My beautiful, vivacious, generous, intelligent, loyal and all-round awesome friend Cat turns 30 today. She is the most marvellous maker of mischief, queen of comedy and has the capacity to create magic out of absolutely nothing. There was never a more worthy recipient of a genuinely extravagant birthday cake… I found this recipe for a chocolate and raspberry cake online, so I converted it into UK measurements for a two-tier cake:
||8” cake (+ 4 cupcakes)
||6” cake (+ 3 cupcakes)
|Dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids)
|Hot brewed coffee
|Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
|Bicarbonate of soda
Preheat to 150C. Butter and base-line your tins. (I often take the bone-idle route and settle for just base-lining, but you really should butter these tins, even if they’re non-stick.) Measure out and sieve all the dry ingredients into one bowl. Finely chop the chocolate, then pour the hot coffee over, let it sit, then stir to make sure the chocolate is evenly melted. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs for about 3 minutes until slightly thickened. While the beater is running on slow speed, add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the oil in the same way.
Looks a bit like custard
Pour in the chocolate/coffee mix…
Slightly darker custard
Finally, sift in the dry ingredients and mix (carefully, so as not to let too much fly out of the bowl) until properly combined. You will have a VERY liquidy cake mixture, which will make you question whether it could possibly create a cake. Have faith, my friends.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The original recipe is for three 9″ pans but my trio measure 8″ so I made some Brucie Bonus cupcakes with the extra batter (very useful for Quality Control purposes).
Three 8″ cakes + Brucie Bonus cupcakes
Bake on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Interestingly, the 6″ cakes took the same time to bake.
Pile ‘em up (and fire the lighting designer)
Next comes the raspberry goodness, for which you need:
300g fresh raspberries
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
(I made twice this, and now have an absurd quantity in my freezer.)
Blitz your raspberries then sieve the seeds out. As for how to clean the sieve afterwards, I have no tips. I yelled at mine, but it didn’t help. Pour the blitzed berries in a saucepan and sprinkle the sugar and cornflour over. Heat gently until it thickens, stirring all the time. It’ll take a good 10 minutes, I reckon. I reduced the sugar from the original recipe so this tastes relatively sharp (depending on your raspberries) but the rich, chocolatey cake can absolutely take it.
Look at that colour
Pour into a bowl and let it cool completely before sandwiching the cakes together with it. Be a bit more generous than I was; I could barely taste the raspberry (this may or may not have been influenced by the quantity of red wine I had already consumed).
Ganache time. The addition of Golden Syrup adds another dimension to this, which I really enjoyed. I did, however, remove the sugar from the original recipe. This quantity does a nice, thin-ish layer on the two cakes. You don’t really want it too much thicker, I don’t think.
210g dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids)
300ml double cream
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
75g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Finely chop the chocolate and throw in a heat-proof bowl. Over a low-medium heat, slowly bring the double cream and Golden Syrup to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir VERY SLOWLY in concentric circles starting in the middle. Be patient. For a long time, it’ll look like it won’t emulsify but it will. Do not be tempted to speed up your stirring. When it has emulsified, throw in the butter a few cubes at a time and continue stirring gently until it’s all in and melted. You’ll have a beautifully glossy ganache.
The phases of ganache-making
I refrigerated mine (stirring every 5 minutes) until it reached spreading consistency.
Into the final phase… decoration. YES. For the 6″ cake, I cheated and bought some high quality dark chocolate pencils and stuck 75 round the side. At 10cm, they only just fit the height of the cake..
Looks good though, right?
For the bottom tier, I tried my hand at tempering chocolate without a digital thermometer. Then I put “digital thermometer” on my list for Santa. The theory is that you take 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) and melt 130g of it in a bain-marie, keeping it over the pan until it reaches 48C. Then take the bowl off the heat, and add the remaining 70g of chocolate, stirring gently and continuously until it cools to 32C. If you do this successfully, the chocolate will set more quickly than usual and will be more robust (i.e. won’t melt as easily) as normal chocolate.
I did just fine with my mercury jam thermometer until the cooling down bit, when the minimum measured temperature of 40C was something of a hindrance. So I guessed. As luck would have it, the result was alright, but it took an age to set so was definitely not tempered properly.
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that my kitchen is a little… petite, so this next project had to take place at my dining table, with the help of some foam-board I had left over from a crafty project…
I cut and taped an acetate cocoa butter transfer to make a 70cm long strip, 12cm wide, which I laid out cocoa-side up. I spread the chocolate (a little too thinly) over with an angled palette knife and waiting IMPATIENTLY for the FLIPPING thing to set, wishing that it were a cooler October evening than it was.
Set, you fickle bugger. SET.
Eventually, it was sufficiently set for me to wrap it around the cake. In light of the fact that I knew I hadn’t tempered the chocolate properly, I decided it needed a little technical assistance to set properly so put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I carefully peeled off the acetate (not quite carefully enough, you might notice).
We didn’t need that little chunk.
A quick trip across London and some holding of breath, and the genuinely extravagant birthday cake was assembled, beribboned…
Chocolate & Raspberry Cake
… and set on fire.
Happy birthday, Cat. x