Super-Duper Chocolate Cake
Birthday parties are baaack! So here we are (by the skin of our teeth), one of a handful of countries partying like a pre Covid world. Holy cow Batman, a room full of excited littlies to entertain, feed, and, gulp, a cake to produce….. The dynamic duo of Comic sprinkles and chocolate cake are just the hero's you need to save the day. Tall, dark, tender, tasty and reliable, this recipe is all you need in a party cake. It’s easy, easy peasy, like we’re talking mixing wet ingredients into dry. Couple this with Comic sprinkles and your little heroes and villains will be zapped with fear, fear of missing out on a slice!
A simple yet effective birthday cake you can have ready in advance will help take some of the heat out of the big day. This cake is a great keeper (thank you buttermilk). You can bake the cake a couple of days before the party and decorate it the day before. Leaving you free for a relaxing session of balloon blowing and pass the parcel wrapping on the actual day. (Heh heh ;)
We’ve tinted the buttercream grey. Think concrete. The perfect background for streetwise Comic Sprinkles. Our cake is filled with chocolate ganache, this is a nice touch, but to be honest we used it as we had some left over from another project. Filling with buttercream is one less step and is perfectly acceptable for a kids party cake. The buttercream recipe included here provides an ample quantity to fill and ice this magnificent cake.
There’s a lot to like about our cake topper. Stylish, thrifty, personalised, and not bad for the environment. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. It’s as simple as cutting individual letters (or numbers) out of coloured cardboard, attaching the backs with tape or glue to a toothpick and sticking them into the iced cake. Take care with the candles!
SUPER-DUPER CHOCOLATE CAKE
Here in the Sweet Palette kitchen we like a tall cake, so we’ve baked 3 layers in a 18cm tin. Alternatively this could be baked in 20cm round tins in either 2 or 3 layers. If you don’t have enough tins or space in your oven to bake them all at once, uncooked batter will happily wait it’s turn on the bench while the first batch bakes.
Maybe you’re wondering, coffee, in a cake for kids? Coffee brings a roundness and depth of flavour. Our ‘highly scientific’ research conducted in our ‘birthday party lab’ we’ve found that one teaspoon of coffee in the whole cake has little impact on kids already hyped up by birthday party revelry. However, if you’re worried it may get little Spidey senses tingling you could use decaf coffee or even plain water.
320g plain flour
520g soft brown sugar
120g Dutch process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
360ml buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder dissolved in 40ml boiling water
180ml unflavoured oil (we use rice bran)
1 tablespoon natural vanilla essence
Pre heat the oven to 180*c. Grease and line the baking tins with baking paper.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar. Turn the mixer on and give the dry ingredients a short mix to combine.
In a large jug combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla essence. (Ensuring the mix is at room temperature). With the mixer running on medium speed slowly pour in approximately a 3rd of the liquid ingredients into the dry. Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer onto a low speed and slowly pour in the remaining liquid ingredients. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, making sure the batter is smooth. The mixture will be very liquid.
Pour the batter evenly into your prepared tins. Bake in the middle rack of the preheated oven for 20mins. At this stage (not before otherwise your cake may sink) open the oven and check, the tins may need to be rotated and baked for a further 5 - 10 mins depending on your tin size. When they are done (toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean) take them out of the oven and let them cool for a bit. Take them out of the tins and cool further. If you're not using straight away, wrap them in wax paper or the like and store them in the fridge.
A BUTTERCREAM LIKE NO OTHER
We’ve extolled the virtues of this buttercream in our previous recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream. Check it out if you’re interested in a ramble on just why this is so good.
- 455g butter, firm not too soft (we take it out off the fridge about an hour before using)
- 750g icing sugar (well sifted)
- pinch of salt
- 3-4 tablespoons cream
- 3 teaspoons natural vanilla essence (or to taste)
- A scant drop of black gel food colouring gel
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until pale, at least 2 minutes. Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and slowly add the icing sugar and salt. Easy does it otherwise you will end up with a poof of icing sugar in your face. When it has incorporated, add the cream and vanilla then slowly increase the speed. Beat on high for 5-7 minutes until the mixture becomes light in colour. Check the flavour, if you feel it could use more vanilla put a bit more in.
