Boden’s Birthday Cake

Today’s post is special because it is one cake recipe done two ways. The first way is a traditional Victoria Sandwich cake and the second way is a checkerboard cake with chocolate frosting that I made to celebrate the birth of my nephew. That’s right, I have a nephew!

On Saturday night Aaron and Katy (Ryan’s twin brother and his wife) emailed they were going to the hospital. I was jumping up and down in the street with excitement. Then Sunday Ryan and I woke up with an email and a photo of their son Boden! It’s their first kid, and our first nephew. We are an uncle and aunt for the first time!

DSCN2981We were so excited we went straight to the grocery store to buy ingredients to make Boden a celebration birthday cake. I’ve been sort of obsessed with Boden (and spoiling him) since last November. Around Thanksgiving last year we were all getting together and I had a dream that Aaron and Katy were going to announce they were pregnant and that they were going to have a boy named Jeremy. In January, we got a phone call that Katy was pregnant (and I did some jumping up and down in the street). A few months later, we found out the baby was a boy (more jumping). He isn’t named Jeremy, but I can’t win them all.


Ryan came up with the idea of getting the “0” candle. I thought it was so clever!

Anyway, I knew I wanted to make Boden a special cake. A cake that will be Boden’s cake. A cake that in the future, when Boden comes to visit, he will look forward to it and ask for it.  As I told some of my friends, I want to be fun aunt Mariel who always has cake. I’ve been wanting to make ancake with a design on the inside and this seemed like the perfect occasion. After spending a lot of time on the internet searching for a perfect yellow cake recipe (with ingredients I could find in a UK grocery store) I decided to stick with a Victoria Sandwich cake because it is a tasty and versatile.

A Victoria Sandwich is named for Queen Victoria. It’s two layers of yellow sponge cake with raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle. Sometimes there’s cream too, but I’m told that is a 20th century addition. The Victoria Sandwich is often served with tea, but when I went to tea a few weeks ago it wasn’t on the menu. I still haven’t had it outside my own kitchen. I’ll need to get on that. But I made it for myself because I learned about it on my favorite show, the Great British Bake Off, and I’m always eager to try new cakes.

DSCN2493I’m using Mary Berry‘s recipe for Victoria Sandwich. It calls for caster sugar, which in the US is called superfine sugar. In my experience, it isn’t always easy to find super fine sugar in the US. I have read that granulated sugar is finer in the US than in the UK, so if you’re in the US and can’t find superfine sugar then granulated should work just fine. I’m going to post the traditional recipe first and then the checkerboard recipe second. I’ll make it clear when to switch between the two. The frosting recipe in Version #2 comes from BBC Good Food. Enjoy and happy birthday Boden!

Traditional Victoria Sandwich: Version #1


225g/2 sticks/1 cup butter, softened

225g/1 cup/8 oz caster sugar (superfine sugar), plus extra for sprinkling

225g/2 cups/8 oz self-rising flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 large eggs, room temperature

About 4+ tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam


1. One hour before you want to start baking take your butter and eggs out of the fridge. This is important because it helps everything mix together better.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

3. Grease two 8″/20cm cake pans. Line the bottom of the pan with circles of parchment paper. Grease the circles.


4. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Then add the caster sugar, flour, baking powder, and eggs.

5. Using the electric mixer on low, beat for 2 minutes until smooth. The mixture will be soft and fall off the beaters easily. Don’t over beat it! You want the cake to be light and fluffy.

6. Divide the mixtures equally between the prepared tins. Use a knife to smooth out the surface. You can eyeball evenness, but for the checkerboard cake it is best if you can weigh the batter so the cake heights will be even. You can see in Step 8 that I didn’t measure. (If you’re doing the checkerboard cake move below to Version #2)


7. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. It took me 25 minutes. The cakes are ready when they are risen and golden.


8. Cool on a wire rack. Make sure you rest the cakes on their flat sides, because you don’t want the ridges to show in your finished product.


