitter, miserable sour-face and I hope something awful happens to them.

It's also full of recipes, which I didn't realise. They are good, all useful classics like kedgeree, gravadlax and simnel cake and she has some brilliant ideas for inexpensive mass-canapes, like baking tiny baby new potatoes and finishing them off with a blob of sour cream and caviar (she suggests Sevruga, but there is nothing wrong with Lumpfish, frankly). AND she's got a twice-baked souffle thing, which I've been meaning to try for ages.

Pippa has also had the audacity to include a rainbow birthday cake, which caught my eye as it's Kitty's birthday quite soon and I do so like to present children with exactly what they want - i.e. hideous plastic toys with flashing light and noises, telly, full-fat, full-sugar, full-salt foodstuffs and enough E-numbers to blast them into space.

I was sceptical about the instructions for this cake, so I thought I would give it a go and possibly fuck it up, just to spread that essential extra bit of bad karma.

But even I didn't manage to ruin it too badly, although it didn't turn out anything like the picture. But that's my own fault. My complaint with this cake is not the method, which would be fine if you were a little more precise, artistic and meticulous than me, but that my blue and green came out as more or less the same colour. I think if I was going to do this again, I would know my limitations and maybe stick to only four colours - two in each sandwich half.

I might even, thinking about it, if I wanted to do four colours per sandwich half, fashion a cardboard cross to sit in the tin so that you could dollop the batter with confidence and whip the card away at the last minute to leave four reasonably even segments of colour.

I am also at a loss as to how one would present this without covering it with some sort of icing, as although the colours come out beautifully on the inside, the outside goes brown during cooking. Pippa helpfully includes a recipe for buttercream icing, which does the job: 125g soft butter, 250g icing sugar, 2 tbsp freshly boiled water and whisk.

The cake itself is delicious and the batter doesn't suffer too much from having the air knocked out of it when you mix in the food colouring.

Anyway so here we go:

Pippa's Rainbow Cake

the exact recipe can be found on p.312 of the excellent Celebrate, which I urge you to buy if you have half a mind to.

This mixture makes enough for a 20cm round or 18cm sq cake tin.

200g self-raising flour
200g sugar
200g butter at room temperature
4 eggs !! I know rather a lot
Large pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C.

1 Cream together 200g butter and 200g sugar. Add the salt.

2 Whisk in the four eggs one by one. You do this to stop the mixture from curdling. I must say, I have never managed to stop a cake mixture from curdling completely even when doing this - but at the same time it has never made the cake horrible or anything. Having said all this, best not to dump all four eggs in at the same time.

3 Now fold in the flour.

4 Now divide your cake mixture into as many separate bowls as you have colours and give each bowl its own teaspoon with which to mix in the colour. Add each colour until you are happy with the saturation and then spoon the colours into your (well-greased) tin.

I was worried about this as I assumed they would all merge together and create a hideous grey/brown cake. They do not, as cake batter is reasonably stiff, but a clumsy hand such as mine means that I didn't get a gorgeously even distribution of colour as someone more talented might have. But these things are all about practice.

3 Give the tin a little shake to even the top out and then bung in the oven for 30-40 mins.

After this has cooled you may find you need to level off the top with a knife in order to be able to sandwich your two halves together, with the prettiest cake bottom (eh? See what I did there??) facing uppermost. As I had buttercream on the outside, I filled the middle with jam.

And I was really very pleased with it. So if Pippa suddenly drops dead of a brain tumour, you will know who to blame.

 

35 comments:

  1. I agree! I go it for Christmas, laughed snobbily and then instantly found 19things I wanted to do/make.

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  2. That looks really good! Like, surprisingly so. I really would've thought all the colours would blur together nastily.

    A scary prospect, though... Because you can't tell how well it's turned out until you cut it, and because I am rubbish, I can just imagine cutting into my lovely rainbow-promised cake with a flourish, in front of lots of expectant mums and dads and kids, and then it all being disappointingly brown inside. So I guess (like with most baking) it's all about faith? Or maybe I'm just a pessimist.