Now is the time to add colour. A tip for adding colour to buttercream, especially useful when you want a light colour, as you can always add more colour, but you can’t take it out when you’ve added it to the whole batch. Take out a scoop of buttercream and place it into a smaller bowl, add the colour to this, when you achieve colour that is darker than you want the final finish, add some of this to the large batch and give it a mix. Keep adding your coloured buttercream until you reach the desired colour. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined.
Finally, and this needs to happen just before you pipe the buttercream, mix the buttercream with a hand held spatula to smooth out the tiny air pockets that have been whipped in.
Optional for filling
Ganache is an extremely versatile recipe that can be used to fill or ice all manner of sweet treats. The basic ratio is 2 parts chocolate to one part cream. You can use white, dark or milk chocolate or as we’ve done here chocolate melts, aka compound chocolate.
- 200g dark chocolate melts
- 100ml (100g) cream
In a small saucepan, bring the cream just to the boil. Once small bubbles appear around the edge, take off the heat and add the chocolate. Leave for 5 minutes, then once the chocolate has melted mix with a spatula to evenly combine. Leave the ganache to cool down and reach a spreadable consistency. Ganache can be made in advance stored in the fridge. When you’re ready to use it gently warm the ganache in a microwave to bring it back to spreadable consistency.
Now to put it together
Boom. Pow. Whack. Here’s where we hit you with our number one trick for neat as cake icing. Introducing the crumb coat. Basically a thin layer of icing applied to the cake first up to seal in all those pesky crumbs. The fridge is your friend, and taking the time to chill your cake provides a stable foundation for you to build your concrete masterpiece on. That said, concrete is textured, so relax baby and consider any imperfections part of the realism.
- Your baked cake layers.
- One batch of buttercream and ganache (if using.)
- A serrated knife or similar to trim the tops of your cake.
- A cake board or plate to serve your cake on. (We used a black cake board and fashioned a cake stand using Duplo. Lego would also work for this).
- Either a cake scrapper or offset metal spatula. (Basically something smooth to spread the icing over the cake).
- Either a reusable piping bag with a 1cm round tip, or a plastic bag with a 1cm hole cut in the corner for the peaks around the top.
- One packet of Sweet Palette Comic Sprinkles.
- Optional: toppers made from cardboard and stuck onto toothpicks.
- If you have a cake turntable now is the perfect time to use it.
- Take each cake layer and trim the top off with a serrated knife. You are aiming to get the layers as level as possible.
- Place one layer on the cake board or plate. Dollop buttercream or ganache onto the layer and spread out with spatula. Keeping it as even as possible. Place another cake layer on top and repeat with the buttercream/ganache. Invert the final cake layer so the bottom of the cake faces the top. This keeps the cake looking as sharp as possible.
- Now bring on the crumb coat. If you have a cake turntable, place your board and stacked cakes onto it. Dollop 3 - 4 tablespoons of icing onto the top of the cake, using the spatula spread it out thinly so the entire cake is thinly coated. Now place the cake in the fridge for at least 15min to let the icing firm up.
- When the cake is nicely chilled, take it out of the fridge. Dollop more buttercream onto the top of the cake then, channeling your local paving contractor, spread it out as evenly as possible.
- If you want to pipe peaks around the rim of your cake, place remaining buttercream into the piping bag. Squeeze the bag onto the edge cake and lift off. Continue all the way around the cake. Any you’re not happy with you can scrape off and replace.
- When you're satisfied with your icing, return the cake to the fridge to firm up again. This makes sprinkle application a way less messy business. Once chilled, say 15min, take your cake out and place it in a large oven tray or the like, something to catch any waywood sprinkles. Starting with one side, take a handful of sprinkles and press them into the bottom half of the cake. Work your way around until the sprinkle circle is complete. You can go around and add extra sprinkles to any gaps. Now for the top, take a handful of sprinkles (you can gather any sprinkles that have fallen onto the tray) and drop them around the top rim of your cake.
- If you’re using toppers, place them into the top of the cake.
Birthday cake done! Bring on all the super girls and wonder boys.