Beside the seaside – a bucket cake

Beside the seaside – a bucket cake

Neapolitan sponge cake

The Birthday Cake Book
Laura Edwards

A fun, life-size bucket, perfect for a summer birthday party. Made with a Neopolitan sponge for a full-on seaside experience.

For the cake


Quantity Ingredient
450g unsalted butter, softened and diced, plus more for the tins
450g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
450g golden caster sugar
pink food colour paste
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

For the buttercream

Quantity Ingredient
350g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
350g icing sugar, sifted

To decorate

Quantity Ingredient
1.4kg white sugarpaste
ice blue food colour paste
icing sugar, to dust
60 g bag white royal icing
yellow food colour paste
250g plain digestive biscuits
sugar pebbles and shrimps
chocolate shells
1 toy spade, scrupulously cleaned

Special equipment

Quantity Ingredient
35 cm round cake drum or platter
3 cm blossom cutter


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C. Butter three 20 cm round tins and line the bases with baking parchment. If you only have two 20 cm round tins, then make the full amount of cake batter, divide by three and leave one-third in a bowl. Bake it as soon as a tin becomes free. I use an electric mixer and beater attachment, but use a food processor, or a bowl and electric whisk, if you prefer.
  2. First, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, and add the butter, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Beat until well blended, but do not over-mix, as you want a light sponge. Divide between three bowls. Leave one bowl of mixture as it is (for the vanilla layer) and mix a few drops of pink food colour into the second. For the third, mix the cocoa powder with 1–2 tablespoons hot water to make a paste, allow to cool, then add to the batter. Put each colour into a separate prepared tin.
  3. Bake each cake for 30–35 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes. Run a knife around the rim to loosen the cake from the tin, remove the papers and leave to cool completely.
  4. For the buttercream, beat the butter in an electric mixer until really pale and fluffy, then add the vanilla and icing sugar and beat for at least five minutes more until really creamy.
  5. Cut each of the three cakes in half horizontally. Take a chocolate layer and place it, cut side up, on a work surface. Take a vanilla layer, spread a layer of buttercream on the uncut side and place on top. (It is much easier to spread the buttercream on the uncut side as you will have fewer crumbs.) Repeat with a pink layer. Now repeat the process, ensuring that the layer at the very top of the cake is uncut side up.
  6. Now give the cake a spell in the fridge or freezer; even an hour will help enormously. You will find it far easier to shape, especially when very fresh. With a very sharp or serrated knife, cut the cake into a bucket shape. Leave the top as it is but shape the middle and bottom tiers, so the cake tapers to be slightly narrower at the bottom. Slightly hollow out the very top as it will need a layer of sand!
  7. Cover the cake with most of the remaining buttercream, keeping back a couple of tablespoons. Place it on to your cake drum or platter.
  8. Colour the sugarpaste your chosen colour, keeping back a small piece (about 100 g) for the white handle and the two flower hinges. Seal the white and blue sugarpastes separately in polythene bags. Dust a work surface with icing sugar, then roll out less than half the blue sugarpaste into a 35 x 12 cm rectangle about 5 mm thick. Wrap around the front half of the bucket. Repeat for the back of the bucket, manipulating the sugarpaste with your hands and rubbing it to smooth out imperfections. Cut away any excess.
  9. For the top of the bucket, roll out a circle slightly larger than the top of the cake (use the cake tin as a template), about 5 mm thick, and lift on to the cake. Press down gently into the slightly dipped centre. Seal the rim of the bucket as neatly as you can, pinching together with your fingers and rubbing away any imperfections.
  10. To make the handle, roll out a long, thin strip (35 x 1 cm) of white sugarpaste and attach to the sides with a little royal icing.
  11. Cut two flower hinges with a piece of the remaining white sugarpaste. Add a little yellow food colour to a tiny piece of sugarpaste and make two balls, each about 1 cm wide, for the centre of the flower hinges. Stick them on to each of the flower hinges with royal icing. Stick the hinges on the cake where the handle meets the bucket, on both sides, again using a little royal icing to adhere.
  12. In a large polythene bag, crush the biscuits by bashing them with a rolling pin (small hands will be very willing!). Spread the reserved buttercream into the top of the bucket, sprinkle with biscuit ‘sand’ and scatter the rest all around the bucket. Arrange the pebbles, shrimps and shells all around. You can now choose to stick the spade in the top of the cake, or even use it as a serving utensil.
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