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    1. Charlotte honestly I just dumped it all in. If it turned out okay for me it will be fine for you. Just don't use blue and green next to each other because it'll look like a huge blob of blue-green

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    2. OK, gotcha. I'm gonna do it. To the food colouring box!

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  3. I am convinced that the reason people hate her and say mean things is because she is rich and pretty and seems to have lots more fun than the rest of us.
    The cake looks brilliant. Great idea, never would have thought of it myself, so can't really say anything mean about it or her.

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  4. Being a regular RR reader, I understand that your routine here is to write a pithy little piece about something personal and entirely unrelated to cooking, then follow this with a recipe. I usually find your world-weary yet smug tone to be simultaneously irritating and entertaining, but your comments today leave me cold. The witch bullshit & your girl-crush on Pippa Middleton are to be expected, but the dead baby? Awful.

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    1. You horrible, horrible coward. How dare you leave such a mean comment anonymously? Go away - GO AWAY - and never come back. I don't want you as a reader. You make me absolutely sick. I don't have a "girl crush" on Pippa Middleton - don't be so utterly pathetic - and why aren't I allowed to mention cot death? Shall we all just keep quiet about it and bury it in a cardboard box in the garden and never speak of it again like it's 1965 and we're in some fucking Alan Bennett play? If I could ban you from ever visiting this blog again, I would.

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    2. Your consolation must surely be that this sad lonely predictable Anonymous fuckface will die of a rare uncurable heart-falls-out-through-the-anus disease before the week is out.

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    3. Ooh anonymous how brave of you to not reveal your real identity, use big words like ”pithy” and then proceed to criticise something that no one is fucking forcing you to read.
      I lost my baby just before Christmas too but I don’t feel the need to sift through the internet criticising anyone who dares to mention infant death. Esther clearly wasn’t being blasé about it and she is entitled to write in her blog what she fucking wants to. If you don't like it you know what to do.

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    4. I'm a different Anonymous (only cos I'm typing on my phone and "anonymous" is the easiest way to upload) - I don't understand why the original Anonymous says he/she is a regular reader when he/she clearly doesn't like the content expressed in a personal blog. Esther, we love you - please continue to say it as it is: funny or tragic, because that is what life is. Giles: stop swearing, there's a love.

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  5. Am totally prepared to accept that it's a great book (although I did enjoy reading a very funny article which totally slated it), but do you really think they are all her own ideas? Or does it not matter? (and yes, if they are her ideas then I really am very jealous of her, because 2 kids later and I am never ever going to look even half as good as she does, but there we go)

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    1. I don't think it matters that they aren't all her own ideas - she credits home economists at the end so she's not trying to pass off the whole thing as her own work. Nigella's ideas aren't all her own, I'm sure. Mine certainly aren't.

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    2. The other day I was looking for a cottage pie recipe, and there was some debate - should it be Nigel or Nigella. Got the Nigella book out first and it had "Nigel Slater's Cottage Pie" in it. She's absolutely not beyond grabbing the best from all around.

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  6. Once you've mastered Pippa's rainbow cake try this one! http://www.marthastewart.com/256688/rainbow-cake. I haven't because I'm too lazy and we have a very good bakery close by who make gorgeous birthday cakes.
    BTW you looked very glam in the photo of you in your new frock a couple of posts ago, not witchy at all!

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    1. I made that Martha Stewart version for my daughter's birthday. It necessitated 4 PACKS of butter and 18 EGGS and took all bloody day. I had to have a bottle of wine and a long lie down afterwards... it was so sweet it tasted of nothing but sugar and the food colouring turned the kids poo green. A success all round.

      http://morethantoast.org/2012/07/the-story-of-a-rainbow-cake/

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  7. I made my daughter a rainbow cake for her last birthday, it was ace, although I made 6 layers so it took forever. Some colours came out much better than others, purple didn't make the mix, also I used gel colours which seemed a bit more potent, I dread to think what it did to the kids brains though. Here's a bad pic I took surrounded by a bunch of screaming 8 year olds ...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mformake/7592362272/in/photostream

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  8. Hi Esther - this is probably a ridiculously stupid question. In fact it DEFINITELY is, but it's Monday morning and I'm clearly not thinking properly. BUT - how do you get 2 cakes out of this (to sandwich together)? Do you slice the one cake in half to then sandwich together?

