Lesley Nicol (Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey) serving a cake she's just bakedLesley Nicol (Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey) came into the Woman’s Weekly kitchen to learn how to bake – this is the recipe for the cake she made, a delicious almond and brandy cake covered in butter cream.

Serves: 12-16
Total time: 1 hr 30 mins
Skill level: Bit of effort
Costs: Mid-price

Suitable for freezing



FOR THE CAKE: Almond and brandy cake baked by Mrs Patmore (actress Lesley Nicol)

250g (8oz) butter, softened

250g (8oz) caster sugar

250g (8oz) self-raising flour

100g (31/2oz) ground almonds

4 medium eggs

2 tablespoons milk


4 level tablespoons caster sugar

4 tablespoons brandy


Approximately 500g (1lb) buttercream

Green and pink paste food colouring

Yellow sugar balls

2 x 18cm (7in) solid-base sandwich tins, buttered and base lined

zig-zag side scraper

Piping bags and a selection of plain, star, leaf and drop-flower piping tubes



    •  Set the oven to 180°C or Gas 4.


    • To make the cake, beat the butter and add to it the remaining ingredients and beat well until smooth. Divide the mixture between the 2 sandwich tins, and level the surface.  Bake the cakes in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until they have risen and feel just firm to the touch in the centre.


    • Meanwhile, to make the syrup, pour 4 tablespoons water into a small saucepan and add the caster sugar. Place the pan on a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil and allow it to boil rapidly for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat and add the brandy.


    • When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and immediately pour over the syrup, pouring half over each cake. Leave the cakes in the tins for about 10 minutes until all the syrup has soaked in, then transfer the cakes to a wire rack and leave them to cool completely.


    • Sandwich the 2 cake layers together with buttercream, and then coat the cake with buttercream. Pattern the sides with the zig-sag side scraper and then pipe the decoration, using our pictures as a guide, colouring some buttercream green for the leaves and pink for the flowers. Put a yellow ball in the centre of each flower.

* The undecorated cake may be packed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 3 months. Allow cake to defrost before decorating. The decorated cake is not suitable for freezing.