Mocha ombre cake

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Every year in October I face the same challenge – coming up with a new idea for a birthday cake for my dad.

He’s very certain in what he likes, which is coffee cake and fruit cake, which makes trying to get creative with different flavours and styles slightly pointless.

I don’t like fruitcake, which means that every year it comes down to how I can make a coffee cake in a different way.

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In the past I’ve done straight up coffee cake, coffee roulade, individual coffee cakes and a coffee cake with mocha filling.

This year I thought I’d try something that (I hoped) would be visually impressive and decided on a mocha ombre cake.

The cake features three layers of sponge – vanilla, coffee and coffee-chocolate – with icing that also graduates in colour with an ombre finish.

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Most importantly it tasted good, but it did also look pretty good if I may say so myself, especially given that the icing was done in a five-minute rush before heading out for dinner.

All the elements of this cake are pretty basic, but they come together for an impressive finish and a cake that’s perfect for the coffee-lover in your life.

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Mocha ombre cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1-3 tbsp milk

For the icing:

  • 250g butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve and fold in the self raising flour, then add a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to make the mixture a thick consistency that will drop off a spoon.

Pour a third of the mixture into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. My top tip is to weigh your mixing bowl before starting, then you can figure out exactly how much cake batter you have and how much needs to go into each pan.

Mix the instant coffee with a tablespoon of hot water, then add this to the cake mixture and stir in well. Divide the remaining mixture in half and fill a second 6″ cake pan with the coffee cake mix.

Finally, sieve the cocoa powder into the final third of the mixture with a tablespoon of milk and pour this into a third 6″ tin. Bake all of the cakes at 180 degrees or 160 fan for approximately 20-25 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch.

Set the cakes aside to cool while you make the icing. Beat the butter to soften then add the icing sugar, half at a time, and beat until really well combined. Mix the instant coffee with a two tablespoons of water and add about half of this to the buttercream. Beat well and test to see if it has enough coffee flavour. Add more if you want it stronger, then add just enough milk to make the buttercream a light, spreadable consistency.

Split the buttercream in half, and set half aside. Add the cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time, until the colour is a few shades darker than your coffee butter cream. Split the chocolate mixture in half, and then add more cocoa powder to half of it again, to be an even darker shade of brown. You should end up with half plain coffee buttercream, a quarter light coffee chocolate buttercream and a quarter dark chocolate buttercream.

To assemble the cake, level off the tops of each sponge with a sharp knife, then place the chocolate layer on a plate. Spread a small amount of the coffee buttercream over the top, then add the coffee sponge on top. Spread with another layer of coffee buttercream, then place the final vanilla sponge on top.

Use the coffee buttercream to add a thin layer of crumb coat all over the cake and chill for 10 minutes. To complete the icing, either use piping bags or apply carefully with a palette knife so the dark chocolate buttercream goes around the bottom third of the sides of the cake, the light chocolate goes around the middle and the coffee buttercream goes around the top and on top. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake and subtly blend the three buttercreams together, then cut into slices and serve.

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A wedding and a resurrection

Hello!

This is my first post in something like nine months, so in case you’re wondering if I’m still alive the answer is yes! And if you’re a little less melodramatic and simply wondering if I’m still baking, the answer is also yes albeit less regularly.

The very short and sweet update is I am super busy with a great job and also surrounded by people who – for their sins – like dieting and are less keen on being force fed cake every week. Fools!

This means I’m making less frequently and not having the time to write about it, although if you follow me on Instagram (@natblachford) you will have seen some of the bits and pieces I have been knocking up in the kitchen.

One of the most significant things I’ve failed to mention on here is my biggest challenge to date – I made a wedding cake!

Wedding Cake 2

A friend contacted me to say he was getting married and he wondered if I’d be interested in making the cake. There’s a cute backstory, as it turns out he proposed on his now wife’s birthday when he’d commissioned me to make her birthday cake and so they wanted the same cake re-made for their wedding.

You can see the original cake here – it’s a chocolate and raspberry extravaganza and, dare I say it, quite a lot tastier and more indulgent than your average wedding cake.

