Today I felt in a milestone-conquering mood. Incredibly, I still don’t know how to make a good sponge cake – once you’ve got the old sponge under your belt, the dizzying world of birthday cakes is yours for the taking – so went in search of a basic recipe. Nigella has a Victoria sponge recipe she then uses as a starting point for all kinds of exciting variations. I showed the Other Half the photo.

‘So here, look, you bake the Victoria sponge, and then once you’ve done that, you can learn how to do these…’

‘Right, that soun—what’s that?’

‘One of the variations. A butterscotch layer cake.’

‘Oh. That looks NICE.’

A butterscotch layer cake it was, then.

A cow-happy kind of recipe, this: the icing includes cream cheese and double cream, and the cake itself involves quite a hefty chunk of butter and even more double cream. Yummy. You start with the caramel, because it’s got to cool while you make the cake. Caster sugar is boiled in water for ten minutes – a bit stressful, though nothing exploded – until it’s gone a dark golden colour. Then you whisk in double cream until it forms a thick-ish, creamy sauce, and put it in the fridge to set a bit.

Layer cakes, of course, actually involve making two cakes, which will need to be an identical size and similar in shape if you’re intending to make something people will want to eat. This has always intimidated me. I do have two identical cake tins, which is a good start, but in the oven things tend to go wrong: they’ll rise unevenly, or burn on the top. I was reassured by the fact that icing would cover the worst of it, however, so pressed on determinedly. The cake mix wasn’t hard, though I did have a what-the-HECK kind of moment when my first egg slid out of the shell partially frozen (we have an enthusiastic fridge). Not properly frozen, but the consistency of a Slush Puppy. By the time I’d panicked a bit, run around and retrieved a spoon it had melted enough to look like a normal egg. So I stirred it in. Have I just killed us both, I wonder? Chickens in Siberia must lay Slush Puppy eggs, right? Yikes. If we both stop answering our phones, call 999 to check on us.

This is what a frozen egg looks like, in case you were wondering.

Cake mix done, I divided the mixture between the two tins and put both in the oven. Nigella said 25 minutes would do it, but I was so paranoid about burning them that I took them out after 20 minutes when they both looked done (mistake: see later paragraph).

Look done to me. But ARE THEY?

In the meantime, I combined almost two cartons of cream cheese with a cupful of caramel sauce to make the icing. It turned out a little runnier than I’d anticipated – which always seems to happen when I make cream-cheese frosting – so I put it in the fridge for a while to harden it up.

Then, assembly time. Cake no. 1 on the bottom, face down. Then a layer of the cream cheese caramel stuff.

Cake no. 2 on top, and I also put this one face down, deciding that the top should be flat, and it would be covered by icing anyway.

More icing on top of this, and then some leftover caramel sauce drizzled over it to finish.

And the verdict: the icing makes it. My sponge – the purpose of this whole enterprise, if you recall – was slightly undercooked. Not inedible, but more like steamed pudding in consistency than cake (exactly the opposite of my usual error).  Oh, that cream cheese though. Combined with the caramel sauce, it’s incredible. I could quite happily eat it from the bowl (and did for a while, of course).

Deliciousness: Though the cake wasn’t brilliant, the caramel frosting made it all worthwhile. Next time I’ll listen to Nigella, and keep the oven closed for the whole 25 minutes. Back to the Victoria-sponge-drawing-board for this amateur.

Complexity: It actually took quite a while, as there were four separate stages of caramel—cake—frosting–assembly. None were difficult by themselves, but it’s not a rush-job, by any means.

Washing-up pile: At least thirteen items, and among them two large mixing bowls and a sugary pan. Not for the faint-hearted.

Casualties: Is it possible to mix cream-cheese icing without getting it all over yourself? Not in this household.

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