This cheery, red, American classic is traditionally baked for Christmas and Valentine’s Day – but really it suits any occasion. If you wish you could leave the sides of the cake naked or semi-naked.
Takes: 1 hour
Bakes: 25 mins
FOR THE SPONGE
375g unsalted butter, softened
325g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp red food-colouring paste
100ml hot water
1 tsp salt
450g self-raising flour, sifted
1½ tsp white vinegar
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
250g unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla paste
500g icing sugar, sifted
200g full-fat cream cheese,at room temperature
YOU WILL NEED
20cm sandwich tins x 3, greased then lined (base and sides) with baking paper
- Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the beater, on medium speed for 2–3 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition until combined.
- In a small bowl or jug, mix the cocoa powder, vanilla, red food-colouring and hot water together to form a paste. Add this to the cake mixture and mix well until combined.
- Combine the buttermilk and salt in a jug. Add one third to the bowl with the cake mixture, then add one third of the flour. Alternate buttermilk and flour, until everything is combined.
- In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the cake mixture. Beat until smooth.
- Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and bake for 20–25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, beat the butter and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the beater, on high speed for about 1 minute, until smooth and fluffy.
- Add the icing sugar, one quarter at a time, beating between each addition slowly at first, then on high speed for about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the cream cheese and beat briefly, until smooth.
- To assemble, level the sponges, keeping any offcuts for decoration. Smear a little buttercream onto a cake plate and top with the first sponge.
- Spread over one quarter of the buttercream, overhanging the edge a little, then top with a second sponge. Spread with another quarter – again, leave an overhang. Top with the remaining sponge.
- With a palette knife, spread the overhanging buttercream all around the side of the cake, to seal and neaten.
- Next, using one third of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin, even layer over the top of the cake.
- Clean the palette knife and smooth off any excess buttercream to create a crumb coat. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes to firm up, then add a second, slightly thicker coat using the remaining buttercream.
- To decorate the cake, crumble the reserved offcuts of cake, then sprinkle these neatly around the edge of the top of the cake.
For this recipe and more baking ideas try The Great British Bake Off: The Big Book of Amazing Cakes. With recipes by Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith & The Bakers, published by Sphere, £20.00