I do like a good cake. A good cake and a nice cuppa. I’ve recently been experimenting with cake and I thought I’d take advantage of this long weekend and spend my bank holiday Monday in the kitchen trying out some techniques.

The inspiration came from a cocktail I had on Friday where the bartender mixed spices – cinnamon and ginger with black pepper and blackberries. I was blown away by how well everything went together and I thought to myself: could these flavours work in a cake? I went ahead and made the cake and I was really pleased with the flavours – add enough black pepper and you barely notice it apart from a kick at the end of each bite. But it works, complimenting the cinnamon and ginger well. The original cake had blackberry buttercream and some lemon zest but in all honesty, I was not pleased with the final result aesthetically, so I put this cake together – similar flavours, and an added show-stopping buttercream.


280g plain flour
300g sugar
250ml milk
170g butter, unsalted and softened.
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cream of tartar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper

600g icing sugar
300g butter, unsalted and softened
food colouring (of your choice)

Pre-heat the over to 180°C (170°C fan)

Grease 3×8” pans and dust with flour, tapping away the excess to the bottom and sides of each pan is covered with a thin layer of flour.

First things first, pour 2 tbsp of your milk into a small bowl and mix together with your cream of tartar. Once fully combined, pour in the rest of the milk and set aside – this is a key step, the acidity in the cream of tartar reacts with the milk and the baking process to create a soft texture to the cake.


Sift your flour, baking powder and salt all together into a bowl and set aside. Next, using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream your butter until it is pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat together on a medium speed once again, for about 5 minutes. When it is all combined, add your eggs – an egg at a time, with the mixer beating the batter together on a low speed. It should take a few minutes for the eggs to combine fully with the batter.

Now we turn to the stars of the show – the flavours! Add the cinnamon, ginger, poppy seeds, black pepper and vanilla to the batter and combine.

On a low speed, add in a third of the flour. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in half the milk, followed by the flour, the rest of the milk and the final third of flour. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is combined.

Distribute the batter evenly into the three pans and bake for approx 30 minutes. Poke a skewer in the centre and if it comes out clean, the cake is done!

While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. In a mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. In 200g increments, add the icing sugar, beating on a low speed to avoid an icing sugar cloud! When all of the icing sugar is combined, add 2 tbsp of milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat again to loosen.

Remove a tea spoon or so of the icing for each of the colours you’ll be using and put them into a cup or bowl – one for each colour. Add the food colouring to each and mix together until fully combined.


Now it’s time to assemble: place a blob of buttercream onto your cake board to prevent the cake from moving while you ice it. On top of the first layer, add a dollop of the buttercream and spread evenly. You could pipe this on in a circular motion, too. Sit the second layer on top, pressing down slightly. Make sure the cakes are lining up at the sides. Add another dollop of buttercream onto the top of the second layer and smooth out. Finally, sit the third layer on top, bottom side up to ensure your cake has a completely straight top.

At this point, you want to crumb coat your cake: this locks in all the crumbs to when you spread your finished layer of buttercream, it doesn’t drag up any cake crumbs and ruin the smooth finish. You want spread a thin layer of the buttercream on the sides and the top of the cake – you should still see the edges of the cake through this layer. Sit the cake in the fridge for about an hour.

After the hour, remove the cake from the fridge and spread on the remainder of the buttercream. Smooth it out – I recommend a cake scraper for this! Now it’s time to get colourful! With a teaspoon, dot on the coloured buttercream – I started with orange, dotting a small dollop every now and again. Move up the cake with the different colours, but try and mix the colours up a little as you do. I wanted quite a bit of colour on my cake, so much of the cake at this point was full of coloured icing. Finally, with a cake scraper, slowly but confidently smooth the icing. Don’t do it all in one go, smooth for a little and then clean your scraper. Then smooth some more. Repeat this process until the colours are merging together and you have no pockets of air and you’re happy with the finish.