To turn it into a wedding cake that would serve 150 people, some tweaks were made to the recipe and I decided to go a bit more traditional in appearance with white chocolate collars rather than the dark chocolate used previously.

I used my new go-to chocolate cake recipe without any whole raspberries in and refined the raspberry sauce to remove the seeds – the verdict from my taste testers at work was that it was better without. I used a white chocolate buttercream (also a go-to recipe) to cover the cakes, before finishing with the chocolate collars and fresh raspberries on top.

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My life was made a lot easier by the fact the couple already had a cake stand to suit their countryside wedding theme so I didn’t have to worry about tiering. They also had their own lego wedding topper ready to pop on top – the perfect finishing touch.

It’s been so long since the wedding that I don’t even have the original photos any more, which is why I’ve had to salvage a few from Instagram to use here.

The most important thing was that the bride and groom were thrilled with the cake and it got eaten, which is good because in my mind nothing is sadder than a neglected cake left sat in the corner!

Wedding cake 1

So thank you Charlie and Sarah for letting me be a part of your big day and hopefully this blog post won’t be the last of this year – I’ve got some exciting recipes to share with you all and it feels like time to write again so the resurrection is here…

Blueberry Bluebird Cake

While I haven’t been doing a lot of general baking recently (brownies, cupcakes, cookies etc) I have done quite a few cakes for special occasions, which I’ve really enjoyed as not only does it mean they’re out of my kitchen and I can’t eat them all myself, but it’s also given me a chance to try out some different types of decorating.

Back in June, the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club held a meeting in Truro, the town where I live, at a small cafe/cake shop called The Baking Bird.

The theme, naturally, was ‘free as a bird’, which could either be interpreted as being free to make whatever you want, or as I took it something with a avian link.

It took me quite a while to decide what to make, but in the end I decided to go for a bluebird theme, with a blueberry flavour to match.

I didn’t write down the exact recipe, but I based it on several ‘blue velvet’ cake recipes I found online, with fresh blueberries added in to the batter, a lime sugar syrup brushed over the sponges, and a layer of cheesecake in the middle (that came from this recipe).

To finish it off, I made a white chocolate buttercream and decorated it with fondant icing cut out birds, in three different shades of blue using templates I drew and cut out myself.

The blue velvet sponge didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped – I think I had the wrong shade of blue food colouring and it was more green than blue – I really loved the flavours and the addition of the cheesecake layer, and I thought the decoration worked well too – people could at least tell it was meant to be birds!

I have quite a few more fancy cakes to post, which I’ll try to do interspersed with actual recipes, but hopefully the photos will help if you need some decorating inspiration!

Triple ginger cake

If you don’t like ginger, you really need read no further – this has a triple hit of spicy, warming ginger, which there’s absolutely no hiding from!

If you like ginger, then you’ll love these cake slices – I certainly did, and couldn’t get enough of them.

The sponge is made with both fresh and ground ginger, and there’s crystallised ginger spindled on top just for an extra kick with each mouthful.

To balance all the fiery ginger, I chose a sweet white chocolate icing which pairs perfectly. It was totally made up on the spot, but works in taste and consistency so I would definitely make it again.

Sometimes simple is what you need, and this cake comes together in no time. Plus, being a sheet cake makes it much easier to enjoy in bite size slices than a big layer cake so it’s great for taking in to work to feed colleagues or sharing with friends!

 

Triple ginger cake

  • 115g butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 1″ ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 60g natural yoghurt
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (but adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the icing:

  • 25g butter
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 30g cream cheese
  • Crystallised ginger to decorate

Start by beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the grated ginger and beat again. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the yoghurt, then sift together all of the remaining ingredients and fold into the batter. Test a little of the mix – you can always add more ginger if you think it needs it. Spread into a greased and lined 8″ square tin and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for approximately 25 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and set aside to cool. Beat the butter to soften, then add the cooled white chocolate and icing sugar and beat until it al comes together nicely. Finally, add the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy (but don’t over mix or it will go too soft.) Spread over the cooled cake, then sprinkle the crystallised ginger on top – add as much or as little as you want, I say the more the better!

Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut cupcakes

A little while back now, I had a tiiiiiny accident, that caused just a minor bit of damage to my house.

Trying to take the curtains in the living room down while balanced precariously on the armchair didn’t go so well – I slipped, grabbed the curtain rail, and yanked it right out of the wall. Oops!

Luckily my housemate Becky’s dad is a DIY lifesaver, and within the hour was round clearing up my mess, and now you’d never know what a clumsy idiot I am.

I wanted to say thank you with cake, and after Becky mentioned that her dad’s favourite chocolate bar was Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, these cupcakes were born.

Based on a basic chocolate cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery, I added chocolate covered raisins into the sponge, and chopped nuts and more chopped raisins into the icing. Topped with a chunk of the actual chocolate bar, they were a Fruit & Nut lover’s delight!

Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut cupcakes (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery)

  • 40g butter
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1 medium egg
  • 120ml milk
  • 150g chocolate covered raisins

For the icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 50g chocolate covered raisins, chopped
  • 25g chopped mixed nuts
  • 2 regular sized Fruit & Nut bars

To make the sponge, beat the butter, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder until it turns into a sandy consistency. Add the egg and milk and beat again until well combined, then stir in the chocolate covered raisins. Divide between 12 large cupcake cases and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing, sift together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt beat the butter to soften. Add the sugar mix little by little, beating until the mixture comes together. Add 2 tbsp milk and beat until light and fluffy, adding a little more milk if it seems too stiff. Stir in the chopped raisins and nuts, then spread on top of the cooled cupcakes. Finish with a square of the chocolate bars on top of each.

Chocolate and vanilla mud cake

This post sort of carries on the Malteser theme of my last one – I’m a bit of a fan!

Although with the Malt-Easter cookies maltesers were the driving force behind the recipe, in this case they were just a decoration for one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve made in quite a while.

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me gush about Charlotte White of Restoration Cake before – not only does she bake stunning and tasty takes, she is the epitome of vintage glamour, and I can only dream of looking as fabulous as she does while baking in high heels and stunning 50’s dresses. Swoon!

Earlier this year, her first book was published – Burlesque Baking. It starts with basic cake and icing recipes, then goes on to the fabulous decorated cakes, cupcakes and cookies, all inspired by burlesque dancers.

The cake she demonstrated at the Cake and Bake show, the Miss Polly Rae Cake, is in there (you can see my attempt here) along with some other truly stunning designs that I can’t wait to try out.

My lovely housemate Becky bought me the book for my birthday, and when I emailed Charlotte to tell her how excited I was to try the recipes she said that I absolutely MUST try the chocolate mud cake.

Well, when the author herself tells you to do something you can’t really say no, and so when I had an event to go to which required a celebration cake, I knew exactly which it would be.

Unfortunately as the event was mid-week and I have a pesky job that gets in the way of baking, I knew I wouldn’t have time to attempt any of Charlotte’s amazing designs, so I had to improvise. I filled and iced the cake with a vanilla bean cream cheese icing, poured chocolate ganache on top and then scattered crushed Maltesers on top to decorate.

Although not exactly refined or elegant, I think the overall effect worked quite well. What this cake was really about though was the taste – the chocolate cake was so dark and rich, and almost bordering on brownie-like in texture, that it may become my new go-to chocolate sponge recipe.

The vanilla icing offered a good contrast to the rich chocolate, and you can’t really go wrong with added ganache and crunchy Maltesers – I liked it and it went down rather well at the event too, along with a lemon drizzle cake with cream cheese icing which I made, and a towering monster of a birthday cake made by someone else.

I strongly recommend you buy Burlesque Baking, it’s a gorgeous book and I will hopefully have a chance to try out some of the decorating and blog about it very soon!

