Piece of cake: Skye Gyngell's deliciously moreish three-tier sponges

You don't need a special occasion to bake a cake. Just mix eggs, flour, sugar and butter: and celebrate one of life's sweet and simple pleasures, says Skye Gyngell

When you have a little time on your hands, there is nothing nicer than to be in a kitchen surrounded by eggs, flour, sugar and butter: four ingredients that with a little mixing produce a glorious, sweet-smelling piece of joy.

I decided to write about cakes this week as it is my youngest daughter's birthday – I promised to make her one she could take to school. Both these chocolate and blood-orange cakes have three layers – sponges look nice when piled high; for the coconut cake, the third sponge decorates the top.

On another note, we are into Fairtrade Fortnight and I've donated a cake to the cause of the Big Swap, trying to encourage residents to swap to Fairtrade ingredients. Please give it a try where you are too.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Chocolate cake

550g/19oz self-raising flour
550g/19oz caster sugar
550g/19oz very soft butter
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 eggs
4 tbsp milk
4 tbsp dark cocoa powder and a little boiling water

For the icing

500g/1lb cream cheese at room temperature
200g/7oz icing sugar

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Mix the first seven ingredients together in a food processor; you may have to do this in two batches. Put the cocoa powder into a bowl and add enough boiling water to make a loose paste. Stir this into the cake mix.

Butter and flour three 20cm spring-form cake tins and divide the cake batter evenly between all three. Put the tins on the middle shelf, or bake one after the other if your oven is too small to hold all three. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the icing, put the cream cheese in a bowl and sift the icing sugar over the top, then beat well to combine. Divide the icing into three, leaving just a little to ice the sides of the cake, and spread generously over one side of each cake. Pile on top of each other and ice the sides.

Grate a little good-quality dark chocolate over the top and place in the fridge to let the icing set.

Coconut cake

This is my version of a coconut cake from the American South. I love the sweet and nutty flavour of coconut. I cook with coconut milk a lot – at work we get in fresh ones, puréeing the flesh with water and straining to make a thick cream. This takes patience, though, as it does take quite a lot of work. Coconut milk from a tin will do nicely in this recipe.

Follow the directions for the chocolate cake in order to make the sponge, but this time keep it completely plain without the addition of chocolate.

For the icing

450g/141/2oz icing sugar
200ml/7fl oz coconut milk
A little lemon juice
2 tbsp dessicated coconut, lightly toasted in the oven

First make the sponges, as instructed left, and allow to cool. Now sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and pour over the coconut milk, stirring constantly as you do so until it is thick but can still just drop from a spoon. If the icing appears a little watery, add a little more icing sugar, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Spread over the base of two cakes and sandwich together.

Taking the third cooked cake, cut out a circle the size of a wine glass in the centre and place on the top cake, slice the remaining outer rim into triangles and arrange over the top. Sprinkle over the dessicated coconut and serve.

Blood-orange cake

200g/7oz softened unsalted butter
350g/111/2oz icing sugar
Zest and juice of 2 unwaxed blood oranges
3 unwaxed blood oranges, to decorate the top of the cake

Use the recipe for the chocolate cake to the left to make the sponges, but substitute the cocoa powder with the zest of two blood oranges. Bake in exactly the same way as for the chocolate cake.

Place the softened butter into a bowl and sift over the icing sugar, pour in the orange juice and beat together really well.

When the sponges are cool, spread each layer with the icing and sandwich together. Finally, ice the sides. Refrigerate in order to set the icing.

Wash and pat dry the three remaining oranges and slice as finely as you can – you will need a sharp small knife to do this. Arrange in layers over the top just before serving.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas