This post is going to be a little different. If you want to skip straight to the recipe, please scroll to the end of this post.
Have you ever tried baking fairy cakes (as they were back in the day), with small kids? No? It’s hard. And frustrating. And my mum who was the OG baker of the family, quite understandably didn’t entertain my fascination with fairy cakes at a young age. There was one person who did though, my dad. The guy who couldn’t cook to save his life, had no idea about baking but was so blinded by love for his little girl, he sat and deciphered Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, with full concentration and even possibly a tape measure at one point. We sat on the kitchen table for hours, with a bowl and a wooden spoon, trying to figure out why our cake mix was so lumpy and separated 🤔. My dad even sneaked off to tentatively ask my mum for help so he could fix it and so that I wouldn’t be disappointed when they came out the oven. That memory will remain a fond one for the rest of my life, as it is with great sadness that I let you all know of his recent and thoroughly unexpected passing. Yeah. Major blow to my otherwise very normal life. It’s simultaneously been the longest and shortest three weeks and two days of my life. Long, because I haven’t seen him or heard his voice for 3 weeks. Short, because he was JUST here.
About 6 years ago, back when my cakes maybe weren’t what they are today (hey, we all had to start somewhere), I made a birthday cake for my brother and it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever made… I’d go as far as to say it was actually kinda gross. He still stood there and ate it with the biggest grin on his face like it was the nicest thing he had ever eaten! It was that kind of encouragement that got me baking to the stage I am today, so I will always be grateful to him for that.
He was BakedByH’s biggest fan, along with my mum. They both subscribed to the blog the moment it went live (2 years ago, happy blogiversary to me), and were always the first to click on the link in their emails and read my posts as soon as they were published. They entered giveaways, commented on posts and told their friends. I can’t count the number of times my dad has held a backdrop up or artfully bitten in to a cookie to get the perfect picture for the blog. My dad had the biggest sweet tooth ever, and he was always first in line to taste whatever emerged from the BBH testing kitchen, though in the event I was making fairy cakes (or cupcakes as they became known), he would ALWAYS make me put fistfuls of sultanas in his cakes (don’t ask me why, it doesn’t taste good)! I remember one summer, a couple of years ago, where I was teaching myself how to perfect the art of macarons. He ate every single one of my cast-offs and more! (Trust me, there were many). He loved cake, and he was the least fussy person ever. That meant I could feed him literally anything and be greeted with the same enamoured response telling me how brilliant and clever I am. I think I’ll miss that.
It was his birthday on the 15th October (or potentially the 16th, no one really knew and he and the Queen were the only two people special enough for two birthdays!) He turned 64, and I was busy at uni. I didn’t make my dad a birthday cake this year; I rang him and told him I’d make him one next year and he seemed happy enough with that. I just never considered the possibility that there wouldn’t be a next year… Sigh, weird. Anyway. This cake is his birthday cake. And I know he would have loved it, so hopefully you guys will too!
The cake is simple. But super tasty. It’s a condensed milk sponge, making it one of the easiest and quickest to knock out, even by hand. The texture is similar to that of an Australian/American “mudcake” and it would be great for heavy layer cakes. It’s sweet but not too sweet, and helpfully offset by the light and fluffy salted Nutella frosting. Don’t grimace; it’s the same basic principle as salted caramel. It’s good – you guys will like it, trust me! I used a full tin of condensed milk, but as you’ll see, there’s always dregs left in the tin. I looked away for just TWO seconds, and the almost empty tin had disappeared, along with my granddad, and a spoon. Clearly I wasn’t using the rest of it in my frosting, so you guys don’t need to either. The frosting is super easy – butter, icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of Nutella (add the rest of the condensed milk in if you have any!).
This is a small cake, I used two 6” cake tins. If you use larger tins, the cakes will be flatter but just as tasty 🙂
For the cake:
150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tin condensed milk
3 large eggs
1tbsp vanilla extract
120g salted butter, melted
For the frosting:
100g salted butter, softened
150g icing sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1 jar Nutella
1. Heat the oven to 160FAN, and grease and line two round tins.
2. Sift the flour and the baking powder in to a bowl and set aside.
3. Add the condensed milk, eggs and vanilla to a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
4. Add the melted butter to the wet mixture, and whisk for a couple of minutes until creamy and glossy. It should look a little like custard.
5. Add the wet mixture to the dry slowly and fold it together. It’s quite a wet batter but it’ll be just fine.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool on wire racks completely.
7. For the frosting, beat the butter until smooth. Add the icing sugar in slowly and beat the whole thing until really light and fluffy. Add a couple of tablespoons of Nutella in and give it a final whirl.
8. To assemble, pile half the frosting on top of one of the cakes and swirl through some more Nutella. Repeat for the top layer and decorate however you please. I used gold leaf because he was so worth 23 carat gold leaf!
Keep covered and enjoy within 3 days.
I’m not sure what I intended to achieve by rambling on about my dad in this post. I can only hope that he’s still reading it from wherever he is and I hope he’s telling his new friends about it. And Abu, for the record, we’re both definitely domestic goddesses by Nigella’s standard! For everyone else who made it this far, I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable. A lot of people lost someone special on the 28th October 2016. My mum lost her husband, my uncles and aunties lost their brother, hundreds of people lost their dear friend, and thousands of people lost their well-loved family doctor. My brother and I lost a father – that has yet to sink in. This experience has shown me that I’m not the only one who has lost a parent at 22, there are several people who have messaged me over the weeks telling me of their losses, from all sorts of young ages. I hope that those people empathise with this post as well – sometimes it helps to share the pain. Also, to all those people who have messaged me with their condolences, thank you. I will reply, I just don’t know what to say yet.
BakedByH will go on, as will the rest of my life. Just as he would have wanted it.