Chocolate, Blackberry and Thyme Birthday Cake

Chocolate, Blackberry and Thyme Birthday Cake - From My Dining Table At my 18th birthday party, this very stylish friend of my mother’s sidled up to me. She looked me up and down from under her signature fedora hat, coquettishly tilted to the side of her head (this was in the days before Kate Moss and Pete Doherty made the fedora first cool – and then ubiquitous); and pronounced: ‘Darlin-k’. She spoke with a heavy Columbian accent and ‘darling’ sounded like ‘darlin-k’. ‘Darlin-k’, she said, ‘you must start lying about your age now’. The ‘now’ was said with a sense of genuine urgency. She meant business.  

Blackberry, Chocolate & Thyme Birthday Cake - From My Dining Table

Of course, I thought this was all a great joke. And dined out on it for some years after. I was eighteen. I was wearing a mini skirt and barely a touch of make-up. And I thought that I would never lie about my age. I rather regret not taking her advice now: I’m turning thirty tomorrow. I’m not going to say that thirty is old, but it’s no eighteen. That is for sure. 

Choclate, Blackberry & Thyme Birthday Cake - From My Dining Table

My main complaint about growing older is that I don’t feel any wiser. I’m sure that you’re meant to feel wiser. There is so much more that I would have liked to have already learnt and done. That is the problem with life milestones – they fill you with feelings of woeful inadequacy. Unless, you’re eighteen – then you think that you can conquer the world. And party.

Chocolate, Blackberry & Thyme Birthday Cake - From My Dining Table

That said, where there is a birthday, there is cake. And a thirtieth deserves one hell of a cake. So, here we go: two layers of deep chocolate sponge, filled with a thyme scented blackberry compote, and iced with a cream cheese and thyme buttercream frosting. Sweet with just a pinch of fresh, woody herbs to really bring out the flavours.

With cake, thirty is not looking quite so bad after all. I can still party.

And I could always start lying about my age next year.

Chocolate, Blackberry & Thyme Birthday Cake - From My Dining Table

Chocolate, Blackberry and Thyme Birthday Cake
Serves 30
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
  2. 900g butter, at room temperature
  3. 900g demerara sugar
  4. 700g self raising flour
  5. 200g cocoa
  6. 8 tsps baking powder
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 16 eggs
  9. 400 ml milk
  11. 600g blackberries
  12. juice of 1/2 lemon
  13. 300g demerara sugar
  14. small bunch of fresh thyme
  16. 400g icing sugar
  17. 100g butter, at room temperature
  18. 600g cream cheese
  19. 4 or 5 stems of thyme
  20. fresh blackberries and thyme to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Grease and line two round 29cm cake tins and set to one side. In a food processor, add the flour, cocoa, self raising flour, baking powder and salt and blitz until powdery. If you are not using a food processor, sift the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop the butter and add to the dry ingredients along with the sugar. Blitz until you have an earthy consistency. If you are mixing by hand, cream the butter and other ingredients together. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, beat and mix in to the batter, then pour in the milk and blend or mix until you have a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the cake tins, distributing it evenly between the two, and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15-30 mins then turn out on to a wire rack.
  2. While the cakes are baking make your filling. Toss the blackberries into a heavy based saucepan, sprinkle with sugar, squeeze in the lemon juice and add the bunch of fresh thyme. Set on a medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit juices start running. Take off the heat and set to one side to cool.
  3. When the cakes are cool and ready to ice, you can make the frosting. Roughly chop the butter and put in a freestanding mixer, then spoon in the cream cheese and beat until pale, smooth and well combined. Sift in the icing and beat again until you have a smooth frosting.Tear the leaves off the thyme stalks and chop roughly, then beat lightly into the icing until well combined.
  4. Set one cake on your cake stand, and get your filling. Pick out the bunch of thyme, lightly press the blackberries with the back of a fork and spoon them on top of the cake. Then place the second cake on top, as you would for a Victoria sponge.
  5. Ice with the buttercream and decorate with fresh blackberries and thyme.
From My Dining Table by Skye McAlpine
Share This Post:Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone


  1. says

    Happy early birthday! I turned 30 last November and although I sometimes/often find it hard to believe that I’m not still 16, I think it’s a pretty good year. And this is one beauty of a cake to mark the occasion. I hope you have a lovely weekend of celebrations!

    • Skye says

      Thanks, Kathryn. We were in Cornwall for the weekend and had a great time. You’re so right – what is it about 16 that no matter how old you get, that’s how old you feel??? x

  2. says

    This is so BEAUTIFUL! I love the idea of making yourself a birthday cake … especially for a landmark birthday like your 30th! Congratulations! And don’t worry … you hardly look a day over 18. Honestly!

  3. says

    Happy Birthday! I hope you had a truly fantastic day and were spoilt rotten! This cake is absolutely beautiful and the flavours sound both unusual and absolutely perfect!

    • Skye says

      Thanks, Stephanie. I got the idea to decorate it with fresh thyme from The Vanilla Bean Blog and I think that it looks so pretty.

    • Skye says

      Oh no, what happened?! Yes, it works really well with the berries, and I found it quite nice with cream cheese frosting too. Although the thyme was subtle…

  4. Hannah says

    How is the thyme used in the frosting? It’s under the ingredients list but it’s not quite clear from the recipe! Thanks!

    • Skye says

      Sorry, Hannah – I missed that bit out – have just updated the recipe. But basically, you roughly chop the thyme leaves and beat them lightly into the icing.
      Thanks for spotting that one :)

  5. peter kirchem says

    I put this recipe up on my Facebook page laying down a challenge to ‘er indoors to replicate it for my birthday next month. The frosting and especially the use of fresh herbs I found so nice. I might have used slightly contentious language (I usually do when it comes to food!) saying how refreshing it was to see something that was visually so attractive, using natural decorations and that wasn’t topped with tooth breaking hard icing etc … but amazingly my comments were met by a veritable firestorm of opposition from friends!
    I was up til 3am battling away deflecting comments (77 in all) from ‘mainstream’ (aka boring) bakers deriding the ‘frosting’ (lazy and American!) the use of herbs (teeth cluttering) and the size (sheer piggy!) – I worked hard and think won through. I now look forward to the real thing next month

    • Skye says

      Ah, thank you, Peter – that is very sweet of you . I’m glad to hear that you won out in the end…will have to pop by your page to look at the comments :)

  6. says

    I feel like I’ve somehow missed so much of the insane beauty on your blog! This cake is AMAZING. The thyme on the frosting is pure art — so, so beautiful. This makes me want to rush into the kitchen and make a thyme buttercream right this minute. Gorgeous <3

    • Skye says

      Thank you, lovely – I’m having bait of a thyme ‘moment’. It’s such a beautiful herb and just adds a little something to everything. SO good with the buttercream – definitely try it. Xx

    • Skye says

      Hi Ethel! I’m so sorry – I should have specified that in the recipe – will correct it now. I used an 11″ tin. Hope that helps and hope that you like the cake! Xx

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *