Surprise! It’s your birthday!

Everyone loves surprises, right?  (Unless, of course, it’s a bad surprise; discovering a huge spider in the bath, for example, or finding out that the exam you’re meant to be sitting next week is actually tomorrow.  Not a situation I’ve ever encountered personally, but I’m fairly sure that would fall into the category of ‘bad surprises’.)

Anyway, what I really mean is that everyone likes good surprises.

To illustrate my point, here’s an example.

One of my best friends turned twenty-one last month.  In honour of this momentous event, her mother threw her a surprise tea party, complete with copious amounts of bunting, bubbles, (vegetarian) Percy Pigs, sandwiches, cupcakes and Pimms.  It was the perfect way to celebrate and even the elusive British summer put in an appearance for once!

Naturally, in true aspiringbaker style, my present to her was a cake.  (I am admittedly a terrible gift-buyer and I hate resorting to generic presents like bath salts and chocolates, so making a cake is my own way of adding a personal touch.  And, after all, who doesn’t like cake?)

Orange and chocolate layer cake – 24/07/2012

This was the cake.

It’s four layers of vanilla sponge, speckled with orange zest, sandwiched with a citrusy orange cream (made by reducing orange juice with sugar and folding the resulting orange syrup into whipped cream) and finished with milk chocolate ganache and hand-made chocolate shavings.

So, the layers aren’t quite perfect (personally, I think it’s a combination of my still-developing cake slicing skills and the use of a non-serrated knife) and the cake isn’t entirely level, as I didn’t take the tops off the cakes before sandwiching.  However, some might argue that it gives the cake a more welcoming, home-made appearance, which is no bad thing.  Besides, it went down very well with the birthday girl and the tea party guests, so no complaints there.

All in all, I’d say it was a good surprise…!

(Cake recipe is my standard go-to sponge cake, taken from the book Best-Ever Cake Decorating by Angela Nilsen & Sarah Maxwell; I added orange zest to the cake to give an extra layer of citrus flavour.  Orange cream recipe is my own.)

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