Rachel Allen was brought up in Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rachel is now a busy ...
400 g (14oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
400 g (14oz) caster sugar
8 eggs, beaten
400 g (14oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4 tsp baking powder
for the icing (to cover the ‘skirt’ of the doll)
450 g (1lb) butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp red or pink food colouring (or a colour of your choice)
750 g (1lb 10oz) icing sugar, sifted
2 tblsp milk
sprinkles, coloured sugar crystals, edible glitter, icing flowers or other decorations of your choice
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Butter the sides of the cake tins and dust with flour, then line the base of each tin with a disc of baking parchment.
Next butter and flour the inside of the pudding basin. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.
Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the wet ingredients, folding in just until the mixture comes together.
Half fill the pudding basin or bowl with the batter, then divide the rest between the three tins, making a slight hollow in the centre of the cake in the tins so that the cake does not have a peak when cooked, making it easier to assemble the pile of cakes.
Bake in the oven for 25–35 minutes (the cooking time will depend on how evenly you’ve divided your mixture between the bowl and tins) or until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, loosen around the edges of each cake using a small, sharp knife. Place a plate upside down on top of the cake and carefully flip over. Remove the basin/bowl or tin and any baking parchment, and then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool down completely.
As the cakes cool, wrap the doll from just above her waist down to her toes in cling film (so you can re-use her later). Make the icing by beating the butter until very soft, and then add the vanilla extract, food colouring and half the icing sugar.
Continue to beat until light and fluffy, then add the rest of the sugar, followed by the milk, and beat again. Pile the three cake-tin sponges on top of each other and place the basin/bowl cake (upside down) on top.
Then, using a long-bladed knife, cut out a hole about 2cm ( 3?4 in) wide through the centre of the cakes, going from the top of the basin/bowl cake down through to the bottom of the third cake-tin sponge. This will be the hole that the doll stands in.
Separate the cakes again and place one of the cake-tin sponges on a cake stand or plate. Spread with some of the icing (as if very generously buttering toast), then top with the second cake. Spread with the same amount of icing and add the third cake, then spread with more icing and top with the upturned basin/bowl cake.
Insert the doll into the hole running through the cakes (they should come up to her hips).
Fill a jug with boiling water and place a palette knife in it. Now you can start icing all around the cakes and up to the doll’s waist to make a rather voluminous skirt! Spreading it with a palette knife (dipped in the hot water) will help to give a smooth finish.
Decorate with icing flowers, edible glitter, hundreds and thousands, Smarties, or whatever you like, but do it now before the outer layer of the icing begins to dry a little.
Tie a ribbon around the doll’s waist (where the icing meets her clothes) and serve.