Simon’s birthday cake

Sometimes you just happen across good people. Simon is one of them. He’s clever. He’s handsome. And he is my IT saviour. Although he lives the other side of the country and we have only met face to face twice in 10 years, he has the uncanny knack of being reassuringly there in the back of my mind. And so I know that if I meet the big blue screen of death, he can probably save me. And if I have totally messed something up in the bowels of my iPad, laptop, iPhone or PC, somehow he knows how to manage me out of a disaster. His ‘virtual’ reach is infinite. It is just magical to see him working on my computer. Him in Lancashire – me in Norfolk; the little cursor scurrying across the screen, the muttered curses (his) at the end of the phone. So this is for you old chap. I can’t bake it for you but you could bake it for yourself or maybe Paula will. Happy birthday! This is an unashamed lift from Nigella. But I know she won’t mind. And she deserves to be associated with a good man.

Nigella’s Guinness cake

250 ml guinness
250 grams unsalted butter
75 grams cocoa powder
400 grams caster sugar
142 ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
275 grams plain flour
2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
for the topping

300 grams cream cheese
150 grams icing sugar
125 ml double cream (or whipping cream)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF, and butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin.
Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

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