I've always thought that one of the worst bits of being a parent is the birthday parties. Not the birthdays themselves - I love celebrating another year, the excitement, the presents (well may be not the coming in at 5, then 5.10, then 5.12 to open the presents - you see where I'm going) - but the parties give me a headache, and I am prone to cake-stress.
It's become something of a competitive sport, the birthday cake of today. I myself am not proud to admit to participating in this. When Blue was 4, I spent 15 - yes, 15 - hours, along with a few more hours that a patient and wonderful friend put in, creating a Thomas and the Troublesome Trucks cake. It was, if I do say so myself, completely awesome, but the stress of it all was almost too much to bear.
Of course, the look on his face when he saw it almost made it all worth it, but I vowed secretly that it would never be that elaborate again. That same day, the afternoon of his 4th birthday party, once the guests had left and it was just us again, he asked, in his scrummy, little boy way "Mummy, next year can I have Gordon and the Express?". I laughed (not nastily, you understand) and said "we'll see". And we all know what "We'll see" means, don't we now...
Anyway, every cake since has been a retreat a little further away from the Thomas cake.
Blue had a fire engine for his 5th birthday (if you didn't know what "we'll see" means, you do now), and a series of ever simpler cakes, and while Pink had a rather impressive dragon cake one year, she too has had to make do with pretty straightforward offerings ever since.
Blue was 10 recently. He's obviously got the hint, because he asked if he could have a Victoria Sandwich Cake with jam and cream.
Well of course, I was happy to oblige.
I have 2 sandwich tins, 20cm diameter, and when I've made sponge cakes before, I've followed a recipe and ended up with rather flat cakes. Clearly not enough mixture. This year, I decided that I needed to use 4 large eggs, and use the weighing eggs method.
You weigh your eggs in the shell, then use that same weight of butter, sugar and self raising flour.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Beat the butter till it's pale and soft, then beat in the sugar.
Once the sugar is beaten in, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and adding a desseetspoon or so of the sifted flour if the mixture looks like it's curdled (mine ALWAYS does).
Beat in a teaspoon of vanilla essence, then carefully fold in the flour.
Divide between 2 20cm sandwich tins and bake for 25 mins or so.
Leave to cool then sandwich together.
My 4 large eggs (all 280g of them) worked a treat. We ended up with deep sponge (but not too much) which I slathered with Bonne Maman strawberry jam and 300ml whipped double cream. I would have chosen raspberry jam for preference, but it was Blue's birthday, after all...