I found this recipe in this book, which was an impulse buy at my local superstore: The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.
This is what really kicked off this whole “learn to cook” adventure. I’d had the nagging urge to learn to cook for quite a while but due to rampant apathy and being easily distracted, I – oooh, new Game of Thrones episode, back in a minute…
Ahem. As I was saying, I hadn’t really given myself an opportunity to explore it, mostly because I live on my own. Baking a huge cake just for oneself and then realising that you’re going to eat the whole thing through the course of a week is a little disheartening. It wouldn’t help my waistline much either. >.>
Then about a month ago, a colleague at work introduced me to the concept of high quality chocolate. Stuff like the 70% and 85% cocoa bars you get in Hotel Chocolat and Montezuma’s. After developing a taste for the stuff, I found on the Montezuma’s website simple baking kits for brownies and cookies. I was also meeting up with some friends for a weekend of gaming and general mischief around London as well, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try out one of these kits and make something tasty for the group to munch on between dice rolls.
They were a resounding success. *
* No-one died of food poisoning and no-one spat anything out in disgust.
The only drawback was that the kits were very expensive. They were worth the money but too expensive to make on a regular basis. They also felt a little like cheating as it seemed like a lot of the complicated stuff had been done for me. That’s when I really decided to baking from the ground up, as it were.
Fortunately enough, another opportunity to bake for others presented itself at work. A couple of weeks ago, a charity coffee morning was being held to raise money for Wings of Healing. They’re essentially a group of doctors that fly around Africa helping folks out and striving to improve healthcare, especially gynaecology and other women’s health issues. Check the link for more info: http://www.wingsofhealing.org.uk/ An email was passed around asking for folks to bring in cakes and biscuits to raise money and the rest is tasty, tasty history.
I settled on the chocolate nut rum cake as I’m a rather large fan of all four critical components of it. I also thought that chocolate cake would probably sell slightly better at the coffee morning than some of the more obscure ones in the book. Making the filling and topping was reasonably straight forward, as it was mostly just melting chocolate and adding the rum, plus a couple of other bits and pieces. The sponge was the bit that really worried me. I had never made any sort of sponge cake before – my last attempt was a carrot cake many years ago and because the recipe suggested using oil instead of butter, it came out more like pudding than a light, fluffy sponge. Not my greatest moment. -.-
I have the good fortune to be acquainted with an American penfriend whose baking skills are divine. When I mentioned that I was teaching myself to cook, she kindly gave me a few pointers:
- Get the eggs and butter out of the fridge a few hours before you make the cake – having them at room temperature makes them easier to whisk
- Avoid over mixing the cake batter, otherwise it’ll turn out like bread, rather than soft, fluffy spongey deliciousness
- Use a skewer to check the centre of the cake after baking – if it comes out clean, you’re good to go!
I followed the second two obediently but probably should have paid more attention to the first tip. I chopped up the butter into small sections but even then my whisk still had trouble with it. It’s something to be mindful of next time. =)
25 nerve-shredding minutes later I removed the sponges from the oven. They certainly smelled like cake and they looked like they were done – but the stab test would tell the truth. Sponge layer one – skewer came out crystal clear! Sponge layer two – sticky and unfinished. The second sponge went back in for another 5-10 minutes and the entire time I was pacing up and down the kitchen fretting about whether the edges were going to burn. Eventually the skewer came out clear on the second sponge as well.
Spreading the rum filling proved a little tricky at first until I hit upon an idea. I placed my knife in a glass of hot water for a minute or so and the filling became a lot more co-operative. It’s definitely a trick I’ll use in future. On the middle surfaces of the cake, the recipe book suggested making some rum syrup and applying it before adding the filling itself. Not a bad idea, as it helps moisten the cake and gives it an extra kick of rum. I may have been a little over enthusiastic when I first applied it though as the second layer started sinking slightly in the middle.
But I’ve waffled on enough for now and I’m sure you keen to see the finished article:
The taste test:
Overall, I was quite pleased with it. The rum filling was the right mix of sweetness and the flavour was strong without being overpowering. The bit I had been worrying about – the sponge – was a passable result. With the top layer, it was light and baked well. The lower layer wasn’t bad but was over-saturated slightly with the rum syrup, plus a slight sagging in the middle. Maybe it just needed a little more oven time? It sold quite well from what I gather though – about ¾ of it went during the coffee morning and the remaining quarter went in the afternoon.
Not bad for my first effort, although I never did find out what happened to the leftover rum: