Sunday, 2 April 2017

College Classes are Over! Hoorah! (Chocolate Butter Cake with Simple Fudge Icing)

I have officially finished all my Masters degree classes! Now all that's left is the summer thesis (oh joy), and I marked the occasion with a delicious buttery chocolate cake!

I don't often make cakes using the creamed method. In fact, for the last four years of running this blog, I have almost exclusively made cakes using a sabayon (that is, eggs beaten with sugar). Over the years I have lauded the use of this method for producing lighter airier cakes....

Until I realised that all this time I've been creaming my butter incorrectly.

Yes, am now a creamed butter cake convert once more. The trick is beating the absolute bloody hell out of the butter, and slowly incorporating the eggs. So, it's like a sabayon in reverse: usually, I beat the eggs and sugar and gradually add the fat. This time I beat the fat and sugar, and gradually added the eggs.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like the lightness of a whipped egg cake. However, they're not as foolproof: they can shrink, not rise properly, be rubbery, etc., but I now understand why a butter cake, or traditional Victoria sponge, is the go-to for beginners.

Also, I am now also a convert to using icing sugar in fudge icing. For years I was a bit of a purist about using sugar syrup, but it's fiddly as Hell. This chocolate fudge icing uses four simple ingredients, and now fussing with boiling sugar.

The basic formula is 4 parts chocolate, 4 parts icing sugar, 2 parts butter, and 1 part milk. So, it's essentially a traditional buttercream icing, with as much chocolate as icing sugar added. It's really light and fluffy, but at the same time rich and thick.

So, let's get started!

Makes one two-layer 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake

For the cake,
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) butter, very soft
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) sugar, light brown or caster
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten in their own jug or bowl
  • 7 ounces (200 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 1 ounce (30 grames) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) baking powder
  • 2 fluid ounces (60 millilitres) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) vanilla essence

For the icing,
  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) plain chocolate, minimum 45% cocoa
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) butter
  • 2 fluid ounces (60 millilitres) milk
  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) vanilla essence


First, make the cake.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F, Gas Mk.4), and grease and flour the inside of a deep 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake tin. Alternatively, you can use two sandwich tins of the same width.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until pale, light, and fluffy. This can take about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Beating all the time, add the sugar in three additions, beating well between each addition. This can take a further 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Mix the vanilla essence into the beaten eggs, and add the eggs into the butter and sugar gradually—about four or five additions— beating very well until completely combined after each addition. The mixture shouldn't break, but if it does at any stage add a spoonful of the measured flour and continue beating.
  • Put the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a sieve set over the bowl, and sieve in half of the dry ingredients. Fold them through gently with a metal spoon or wire whisk.
  • Add the milk and fold again, followed by the final addition of dry ingredients. Fold gently until fully combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top out as best you can with a metal spoon. Alternatively, split the mixture evenly between the two sandwich tins.
  • Place into the centre of the preheated oven and bake one whole cake for 35 to 45 minutes, or two sandwiches for 20 to 25 minutes. Check for doneness with the usual cocktail stick test at the lower time mark, and cook for a further 5 or 10 minutes if needed.
  • Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool in the tin(s) for about 10 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking, make the icing.
  • In microwave proof mixing bowl, or a glass bow set over a pan of simmering water, melt together the chocolate, butter, and milk. If using the microwave, heat in one minute intervals on the "Defrost" setting.
  • Stir well until fully melted and combined, then cool completely until it thickens, about two hours or so. You can speed up this process by cooling it in the fridge and giving it a mix every so often to cool evenly.
  • Once thickened, beat in the icing sugar gradually using an electric mixer until you have a fudgy spreadable icing. 
Finally, assemble the masterpiece.
  • Cut the domes off the cake and slice in half, and sandwich cut sides together with about a quarter of the icing. Use half to ice the top and sides, and then use the rest to pipe a border along the top and bottom edges of the cake. I used a star tip, but you can use whatever shape you like.
  • If using sandwiches, cut the domes off and sandwich cut sides together as above.
  • Decorate the top with the sweets, or any decoration of your choice. I iced the top with a simple icing sugar and milk glaze.
Keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks, but it's best eaten within the first five days.

THIS TIME IN 2016: Depression Is a Terrible, Terrible Thing
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