Happy Half Birthday

When you are small, it’s an awfully long time between birthdays, and the difference in age between four and four and a half is very significant.

In our family we mark half birthdays, so that the children know precisely when they can start to say “… and a half”. We mark the day with a half-birthday half cake.

The first time I posted about half-birthday half cakes on Facebook, a friend (who is an accomplished baker and usually quite bright) asked where I had bought my half-circle cake tins. I think she felt a bit daft when I said I had baked a round cake and cut it in half…

This week we are celebrating an adult half birthday – since ordinarily we adults avoid sugar where possible, we do tend to jump at any remotely legitimate excuse for cake.

The half-birthday boy or girl chooses the flavour and decoration of the cake. Previous examples have included a green-iced chocolate cake with fire-breathing dragon (optical illusion with a toy dragon and half a cake candle), and more recently a “Horrible Histories” cake – a chocolate cake with mint chocolate buttercream and “HH” in mini marshmallows (and mint green edible glitter, which isn’t really visible in the photo).

HH cake

One of the chief benefits of a half cake, incidentally, is that the two end slices of an iced half cake are extra frosted (top and two of three sides). I’m not a big fan of icing, but many people are.

To work, then. The cake is to be ginger, with chocolate truffle filling. I need to control the sweetness of the truffle, so it doesn’t overpower the ginger, so I shall be using dark chocolate and lemon essence. Alternatively, try whisky, or coffee and chilli. You don’t taste the latter two they just dial down the sugar and dial up the ginger.

The cake recipe is adapted from The Perfect Cookbook by David Herbert.


60g butter or baking spread

125g golden syrup

100g plain flour

25g self-raising flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2-3 heaped tsp ground ginger

1-2 tsp mixed spice

1tsp ground chilli (optional)

100g caster sugar

125ml milk

1 egg

160ml double cream

75g dark chocolate

2-3 drops lemon essence or 5-10ml single malt

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a 20cm (8″) round tin.

Melt together the butter and syrup.

Combine the flour, sugar, bicarb and spices. Mix in the milk and egg, and when well mixed add the butter mixture. Mix well – the result will be very runny, like cream.

Pour into the lined tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, when a skewer will emerge clean, and the top is dark, springy and shiny.

After five minutes, remove from the tin and cool on a rack. When cool, cut into two equal semi-circles.

Beat the cream to stiff peaks, then melt the chocolate. Fold the chocolate into the cream with the lemon essence (or whisky), then use the mixture to sandwich the cake.

Leave to set.

lucy cake

The cake can be baked into a large loaf tin (it goes sort of sticky like Jamaican Ginger Cake from a shop) or into individual bun cases (in which case cooking time is drastically reduced – check after fifteen minutes).

The basic truffle mixture (cream, chocolate, flavouring) can be used as a rich trifle layer or as tart filling (bake the case blind, fill with truffle filling and top with fruit or nuts as desired). With alcohol you need very little to flavour a large quantity so be frugal. You can use white or milk chocolate instead of dark, to taste or for visual impact – or even try marbling – but they are very sweet.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have spoons to lick.


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