Chocolate and vanilla mud cake (adapted from Burlesque Baking)

For the cake:

  • 165g dark chocolare
  • 165g butter
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 120ml water
  • 90g plain flour
  • 90g self raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 320g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 80ml buttermilk

For the vanilla icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

For the ganache and decoration:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  • 100g(ish) maltesers, crushed

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof saucepan with the water and coffee granules on a low heat, stirring until no lumps remain. Sift both flours, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and sugar into a large bowl, and whisk together the eggs, oil and buttermilk in another bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients then pour in the egg mixture and stir until well combined.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and fold in until you have a smooth, glossy cake batter. Divide between two greased and lined 7″ round tins, then bake at 160 degrees (140 fan) for about 35-40 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins – the cakes are quite fragile while warm.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Beat the butter to soften, then gradually add in the icing sugar beating until well combined. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat for a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy. Once the cake has completely cooled, level the tops of the sponges then use the vanilla icing to fill and cover the cake.

To make the ganache, heat the cream until nearly boiling then pour over the chopped chocolate. Leave for a minute and then stir until all the chocolate bits have melted. Leave to cool until thick but still pourable, then pour over the cake and let it just start to fall down the sides. Finish by piling the crushed Maltesers onto the ganache, then cut into slices and serve.

Fresh strawberry Victoria sandwich

Sometimes simple really is the best.

Don’t get my wrong, I love making trashy and over the top desserts with layers of chocolate and caramel and peanut butter, rich and decadent and delicious – but there will always be a place in my heart for a simple, classic sponge cake.

Inspired by a punnet of strawberries sat in my fridge, I decided to go back to basics with a Victoria sandwich, filled with jam, buttercream and fresh strawberries.

Although I did get one comment of ‘what made you decide to make just a sponge cake’, most people loved it, me included.

Simple, to the point, fresh and tasty – perfect for elevenses, afternoon tea, or just because!

Fresh strawberry Victoria sponge

  • 115g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 110g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 30g butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 3-4 large strawberries, diced

Beat the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes, or until really light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla – add a spoonful of the flour if it’s starting to curdle. Sift together the flour and baking powder then fold into the cake batter. Divide between two greased and lined 6″ tins, then bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

For the filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together until well combined, then add the milk and continue to beat until light and airy. Spread a layer of jam on top of one of the sponges, then scatter the diced strawberries on top. Spread the buttercream onto the underneath of the other cake layer, then place this on top. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with a cup of tea!

The BIG Cake Show

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This weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited by the organisers of The BIG Cake Show to go along as a VIP blogger and sample the many cakey delights on offer.

For those of you who don’t know, The BIG Cake Show is a brand new event in Exeter organised by local friends, event organisers and baking enthusiasts Kim and Mel. It took place over three days, following a similar format to the Cake and Bake shows in Manchester and London, which I’m sure many of you will have been to.

There were baking demonstrations, from both celebrities and local chefs, classroom workshops, children’s activities, competitions and of course lots and lots of fabulous local and national producers and suppliers selling everything from cake decorating tools to chocolates, wine and of course cake.

Although on a smaller scale than the Cake and Bake shows, there was plenty going on to make it well worth the bargain ¬£12 entry – I was kept entertained from 11 until 5, and I don’t exactly have the longest attention span…

The big draws in terms of celeb chefs were Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, but neither of them were there on the Saturday when I went. I really wasn’t too bothered though, as my two favourite GBBO contestants (and winners) were there – Edd Kimber and John Whaite.

John was up first, giving a demo which was half baking, half stand up comedy – he was brilliant! The butterscotch banana giant chelsea bun he made looked incredible too – I believe the recipe is in his new book which came out this week…

One of the benefits of my VIP ticket was priority seating for the demos. I was a little bit late arriving for John, so I just ran in and grabbed the first seat I saw, in the middle of the front row. It was only when John made a comment about the people sat next to me that I realised it was actually Edd Kimber and Jo Wheatley, off of actual Bake Off!

