My last post was about my friends 21st and the mulled wine cupcakes I made for her. Well a birthday isn’t a birthday without an actual cake to cut into.
In my house we try to make cakes for people’s birthdays that reflect something about them or something they really like. In the past we’ve had KitKat cakes, Peanut Butter and chocolate cake, cocktail cupcakes, earl grey cupcakes and more.
This time we were creating a cake for a big tea drinker, she introduced our whole house to Chai Tea – a revelation which i recommend trying if you haven’t. It is a black tea infused with cinnamon and ginger, it feels like quite a christmassy drink.
Laura (one of my housemates) and I have been determined all term to a checkerboard cake after seeing it on the great british bake off (definitely a house favourite program!) We decided this would be the perfect opportunity and we chose to use a chocolate cake as the other sponge. We thought this would go well with the spices in the tea and everyone loves a good chocolate cake – they always go down well.
For the chocolate cake we used a bbc recipe which produces a very moist cake that keeps well for several days. The batter is very runny so if you have a cake tin with a removable base make sure it is a tight fit (or put a tray in the oven to catch any drips).
For the chai tea cake we added about a third of a mug of boiling water to two chai teabags and let them infuse until the tea had cooled. We then took a victoria sponge recipe and added a few tablespoons of the chai tea along with a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger just to make sure we really got the flavour coming through.
For both the recipes we halved the quantities so that we made one of each sponge. After cooking, when the sponges were cooled, we brushed chai tea over the cakes to keep them moist and enhance the flavour.
We made a chocolate fudge icing using a 170g tin of evaporated milk which we added to 100g of melted dark chocolate and sieved in 150g icing sugar to thicken it slightly. We also made half the quantity of cinnamon buttercream as seen in the mulled wine cupcakes.
Now came for the stressful part – trying to assemble the cake. We cut each cake into 3 rings about an inch and a half wide. We did this by using a plate and mug as stencils, placing them on the cakes and cutting round them with a sharp knife. I didn’t take pictures so i’ve stolen one from ‘Suz Daily‘ a fellow blogger – there are plenty of blogs out there explaining how to create the checkerboard.
After separating the rings of sponge (not an easy job…) we reassembled them into 2 sponges with alternating coloured rings as in this blog by the cooper family. We stacked the sponges on top of each other and filled it with the chocolate icing. I would recommend only spreading a thin layer of icing so that, when you cut into the cake you do not have a large black line of filling. One problem we had was that some of the cake rings split when we tried to move them. This wasn’t the end of the world as we had enough icing to stick any problematic areas back together (use whichever icing fits with the colour of the broken sponge).
We then crumb coated the cake with a thin layer of the cinnamon buttercream so that we could have a smooth surface to put fondant icing on. You could ice the cake with any sort of icing so long as you have enough to completely cover the whole cake without being able to see any sponge otherwise the surprise may be given away!
Another tip is to start assembling the cake on whatever you are going to serve it on. Because the rings of sponge are not connected it makes it very hard to move without loosing bits. Certainly don’t try doing it on your own – we needed two of us each with a fish slice to transfer it.
When our housemate cut into the cake, the look on her face was amazing – i did manage to capture it for you all to see! I have to admit cutting into it was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my baking career but definitely worth it.