A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Friday, 26 August 2011

And now he is 18!

What a week, what a week! Not only did we have my son's exam results and acceptance into university it was then his 18th birthday!! Now to my American readers you will need to know that here in the UK 18 is our Coming of Age. We can marry (without  parental consent), vote, drink legally, stand for Parliament, go to an 18 film..... or a casino...(some/most of the above he has, no doubt, already done)....oh and have a birthday cake with 18 candles!  
Mad Hatter's hat!
Little sister's black and white creation!
Now Nat, unlike his sister, chose not to have a party, instead he decided that he would like to come out to dinner with us, then legally go to bars in Bournemouth with friends.  But a cake? His sisters have always had cakes, big brash showy ones, but Nat has never been that bothered, is it a boy thing? Not sure, but I just couldn't let his special day go without one. But what to make... Nat is a little bit of a chocolate fiend, Christmas morning breakfast tends to be the selection pack from  his stocking, yes the whole selection box....and Easter....well lunch is no more than a mouthful for Nat because of the brightly wrapped chocolate confection he has gobbled during the course of the morning....Decision made, it had to be chocolate!  I usually make a easy Ina Garten recipe it is moist and delicious but very big, not great for transporting surreptitiously into a restaurant. Instead I decided on a Nigella Lawson recipe, basically a foolproof all-in-one, plain but ready to be adorned with almost nausea inducing amounts of chocolate...
So, cake baked and placed in a box was taken to the restaurant, I can't pretend he didn't know we had it with us, but he did  feign surprise when the staff came in singing 'happy birthday' and out he blew, for the first time, 18 candles......

Boys' Own 18th Birthday Cake


  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 40g best-quality cocoa
  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 150ml sour cream 
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 175g best quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces(for this cake I used a bar of Cadbury's Milk chocolate)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 125ml sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract 
  • 2 packets of chocolate fingers
  • family packs of Maltesers
  • Good amount of any chocolate you like, Munchies, buttons etc
  • 18 candles and holders and a sprinkling of edible stars (optional)


Serves: Makes about 8 slices
  1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins with removable bases.
  3. Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream - into a mixer and beat until you have a smooth, thick batter.
  4. Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.
  5. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
  6. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.
  7. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.
  8. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. 
  9. When you've done, you may need to add a little boiling water - say a teaspoon or so - or indeed some more icing sugar: it depends on whether you need the icing to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.
  10. Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (ie slightly domed) side down.
  11. Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
  12. Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
  13. Place the chocolate fingers (flat side against the cake) all the way around the cake, these should be slightly taller than the cake, then arrange all the chocolates on top of the cake, the fingers will contain them, sprinkle with stars and add the candles.

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