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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Totally Chocolaty Birthday Cake

Totally Chocolaty Birthday Cake

Four layers of chocolate sponge, sandwiched with white chocolate buttercream and smothered in chocolate ganache

Judging by how many birthday cakes I’ve been asked to make in the last few weeks, spring really does get everyone’s sap rising! Anyway, the lovely Natasha Bailie (parental types should check out her blog, the milkstand) asked me to make a cake in honour of her baby boy’s first birthday. The babies attending Max’s birthday party will be having something a little kinder to young tummies and teeth, but the grown ups are getting the big-fat-birthday-cake experience with this totally chocolaty bad boy.

The instructions for making the ganache are given last as covering the cake with this divine mixture is the last stage of the cake. However, as the ganache needs to cool before using, it’s actually a good idea to make it first, or around the same time as you make the sponge.

Totally Chocolaty Birthday Cake

For the cake:

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g cocoa, sifted
  • 175g self raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 – 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 175C and grease and line 2 8″ cake tins with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in two of the eggs until well mixed and smooth. Add the cocoa and a bit of the flour and mix again, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is being well incorporated. Beat in the third and fourth egg, then the remaining flour and baking powder, then the vanilla and syrup, and finally slowly add the milk, mixing until you get a soft batter that drops easily off a spoon. Divide the mixture as evenly as possible between the two prepared tins, flattening it out with a spatula. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes – the cake is done when the middle springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, a skewer comes out clean and it’s beginning to come away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, remove the greaseproof paper and cut in half with a large, serrated (bread) knife. You now have your four layers ready for filling and covering!

For the white chocolate buttercream:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g white chocolate

If you have a free standing mixer or electric hand whisk, I’d suggest using it for this.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla (start slowly to try and avoid covering your kitchen in icing sugar). Beat for longer than you think you need to – this way you’ll get a lovely soft, lightly whipped textured buttercream. Melt the white chocolate (either in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or very carefully in a microwave in bursts of 20 seconds, stirring in between). Allow the chocolate to cool a little before adding to the buttercream and give it a really good beating to make sure it’s well mixed.

Place one of your layers of cake on a cake board or whatever serving plate you’re planning on using. Dollop about a third of the buttercream on and use a palatte knife to spread it out to the edges in an even layer. Add another layer of cake, taking a little time to make sure it’s on straight and pressing down lightly to secure it. Repeat the process with the buttercream and cake layers until you have all four layers of cake sandwiched together with three generous layers of buttercream.

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 500g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • small pinch salt

Warm the cream in a medium sized saucepan until just under boiling point, a few small bubbles at the edge of the pan are fine. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped chocolate and stir into the cream with a spatula until completely smooth and no lumps of chocolate remain. Add the vanilla and a very small amount of salt (sea salt for preference over table salt) and mix well. Allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. The mixture will become thick, but spreadable.

Dollop most of the mixture on the top of the cake, then use a spatula or large palatte knife to smooth it out to the edges and down over the sides (this video will show you how far better than I can explain it!). If you want a really shiny finish, dip your metal palatte knife in hot water, dry it on paper towel and use the hot knife to smooth the surface of the ganache.  Decorate however you wish – I melted a little white chocolate and piped the birthday boy’s name and age, but be as creative and flamboyant as you feel befits whoever the cake is for!

Max's Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate makes the perfect birthday cake, whatever age!

 

I have plenty of cake recipes that would all make wonderful birthday cake, click here to check them out.

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Cookies, stuffed full of raisins, milk and white chocolate and toasted hazelnuts

Inspiration for new bakes can come from all kinds of places, but I never thought the One Show (don’t judge me, my landlord watches it) would lead me to bake such a cracking cookie. They did one of their scintillating features on biscuits – the science of dunking, the nation’s favourite biscuit – all that need-to-know stuff. Anyway, they made some biscuits with the nation’s favourite ingredients – chocolate, raisins and hazelnuts – and apparently they were really rather good. So I decided I’d have a bash at something like it myself and here’s the result.

The hazelnuts keep the cookies from being overly sweet, what with all the chocolate and raisins in there. If you can’t get hold of toasted hazelnuts, put them on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 5 minutes. You can then get the papery skins off quite easily by rubbing them with a clean tea towel or some kitchen paper, but it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t remove the skins.

