So it seems that I dream in chocolate cake, or at least, I have been recently.
During my years of home-baking, one of my missions has been to find the perfect chocolate cake recipe. I am a firm believer that good chocolate cake should be rich in flavour, dense but not heavy, a real hit of chocolate but not too sweet. I don’t see the point in a plain sponge with some cocoa powder thrown in for good measure – that does not, to me, a real chocolate cake make. (I can be quite opinionated when it comes to cake, it would seem…!) It has taken me many years and many attempts to finally find a good recipe. My parents are the long-suffering (or possibly not, seeing as they are essentially getting lots of cake without doing any of the baking!) subjects of my experiments, trying every creation that comes out of the oven, always responding positively even when I consider my work to be a disaster. But at last, I hit on something that lived up to my expectations – the Brooklyn Blackout Cake, a recipe taken from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.
Originally intended to be a three-layer cake, I reduced the recipe and made a two-layer cake instead. I’m still perfecting my cake-stacking skills, and thought that three layers might be a little ambitious for an amateur teaching herself the basics of cake-building. As you might be able to see from the photo, the cake is actually a little bit on the wonky side because my carving ability is still a little bit raw – that’s another skill I’m trying to hone, so hopefully with a bit more practice, I’ll get better at it. However, I feel that my icing skills have come a long way since my other chocolate cake! The acquisition of a new palette knife and some frosting practice definitely helped too; I now know how to get a good, smooth finish on the outside of a cake.
Of course, my inner cake-decorator was desperate to make her mark on this cake too, so I decided to top it with some designs in piped royal icing. Strangely, I’m quite new to royal icing – having never really made iced cakes before now, I’ve always just used basic water icing, which I now know is less stable and harder to work with than royal icing when piping intricate patterns. The design above was intended to mirror the floral pattern of the cake stand that I used. However, I found the No. 2 writing nozzle that I used was a little thicker than I intended and as a result, the end product was not as clean and delicate as I wanted it to be. I feel that the border could have been done better, but overall, I’m quite pleased with the centre design, and for a first-try at pattern piping, I don’t think that it’s a bad attempt. It was definitely a good learning curve and I now know more about piping for my future cakes!
So this is my first real decorated cake, and while I long to dash ahead and plunge straight into making carved and shaped cakes, there’s still a lot more to learn about traditional cakes first. From piping decoration to stacking and supporting tiers to fondant-work (both as a covering and a decoration) there is a lot of ground to cover and being self-taught, it could take some time, but I am slowly building up my skills and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I will be able to tackle more unconventional cakes!