Cakes for top marks

Cake sales can be competitive affairs. EUNICE POWER has some winning recipes that might even make it to the staff room

Cake sales can be competitive affairs. EUNICE POWERhas some winning recipes that might even make it to the staff room

SO THE SCHOOL year is coming to an end, which can only mean that cake sale season is about to begin. I would love to tell you that baking to fundraise is a mere “any humble effort will do” affair, but don’t be fooled – you are being judged. The annual cake sale is an unspoken, ruthless competitive exhibition and over the years I have witnessed the super-organised mother arriving at the school gates, not only laden down with mouth-watering creations but with each of them presented in imaginative recycled containers. Be warned – if you planned on repackaging a shop-bought cake this year, think again – it could mar your credibility for life and tongues will wag.

Of course, there are rules of engagement when setting about your mission. You need to consider the do-ahead factor and packaging, not forgetting how much your cake will earn for the cause. Think commerce, think hard economics. I tend to favour traybakes as they can be sliced up and sold as individual pieces – hence they’re bigger earners.

One of my proudest cake sale moments was when my son announced that one of my cakes was auctioned in the staff room – surely the ultimate triumph for any competitive mother.


The recipes below can all be made the day before the sale.

Coffee and walnut traybake

As homemade cakes go, nothing can quite compare to coffee and walnut cake, with buttery coffee icing topped with crunchy walnuts. I have experimented with various types of coffee over the years and have come to the conclusion that instant coffee works best here.

280g caster sugar

280g soft butter, it is really important that it is soft

335g self raising flour

5 large eggs

60g roughly chopped walnuts

3 heaped dessert spoons of coffee dissolved in three dessert spoons of boiling water

Line a 23cmx32cm tin. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water. For the best flavour, it needs to be very strong. Allow to cool.

Sieve the self raising flour. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale in colour.Add the coffee, then add one egg, followed by one tablespoon of flour (to stop the mixture curdling). With each addition of egg, alternate adding flour. Fold in the walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes. To check that the cake is cooked right through, pierce it with a skewer or knife, and it should come out without any sticky particles adhering to it. Allow the cake to cool in the tin, standing on a wire tray. When it has cooled spread the icing on the top and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Coffee icing

250g icing sugar

2 heaped tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

90g butter

80g walnuts, roughly chopped

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Take it off the heat and add the dissolved coffee and icing sugar. Stir well. Leave for a little while to cool until stiff enough to pour over the cake. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.

Chocolate and mint fairy cakes

I am utterly over cup cakes. Honestly, I think their race is run. Personally, I prefer the fairy cakes that featured at every celebration in my childhood. These little cakes are an example of how the simple fairy cake recipe of our youth can be adapted using a little imagination. I prefer to make these in mini muffin cases as I think they are best eaten whole. My sons say they are “unreal” – there is no higher praise.

125g soft butter

125g caster sugar

2 large eggs

125g self raising flour

20g cocoa powder

1 tsp peppermint essence

2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas 3. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until blended. Spoon into bun cases – this mix will do 12 bun cases or 48 mini muffin cases. Bake in the oven until cooked – about 15-20 minutes for bun size and 10 minutes for mini muffin size.

Peppermint icing

250g icing sugar

125g butter, softened

1 tsp peppermint essence

A drop or two of green food colouring

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and creamy – sometimes I add a teaspoon or two of hot water to help this along. Add the peppermint essence and a drop of food colouring – now I mean a drop – use a cocktail stick and dip it into the bottle of colour. You want a gentle shade of green, not a patriotic one. Spoon icing on to the buns and decorate with some shards of chocolate flake.

Lemon and raspberry tray bake

It’s a universally acknowledged fact that teachers love lemon cake. This cake is a particularly delicious version as I have substituted yoghurt and oil for the butter and milk, giving the cake a wonderful moistness.

350g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

250g caster sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

250ml natural yoghurt

5 large eggs

250ml sunflower oil

1 punnet of raspberries

For the lemon drizzle

200g icing sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees/gas 3. Line a 23cmx32cm tin. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, lemon zest, yoghurt and eggs. Pour this into the well in the flour mixture and stir. Pour the mixture into the lined tin, and dot the raspberries over the top. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50 minutes, until golden brown. Turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing. Whisk together the drizzle ingredients and spread over the top of the cooled cake.