A Perfect Celebration

If you’ve been inspired by The Great British Bake Off to banish the shop-bought and brave making your own birthday bake, mum and bestselling cookbook author Jo Pratt has just the recipe for you…

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Recipes extracted from In the Mood for Quick Family Food by Jo Pratt © Jo Pratt 2016 published by Nourish Books, London. Paperback £14.99. Commissioned photography by Gareth Morgans.

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MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE FUDGE ICING

Makes 20cm/8in cake | Preparation Time: 25 minutes | Cooking Time: 35 minutes

ingredients FOR THE CAKE 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cup sunflower, groundnut or rapeseed oil, plus extra for greasing | 175g/6oz/scant 1½ cups self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting | 4 tbsp cocoa powder | 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda | 1 tsp baking powder | 150g/5½oz/heaped ⅔ cup caster sugar | 2 tbsp golden syrup | 2 eggs, lightly beaten | 150ml/5fl oz/scant ⅔ cup milk To Decorate 1½ tbsp cocoa powder | 100g/3½oz dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken into small pieces | 150g/5½oz very soft butter | 375g/13oz/3 cups icing sugar, sifted | ½ tsp vanilla extract | a pinch of salt | 4–5 tbsp raspberry or apricot jam | your choice of cake decorations, sprinkles or candles (be as elaborate as you wish)

Method 1 Preheat the oven to 160°C/315°F/gas 2–3. Grease two 20cm/8in cake tins with oil and lightly dust with flour. | 2 Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large mixing bowl or food processor. Add the remaining cake ingredients and beat well to give a smooth, thick batter consistency. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake for 30–35 minutes until just firm to touch. | 3 Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If you are planning a party, the cake will keep moist for a couple of days in an airtight container, either iced or plain.) | 4 To make the icing, dissolve the cocoa powder in 3 tbsp boiling water and leave to one side. Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl. Rest the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, so that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. (Or melt the chocolate gently in the microwave.) | 5 In a large bowl, beat together the butter, icing sugar, vanilla extract and salt, using an electric mixer, until well combined, then add the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder. Beat for a few minutes until thick and creamy. | 6 Sandwich the cake together with the jam, then spread the chocolate fudge icing over the top and sides of the cake. Finish with any decorations and enjoy.

Jo says: 

“I have my grandma to thank for this recipe. She was always so organised, and she loved this cake because it could be made a day or so in advance but would still be lovely and moist when it was needed. It’s ideal for birthday parties, when making a cake on the day of the party would send you into meltdown.”

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FRUITY FOOL WITH HIDDEN SURPRISE

MAKES 2 adult or 4 kid-sized portions | PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes for soft fruits or 15 minutes, plus cooling, for hard fruits

ingredients 80ml/2½fl oz/⅓ cup double or whipping cream | 80ml/2½fl oz/1⅓ cup shop-bought custard or Greek yogurt | 125ml/4½fl oz/½ cup fruit purée or shop-bought fruit compôtes or pie fillings FOR THE FRUIT PURÉE 250g/9oz/1⅔ cups hard fruits, such as rhubarb or peeled, cored and chopped apples or pears or 250g/9oz/1⅔ cups fresh or frozen soft fruits, such as berries, frozen smoothie mixes, pitted and peeled mango or pitted cherries, defrosted if frozen sugar, to taste FOR THE SURPRISE A few chocolate buttons, candy sweets or pieces of fresh or dried fruit (optional)

Method 1 To make a fruit purée, prepare your chosen fruit as necessary. If you are using hard fruits, they will need cooking. Put them in a pan over a medium heat with 2 tbsp water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer until the fruit has softened. Add sugar to taste and briskly stir or whizz in a blender until smooth. Leave to cool. If using soft fruits, put the fruit into a blender and whizz until smooth. Taste and add sugar if needed. | 2 To make the fools, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the custard and the fruit purée, either until totally combined or creating a marbled effect. | 3 Put a little surprise at the bottom of individual glasses or bowls and spoon in the fool over the top. Either chill in the fridge or eat straight away.

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