Fully Loaded Favourite Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 100g soft, light brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 190g plain flour
  • half tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • small pinch salt
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g milk chocolate (drops, or chopped into smallish chunks)
  • 50g white chocolate (drops or chopped)
  • 50 toasted hazelnuts, chopped a little

Heat the oven to 190C. In a bowl, or in a freestanding mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy and light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well until well incorporated.  Add the flour, bicarb and salt and give another good beating so that you have a thick, sticky cookie dough with no lumps of flour. Chuck in the raisins, both types of chocolate and the nuts and give a good stir so that everything is well distributed in the dough.

You’ll need a couple of baking trays. Use your fingers to pinch off a lump of dough and roll roughly into a ball shape, about the size of a gold ball. Place the balls on the baking sheet, well apart as they will spread as they cook. I only got 4 to a baking sheet – you can always cook them in batches. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. They’re done when golden, but should still be soft to the touch as they’ll firm up as they cool and it’s better to under-bake a cookie so you get that soft, chewy middle. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool (eat one while they’re warm – lush!).

I made 8 cookies with just over half the dough. Cookie dough freezes brilliantly, so just put any that you don’t use in a freezer bag, sling it in the freezer and then the next time you want a quick batch of cookies take the bag out and leave it on the kitchen counter – it’ll be ready to use in about 30-40 minutes!

For more of my cookie and biscuit recipes, take a look here.

Toblerone Birthday Cake

Toblerone Birthday Cake

Toblerone Birthday Cake for a surprise party

I was asked to make a birthday cake this week, and given the brief “a nice sponge or chocolate cake, with 40 iced on top”. I’m no great artist with a piping bag so I asked what the birthday boy’s favourite sweets are, thinking I might be able to make a 40 out of them; it turned out Toblerone is his favourite, which inspired me to make this cheeky little number. I opted for a vanilla sponge as I felt chocolate sponge, buttercream and ganache may have been excessively rich; by all means if you want to go for a totally chocolate experience then you could use this cake recipe in place of the vanilla sponge.

Toblerone Cake

For the cake:

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 175C and grease and line two 8″ cake tins with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and two of the eggs and beat again until well combined. Add about half the flour and mix. Follow with the remaining two eggs, mixing again, then the last of the flour and baking powder mixing until everything is well combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Lastly add mix in the milk so the cake batter is a soft, dropping consistency. Divide the mixture as evenly as possible between the two cake tins, smoothing into the edges with a spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when golden, a skewer inserted comes out clean, or they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger tip. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Toblerone ganache:

  • 300g Toblerone (or similar, non-branded chocolate bar)
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream
  • small pinch salt

Chop the Toblerone and other chocolate into small pieces. Heat the cream over a medium heat in a smallish saucepan. Once the cream is just under the boil (beginning to bubble very slightly at the edges) turn the heat off and add the all the chopped chocolate and the small pinch of salt, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. You’ll see little white flecks, which are the nougat, but if you occasionally stir it as the mixture cools these will melt too. Leave to cool completely (this will take a few hours).

For the Toblerone buttercream:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g Toblerone

If you have a food processor, use this to whizz up the Toblerone so it’s small crumbs; otherwise, chop as finely as possible.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar – if you’ve got an electric hand whisk or stand mixer use it for this – beat the mixture for longer than you think you need to and you’ll get a lovely, fluffy soft buttercream. Add the vanilla and chopped Toblerone and give it all a really good mix.

To assemble the cake, place the flattest cake on a serving plate or cake board. Smother with the buttercream, using a spatula or palette knife to get it as evenly spread and as flat as possible. Place the top layer of sponge on and gently but firmly press down to secure it in place. Use a spatula to dollop the ganache on top of the cake. Use a palette knife to push the ganache to the edges of the cake then smooth it down over the sides, turning the cake as you go (here’s a video that shows you what I mean).

Toblerone Cake

Vanilla sponge smothered in rich Toblerone chocolate ganache

Decorate the cake as you wish – I always enjoy a bit of sparkle (and edible glitter doesn’t require fancy piping skills)! Add a candle. Make somebody’s birthday even more special. Serve.

A slice of Toblerone Birthday Cake

A slice of Toblerone Birthday Cake, generously filled with Toblerone buttercream and covered with Toblerone ganache

If you like using well-loved chocolate bars in baking, check out this pavlova recipe.