This weekend I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time in my life. It’s not a typical British thing to do, but for my friend Shanni (who comes from across the pond) it’s a calendar must!
And what a fantastic evening it turned out to be. Shanni & her partner cooked literally the biggest turkey I have ever seen in my whole life and everyone else each brought something to add to the table. From mouth watering dauphinoise potatoes to sensational vegetarian bakes, literally everything I tried induced a combination of yummy noises, smiles & a happy tummy!
And what was my contribution? Pudding! I was under orders to make something chocolatey. But I didn’t want to make just any old chocolate cake, oh no. I wanted it to fit the theme! So using a recipe that I have made hundreds of times, I simply changed up the decoration & piping technique to turn a simple chocolate cake into a Thanksgiving showstopper. It’s amazing what gold shimmer spray can do! You should totally give this a try. I promise, it’s nowhere near as difficult as it looks.
Here is what you will need to make a 3 layer 20cm diameter cake.
For the Sponge
- 160g Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
- 560g Golden Caster Sugar
- 400g Plain Flour
- 100g Cocoa Powder
- 2 tbsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 480ml Whole Milk, Room Temp
- 4 Eggs, Room Temp
- 2 tsp Chocolate Extract (Optional)
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 540g Icing Sugar
- 100g Cocoa Powder
- 300g Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
- 1 tsp Chocolate Extract (Optional)
- Splash of Milk
For the Sugar Decorations (To be Made 24 hrs in Advance)
- 3 x 20cm Round Loose Bottomed Cake Tins
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have all your ingredients at the same temperature before starting to mix. It really helps them to blend together & dramatically improves the texture of the final cake. So if you have the time – take all those chilled items out the fridge and leave on the side for an hour or two before starting.
Ok! Lightly grease the 3 baking tins & line the bottoms with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/Fan 170°C.
In either a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric hand whisk, beat together the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt until it forms a light sandy mixture.
Beat the milk, eggs & chocolate extract together in a jug using a fork. Then with the speed on low, gradually add two thirds of the liquid into the dry ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and mix until it’s smooth, thick & shiny.
With the speed on low again, add the remaining third of the liquid – then increase to medium and mix until smooth and shiny.
Divide the mixture evenly between the 3 prepared tins and bake in the lower section of the oven for 30-40 mins. To check if they’re cooked – insert a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, it’s cooked. If it has cake batter on it – it needs a little longer.
When cooked, allow to cool in the tins for about 30 minutes. Then take out the tins, peel off the baking paper & transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
Onto the buttercream.
Either in a stand mixer or a large glass bowl using an electric hand whisk, beat together the icing sugar, cocoa powder & butter until sandy in consistency.
With the speed on low, add in the chocolate extract & small amounts of milk (a little at a time) to loosen the mixture. Remember, you can always add more in but you can’t take it out!
Once you see it turning darker in colour and smoother in texture – increase the speed to medium/high and beat until light and smooth. Leave to one side, or, if you want – you can make this up to a week in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Simply allow to come to room temperature & give it a good mix before using.
Onto the decoration.
There are several ways to tackle this. Either you can buy pre-coloured fondant icing OR you can buy plain white icing and colour it yourself using gel food colours. DO NOT use liquid food colouring as it will make the fondant way to soft to work with. Also remember to add a little colour at a time – again, you can always add more in but you can’t take it out.
Either way, all you need to do is roll out each colour (one at a time) on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cut out an assortment of leaf shapes & sizes.
Want to make them curvy shaped like mine? You don’t need to go out and buy loads of fancy, expensive moulds! All you need is a couple of sheets of cardboard, a rolling pin & some blu-tack.
Once you’ve cut out your shapes, simply lay them however you like on your make shift moulds and allow to dry at room temperature for a minimum of 24 hours to ensure they keep their shape.
And that’s it!
Now for assembly.
If your cakes haven’t baked perfectly even (like mine never do!) carefully slice of the tops off to make each layer flat and the same size.
On a cake board or large serving plate, centrally place the bottom layer. I use this one cut side up to make sure you get a flat foundation.
Load a piping bag with a large round nozzle and fill with some buttercream frosting. Start by piping blobs around the edge.
Continue by piping a spiral within the ‘blobbed’ edge – from the outside in. (Thanks to John Whaite for this Tip!)
Pop the next layer on top, cut side down – see how pretty it looks? No one will ever know it doesn’t look the same in the middle as they’re only going to shovel it in their mouth anyway! Repeat the piping process on this layer.
Then add on your final layer. (Again, cut side down.) This time, we’re going to pipe blobs all over. So, starting from the outside and working your way to the middle, start blobbing!
Now all that remains is to lay on your leaf decorations however you like and spray all over with some gold shimmer spray. If your board looks a bit empty like mine did, simply pipe a border of blobs around the bottom of the cake.
I told you it wasn’t as difficult as it looked! I love this cake recipe as it’s pretty much just a case of chuck it all in, mix it, bake it, done. No faffing around for ages – just pile it all in! You could very easily adapt the decorations to suit any occasion too. For example, get some green, white & red fondant – cut out Christmas shapes (trees, presents, snowmen etc) & make exactly the same as above, maybe with some silver shimmer spray to add that extra ‘wow’.
All that remains for me to say is a huge thank you to Shanni & David for hosting such an enjoyable Thanksgiving feast for us all. And to all you lovely lot in the USA – Happy Thanksgiving for Thursday!
Hope you all enjoyed the post, until next time.