A Different (from my usual) Chocolate Cake

So I realised recently that the only recipe for a full sized chocolate cake that I’ve used in ages, and in fact the only one I’ve actually written about, is the Chocolate Stout Cake. It is definitely my go-to for a chocolate cake, and it’s great for decorating, it’s a crowd-pleaser… But sometimes I just don’t feel like a super heavy and intensely rich chocolate mud cake. This week I felt like something just a little lighter.

I always get a bit nervous trying a new recipe for a full sized cake – what if you go to all that effort and then when everyone is around and you cut it and it’s terrible? Oh, the pressure! Anyway, I bit the bullet, tried a new recipe, and it worked out 🙂 Luckily, because it was taken to work for a team member’s birthday!

Originally I envisioned this cake with a fluffy chocolate buttercream icing all over it, and maybe even layered through the middle as well. But a late night and extreme tiredness got the better of me and I went with the lazy option when it came to icing and decorating. Lazy still equals delicious though, so it was all ok.

250g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
200g dark chocolate
1 1/3 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 cup milk

Melt the chocolate (I do this in the microwave, slowly so that it doesn’t burn) and set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat again, then add the eggs one by one, beating between each addition. Pour in the cooled chocolate and beat well. 

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In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb soda. Beat in a third of the dry ingredients to the batter, followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until all the dry ingredients and all the milk is beaten into the batter. 

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round springform tin (mine is a 24cm tin) and bake at 160C for about 50 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn upside down onto a wire rack.

Now, if you were making a chocolate buttercream (and I still think this would be great, I mean, how can you go wrong with chocolate buttercream) you would need to cool the cake completely before making the icing and decorating the cake. But if you want to just dump a jar of Nutella on top of the cake instead and spread it around and let it ooze down the sides, then now is when you do that.

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Oh yes, that is what I did. Most of a 400g jar went on top of the cake. I saved some for eating with a spoon from the jar at another time, like right now as I’m writing this.

Nutella icing

While the cake is still warm, the Nutella goes a bit melty and spreads really nicely. Then you put it in the fridge so the Nutella doesn’t melt entirely off the cake. Or, even better, just before you put it in the fridge you also cover the top of the cake with hundred and thousands, to add a bit of fun colourfulness.

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Told you – lazy but delicious (and effective) cake decorating.

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Crazy/Messy/Delicious

It was my fiancé’s birthday last week, and one of the things I do for him each year is make him whatever birthday cake he would like the most. Up until now the most memorable was the black forest disaster from a few years ago (the cake itself was wonderful, me dropping it upside down on the ground and then being swooped by magpies for it was not). This year he requested a layered mash-up of two of his favourite cakes, Chocolate Stout cake and Red Velvet cake, the common link being that I usually put the same icing on both of them.

The result was a crazy mess of deliciousness!

Note: He was not turning 301 – that’s 30 + 1 because we didn’t have the right candles!

I made both cakes and cut the stout cake into three layers and the red velvet cake into two layers. I made one quantity of cinnamon cream cheese icing, and used it to sandwich the layers together, alternating flavours, and then finish with the rest of the icing on top.

It was not a pretty cake! If I ever do this again I will definitely make more icing to put in between the layers and also to cover the sides. But, despite how it looked, it tasted amazing. Incredibly rich, although the red velvet added some lightness, and huge! Thin slices were more than sufficient to put everyone into a sugar coma.

Gift Wrapped Cake

While I think I’m still not a fan of working with fondant for cake decorating, I have to admit it can look good. This weekend I did the Chocolate Stout cake (which is a great solid base for any serious cake decorating, and it tastes delicious as well) and decorated it to look like a wrapped gift. It’s a simple but effective design, and I love the bright colours!

I did this as a consignment for colleagues who were going to put a toy on top of the cake in place of a bow, so I didn’t need to completely finish that aspect of the decorating. Turned out pretty well really!

Mini Cooper Cake

There was another farewell at work on Friday, for a manager who had been with our organisation for a long time and had been a direct supervisor of mine, so I did some baking. This farewell was special though, so it required a special cake. I was tasked with making and decorating a cake to look like his beloved Mini Cooper, aka Burnie. It was the most challenging cake I’ve done in terms of decorating and, while I was happy with the result, I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do it again!

I realised that I was going to have to decorate the cake with fondant icing to get the best effect. I decided to make the Chocolate Stout Cake as the base because not only does everyone love it, it’s a good solid cake that would shape well and wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the fondant. Slight problem: I’ve never worked with fondant before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing!

Additional challenge: I only had access to white ready-made fondant, so I had to try colouring it myself as well! Luckily the only extra colours that I needed were red and black, and these are pretty easy to do. It gets messy and I do recommend using latex gloves to knead the colour in, unless you want seriously stained hands! Also, it’s easier to manage in small batches rather than colouring the whole amount at once, especially if you need a lot of one colour. I did the colouring 2 days before as this allows the colours to deepen a little, and I made sure I wrapped the fondant well so that it didn’t dry out.

Messy!

I made the cake itself the day before, and if I ever do this again I’ll probably make it 2 days before instead, because I forgot that this cake is better kept in the fridge overnight before removing from the tin. For this one I only had time to leave it in the fridge about 3-4 hours. Then I cut it and covered in buttercream. Because it had been cut I ended up with crumbs everywhere in the buttercream, and I probably put it on too thickly as well, so it didn’t really look good. The basic shape was right though.

Red fondant went over the entire cake, then white for the top, the stripes, the headlights and the numberplates. Black fondant for the wheels and the front grill, and then liquorice strips for the detail. Finally, silver pearl dust mixed with vanilla essence painted on for the windows and black gel colour painted on for the numberplate detail.

The cake was covered entirely in red fondant first.

White fondant layered on top to make the roof, windows, racing stripes and headlights.

Black fondant used for the wheels and the front grill.

Thin strips of liquorice used for the detail around the windows and the bottom edge of the cake.

I was pretty happy with the finished product, and while it was lacking some details such as windscreen wipers, side mirrors, tail lights etc, it was still definitely identifiable as Burnie the Mini Cooper!

Burnie!

I took him to work where he was admired and then devoured! Overall the cake was a success, but slightly stressful and time-consuming to make – probably because I hadn’t done it before. I do have some fondant left over, so I might use it to decorate cupcakes soon…

Burnie gets the knife!

Easter Chocolate Cupcakes

We had a big Easter celebration on our final day of work before the break – there was an Easter bonnet parade and competition, some lucky door prizes, the Easter Bunny made an appearance, and of course there was a heap of food! I made these chocolate cupcakes, and  they fitted right in with the theme for the day.

I used the same recipe for the cakes as I did for the Chocolate and Rosewater Cupcakes, and I made a very chocolatey buttercream icing (extra cocoa!) to pipe on top. I then decorated them with crushed Cadbury Flake bars, and popped a couple of mini chocolate eggs on top of it all to finish them off!

Chocolate and Rosewater Cupcakes

I love turkish delight. I love the real thing – big soft pieces dusted in icing sugar -and I love the chocolate coated turkish delight bars or the little ones that come in big boxes of assorted chocolates. I especially love it combined with dark chocolate. So of course I wanted to turn this combination into cupcakes!

My main problem is that I’ve never really found a good chocolate cupcake recipe. Chocolate chip muffins, yes. Chocolate cupcakes, not so much. My basic recipe is vanilla, and it doesn’t convert well to the rich chocolatey mixture that I was after, so a whole new recipe was required. Here’s the one that I tried:

100g dark chocolate
1 cup (250ml) water
125g butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (255g) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
½ cup (75) plain flour
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 160°C. Combine the chocolate and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Cream the butter and then add the sugar and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. Add the flours and cocoa powder and stir until just combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This will make about 24 cakes, but I found the paper cases came away from some of the cakes themselves a little bit, which concerned me. They tasted great, but it didn’t help their appearance!

I decorated them with rosewater buttercream – basic buttercream with some rosewater essence and a few drops of pink food colouring – and some chocolate buttons. I took them to work and they disappeared really quickly!

Chocolate Rainbow Cupcakes

It was my manager’s birthday over the weekend, and of course I’d make cupcakes for her any day because she’s pretty awesome really, but for a birthday I had to get baking and make sure she had something pretty and tasty to welcome her to work on a Monday!

She loves anything chocolate, so chocolate cupcakes seemed the obvious choice. I used a ganache on top instead of my usual buttercream, just for a little extra chocolatey decadence. I also wanted to use a recipe that was pretty easy, and that didn’t require me to go shopping for extra ingredients. So I found a regular cake recipe amongst my cookbook stash and went with that. I then made up the ganache; I didn’t have cream so I substituted with butter. This worked pretty well, and because I used dark chocolate the butter didn’t dilute the bittersweet darkness too much.

To make them a bit colourful and fun I used bright coloured paper cases, and sprinkled rainbow chocolate chips on top! Colourful and fun, and a happy start to a Monday!!