First off: I’m sorry. It’s been a while. It’s been, well it’s been too long. It’s been over a month since I posted anything and that, I have to say now, is not acceptable. Life got in the way, for a start, and then I became a little…disenfranchised, should we say, about this whole baking lark.
I don’t know, I guess I had a couple of disasters, left it a while and then just didn’t bake. At all. For ages. Sometimes that is what you need – a little break to recharge the batteries and reignite the passion and inspiration. I would say it worked: half way through last week I just had the urge to bake.
I’ve got some pretty exciting projects coming up – a wedding, a child’s birthday party and a Christening so there will be plenty to keep me busy on the baking front, but it seems to have been ages – as in, like, forever – that I have baked solely for the pleasure. Not because it was someones birthday in the office, or because I had a commission coming up, but just because.
I began to think about what direction I could go in with future recipes, and I am pretty excited about what’s coming up. There will be two ‘Series’ over the next few months, a lot like Macaron Mondays and the Cupcake Series. One will not be cake, so get excited for that as it has to potential to get experimental. And the other is a Map of the World series – taking flavours from many different countries and incorporating them into cake. Should be fun.
But right now, what I need in life is ice cream. The summer is treating us well and that’s what’s inspired me for this week’s cake: Neapolitan.
420g plain flour
450g soft light brown sugar
360g butter, softened and unsalted
4.5 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp strawberry extract
pink food colouring gel
1kg icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp strawberry extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp milk
150g milk chocolate
3 tbsp milk
Firstly let’s get the sponges out the way. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius and prepare 3 x 6″ cake pans. Rub the inside with some butter and then sprinkle in some flour, patting it round each tin to give each tin a light covering on the base and around the sides.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl and set aside.
Prepare a basic sponge batter: beat the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in a slow and steady stream to prevent curdling, mixing as you do so. Once fully combined, add the first third of the flour mixture, before adding the buttermilk. Repeat until you’ve used up all the buttermilk and the flour. You should finish with the flour.
Decant the better in to three bowls equally. In the first, add some vanilla extract and fold in fully. In the second, add some pink food colouring and some strawberry extract. Mix in completely. In the third, add the cocoa powder and mix to combine. Decant each mixture into a respective cake tin and bake in a middle shelf for approx 38 minutes, testing with a skewer before removing from the oven. Leave to cool completely.
While the sponge cools, make the buttercream. You’re repeating the process with the sponge: make a base buttercream by beating butter on high for 5 minutes until very pale and mega fluffy. Add half the icing sugar and beat for a further 2 minutes. Repeat. Once again, decant the mixture into three bowls. Repeat the above process as you did with the sponges.
For the chocolate sauce. break the chocolate into squares and add to a microwave safe bowl with the milk. Heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between to help the chocolate melt. Once all the chocolate has melted, leave to cool.
To assemble, take the chocolate sponge and spread some chocolate buttercream on top, levelling it out with a palette knife. Place the vanilla sponge on top and spread some vanilla buttercream on top of it, as above. Finish it off by placing the strawberry layer on top – flip this layer over so the bottom becomes the top. Next, do a crumb coat: take some of the vanilla icing and spread a thin layer all over. Set it in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will lock in all the crumbs so you aren’t dragging any into your final coat.
Once chilled, take a palette knife and spread thick layers of the chocolate buttercream on the bottom third – don’t worry about neatness, just try and keep it relevantly even heigh around the cake. Repeat this with the vanilla buttercream above and then finally with the strawberry – use the strawberry icing on the top of the cake this time. The easiest way to judge was to keep the respective icing flavour the same depth of the sponge. You should see each sponge through the crumb coat, so use them as a guide. Take a cake scraper and pull it gently around your whole cake – the colours should merge together at the edges while still keeping their distinct colour.
Drizzle the chocolate sauce on the top, pushing it over the edge of the cake slightly to create drips. Pipe on some vanilla buttercream using a large star nozzle and sprinkle with some coloured sugar strands. Finally, plate the wafers on the top of the cake and the flake up the side in random places.