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Jackson Pollock birthday cake

Jackson Pollock saved my life. Well, not quite, but he did avert a catastrophic party. Thanks to illness, bad timing and a last minute rush, my wife and I discovered that we had 30 minutes before the guests were meant to be arriving for a joint birthday party (for 3 children within our family) and all we had was an iced madeira cake with absolutely no decoration.  Considering the fact that it normally takes me the best part of half a day to decorate a birthday cake, you can probably imagine the panic. Which is when a moment of crazy inspiration struck and I thought that perhaps I could do something similar to my decorate your own cupcakes recipe. This time, instead of a huge variety of sweets and toppings for decoration, I gave each child a pot of coloured icing and a whisk and let them loose to decorate the cake Jackson Pollock style.  The result was a very tasty work of art!



 Madeira Cake


Preheat your oven to 170°C (150°C fan) / 338°F (302°F fan).

Sift your two flours into a medium sized bowl.

In a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time as you continue to mix and finish off by adding your vanilla essence.  If the mixture looks like it will curdle at any time, add a tablespoon of your flour.

Slowly fold in the remaining flour.

Pour your mix into a greased and lined 9 inch square tin and bake for 1 hour 20 to 1 hour 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

While your madeira cake cools, make your filling by beating your butter in a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment until pale.

Slowly add the icing sugar a large spoonful at a time until the mixture is pale and creamy. Finally add the vanilla.

Once your madeira cake is cooled, slice it in half and fill it with a thin layer of buttercream icing (leaving enough to coat the entire cake with a very thin layer) and the strawberry jam.

Sandwich the cake back together again with the cream and jam on the inside, then coat the entire cake with a very thin layer of your remaining buttercream.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm the buttercream.

Roll out your sugarpaste, remove your cake from the fridge and ice your madeira cake.

In a small bowl, mix up the remainder of your icing sugar and keep adding a tablespoon of water and mixing until you have a relatively runny consistency.

Separate the icing sugar into 3 or 4 ramekins and add 2 or 3 drops of food colouring to each ramekin and mix to give yourself different coloured icing.

Lay out some paper on the floor (it’s best to do this outside or on a tiled floor) and put your cake in the middle.  Dip a whisk into one of your ramekins of coloured icing and using a flicking motion, decorate your cake.  Do the same with each different coloured icing, washing the whisk between each colour (or using different whisks).

Of course you can do this by yourself (it’s very therapeutic) but it’s great fun for children.


The painter Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956) – better known as Jackson Pollock – was a major artist in the abstract expressionist movement instantly recognised by his signature style of drip painting. Born in Cody, Wyoming, USA, he died at the age of 44 when he crashed his car driving under the influence of alcohol. He had struggled with alcohol most of his life and was regarded as a notoriously volatile and reclusive genius.