Tuesday 21 November 2017

White chocolate and strawberry celebration cake

Serves 10-12

You will need:

250g (9oz) butter, plus extra for greasing

300g (11oz) caster sugar

3 large egg whites

1 tbsp vanilla extract

250g (9oz) plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

175ml (6fl oz) whole milk

For the topping, you will need:

100g (3½oz) white chocolate, roughly chopped

250g (9oz) good-quality strawberry conserve

250g (9oz) strawberries, hulled

Edible fresh flowers such as nasturtiums, roses, pansies, borage, marigolds, lavender or carnations (optional)

Icing sugar, for dusting

Three 20cm (8in) sandwich tins

For the white chocolate buttercream, you will need:

100g (3½oz) white chocolate, roughly chopped

2-3 egg whites, making 85g (3oz)

120g (4¼oz) icing sugar

240g (8¾oz) unsalted butter, softened and cubed

 

Here is a beautiful cake for a summer celebration. If made in the autumn, dark blackberries and blackberry jam would make a stunning substitute for the strawberries, providing a striking dark contrast against the white icing and chocolate. See page 11 for a photo of the finished cake.

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas mark 4.

Grease the sides of the tins, and line the bases with baking parchment. Put the butter in a large bowl and cream it with a wooden spoon until soft, or use an electric beater on slow or a food processor.

Add the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

2 Whisk the egg whites and vanilla extract into the mixture well, to add lightness. Sift half the flour and all the baking powder over the butter mixture and fold in. Add half the milk and fold again to combine. Repeat to add the remaining flour and milk, folding carefully so that you don’t knock all the air out of the mixture.

3 Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes until the cakes are risen and light golden, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the tins and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

4 Meanwhile, make chocolate curls for the topping. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and stir regularly. Spread the melted chocolate thinly over the back of a baking sheet and leave it to cool in the fridge until firm but not fridge-hard.

5 Hold a long, sharp knife at the top of the baking sheet and tilt it at an angle towards you, with one hand on the handle and the other at the top of the blade. Very carefully pull the knife towards you, scraping the chocolate as you go. Curls should start to peel up from the sheet. If it crumbles, the chocolate is too cold, and if it goes gooey, it’s too warm. Keep scraping down, returning the sheet to the fridge for a few minutes if it gets too warm, until you have shaved all the chocolate and collected enough curls for the top of the cake. Leave them somewhere cool until needed. (They can be made a few days in advance.)

6 To make the white chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate as before, then leave to cool. Fill a pan one-third full with water and bring it to the boil. Put the egg whites in a grease-free, heatproof glass bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Take the pan from the heat and put the bowl over the pan. Whisk the egg mixture over the hot water using an electric beater until you have stiff peaks.

7 Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk until completely cold. At this point, begin to add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking one piece in before adding the next. This will take about 5 minutes. Once you have added all the butter, whisk in the melted, cooled white chocolate.

8 Put one of the sponges on a cake stand and spread over half the strawberry conserve. Carefully spread one-third of the buttercream over that, being careful not to mix it up with the jam. Put another sponge on top and repeat with the remaining jam and another one-third of the buttercream. Put the final sponge on top and spread over the remaining buttercream.

9 Arrange the strawberries around the outside of the cake, cutting larger ones in half, but leaving some whole. Pile the chocolate curls into the middle of the cake and add a few fresh flowers. Dust the cake with icing sugar and serve.

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