Princess Castle & Birthday Baddies

Biggest's third birthday and a big ask of a cake.

Dear Alice,

Last year mummy made you a chocolate cake with pink icing and flowers. A much easier task than the previous year's full-scale celebration of children's literature in sugar. I thought perhaps this was a sign of simpler things to come. This year however, you were very specific about what you wanted. A vanilla cake that looks like a pink, princess castle with a very specific list of characters on top. Thank goodness mummy is good friends with a very talented lady that can create extraordinary cake toppers at a moment's notice! As always, the baddies were your favourite. You love the witches and sorcerers villains above all.

I hope so many things for you darling girl; worrying at the same time that I can't teach you all you need to know or model the characteristics and ideals that I hope you will emulate and value. So often you already feel more courageous, creative and confident than I feel. I am so very proud of you. Whilst I can't promise not to sometimes get frustrated when you refuse to use the toilet and a second later wee all over the sofa for the thirtieth time this year, or push and shove your little brother who only idolises you and wants to hold your hand. I can't promise you won't succeed in pushing my buttons sometimes - I'm only human. But I will try to remember that it's all part of finding your place and security in a world that must seem to be shifting so often and so fast. I will try to hold you rather than scold you and count to ten when I need to. Please forgive me when I fail. I will tell you every day that I love you and try to tell you why.

Squishy girl. You are impossible, miraculous, bright and extraordinary. Your laugh is infectious, your smile is the world and your vocabulary, intelligence and imagination astound me. I love the way you draw people with their swinging arms and legs. I love the way you drench the paper with paint in your eagerness to fill the page with colour. You sing beautifully these days and give the best cuddles. There's nothing better than snuggling under a rug with you and reading stories or 'watching somethink'. At the moment you just can't get enough fairy tales, but to my delight you have also (thanks to CBeebies) found a taste for Shakespeare. I'll never forget reading 'Act 2 Scene 2' of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' as a bedtime story or your brilliant rendition of 'The Tempest' at the top of our stairs. Of course, Robin had to be Caliban! I love baking with you, I love that you love to bake and that you are part of my new venture into the world of business. You are infinitely more creative than me and my best ideas have your influence right at the heart of them. I love adventuring with you and seeing you blossom with curiosity whenever we go somewhere new. Go forward in the world little girl, it's lucky to have you. I can't wait to see what you will do and all the things you will conquer; all the ways in which you will succeed.

I love you.

Mummy xx

The bottom tier and turrets were an iced cake dummy. We definitely didn't need that much cake!

Lovely Vanilla Birthday Cake

With Pink Elderflower Icing

The icing is the secret weapon in this cake. The elderflower is just enough to cut through the sweetness and balance the whole thing out. For the same reason, I'd definitely recommend naked icing (crumb coating) the cake rather than going the whole hog and overwhelming the delicate, vanilla sponge.


200g unsalted butter

200g golden caster sugar

1 tsp really good vanilla extract

4 large eggs

200g self raising flour

3 x 15cm cake tins, greased and lined on the base.


1. Mix the butter, vanilla extract and sugar until creamy and just combined.

2. Add the eggs along with a few tablespoons of the flour and mix until combined.

3. Add the flour and combine one last time before tipping the mixture as equally as possible into the three prepared tins.

4. Bake for 20 minutes at 180° then cool on a wire rack. Wrap in clingfilm and leave over night before assembling.

For the Icing

500g Icing Sugar

160g softened, unsalted butter

1 tsp elderflower extract

45ml milk

Whiz everything together in a mixer, adding a tiny bit of food colour gel if you wish. Avoid standard liquid food colourings - they add too much moisture to the mix and the colours are never as good.

To Assemble

Trim the cakes, so they are level. Pipe a circle of icing around the edge of the bottom layer then fill with strawberry jam. Place the second layer on top and repeat. When the final layer is on top (turn this one upside down so you get a nice flat top of the cake) smother the whole thing in icing and use a bench scraper to scrape and smooth until you are happy with the finish.

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