9. Put one cake on a plate, rounded side down. Spread the jam over the flat side of that cake.

10. Then place the other layer on top (flat side down, rounded side up). Sprinkle the top with caster sugar.


11. Cut and serve.

2 spoonMessy level: This is really quite a clean cake recipe! I think it is because it is so straightforward to make. You put all the ingredients in at once, you bake, then spread the jam. The only messy part is sprinkling the caster sugar at the end. Easy peasy.

Boden’s Birthday Cake – Version #2



Same as above

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

2 different colors of gel or liquid food coloring


10 oz dark chocolate (I used 2 chocolate bars, and this would work with milk chocolate too)

10 oz heavy cream

(If you need more frosting, just use equal parts chocolate and heavy cream)


1. Follow Steps 1-6 above. If using, add in the vanilla extract with the rest of the ingredients.

2. Your batter is now divided into two cake pans. Add one food coloring to each pan. I did one blue and one green. Mix gently! If you over mix your cake will be dense. Add food coloring until you have your desired color (I used a lot).

3. Bake for 20-30 minutes. It took me 25 minutes. The cakes are ready when they are risen and golden.

4. Cool on a wire rack until they are easy to handle. Then put them in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes. Having them chill makes them easier to cut for the checkerboard pattern.

5. Meanwhile, start on the frosting. Cut the chocolate into small pieces.


6. In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream on low-medium heat. You are heating this until small bubbles start to form along the edge of the cream. Alternatively you can check it by sticking your finger in. If you can hold it there for 3-4 seconds, but longer feels like too much, then it is ready. You just want the cream hot enough to melt your chocolate.

7. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir until it is shiny, gorgeous, and well combined.


8. Cool the frosting. You can do this on the counter, but is much faster in the fridge. If you cool for 20 minutes, it will still be a little drippy but you can use this for the inside of the cake. For frosting the outside of the cake let it cool for at least an hour! By then it will be thick and like frosting you buy from the store. Also thick frosting is better for patching up any mistakes you make (and I’ll tell you about mine in a second).

9. Once the cakes are cool put them on the counter. Find two circles that are smaller than the cake. If you have cake cutters that’s great, but I didn’t. I used a small bowl and a cup. What you are going to do is cut out two smaller circles out of your larger cake.

10. Place your larger cake cutter (or bowl) over the center of the cake. I measured, but you can eyeball it. If you’re using a bowl take a knife and cut straight down into the cake (try not to cut diagonal). Then repeat with the smaller cutter (or cup). Now you have six rings of cake. I cracked the large green layer. If this happens to you, don’t worry. Frosting will cure it.


11. Now take one large ring (let’s say blue). Frost the inside edge. Put a medium ring inside (green). Frost the inside edge. Put the small circle inside (blue). The frosting holds the layers together. Don’t worry if it isn’t neat. So you’ve made one layer that looks like a bulls eye.


12. Frost the top of the bulls eye layer.

13. Put the other large ring on top of the first layer. Then repeat step eleven. So you’ll have bulls eye layer (blue, green, blue), then a frosting layer, then the second bulls eye later (green, blue, green).

14. Frost the exterior of the cake. Use the frosting to mend cracks and hide any unevenness in the layers.Frosting will make it all look smooth and beautiful. I recommend frosting the cake on a cutting board or parchment paper, because if you’re like you’ll get frosting all over. Then when the cake is ready you can remove it to a clean plate and it will look best.

15. Decorate as desired (excuse my frosting penmanship).


16. Sing happy birthday! Cut and eat! Look at that sweet checkerboard.

5 spoonMessy level: This turned out to be an epic mess. I got cake crumbs all over when I was cutting the circles. But the messiest part was the frosting! My hands melted the chocolate as I was cutting it. Then before it cools, the chocolate is so drippy! I got chocolate everywhere when I was making the bulls eye. The counter was 70% covered in chocolate. Ryan came over and looked at the counter and chuckled. I told him that the blog is called cooking is messy for a reason.


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