Happy Birthday To Me!

After a freezing cold and snowy week it was my birthday yesterday and I was well and truly spoilt. Today the snow thawed and I ran a half marathon to cancel out all of the delicious peanut butter and chocolate cake I ate yesterday – an updated recipe for this and for chocolate brownies on this week’s blog.

Snow days are pretty rare in London, especially in March, so when they happen you just have to enjoy the mayhem it causes. This week has been all about woolly jumpers, hot porridge and endless cups of tea to warm up. The kids have had more snow in the past three years than in their whole lives and they still can’t get enough of it. We picked the right year to get them all their Lapland winter clothes! I’ve been working in the coldest part of my house with no heating so wearing about seven layers at a time, but I’ve been lucky I’ve not needed to travel. It did put the kibosh on running training though, so I was a bit trepidatious about the Big Half Marathon today.

On Friday this week I went to visit Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. With the London Marathon only seven weeks away, we wanted to have the opportunity to see how some of the money we raise will be spent. We – Tom, Michael, Beca and I – had a wonderful afternoon in the Orthopaedic Ward meeting some incredibly brave young people and their families. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to bring food in for the kids but it always goes down well if you bake for the incredible staff there. I made my very easy chocolate brownie recipe – found at the bottom of this post – but substituted chocolate pieces and mini marshmallows for Mini Smarties and four fingers of Fudge cut into quarters. I really do need more sponsorship for my London Marathon race to raise as much money as possible to help children like those fantastic kids I met this week. Anything you can spare would be so appreciated. My fundraising page is here.

Every year since appearing on the Great British Bake Off, when it’s my own birthday, I have a lot of people saying “I hope you don’t have to make your own cake”. And it really is the only birthday in the year that I do get the day off from baking. My wife Sarah made me the delicious chocolate and peanut butter cake pictured above. She followed the recipe on my website here but made a few changes to it, which she wanted to share on this week’s blog. Over to Sarah…

I found Richard’s recipe really easy to follow but there were a few things that there was no way I was going to do. The first was being able to horizontally cut two sponges evenly to make four layers. That would have been a disaster. The second was being able to coat the cake in buttercream and ganache without it looking a dog’s dinner. Instead I used the quantities in his recipe for the sponge but split them between three six-inch cake tins. Also, there was no smooth peanut butter in the cupboard so I substituted all of it for crunchy peanut butter and actually, I think it worked much better in both the sponge and the buttercream (if I do say so myself). I knew I wasn’t coating the cake in ganache so I reduced it to 200g dark chocolate and 200ml double cream, but still had loads left over so I think 100 of each would be fine. The ganache split twice, but I used the tip in Richard’s recipe to rescue it both times – phew. And I used peanut M&Ms on top, because they’re the best and matched the candles. From start to finish it was one of the quickest cakes I’ve ever made and while I can’t make things look like Richard does, the height of it gave it a bit of drama.

Sarah and I had a lovely night out for my birthday to see Black Panther last night – incredible film – and then an early night for me as I left the house at 06:45 to travel in for the Vitality Big Half Marathon in central London this morning. It was touch-and-go all week as to whether the race would go ahead and a big part of me was really hoping it would be called off because of the snow so I could have a birthday lie-in but along with some of my Baker’s Dozen buddies – Tom, Michael, Selasi, Jane & Mat – we braved the cold weather this morning and gave it a go. I was chuffed to bits to run it in 2 hours, 1 minute and 44 seconds, even once I heard that Sir Mo Farah won the race in an incredible 1:01:40 – a whole hour faster, which blows my mind a bit! It’s also by far the coolest race medal I’ve ever received. So the moral of the story is that peanut butter cake is the perfect carb loading fuel ahead of a big race – bear that in mind if you have one coming up. Until next time, Happy Baking!


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