20 May 2012

Learning To Chocolate...

While browsing food blogs, I stumbled over a website of a sugarcraft supplier that also offers a variety of courses, among others a Chocolate Day. Basically it said, bring a cake and we'll teach you to decorate it. So how could I resist, I've been looking for chocolate courses for some time without any luck.

So last Saturday was a very longed for day. The cake recipe arrived in an e-mail and I made the cake on Thursday evening.

Rich Chocolate Cake


65 g cocoa powder
250 ml boiling water
a little grapeseed oil
125 g unsalted butter
275 g caster sugar
200 g plain flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.25 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

  1. Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water well, then allow to cool completely.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Brush lightly a 5 in (13 cm) square cake tin with grapeseed oil, both sides and bottom. Then line it with baking paper - first cut a 15 cm wide and 52 cm long strip. Fold one of the long sides at 2 cm in from the edge, then snip this strip at 2 cm intervals. Place this strip along the sides of the cake tin so the folded part is at the bottom of the tin. Then cut a square piece and place at the bottom of the tin.

  3. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

  4. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.

  5. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them together with a fork a little.

  6. Add alternatively a little of the eggs and a little of the flour mixture into the creamed butter and sugar. Once the eggs are in, continue with the cocoa mixture and mix thoroughly until everything has been well incorporated and has an even colour.

  7. Pour in the mixture into the cake tin and bake until ready, about 1 h 15 minutes. Check with a skewer - it should come out clean.

  8. Take out the cake and let it cool down in the tin for 40 minutes.
    Then remove it from the tin, if there is damp on the baking paper, wipe it, then wrap the cake, along with the baking paper, tightly with cling film or put in a bag and seal so that it is airtight and allow to cool completely.

I didn't quite follow the instructions, by the time I had the cake batter ready, it looked like it would be way too much for a 5 inch cake, so I ripped everything up and rigged up for a 6 inch cake. Indeed, the batter filled up the 6 inch tin to just above the middle.

The instructions said bake at 180 degrees C. When I checked the cake after 40 minutes, very little appeared to have happened, then at 1 h, the cake had risen like volcano, which I believe means it's baked at too hot temperature. Thus I state 160 degrees C above. As there is such a small amount of rising agents, this cake won't rise much and the 5 inch square is enough.

Now here comes the interesting bits. Unwrap the clingfilm and remove the baking paper from the side of the cake, but leave the bottom one on.

Slicing the cake. There are several ways to get the cake layers. If using a knife, try to keep the cutting hand and arm as steady as possible and gently make a sawing movement. With the other hand, turn the cake around in a circle, so that the knife makes a shallow cut around the cake at the chosen level. As you turn the cake, make the cut a little deeper and continue turning until the cake has been sliced. This way, a cleaner cut will be achieved overall. But a knife has two surfaces, which generate friction when the cake is cut. This makes it a bit harder to cut and increases the risk of creating crumbles in the cake. So it may be worth investing in a cake slicer, which has a wire. This means very much smaller surface to generate friction, and so much easier to cut, in addition to resulting in even cake layers. I suppose using a long filleting knife with some sort of spacers on either side of the cake should also give even layers. I removed the peak at the top of the cake, then sliced it in 3.

We were given chocolate butter cream to use as filling and the first thing to do is to place a little in the middle of the cake board and spread it thinly with a palette knife. To have a nice stable base for the cake, the middle cake slice should be used. The butter cream on the board will ensure that the cake won't move around while decorating it.

Next I added a layer of butter cream, not too much, as butter cream can be quite rich. Use the top cake slice for the second cake layer, if it is a little uneven due to baking, this can be levelled out with butter cream. I then added a further layer of butter cream and finished with the bottom slice of the cake, making sure to keep the bottom with the baking paper on top of course.

Now it is time to cover the sides and then the top with a thin layer of butter cream. This works as glue for the final covering and also allows getting a nice, even and regular shape. So, remove the final piece of the baking paper, then spread butter cream on the sides. The idea is that you can place your hand on the top while you do this. Finally do the same with the top of the cake. Try to get everything as smooth as possible.


For the icing we would use 2 parts of a Belgian covering paste (also known as chocolat plastique or modelling chocolate) and 1 part of chocolate regal ice. The reason for this is that the modelling chocolate tastes better, but can be a bit hard to work with, so adding some chocolate regal ice makes it more pliable. First knead through each of the two, then put together and knead until they are well blended.

Using a little corn flour on a clean table, roll out the covering. And here is a new trick I learned. Always roll away and towards yourself, this ensures that both hands will exert an even pressure on the rolling pin. Never be tempted to roll diagonally or sideways, then one arm will invariably press harder on the pin and the covering will become uneven. This of course means that the covering piece will need to be rotated regularly in order to roll it out into a roundish shape. This also serves the purpose of avoiding the situation when the covering is nicely rolled out and is stuck to the table. The corn flour doesn't soak in like icing sugar would do, but it is still important to use as little as possible, but whenever needed, rather than loads at the start. And be careful not to get any corn flour on the top surface, as it will leave stains. When turning the covering, use the rolling pin and flap one part of the mass over the pin, then lift the pin up and make the turn. Aim for a thickness of just under half a centimeter and make sure that the piece of covering is big enough cover the cake, the sides and out to the edges of the cake board.

Before placing the chocolate covering over the cake, make sure the sides of the cake board are clean and brush them with piping jelly (or gel). This will ensure that the covering sticks.

Again lift the covering with the help of the rolling pin, make sure that the clean side is on top. Then carefully, starting from the edge of the cake board, carefully place the covering over the cake. Start by making sure that the covering fits the top of the cake, then carefully make sure that the covering fits over the edges and then the sides. This takes some rubbing and wiggling. Finally smooth out the covering over the cake board. Trim along the board edge with a sharp knife, then use an icing smoother to get a nice finish. Because this is a chocolate covering, rubbing with the hands means that some of the cocoa butter will melt and give a nice shine on the surface, but careful not to over-do it and melt the covering.


Here is a good point to take a break.

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