Last week I made the mistake of talking up my wikkid baking skillz at work, and as such was unanimously nominated to provide a 3-in-1 birthday cake, for the birthdays of myself and of two others that are all around this week. Someone requested mud cake, and I asked whether they wanted a mud cake that would make it feel like they had been punched in the head, and they said yes. So I decided on this one, which is the recipe my friend Emma handed me when I volunteered to make this cake for her engagement party...
... and also what I used for my friend Jody's 30th birthday.
I'm thinking about using it for the bottom layer of our wedding cake, but it's going to take a practice run or two to get it right - baking in a 12" pan is quite a different story to baking in an 8" pan. Hurrah for tasty trial runs!
Before I begin, I have an important note for you: Although it tastes okay "raw", I do not recommend using Whittaker's chocolate for the ganache or for the decorations. I don't know whether this brand of chocolate was the problem or if there was something else freaky going on in my kitchen, but I do know that when I tried to melt white Whittaker's for the decorations it basically turned into a soft ball (as if I had burnt it, even though I was using a double boiler), which resulted in me having to waste my precious time driving back up the street to get some Cadbury Dream chocolate and finish the job. I'm sure Nestle's Milky Bar would also suffice. The reason I think that there's something up with the Whittaker's is because the ganache, which I used dark Whittaker's in, also came out funny and grainy, and it's never done that before using Club or Old Gold. Hopefully the cake itself turns out alright. I will find out tomorrow!
250g chocolate (125g each of dark and milk chocolate)
250g butter (NOT unsalted)
1tsp instant coffee granules/powder
2c + 2 tbsp plain flour
1/4c + 2tsp cocoa powder
1/2tsp bicarb soda
2 1/2c castor sugar (good in theory unless you forget to buy more like me! I used 3/4c castor and the rest was regular white sugar - I'll let you know if it tastes awful)
4 large eggs
2tbsp oil (any mild flavoured oil... again, I only had olive oil which isn't light, but will let you know if it tastes awful)
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2c buttermilk (I used normal milk with a little white vinegar - google "how to make buttermilk" and it'll give you better quantities)
150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
1/3c thickened cream
1 block white chocolate, melted
1 punnet fresh strawberries, washed and dried
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Preheat oven to 160oC. Grease 23cm round cake tin and line base and sides so paper comes a few cm above the top of the pan
Heat butter, chocolate, coffee and water in large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When melted and mixed, remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm/room temp (if you want to speed this up, put a couple of inches of water in your kitchen sink, place the saucepan in it and stir it. The water will suck the heat out of the saucepan and it will cool faster. Be very careful not to let water into the saucepan though!)
Sift flour, cocoa and bicarb soda into a very large bowl. Add castor sugar and stir together until well combined. Using a whisk is good for this, and for mixing the wet ingredients.
In a medium bowl whisk eggs, oil, vanilla and buttermilk. Add to flour mixture and stir well until combined.
Add melted chocolate mixture to the mixture in the large bowl in three batches, stirring until combined after each addition.
Pour mixture into pan and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Test cake with wooden skewer or thin bladed knife. If the skewer comes out clean or with moist crumbs (not gooey batter) attached it's done.
Remove from oven, leave in tin and cover with a clean tea towel until cool (DAMNIT!!! I knew I did something wrong...)
Note that I have tried this recipe out in different pans at different temperatures and for different cooking times, and I don't think I've ever gotten it quite right, but it always tastes good. Quite often the outside comes out a little hard but the inside is wonderful. Maybe if I remembered to put a teatowel over it while I was cooling it, it may have been another story...
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Place chocolate and cream in medium heavy-based saucepan over very low heat. Stir frequently. Remove from heat when chocolate has just melted and mixture is smooth. Cool ganache slightly at room temperature to obtain a spreadable consistency - too warm and it will soak into the cake. Spread on cake. I did a bit of a crumb coating whilst the ganache was probably a little too warm, and then when I had made the decorations I did a second, thicker coating and used it to glue on my decorations.
Note that this is not my preferred ganache recipe, and today it turned out particularly funny. You can probably see the grainy texture in the photo if you know what you're looking for. Usually I use equivalent parts cream to chocolate (e.g. what you have in mL in cream you have in g in chocolate) - I'll heat the cream until bubbles are just starting to form, remove form heat, and then add chopped up chocolate to it, sit it for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt and then stir it all until smooth. The longer you sit it the thicker it gets; if you cool it completely and then whip it it makes a really nice frosting; if you use it hot you can actually pour it over the cake for a glossy, thin finish (place cake on cake rack with a tray underneath before you pour). You can also up the proportion of chocolate used. The amount of chocolate used in this recipe is probably as high a proportion as you would ever want to go with, at least in my experience.
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Put a clean baking tray in the freezer to cool it. It is more important that the bottom of the tray is clean than the top.
Melt a block of white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not come into direct contact with the boiling water (i.e. the heat source), stirring frequently.
Once melted and smooth, very quickly dip strawberries into chocolate, shake off excess and place on baking paper to set.
Remove tray from freezer and spread remaining white chocolate thinly into an oblong shape on the back of the tray. Pop it back in the freezer and check it every 30 seconds or so until it is mostly set, but still a little soft.
Using a... okay, well I used a paint scraper that in a previous life been used to remove Araldite from the base plate of a vibration monitor. Rest assured it has been cleaned since then! But most normal people use a flat, long, sharp kitchen knife held sideways... hold it at about a 45 degree angle to the tray and curl the chocolate up. There's quite a good tutorial by Pioneer Woman here which I have probably directed you to before. Note that she uses a little vegetable shortening in it to soften it. I didn't this time, which is why my curls were thicker and didn't curl as nicely.
Arrange it nicely on top of the cake.
Admire the pretty.
Wait a day to eat it because you promised it to others... hopefully I don't Sleep Eat tonight...