Ok. I dropped the ball a bit. I did my March bake, and then never posted it. However, it wasn’t perhaps the most challenging of bakes, although it was definitely time consuming. My sister’s birthday is at the end of March and so I agreed to decorate the cake for family birthday dinner.
Mum made the cake (chocolate of course, by request of my sister). She used this recipe–humbly titled “The Best Chocolate Cake”–from Add A Pinch. It was undeniably delicious and the recipe is really easy.
Decorating The Cake
For the decorating I took inspiration from firstly Mary Berry’s ‘Jewel Box Cake’, and smushed it together with The Boy Who Bakes ‘Ombre Cake‘. Mary Berry’s cake has a white chocolate ribbon surrounded by raspberries. It looks very delightful! I decided to make the ribbon, but instead of the raspberries I took on The Boy Who Bakes’ process of icing a cake in a gradient of colours. One challenge was that I was working with a square rather than the Ombre Cake’s circle. Alright! So, lets get started with the process.
Chocolate Ribbon (but not so much ‘white’)
The required ingredients are super straightforward:
- 150g white chocolate
- 3 tablespoons liquid glucose
- …and food dye (notes below)
So Mary Berry’s ribbon is crisp white, but I thought that was a bit boring for my fabulous sister, so I explored dying the ribbon. Now, sources that I looked at tell me that dying white chocolate with liquid coloured dyes doesn’t work well. It often is streaky and softens the chocolate because of the addition of liquid (which isn’t a thing you should do with any kind of chocolate). You are apparently meant to use gels, but the shops didn’t have any and I had a birthday deadline (here’s a blog about different food dyes). So I risked it, and it worked out pretty well. I’d like to try it again with gel/powder to see how it works…something for the future!I also needed some equipment:
- (heatproof) bowl and pan
- rolling pin
- sharp knife
- sharp scissors
1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan with a small amount of water in it.
2. Take it off the heat and stir in the liquid glucose. I added the blue food dye at this point also and it was super fun to watch it go bright blue! Woo! Let it thicken. The recipe says ‘at room temperature’, but if its quite warm you might have to pop it in the fridge for a bit to just cool it off and start the thickening process.
3. It will start to firm up. Once it does, mould it into a ball with your hands. It will start kind of sticky and you need to work it until it becomes “pliable and glossy”. The best news about glucose (I assume its the glucose) is that the dye did not come off on my hands at all (check it out!)! ….Seriously I’m such a convert. Going to make ALL the things out of chocolate-glucose!
4. Once its pliable and glossy roll it into a sausage. Put the sausage between two sheets of baking paper and then roll it into a sheet.
5. Ok! The next steps are to make the pieces that will form the ribbon and bow. Peel off the top piece of paper and get your knife and ruler handy. You will need:
- 2 strips about 30 x 2.5 cm (because I was making a ribbon for a double layered cake I extended these pieces to about 40cm… they were plenty long enough for the cake, and I trimmed them)
- 1 strip about 10 x 2.5cm
- 2 strips 11 x 2.5cm
- 2 strips 14 x 2.5cm
Cut all those out. Cut through the paper underneath as well.
Snip triangles out of the ends of the two 11cm strips. If at any point of this process the chocolate becomes too soft you can put it in the fridge briefly to firm up again. Patience! Don’t let it get too soft, it will not go well for you.
Once you have snipped the two 11cm strips you can rest them over a pen or similar to get a flowing appearance for your bow (look at Mary Berry’s cake at the top of this post to see what I’m talking about, or picture of pieces of the ribbon and bow completed below)
6. Alright, lets make the bow. Take the two 14 cm strips, with the paper side out and bend them into the two sides of the bow. Peel the paper and push the ends of each loop together (don’t worry, this join will be covered). Take the 10cm strip and wrap it around the centre to hide the join. Press the two ends together. It’s A BOW!
How gloriously BLUE are they all?!
You can also see what I mean by putting one of the ribbon ends over something to make it bend ‘naturally’ (from the end of step 5).
Super pleased with how they turned out. The blue is a smidgen streaky… as noted as a risk with the liquid dye. But it worked out reasonable well overall. And I’m definitely going to make glorious chocolate-glucose things again!
Decorating the Cake
Ok. So despite all the instructions, the ribbon/bow making is reasonably straightforward and required almost no ingredients. The decorating was pretty similar actually! Just a lot of fiddling. Involves making a buttercream icing, colouring it, piping it, and enjoying the gloriousness.
Mum helped me with the decorating. We took the cakes she’d baked, which had been frozen overnight, and taken out to thaw an hour or so before we started. I flattened the top off, and used chocolate buttercream between the two layers. I also used some of the buttercream I made (below) to crumb coat the cake… this helps hold the crumbs in and stops crumbs appearing in the top pretty layer.
(Super cool nail art visible in the photo is courtesy of my friend Jae!: check out her excellent stuff here)
We put the crumb-coated cake back in the fridge to firm up while we made the icing. Icing instructions below. But before that, although out of sequence, once we’d made the icing we took the cake out of the fridge and put the ribbon on it (but not the bow just yet)! As you can see the ribbon is too long, so I just snipped it off with a knife level with the bottom of the cake.
- 250g unsalted butter
- 3 cups of icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons of milk, if needed
- food colouringgggggg (woo)
1. Get out your mixer. Whisk the butter until its soft and creamy. Slowly add the icing sugar in and mixing it. Add the milk in to make it spreadable (judge how much is needed)
2. I wanted three colours for my icing. So I split the mixture into 2 bowls and added the colours (the third colour was white so didn’t need a bowl).
3. At this point I put the ribbon on as described above.
4. Didn’t have proper piping bags so used sandwich bags which worked super well also. Put the coloured icing in different bags, and snipped off the corners. Then we went for it!
5. The Piping! I’d watched the Boy Who Bakes video on doing it (here). But I had to slightly alter the process because it was a square cake. I decided to work from the corner up and across. We didn’t fully plan properly (this is a theme of this bake) and so didn’t have heaps of icing sugar so I went for smaller dots of icing than he did, and if I did it again I’d use larger ones if I could. But it was ok, it worked out.
The basic plan is to do a series of dots and then smear them forwards under where you’ll put the next line using a knife (a different one for each colour) (or my finger for tricky bits) I had a clean cloth next to the cake and I’d wipe off the knife or my finger between smears. Apparently I took no close up photos of this to help show what I mean. The video shows the technique super well. Here it is HALFWAY DONE!
Luckily Mum was there to chat and be my pattern adviser. I messed up the pattern several times where the lines went wonky, but overall looked pretty super good. It was exciting. Mum and I also ate far too much sugar from licking our fingers (don’t worry we washed them before we kept making the cake, obviously).
Once I’d got all the way across, I took the bow bits out of the fridge and PUT THEM ON TOP! Ombre Ribbon Cake COMPLETE! Check this baby out!
And from another angle:
The birthday girl was very happy with her cake. Which is what it was all about this month really! Happy birthday Alice!
[ So April is basically a write off. But I’m baking this weekend for May’s bake so I will attempt to be more on top of things going forward. No promises, but delicious cake is a good incentive]