This is one of the recipes from the ‘Special’ section of The Bible and I admit that usually I quickly skip over this section. However, now I’m getting near to the end of the book, I can’t keep skipping over them. This is a recipe that takes up two pages in the book and there’s no photo of the finished cake, instead there’s just a little sketch and the other thing, it involves making caramel!
I don’t know why, but today I decided to give it a go. I was home along (well except for the dog), so thought this an ideal time to have a go.
The oven was put on to preheat at Fan 200°. Instead of using baking tins for the cake you had to take six sheets of baking parchment and draw on each one a 20cm (8″) circle. I used the base of one of my sandwich tins for this. The marked parchment was put onto the baking sheets. Mary does state that you can bake the cakes in batches, so I knew I could fit 3 into my oven (in hindsight I realised I could have cooked all 6 at the same time if I’d used my other oven too!). I must admit I was already slightly concerned about cooking cakes without using a tin. I had a feeling that was going to get messy!
To make the sponge layers, 4 large eggs were broken into a bowl and 175g caster sugar was added. The mixture was whisked together with my (or my daughter’s) faithful electric whisk until it was light and foamy. The whisk just left a trail in the mixture when lifted out. To this I added 150g sifted self-raising flour – a little at a time, folding in between each addition.
The mixture was spooned out onto the three circles, it was very mousse like, so I’m pleased to say it didn’t run off. I used a palette knife to spread it out over the ‘circle’. The trays were popped into the oven for 6-8 minutes. My cakes needed about 7 minutes in total. After this time they were a golden brown in colour and springy to the touch. Once removed from the oven I placed the cake tin I used to draw the circles on the parchment over the top and carefully cut round the edges to neaten them up. The parchment was then peeled off the bottom of each cake. I must admit I was rather cautious with the first cake, it wasn’t that thick and I had visions of it breaking up as I peeled the parchment off, however, they seemed pretty sturdy cakes and the parchment came off easily. The final three cakes were made in the same way as above and all six were left to cool .
Whilst the cakes were cooling (which I’m sure didn’t take that long as they were so thin) I took the dog for a lovely long walk in the glorious sunshine. We probably took a bit longer than usual as he spent most of the time retrieving a ball from the river. Well it was hot and he loves swimming and I thought I’d make the most of the sunshine, we don’t seem to see it that often!
Back from the dog walk it was time for the next stage! Chocolate buttercream was the next thing to be made. This wasn’t your usual buttercream it was a little more intricate. Although Mary doesn’t start off with the chocolate I decided I would as it had to be left to cool. In a bowl I broke 100g plain chocolate and melted this in the microwave, giving it quick 30 second blasts. Once melted, it was put to one side to cool. In another bowl I put 2 large egg whites and added to this 100g icing sugar. The bowl was set over a pan of simmering water and whisked until the mixture held its shape. It probably took about 10 minutes in total. By now both my arms were aching from swapping the mixer over from hand to hand! In yet another bowl (what a lot of washing up I was producing) I weighed out 225g softened unsalted butter (this wasn’t going to be a very ‘healthy’ cake) which I creamed together until really soft. The egg mixture was added to this a little at a time. It was finally time for the chocolate to be added. This was poured in and mixed until it was evenly blended. I did have a quick taste of the buttercream at this point and if I’m honest I didn’t think it was very chocolaty!
Now for the next stage! The dreaded caramel. One of the sponge circles was placed on a sheet of parchment. Reading through this recipe I noticed that this was to be cut up, so I put the parchment onto a large chopping board, so I wouldn’t have to move it before cutting it. Another sheet of baking parchment had to be led out for some more caramel to be put on.
The time had come, there was no going back, it was time to make the caramel! Into a pan went 5 tbsp water to which I added 175g granulated sugar (Mary does say you can use caster sugar too). This was put over a low heat and although I wanted to give it a stir, I didn’t. Once the sugar had melted the heat was increased to allow the syrup to boil. Mary says to boil it until it reaches a deep straw colour. I did us my digital meat thermometer for this, but soon gave up as I think I had the point of the thermometer on the base of the pan, so it was giving an incorrect reading. As soon as it had gone from a pale colour and started getting a little darker, I removed the pan from the heat.
The mixture was allowed to cool slightly. This allowed it to thicken also which I was pleased with as I knew it had to be poured over the top of one of the cakes and I had the vision of it just soaking straight through. Half the mixture was poured over the top of the cake and I quickly spread this out with a palette knife. The easiest way I found of filling in any gaps was to dip the palette knife into the caramel and spread it over the gaps. So far, so good. The remaining caramel was poured onto the other piece of parchment and left to set.
By now I was onto the second page of the recipe and I must admit when I came to type this up I had visions of this page being stuck to the next one. It was slightly stuck, but luckily it wasn’t too bad – at least I can still see the recipe on the next page which I have still to bake! Mary states that when the caramel on the top of the sponge is beginning to set to mark it and cut it into 16 sections with an oiled knife. I retrieved my sharpest knife and quickly oiled it and began cutting. It was surprising how quickly the caramel set, the first half was fine. I managed to cut the 8 slices easily. But the second half proved a little more difficult. The caramel was really setting quite quickly and on a couple of the wedges the caramel nearest the thinnest part shattered.
The remaining caramel which had been poured onto the parchment had by now set too. This was snapped into smaller pieces and put into a bag. I then used a rolling-pin to crush the caramel up.
It was now time to assemble the cake. The first circle was put onto the serving dish and the top covered with the buttercream. This was done with the other four cakes. Once assembled the sides were covered with chocolate buttercream too. Although Mary doesn’t say to do so, I also covered the top of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. A small amount of buttercream was kept back.
The sides of the cakes were covered with the crushed pieces of caramel. This was quite fiddly and rather messy – this cake was certainly producing a lot of ‘clearing up’! Ocne the sides were covered it was onto the finishing piece. 16 rosettes were piped onto the top of the cake and a caramel topped wedge of cake was placed at an angle on top of each rosette to form the top layer.
The cake looked stunning. It was a very, very rich cake and very, very sweet. You could certainly see why it was divided into 16 sections, you couldn’t eat very much more. I was pleased to say that the buttercream did taste of chocolate as I was a little bit worried about this. It’s certainly a showstopper, but not one of my favourites tastewise.