Ladybird Birthday Cake (Madeira Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Raspberry Jam)

Before we go any further, I must extend my most heartfelt apologies to my fellow unstable-bellied friends. This cake is in no shape or form gluten- or lactose-free. Its pretty much as far away from gluten- and lactose-free as you could get. Besides tucking into a bowl of creamy.. um.. flour.. or something. Mmmmm creamy flour.


I’m sure it would be quite easy to make belly-friendly: substitute the flour for a gluten-free mix, up the liquid content a bit, swap the butter in the icing for Stork (ok, I’m still not convinced that Stork really works in butter icing but I’ve yet to find a better alternative)? And lets not forget, fondant icing is already intolerance-friendly! Horrayyyy for sugar! Yes I am on a slight high after eating most of the icing leftovers!! There will be extensive use of exclamation marks in this post!


I’m sure you’ve all been there before, you’re making a cake for an occasion so it needs to be fabulous, and you can’t be dealing with the constant uncertainty and last minute panic that pretty much goes in hand with any gluten-free baking. Let alone a cake you’ve never attempted to gluten-free-ise (its a word) before. Its astonishing actually that I haven’t made a friendly madeira cake before. Must work on that.. Anyway so that’s my pathetic excuse for being lazy with this one. Super lazy in fact, I didn’t even make the jam (hold your gasps, I know, its outrageous). But to be honest, I’m glad I was, the cake didn’t collapse into a lump of paste, the buttercream was light, fluffy and delicious, and consequently my friend loved her cake (see photo evidence below).


Friend with cake. Behold the real, tangible joy cake has produced

So, without further ado, may I introduce Bill the Ladybird.


I must admit, this was one of the harder cakes I’ve ever had to watch being cut into.

I’ve put together the cake recipe first, followed by instructions on how to assemble. I hope you find the picture useful!

Madeira Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Raspberry Jam


Madeira Cake

  • 425g Stork
  • 425g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 550g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • rind of 2 lemons (unwaxed)
  • 80ml milk

Lemon Buttercream

  • 1kg icing sugar, seived (good luck with that)
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • juice and zest of 2 good-sized lemons
  • 60ml milk

To Assemble

  • Raspberry jam (shouldn’t need more than 4-5 tbsp)
  • 500g red ready-to-roll icing
  • 250g black ready-to-roll icing
  • 50g white ready-to-roll icing

Note with the icing to decorate you can really use what you want: I know a lot of people swear by marshmallow fondant, and while my local supermarket has started stocking ready coloured icing I know a lot of places don’t have it – in which case stick with white icing and just knead in a generous few dollops of red/black gel.


Madeira Cake

  1. Grease and line 2 8-inch sandwich tins and a 1 lb (450g) loaf tin
  2. Heat the oven to 170ºC/150ºC fan (this temperature should allow the cakes to get nice, domed tops)
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, cream the Stork and sugar together along with the lemon rind until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp of flour mix for each egg and beating well after each addition
  6. Carefully fold in the remaining flour alongside the milk (you should find that the mix is stiffer than, for example, a victoria sponge mix would be – this is good!)
  7. Split the mix between the cake tins – allowing slightly more of the mix for each of the round tins compared to the loaf tin
  8. Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the cakes are springy, coming away from the edge of the tins and a skewer comes out clean
  9. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack

Lemon Buttercream

  1. Using an electric whisk (or a stand mixer. But never, ever by hand. Unless you are a bodybuilder or something) and in a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and a bit lighter
  2. Carefully add half of the icing sugar along with the milk and beat on medium until competely combined (if you need to, feel free to add less than half at a time, icing sugar will easily go absolutely everywhere if you try and add too much at once), scraping down the sides with a spatula as you go
  3. Add the rest of the icing sugar, along with the lemon juice and zest and beat on high for a good 5 minutes until light and fluffy (add a little more milk if needs be but be patient, you’d be surpised how little liquid a lot of icing sugar can take!)


200 001

For the body:

  1. Cut each of the round cakes into two layers
  2. Turn the top of one of the cakes on its head, cover with a layer of raspberry jam, followed by a layer of lemon buttercream (don’t be too generous here, too much butter icing can easily make the whole cake a bit sickly sweet) and place its bottom layer on top. I find it easiest to layer the buttercream by actually piping on to get a nice even layer and avoid the jam being displaced too much.
  3. Layer this with jam and lemon buttercream, followed by the bottom of the next cake, correct way up, more jam and buttercream, and then finally the top layer of the second cake.
  4. Cut the edges of the top layer (and if needs be, the edges of the layer below) at an angle to give a rounder, more spherical top.
  5. Cover the entire thing in a layer of buttercream, using this to enhance the spherical shape of the cake
  6. Here you need to try and work a little quickly, before the buttercream starts to solidify too much:
  7. Roll out the red icing until nice and thin (about 3mm if possible) and layer over the entire cake, taking care to smooth out any creases. I actually did this in two goes, effectively one piece of icing for each ‘wing’.

For the head:

  1. Cut the loaf into two, about 2/3 of the way along its length.
  2. Spread a layer of jam and buttercream over the top of the larger slice, and layer the smaller on top
  3. Cut around the two layers to get a round shape (note, the back and front of the face will be flat)
  4. Cover the entire thing in butter icing, again aiming to achieve a nice rounded shape
  5. Roll out the black icing until nice and thin
  6. Use half of the icing to cover the entire head (don’t worry if you can’t get any on the back – this will attach to the larger cake so you won’t be able to see it anyway!

For assembly:

  1. Using any leftover buttercream, jam, or simply a few dabs of water if both parts are fully covered in icing, carefully stick the head to the body, trying to get it as central as possible
  2. Using the remaining rolled out black icing, cut out some round discs (I think I used 6/7 on each wing) – I used the wide part of an icing nozzle for this which I thought was a good size, I’d say this was about 1.5″ in diameter – and roll out 2 antennae and a long black line to separate the wings. You’ll also need two slightly smaller circles for the eye pupils, and another bit of icing rolled out for the mouth
  3. Roll out some white icing to a similar thickness (3mm), and cut out two larger circles for eyes, two smaller circles for dimples. So in order of circle size: white eyes > wing dots > pupils > dimples.
  4. Use a little dab of water to allow these to be easily stuck onto the icing already in place

CIMG1967   20140222_220431-1

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5 thoughts on “Ladybird Birthday Cake (Madeira Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Raspberry Jam)

  1. Pingback: Pistachio Cake | Cakes and Silliness

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