Secret Chocolate Cake

After making a Unicorn Cake for my friend Sophie last year I was slightly stumped about how I could top my baking efforts for her birthday this year.  I decided not to beat around the bush and to ask her directly what she wanted this year.  She had one word for me, “chocolate”, and so I started to think of the most fun and unusual way to fill my short (and sweet…!) brief.

A while ago I made a chocoholic cake for a colleague and as Sophie and I work together I didn’t want to repeat the design.  I had recently seen a cupcake design online that included hidden sweets in the middle of the cake and thought it might be fun to try that on a grand scale.  I wanted the actual cake to look tempting, but plain; something big that wouldn’t be out of place in the Bruce Bogtrotter scene in Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

It took four sponges and a heck of a lot of cream cheese frosting to create this:

Secret cake 4

But the beauty of the cake was when it was cut:

Secret cake 2

A lot of people asked me how I made it, assuming I had baked the cake with the sweets inside.  Of course you can’t bake chocolate sweets as they will melt – the best way to illustrate how this cake came together is pictorial:

Secret Cake 1

Sophie was pretty pleased with her cake, perhaps as pleased as she was with her fondant unicorn.  I wonder what next year will bring…

Secret cake 5

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Chocoholic cake

This was a birthday cake for the Chief Executive of the company I work for. In our office we have an area affectionately known as the ‘PFA’ which stands for Project’s Food Area; it is a bit of empty desk space at the end of the Projects pod where there is only one rule – if you leave food there it is free for all. The PFA is often home to delicious, calorific and sinful snacks as one person treats the office to another pack or biscuits or a new bag of sweets.

I had noticed that our Chief Exec is quite fond of the PFA and often has a little sample of its offerings as he wonders through the office. I decided the only way to go with a cake for him was to appease his sweet tooth so I decided to make the ultimate chocoholic cake with his name on.

Finished Chocoholic cake

I knew that I was going to cover the cake in chocolates so I didn’t want the actual cake too sweet or it would be hideous to eat. I decided to adapt a Morrison’s recipe I have for chocolate beetroot cake with cream cheese frosting to make it gluten free (a friend in the office can’t eat wheat, you can read about an Octopus cake I made for her here).

The cream-cheese frosting is not sickly sweet like butter icing so I covered the sides of the cake in lots of different kinds of chocolates, carefully constructing the chocoholic boarder with lots of texture. I then made the chocolate letters by piping melted dark chocolate onto cling film and the setting them in the fridge. I added the letters at the last minute so they wouldn’t break or droop in transit. I did make one error with this cake in terms of gluten free – I used Maltesers in the decorating which, of course, contain wheat. Luckily Izzie knew that she couldn’t eat them and pulled the Maltesers off before tucking into the cake.

This cake was so tasty, I’m going to break with convention and post the recipe.

Chocolate beetroot

Gluten-free chocolate beetroot cake

225g self-raising gluten free flour

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

70g cocoa

200g demerara sugar

150ml sunflower oil

300g cooked beetroot

2 tbsp milk

3 large eggs

 

Frosting

200g of plain chocolate

300g low fat soft cream cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line your tin (I used a square tin, roughly 8 inches)

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar.

In a blender mix together the wet ingredients – oil, beetroot, eggs, milk before pouring over the dry ingredients and mixing thoroughly.

Cook for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean.

 

For the frosting

Melt the chocolate and mix with the cream cheese. When the cake is cool, cover the cake in the frosting before adding any extra touches.

Signature Cupcakes

These days, largely thanks to The Great British Bake Off, it’s very trendy to have a Signature Bake – your default, fail-safe design that not only looks and tastes fantastic but has great sprinklings of your personality to boot.

Now, I think I would have called this my signature design before the GBBO took off; it is a tried and tested idea that I come back to time and time again because I love it, it is a crowd pleaser and easy to make.

The original incarnation of these cakes were for a friend at university, who, despite being one of the most petite girls I knew was also one of the biggest chocoholics I’ve ever met. I wanted to surprise her with cake for her birthday but as I was only going to see her at a lecture, needed to make something that was easy to transport. I didn’t really know what I was going to do but went out and bought loads of different kinds of chocolates, trying to get as many different shapes as possible. I also bought a box of wrapped Quality Street chocolates. The cakes ended up being mini chocoholic cakes for the mini chocoholic lady. I don’t have a picture of the original cakes I made, but here is a picture of a subsequent batch:

SigCakes2

I adore the texture of these cakes. I know it is a really simple design but I find it so aesthetically pleasing to cram as much as possible on a little cupcake with a wrapped chocolate as a focal point. I always consider angles and colours of the chocolates around the centrepiece to make them look just right. Some say that you should never put non-edible or pre-made things onto cakes, but I love how interesting it makes them. Also it makes eating them a bit of an adventure and it is always a joy to see people take great delight in picking off the chocolates one by one before getting to the cake.

I have used this design for loads of different people and for many different occasions; birthdays, thank-yous, fundraisers etc. Sometimes I add handmade glittery chocolate letters instead of wrapped sweets in the centre to spell out names to personalise the cakes. On opening a tin full of these, a friend once exclaimed “Oh my gosh, it’s like a childhood dream, in a box!!” – I was pretty happy with that reaction.

Theme and variation

Over the years I have tried a few variations on this theme. I’ve experimented with a mini-biscuit version and a sweetie version, pictured here on a beautiful cake stand I was given on leaving a job; I made cakes for everyone at my office on my last day and happily displayed them on my new stand before consumption.

Signature cakes on stand

A find-and-use-whatever-is-in-the-cupboard version:

Sigcakes1And also a same colour version

yellow cakes

But I don’t think anything beats the original chocoholic cakes.

I rarely take pictures of these now as batches seem interchangeable, but I assure you, no two cakes will ever be the same.

If your signature bake has oodles of your personality in it, I think these are quite apt for me. I’m not the tidiest of decorators (or people) and I like how there is beauty in the chaos here. Chaotic is a word you could use to describe my hair, often seen piled on top of my head in a flurry of messy curls – I know, a strange tangent from cake, but my point is, I like constructed disorder and like to think that is what these cakes represent!