    It looks delicious btw!
    Clare x

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    1. NO such thing as a stupid question. I have used a TINY weeny tin for this as it was just a practice run and didn't want to have to chuck out a giant cake - the tin was a 7in-er, so the quantity specified got me 2 halves. Sorry if that was confusing. The quantity in the recipe will get you ONE half of a normal-sized sandwich tin xx

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    2. Aha, that makes sense - thanks so much! C x

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    3. Sorry if I'm being terribly dense, but I'm still confused - does the recipe given make one layer of the sandwich? So 8 eggs for the whole thing? Blimey! I normally limit myself to banana bread and lemon drizzle, but my kid is about to turn 1 and I feel like I should expand my repertoire x

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    4. No not at all, I've clearly been confusing everyone.

      Yes the recipe as it stands is enough for ONE round 18cm layer, so 8 entire eggs in total for 2. It is a bit bonkers. But worth it.

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    5. Thanks - made it at the weekend and it went down very well. Looked lovely too, though I could probably do with being a bit more heavy handed with the food colouring for proper rainbow effect xx

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  9. Good post – I especially enjoyed "... enough E-numbers to blast them into space" – and good reply to Anonymous.

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    1. Yes, I laughed aloud in my grim cold office at the e-numbers line. Which is not good for you, because it made me pause briefly in the business of earning enough money so that you can lark about making cakes...

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    2. Yes but you are getting top P-Mid nosh (that sounds rude) soon! Mushroom cappucino and Gravadlax and Raspberry souffle! Even though you don't like soup or gravadlax or puddings :(

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  10. Re Curdling. Adding a tiny amount of flour when it looks like the mixture is starting to separate has always worked for me. Has no discernable effect of the finished product as far as I can tell....

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  11. For an even more amazing and colourful cake - please see my chum's blog here http://www.lady-aga.com/page/2 her Funfetti cake is incredible, and she is very nice too.

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  12. Good cake. I made a rainbow cake for Lucy's third birthday - at 6 layers, it was only slightly more boringly difficult to make than a normal 2 layer cake. Icing it was a real pain. Have a look if you fancy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliaclare/7858819862/in/set-72157631242292346/

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  13. The cake looks divine. Will give it a whirl. What I really want to know is what kinds of excercises Pippa does to get that perky little bum? Maybe that will be her next book. From Riding Horses to Buttock Kegels - The Pippa Way to a Firmer Rump.

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  14. love your writing and your recipes, your perspective is great and please don't change it..... re: Anonymous

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  15. Elizabeth Medovnik7 January 2013 at 23:31

    I'm not going to show this post to my daughter as she would then expect a beautiful birthday cake like this!

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  16. Adoring your blog. I'm a parent of a 4 year old and a newborn & you keep me sane and so entertained whilst feeding. Am expecting to need lots of colourful cakes over coming years and also spotted (ho ho) this polkadot one on Pinterest. Now yearning for a cake pops tin... http://once-upon-a-pedestal.blogspot.in/2012/05/polka-dot-cake-from-bake-pop-pan.html

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  17. I too have karmic powers and many a foe has been smote by my 'Gypsy Curse' (as my husband calls it). However, the outcome is usually less dramatic than your witch smack downs. What would happen if we ever met and disliked each other? Would we spontaneously combust? ;-)
    Cute cake btw, I'll definitely check out her book. Although, I can't manage to bake right now. I've just had my 4th baby and haven't managed to wash in 3 days...

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  18. Esther, Lakeland do a square cake tin with metal sheet dividers which might do the job of the cardboard cross idea?

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