Spiced Christmas sponge cake
This light and fluffy sponge cake is packed with winter spices and makes a great alternative to the traditional Christmas cake.
Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 25-30 minutes | Decoration time: 45 minutes | Makes 12-15 slices
For the cake:
- 375g plain flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 375g golden caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 280-300ml buttermilk
- 225ml vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 3 large free range eggs
- Zest of 1 orange
- 75ml water
For the icing:
- 250g butter
- 150g cream cheese
- 550g icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Zest of 1 orange
- Christmas sprinkles to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 8-inch cake tins with greaseproof paper.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar, spice and salt into a bowl and mix together.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, eggs and 75ml water.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk to combine.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 cake tins.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
Don't open the oven for at least 20 minutes, or your cakes will collapse and won't be light and fluffy. Check your cakes are cooked by inserting a skewer or sharp knife into the middle. If it comes out clean, your cake is cooked. If it's not, pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time until the skewer comes out clean.
For the icing:
- While your cakes are cooking, start making your icing.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan with a stick of cinnamon and gently simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the butter into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the butter sets.
- Once the butter is set but before it gets cold, take it out and whip it up until it becomes much paler. If you're using an electric mixer or whisk this will take 5-10 minutes, and longer if whisking by hand.
- Add the cream cheese and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Sift the icing sugar and add it to the butter mixture in 4 batches, whisking thoroughly after each addition. If the icing seems too soft to stay on the cake, you may need more icing sugar. Beat in more sieved icing sugar until the icing reaches your desired consistency.
- Mix in the vanilla essence and orange zest.
The longer you whisk your butter, the lighter and tastier your icing will be. The butter should be a very pale yellow (almost white) before you start adding other ingredients.
- Put a small circle of icing on a cake board or plate and place your first cake.
- Make your cake level by slicing off the top with a bread knife.
- Spread a third of the icing across across the cake, leaving a couple of millimetres at the edges.
- Place your second cake on top of the first and press down gently.
- Spread another third of the icing across the top.
- Use the final third of the icing to decorate the cake – you could smooth it around the sides of the cake or, if you have a piping bag and nozzle, you could pipe shapes around the top of the cake.
- Finish with Christmas sprinkles or, if you're feeling creative, make some Christmas figures out of fondant icing.
Whisk some red food colouring into your icing to make the cake look even more Christmassy. Or get some gold food spray (available in the home baking section at most large supermarkets) and make your cake sparkle.