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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.

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.

Blueberry and Lemon Traybake with a Zingy Cream Cheese Topping

Blueberry and Lemon Traybake

Blueberry and Lemon Traybake with a Zingy Cream Cheese Topping

I went to a baby shower this weekend and took along baked treats (if you’re friends with me it’s a reasonably fair bet I’ll bring baked goods to any event I’m invited to). I’ve been mostly baking fruity, summery stuff lately and this was a perfect opportunity for more of the same. This traybake was perfect to portion up into squares for a big party, and the light, zesty flavour was just the ticket sat out in the sun.

Blueberry and Lemon Traybake with a Zingy Cream Cheese Topping

For the cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g sour cream
  • 2 lemons (zest of both, juice of one)
  • 300g self raising flour
  • half teaspoon baking powder
  • 150g blueberries

Heat your oven to 180C and grease and line a tin (approx 25x22cm) with greaseproof paper. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat again, then stir in the sour cream, lemon zest and juice until well combined. Stir in the flour and baking powder making sure thoroughly mixed, then stir through the blueberries and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes – it’s done when golden, a skewer comes out clean or it springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and set to one side to cool.

For the cream cheese topping:

  • 175g butter
  • 375g icing sugar
  • 125g full fat cream cheese
  • juice one lemon (left over from the cake)
  • 100g blueberries

Cream together the butter and (sifted) icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and lemon juice and beat again until well combined. Remove the cooled cake from the tin and peel away the greaseproof paper. Use a spatula to slather the lemony cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. Scatter the blueberries evenly over the cake, cut into individual portions and serve.

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam and Whipped Cream

Family lunch today, and I usually take some kind of cake with me (mainly because I like feeding cake to my nephews). I’ve been a bit obsessed with fruity bakes lately, particularly peaches (see my previous recipe for Peach & Blueberry Swiss Roll) and with the addition of some oranges that were knocking about the fruit bowl having seen better days, here’s what I came up with:

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

For the jam:

  • 5 peaches
  • 150g caster sugar

Prepare your peaches by scoring a cross in the skin at the top or bottom of the peach. Blanch in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds, then take them out; the skin should peel away very easily, but don’t worry if there are a few flecks left on the flesh. Remove the stones, then squish the flesh through your fingers into a medium sized saucepan, along with the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly to make sure your jam isn’t sticking to the pan. Boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it all the time. Check if it’s done by putting a teaspoon sized amount on a cool plate, leaving it for a minute and then running your finger through it – when it has become jam it should ‘wrinkle’ and it won’t run down the plate when tilted. Place in a clean bowl to cool, transferring to the fridge until needed. If you have any left after topping your cake, store it in sterilised jam jars.

For the orange sponge:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 oranges
  • 300ml double cream (for serving)

Heat your oven to 175C and grease and line the base of a 9″ spring form cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in one egg, followed by about a third of the flour, then the next egg and more flour and finally the third egg and last of the flour and baking powder. Finely grate in the rind of both oranges, then add the juice of just one. Make sure everything is mixed well, pour into the cake tin and smooth down with a spatula, bake for 20-25 mins until golden. It’s done when the sponge is starting to come away from the sides, it springs back when lightly pressed, or a skewer comes out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, lightly whip the double cream until it’s just sticking to the whisk; be careful not to over-whip as it starts to become butter which is not what you’re trying to achieve! Put the sponge on a serving plate, top with the softly whipped cream and finish with the peach jam.