Michelle Darmody: Celebrate with cake

I find that this a lazy, hazy week where time goes slow and nobody is quite sure what day it is. It is the perfect time to bake something beautiful for the last and hopefully most fun party of the year. 

Sometimes simple cakes can yield spectacular results if you take the time to decorate them well. The recipe for the cake is quite a plain madeira and the buttercream is a vanilla but when stacked up and decorated the cake becomes spectacular, something to celebrate with. It is the perfect cake for sticking some New Year’s sparklers on top.

Decorating the cake to look like this takes a bit of patience but can be mastered. The trick is to coat the sponge first in the apricot glaze, otherwise you will get crumbs when you attempt to apply the icing.

Also the cakes are always turned upside down so the flat edge with the sharpest corners is the most visible. Ensure your icing is well whipped and smooth and use a pallet knife to apply it, or a very flat butter knife could be used instead.

The cupcakes have quite intricate sugar flowers sitting on top of them. These can be made at home if you have the patience.

They are created out of a sugar paste and left to harden. Crystallizing flowers will give you nice results as well.

There is a hint of champagne in the icing that will add to the festive feel. Prosecco or other sparkling wines are fine to use instead.

Edible gold leaf will add a hint of glamour to any cake or dessert. Gold leaf is typically sold either in sheets or as flakes. The flakes are easiest to use.

Butter Sponge Flower Stack


  • 350g of soft butter
  • 330g of caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 400g of self-raising flour
  • 100g of ground almonds
  • 2 tsp of vanilla essence
  • the zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 tbs of milk
  • to decorate:
  • 4 tbs of apricot jam
  • 4 cake stabilizers
  • 2 thin 6in cake boards
  • organic flowers

For the icing:

  • 300g of butter
  • 500g of icing sugar
  • 4 tsp of vanilla essence
  • the zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tbs of milk

Butter Sponge Flower Stack.


Line two 7in, spring-form or loose based, round cake tins with parchment. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

Beat the butter and sugar until they turn pale and fluffy. Slowly add in the eggs until combined. If the mixture begins to separate add a little of the flour.

Add in the flour in two halves and combine slowly. Add the ground almonds until combined.

Mix the vanilla and zest into the milk and add it to the batter.

Separate the batter between the two cake tins, smooth the surface and make a slight well in the centre. We want the cakes to come out as flat as possible.

Do not worry if you see them rise, the excess can be trimmed off.

Bake for an hour, test the cake and put it back in for five minute intervals until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Heat the four tablespoons of apricot jam with one tablespoon of water. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze on the bottom and sides of the cakes.

Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the icing whisk the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until completely pale and smooth. Add the milk and a little more if you find that the icing is too thick.

Trim the cold cakes so they are as flat as possible. Slice them in two so you have four discs.

Fill each of the two cakes with buttercream and turn them upside down so that the flattest part is showing on the top. Press the pillars through the cake, that will be the base.

Cut them to size if you need too. The pillars should be the same depth as the cake. It is no problem to take them in and out of the cake a few times to get it right.

You will not see them once it is all stacked. Sit the cake board on top of the pillars and then the other filled cake on top of this.

Fill a pallet knife with icing and run it around the cake. The image here shows a quite nude cake, you can add more icing if you wish.

Sit the second cake board on the top to sit the flowers on. Decorate as you wish and perhaps put some sparklers into your cake to ring in the New Year.

Hint of Champagne Cupcakes 


  • 200g of soft butter
  • 195g of caster sugar
  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • the zest of 2 lemons
  • to make the icing:
  • 140g of of soft butter
  • 280g of icing sugar
  • 3 tbs of champagne

To decorate:

  • a selection of sugar flowers


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and place 12 bun cases into a cupcake tray.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, if it starts to curdle quickly add a small bit of the flour then continue adding the eggs.

Add the flour a third at a time and slowly mix it in. Mix in the lemon zest.

Make sure you stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. This helps to completely combine the batter and stop any little volcano style explosions happening in the buns.

Spoon the mixture into the cases and place them into a preheated oven for fifteen minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely before icing.

To make the champagne icing whisk the sugar, butter and champagne until smooth and light in colour.

Pipe the icing onto the cakes once they have cooled completely. Decorate with a selection of icing flowers.

Hint of Champagne Cupcakes .

Gold Leaf Chocolate Slices


  • 250g of soft butter
  • 250g dark chocolate, broken small
  • 330g of caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g of plain flour
  • 100g of dried cranberries
  • 2 sheets of edible gold leaf


Heat the oven to gas oven or 180 degrees and line a 9in square tin with parchment.

Melt the butter and chocolate together, set aside. Lightly beat the sugar, eggs and flour together. Stir in the cranberries.

Mix the two mixtures and pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes depending on how squishy you would like the slices to be.

Once cooled slice into long thin rectangles and top with the edible gold leaf.

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