Who doesn’t love cake? That’s a tough question!
I bake whenever I can make an excuse to, and last week was my Sister’s and my Dad’s birthdays. You can’t have a birthday without cake, right? So I made this chocolate cake to celebrate.
This is a rich chocolate sponge cake filled and iced with thick, creamy chocolate ganache and topped with hand-piped buttercream flowers. And sprinkles, of course.
This is a long recipe (but worth every minute) so I fully recommend you make it for an upcoming celebration. It is one of those things which looks harder to do than it is – with a little time and motivation you will have a beautiful centrepiece to show off to family and friends. That is, until it disappears…
The first step is to prepare the buttercream for the top. It may seem odd to be working backwards but the purple apple blossom flowers need time to chill so we can place them on the cake without ruining them. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of the piping process. However it is relatively simple.
You need to prepare a batch of buttercream – about 125 grams of butter sweetened to taste with icing sugar.
Take out a few tablespoons of buttercream and dye it purple. Snip off the corner of a plastic food bag and place a tapered edge piping tip (Wilton tip 101) inside the bag. Fill the bag with the purple icing and pipe apple blossom flowers onto a small round baking tin lined with grease-proof paper. (tutorial here) A round tin is useful as you can rotate it easily as you pipe each petal.
Take another tablespoon of the buttercream and dye it yellow. Put this into a plastic bag with a small round tip. Pipe 3 small dots in the centre of each flower. You could put those little metallic balls on instead, if you like.
They should look something like this:
Store them in the freezer to firm up until needed.
Squeeze out the remaining purple icing back into the purple bowl. Add more buttercream and pink food dye to make a pink buttercream for the roses. Put this into a plastic bag with a star tip. You could put half pink and half white buttercream as I did, to get a marbled swirl effect.
Dye the remaining yellow icing green and place most of this into a plastic bag with a leaf tip or a 3-point star tip. This will be used to create the leaves. Put the remainder into a plastic bag with the same small round tip used for the centre of the flowers. This is optional but I used it for the smaller leaves on top of the ganache. You can leave the buttercream in the fridge. Plastic bags are the easiest to use for this for two reasons: 1. Most people already have them and 2. No washing up – yay!
Okay, that’s the buttercream done for now. Next, we make the silky, creamy, chocolatey ganache. Ganache is a delicious mixture of equal parts cream and chocolate – what could go wrong?
I heated the cream in the microwave and then added chopped milk and dark chocolate. The key is to leave it for a while to let the residual heat of the cream melt the chocolate. Then gently swirl it together. How pretty does that look?
Keep stirring until you get a dark silky ganache. At this point, the ganache is too runny to fill and ice a cake so we need to chill it. You can freeze it for about an hour or chill it in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Just make sure the ganache has cooled to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer.
Now, it’s cake time! I am using my classic Victoria Sponge recipe, which I know off by heart as I have made it so many times. I have added a mixture of chocolate and milk to make a chocolate sponge.
First, cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. You can make this cake by hand or with an electric whisk – either way you still get a delicious cake at the end!
Then mix the cocoa powder and milk to get a chocolatey paste. This removes any cocoa lumps and ensures the cake is not dry. Add this paste to the butter and sugar and stir through. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Then add in the flour and baking powder and carefully fold it through. Spoon the mixture into two greased and lined sandwich tins.
Bake at 180°C for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the tins ASAP to prevent them sticking. Peel off the grease-proof and transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool. Oh, and don’t forget to lick the bowl – it’s the most important step!
Once the cakes have cooled, you can fill them with some of the ganache, which should be the consistency of thick buttercream. If your ganache is too hard you can soften it in the microwave – but keep an eye on it! Then ice the sides and top of the cake using a table knife/palette knife with a thin layer and chill the cake for about half an hour in the fridge. At this point remove the coloured buttercream from the fridge so it can soften a little, but DO NOT remove the apple blossoms from the freezer! Here’s my cake after the first layer of icing:
After the cake has chilled you can put on the second and final layer of icing – make it look pretty! Tip: dip the knife in hot water and dry it before spreading out the top to help smooth out the ganache.
Next, pipe on the flowers! You can do whatever design you want. I went for a sort of cluster on one side.
Practice out piping on a paper towel until you are happy. For the roses, pipe swirls starting from the inside. Then remove the apple blossoms from the freezer and gently peel them off of the grease-proof. Then carefully press them into the ganache where desired. Use the green icing to pipe on leaves of varying sizes. Finally, fill in any small gaps with tiny star shaped sprinkles. And you’re done! Now keep the cake in the fridge until needed and take a well earned break. I think I need a break after writing up this post, and maybe a slice of cake too!
Chocolate Celebration Cake
Time: approx. 2-3 hours
You will need:
For the buttercream:
- 125 grams Butter, softened
- about 200g grams Icing Sugar
- Food dye in Purple, Yellow, Pink and Green
For the ganache:
- 200 millilitres Double Cream
- 200 grams Chocolate, roughly chopped
For the cake:
- 150 grams Butter, softened
- 150 grams Caster Sugar
- 40 grams Cocoa Powder
- 80 millilitres Milk
- 3 free range eggs, any size
- 150g Self-Raising Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- Firstly, prepare the buttercream by creaming the butter and icing sugar. Dye 3 tablespoons of buttercream purple and using a piping bag with a tapered tip pipe apple blossoms onto a baking tray lined with grease-proof. Dye 2 tablespoons yellow and pipe 3 small dots in the centre of each flower using a small round tip. Put this tray in the freezer. Dye the remaining purple buttercream pink and fill a star-tipped piping bag with the pink buttercream and the remaining white. Dye the remaining yellow buttercream green and fill it into two bags: one with a leaf tip and one with a small round tip. Place these in the fridge.
- Make the ganache: warm the cream in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Add the chopped chocolate and wait for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. Chill the ganache in the fridge for 3-4 hours or the freezer for 1 hour.
- Make the cake: Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl by hand or using an electric whisk. In a separate, smaller bowl whisk the cocoa powder and milk together to form a smooth paste. Add this paste to the butter and sugar and mix. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition. Carefully fold in the flour and baking powder. Spoon the cake batter into 2 greased and lined sandwich tins, and bake for 18-22 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Lick the bowl 🙂
- Cool the cakes on a wire rack. Fill and ice the cake with the ganache. Chill it for 30 minutes in the fridge. Ice on a second layer of ganache.
- Pipe on the buttercream flowers and leaves. Remove the apple blossoms from the freezer – carefully peel them off the paper and place them on the cake. Decorate with star sprinkles. Enjoy!
Cake can be stored in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long!). Any leftover buttercream/ganache can be stored in the freezer for up to a few weeks and thawed when needed.