Cake Homework

The last thing you need on Easter Sunday when you’re surrounded by empty Easter egg packaging is a recipe for chocolate cake, but bookmark this for future reference or if you’ve got any leftover dark chocolate from today, this is a great use for it. So make yourself a cuppa and read on…

We’ve been enjoying the Easter weekend up in Lavenham, Suffolk (aka Godric’s Hollow for HP fans) visiting my mother-in-law. We popped into the beautiful Swan at Lavenham with our youngest yesterday (pictured above) for a swift pint in the Airmen’s Bar. If you’re visiting from the US particularly, pop in to check out the 8th US Army Air Force and RAF memorabilia in the bar. Weather permitting, we’re off to visit my mates at Lavenham Falconry tomorrow morning to do their Owl Encounter experience. We’re all huge Harry Potter fans in our house and our eldest is planning a Harry Potter 8th Birthday party in June (I’m already working on cake ideas) so we’re looking forward to pretending to be choosing our Hogwarts pet owls tomorrow.

I’m so glad to have the day off work tomorrow and have really appreciated the long weekend. However, over the years, I’ve spent my fair share of weekends and bank holidays in Accident & Emergency for various reasons and it’s always worth thinking about all those fantastic people working over the Easter break, particularly in the NHS. Our extended family and friends have got their money’s worth from the NHS recently so I wanted to say a big thank you to all of you working in all of the emergency services for what you do for us. As a teenager, I used to volunteer for St John Ambulance but something I might do in the future is to train to be a Community First Responder. The minimum time commitment is 5-8 hours per week so it’s worth considering, particularly if you need first aid training for your job but rarely get to use it as it keeps it all fresh in your mind.

We’ve been enjoying the new series of Bake Off Creme de la Creme in our house, particularly Daughter #2 (above), as she’s got the costume to match and has a real touch of the Cherish Findens about her too – particularly when offering her critiques of my bakes! The kids were too young to understand much about when I was on the Great British Bake Off, but as it’s been part of their lives for the past three years, they’re really into it now. From the promo shots of the next Bake Off series, it looks like they’ve already started filming this year’s series. That’s pretty much the same timetable we worked on in 2014, so to the next lot of bakers about to start their journeys – Good Luck! As I say to everyone, for me there have been no down sides to having done the show – it’s been a really enriching experience.

Daughter #1 (above) had some pretty appropriate homework for the Easter holidays: to make a traditional cake with her family. This is a great task, as with over 40 languages spoken at their school, there is an incredible diversity of different traditions and I’m sure they’re going to end up with a fantastic selection (I’m always on hand as a guest judge!) While I’m not religious, my version of my mother-in-law’s Simnel cake recipe made it into my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and I thought it was the perfect cake for this challenge over Easter. Though to be honest, it would be quicker to just make the marzipan, as the kids pick all that off and then leave the cake!

In and amongst a lot of fun this Easter, the kids have still had a bit of homework to do, so we came up with a new incentive this week. At our daughters’ school, they have a fantastic Maths programme called Mathletics, which I’d really recommend if your school doesn’t do it already. They can play ‘Live Mathletics’ against children from all over the world and also do topic-specific challenges, for which they earn gold bars and points. I promised Daughter #1 that if she completed all her gold bars during the Easter holidays then I’d make her a gold bar cake for when they had friends coming over for a play date this week. It was actually a pretty straightforward bake, so I’m sharing the recipe for it today. The ganache is a great way to use up leftover dark chocolate from Easter Sunday too.

Chocolate Loaf Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 140g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 250ml double cream
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • Gold lustre dust (I used this one but only because I use it so often so need a huge pot, you will only need a little pot, e.g. this one)

Equipment list

  • 1kg loaf tin
  • Cake wire (optional – you could use a sharp bread knife if you have a steady hand)
  • Small offset palette knife
  • Soft bristled paint brush (any kind is fine as long as you’ve not used it for slapping emulsion on your walls!)
  • Cookie letter stamps and/or fondant letter cutters (optional, but I found loads in my baking cupboard – they’re obviously popular stocking fillers for bakers)

Method

  1. Line the loaf tin with baking parchment – press the sheet in and fold it around the edges – you don’t need to cut the corners of the paper
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC  / fan 160oC  / gas mark 4
  3. Cream together the butter and caster sugar with an electric hand whisk
  4. Beat the eggs and vanilla extract into the mix – beat the eggs in one by one to stop the mixture from splitting
  5. Sift together the baking powder, cocoa powder and plain flour
  6. Fold these dry ingredients into the mix with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to pick up any dry mixture from the bottom of the bowl
  7. Put the batter into your baking tin, using your offset palette knife to smooth the surface
  8. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until a cocktail stick poked into the centre comes out clean
  9. Allow the sponge to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before taking it out and putting it on a cooling rack
  10. To make the ganache, break the chocolate up and put it into a heatproof bowl
  11. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and heat on a low heat until just before simmering point
  12. Pour the hot cream over the broken chocolate in the bowl and mix well. Leave this to cool to room temperature, but give it a stir every now and again as it cools down. If your ganache starts to split at this point, just heat a couple of tablespoons of milk and beat this in to bring it back to normal
  13. To construct the cake, use a ruler to measure the height of the sponge and divide by three. If you have a cake wire, set it to this height and cut the sponge into three layers. If you don’t have a cake wire you’ll have to do this by eye
  14. As this is an irregular shaped cake, I used an old cereal box to cut out a base to the size of the cake, but any piece of clean cardboard will do
  15. Build the cake by starting with the biggest layer, as it will taper towards the top like a gold bar
  16. Load the ganache into a piping bag. Pipe a layer of chocolate ganache onto the first sponge and smooth down with your offset palette knife, then pipe an additional edge of ganache all around the edge of the sponge surface. Spread 2 tbsp of raspberry jam into the well made by this edge. The ganache edge stops the jam from oozing out of the cake
  17. Smooth more ganache onto the bottom of the second layer and sandwich this on top, then repeat the steps above until all three layers are together with two jam and ganache filled layers. Then coat the entire cake with ganache and smooth all around with your palette knife then pop in the fridge to set
  18. The oil in the ganache provides a good surface for the gold lustre dust. When the ganache layer has set, put the cake onto the cake stand/plate/board you’ll be displaying it on and brush a fine layer of lustre dust all over the cake, building up the layers depending on how golden you want it to look
  19. When the cake is golden, use your cookie stamps to put a message on the top of the cake and voila! A cake fit for a billionaire (or hard-working Mathlete!)

I hope you’ve all had a great Easter weekend and are in a well-deserved chocolate stupor. Until next week, Happy Baking!

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