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We recently celebrated my little sister Holly’s 18th birthday with a black tie dinner for a load of her friends. Naturally, my main responsibility was the cake. For weeks in the run up to the party I suggested cakes to the birthday girl, and we finally settled on one: two layers of moist vanilla sponge dotted with tart tangy raspberries, sandwiched together and covered with fluffy chocolate buttercream icing. Chocolate and raspberries is a winning combo, and Holly wanted to go for a bit of a shock factor. It may look like a plain chocolate cake from the outside, but just wait till you slice into it… and BAM! Excitement of the evening right there.It’s almost my chocolate and raspberry filling sponge reversed. What fun. Holly and I love vanilla sponge with chocolate icing. We’re not sure why. I think it might be because our prep school used to give it to us at tea, and that was always a great day – my fave, quelle surprise. I know school dinners get a bad rep, but this cake was epic: simple light sponge with a good thick layer of fluffy icing. And I always picked the pieces with practically an inch of the stuff. I was the record holder for amount of cake eaten in one sitting – Seven pieces. How I wasn’t obese is anyone’s guess. Hopefully they still make the amazing cake and my record stands. But back to this cake. I was thrilled that everyone at the party seemed to love it, despite being full to the brim with all the food we’d consumed earlier in the evening. I have to say, it sure tasted better the next day when I wasn’t in a food coma.

Using a vanilla pod instead of your usual vanilla extract gives the sponge that much more flavour, and the five eggs give it a delightful yellow colour. If I was still at uni, the chances are I would’ve used frozen raspberries, but mother dearest insisted on using fresh – your youngest child is only 18 once I guess. I have to say, it is best to use fresh raspberries if you can – the texture and taste is just that much better.

Ingredients – Sponge:

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod (slit it open lengthways with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds out with a teaspoon)
  • 5 large eggs, cracked into a jug
  • 85g plain flour
  • 100g natural yogurt (I used fat-free as it’s all we had)
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk ( Recipe followed )
  • about 30 fresh raspberries, plus extra for decoration

Icing:

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line two round 20cm tins. Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together until pale and fluffy, then pour in the eggs, one at a time, giving the mix a really good beating before adding the next. Add 1 tbsp of the plain flour if the mix starts to look slimy rather than fluffy. Beat in the yogurt.

2. Mix the flours; then, using a large metal spoon, fold them into the batter, followed by the milk. Spoon the mix into the tin and dot the raspberries evenly on to the top – don’t worry about pushing them down too much as the cakes will rise up around them in the oven. Bake for around 40 mins or until well risen and golden – a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.

3. Once out of the oven, go round the sides of the tins with a knife. Leave for around ten mins in the tins before turning the cakes out to cool fully on a wire rack.

4. Make the icing: beat the butter until pale and fluffy with a handheld electric mixer then add the vanilla and the icing sugar, half at a time, beating well in between each addition. Add the cocoa powder and beat for a good five minutes until light and fluffy.

5. Cover the top of one cake with a thin layer of icing, place the second cake on top and then cover the top and sides – not easy, I know, but persevere. It’s hard to get a smooth finish, but a good trick my mum taught me is to dip a knife in a glass of warm water and gently spread it over the icing, swirling it back through the water often so as not to take off any of the icing. Mum’s always know best, don’t they? Decorate with raspberries and a light dusting of icing sugar.

6. Add a candle, sing happy birthday and feed to a group of happy teenagers.

Type of chocolate raspberry cakes:

  • Chocolate raspberry mousse cake
  • Raspberry sauce for chocolate cake
  • Dark chocolate raspberry cake
  • Raspberry chocolate cheese cake
  • Chocolate raspberry ganache cake
  • Raspberry white chocolate cake