Saturday, September 20, 2014

Margaret Fulton's Beatles Cake and The Meaning of Life

Forty-two is the number Deep Thought gave as being the Ultimate Answer.  Ford Prefect
The Restaurant at the End of  the Universe, Douglas Adams

It was my birthday recently.  As I do not live near family, if I don't make my own cake, I tend not to get one, so I always make my own.  This year, I had no trouble deciding what cake I was going to make.  After visiting The Beatles in Australia photographic exhibition earlier this year (of which you can read more details in this excellent post), I was fixated by a Beatles party cake in a magazine at the exhibition.  The recipe, which was published in Woman's Day (visible at the bottom of Sewing the 60s exhibition post), was devised by Australia's queen of the kitchen, Margaret Fulton.

I had no idea where I'd get the recipe for this cake, as the magazine in the exhibition was published in the 1960s, way before the Internet, and I had no idea how to track down the magazine.  However, my idle Internet surfing was rewarded recently when I typed in "margaret fulton beatles cake".  By chance, Woman's Day had turned 65 last year, and to celebrate, they had republished Margaret's recipe in an August 2013 edition of the magazine.  Phoodie had published a post about this, so I did another Google search, this time for "woman's day beatles cake".  I then hit the jackpot - the Margareet Fulton Beatles Cake recipe from the 1960s was on their website.  You can find it here.  The cake is described as a burnt sugar party cake, and is frosted with a caramel icing.

You will see from the recipe that Margaret assumed her readers would have some cake baking experience, because while the instructions are adequate for an experienced cake baker, some of the finer details required to make this cake successfully would be lost on a novice baker.  Unfortunately, the link to the Beatles biscuit template does not work, so I had to design my own template, working from the photograph of the cake.  I also decided to use a different caramel icing recipe, as Margaret's version uses 4 cups of brown sugar and is of the tricky fudge variety that is impossible to work with.  That said, the icing that I used got tricky to work with over time, as it dries out and sets fairly quickly.  With respect to the biscuits, I found that they took much longer than the 8-10 minutes quoted for baking time.
Here's a peek inside:

My adapted version of the cake and biscuit recipes is as follows:


1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup hot water 2 ¾ cups plain flour 3 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt175g butter 3 eggs ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
Grease and line 2 x 8" round cake tins.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Place 1/2 cup of sugar into a heavy saucepan and stir over low heat.  When the sugar just turns dark brown, remove it from the heat.  (Don't take the sugar off too early as you won't get a nice caramel coloured cake, but don't leave the sugar for too long or it will taste bitter in the cake.)  Carefully and slowly, add the hot water to the sugar (be careful and stand back, it spits!), and stir the mixture until well combined. Allow this syrup to cool.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

Beat the softened butter in a stand mixer until soft.  Add the remaining sugar to the butter, beating until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat well before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and the syrup. 

In a stand mixer on low speed or using a spoon, add the flour and milk alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with flour, with three tranches of flour and two tranches of sugar. Mix in each tranche until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins and bake the cake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.  Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning them out onto wire cake racks to cool completely.


125g butter
0g sugar 1 egg yolk 1 cup plain flour 1 cup self raising flour pinch of salt iced waterblack licorice straps for hair and eyescashews for Ringo's noseunsalted peanuts for other nosesglace cherries for mouths 
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius, and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Beat the softened butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk.

Using a spoon, fold both flours and the salt into the butter mixture.  Add iced water to the dough and knead in if necessary to make firm dough. (I did add some water.)  Form the dough into a flat disc, wrap it in cling film, and allow it to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface or between two pieces of baking paper until 1/4" thick.  Using a paper or plastic template as a guide, cut out the Beatle heads from the dough with a small sharp knife.  (Cut out 12 head shapes.)  Put the biscuits on to the lined biscuit tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the chilled biscuits from the fridge and bake in the preheated oven 8-10 minutes or until pale golden colour. Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cut out hair and eyes from the licorice straps, and mouths from the glace cherries, then stick these and the nut "noses" onto the biscuits with a small amount of chocolate icing (see below).

Makes 12 Beatles.   (I only made the four biscuits I needed for the cake - that was more than enough!)        

Caramel icing

I used this icing recipe rather than Margaret's.  Work with it as quickly as you can, as while it is malleable to start with, it firms up quickly.  Use a hot knife to help spread the icing if necessary.

Chocolate icing for piping and sticking on Beatles' "faces"

50g softened butter
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa

Beat together the butter, icing sugar and cocoa in a stand mixer. Add sufficient milk to make the icing a smooth piping texture.   

Cake assembly

Place one half of the cooled cake on a cake board or cake plate.  Spread one third of the caramel icing on top of the cake, going right to the edges.  Place the second cake on top of the first, then spread the remaining caramel icing over the top and sides of both cakes. Pipe music notes around the sides of the cake (and Beatles lyrics if you like) with the chocolate icing. Place the Beatles biscuits on top of the cake, securing with a little chocolate icing if necessary.

Yeah, yeah!


Anonymous said...

Definitely delicious and worth to try
Margaret Fulton's beatles cake recipe!!
pretty damn beautifully captured too....

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Birthday Gaye!!!

I must say, I'm quite impressed with no only your detective work but your creativity too! You did a GREAT job!

How ironic that Woman's Day had an anniversary and republished that cake. It was meant to be:)

I'm sure it was delicious not only because of the ingredients and hard work but because birthday cakes always taste a little bit better:)

Thank you so much for sharing, Gaye…May you have many, many, many more yeah, yeah, yeah, birthdays!!!

Von said...

That looks amazing!! :O I prefer making my own cake than buying one for my birthday haha...How long did it take you to make it?

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Dear Gaye, hope you had a wonderful birthday celebration! And when I look at your lovely cake with that fabulous theme - I am sure you enjoyed some pretty darn delicious cake too!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a totally cute idea! I love it! :D Clever idea for a cake and I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Kayte said...

This was the PERFECT cake for you. I wish I lived close enough to make you a cake each year...that would be such fun. I just love the little Beatles on the cake! The inside looks wonderful.

Jill said...

Happy birthday! This cake is just wonderful - I hope you had a fun celebration.

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

EEP Happy Birthday my friend! This cake would have been perfect to celebrate with, so cute :D

Choc Chip Uru

2paw said...

Happy Birthday to you!! I love the cake, it is a work of art!! I watched The Sixties on SBS and the music episode was very Beatle-y. I'm going to have to make that cake soon. Thanks for all the expert tips.