I took the opportunity to grab a quick photo with Edd – what a lovely man! His demo later in the afternoon was fab too – making a flour less chocolate and blackberry cake, he did a great job of answering all the audience’s questions and you could tell there was no blagging whatsoever, he really does know his stuff! Although I can’t help but be a little jealous of anyone who bakes for a living and classes Paul A Young as one of their best friends…

I also saw local chefs Rob Spencer and Darrin Hosegrove from Ashburton Cookery School demoing in the West Country Larder, ably (?!) assisted by local radio DJ David ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald. The cookery school has won loads of awards and should anyone really, REALLY love me, one of their patisserie courses would make an excellent gift… Just saying!

It was great to see local producers alongside the bigger baking companies, and I enjoyed both catching up with some I’ve met at previous events and meeting some lovely new people too.

For anyone who shares the same mild obsession with blueberries that I have, the Blueberry Brothers are just amazing – they make jam, truffles, brownies, tarts and muffins, as well as a blueberry beer called Blue Yonder which I’ve been on the lookout for since Christmas.

I should explain – pre-Christmas, I met Nick from the Blueberry Brothers at a farmers’ market in Plymouth. We got chatting, and he gave me a recipe for venison seared in blueberry jam then slow cooked in blueberry beer, which I wrote up and gave to my stepdad along with a bottle of beer and jar of jam. He like the recipe so much he wanted to do it again, but sadly Blue Yonder isn’t too readily available in Cornwall – so when I saw it on Saturday I was more than a bit happy!

Not a beer lover myself, I sampled one of their blueberry and apple muffins, fuel for the long drive home, and it was absolutely delicious. Next on my list to try is their blueberry marzipan – I have a feeling I could quickly become addicted.

One of my favourite new finds of the day was Frandie Macaron. Having previously spoken to them on Twitter, I made a beeline for their stand when I arrived, to check out all the beautiful brightly coloured macarons, hand made in Devon.

I’ve always been too scared to make macarons, so it was rather reassuring to see that even the professionals don’t always get it right – Frandie Macaron sell bags of ‘maca-wrongs’ – misshapen shells that taste just as good but are a little lacking in the looks department.

I tried one of their raspberry and limoncello macarons, which were created especially for the show through a fan competition. It was lush – I really do need to have a go at making my own though. Soon, maybe…

In the competition arena was a great selection of novelty cakes, all with a South West theme. The winning cake really was outstanding, they packed everything Westcountry that they could think of into a bit tower of cake, including Yeo Valley yoghurt, Clarks shoes, Paignton Zoo and Thatchers Cider – just look at the INSANE detail, I can only dream of being able to make a cake this good!

So, The BIG Cake Show was basically brilliant, and I am so happy that Mel and Kim have managed to create something for people in the South West – as much as I love cake, the 5 hour drive/7 hour coach to London is not the most fun, and I know a lot of people will agree that with so many amazing local bakers and producers, it’s only right that the South West should have its own show!

Thanks to Tracy and The BIG Cake Show team for my VIP pass, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Bacon chocolate cupcakes

Down the road from my office is a van, occupied by a man called Bacon Dave. You can guess what gourmet delights come from his van…

Bacon Dave is very popular with my colleagues, particularly the boys, and so when one of their birthdays came around I decided that whatever I made would have to contain bacon – whether it tasted nice or not.

I wanted to go down the chocolate route, because if there’s anything that will make bacon taste ok, that’s it. I found a recipe by Simon Rimmer which I used as the base recipe, then just tweaked it by throwing in some caramelised white chocolate chunks for extra sweetness and switching the frosting to a simple cocoa buttercream.

The reactions were very, VERY mixed. The birthday boy actually had a cold and said he couldn’t taste the bacon, whereas another colleague thought the bacon was overwhelming and didn’t like it.

I thought it was weird, but I had more of an issue with the texture than the taste. My housemate on the other hand loved them and ate two, so I guess it just comes down to personal taste!

If you like bacon it might be worth giving these a go, but for me I don’t think I’ll be likely to use bacon in anything sweet for quite a while…

Bacon chocolate cupcakes (adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe)

  • 6 slices bacon, grilled until crispy
  • 75g milk chocolate
  • 75g white chocolate
  • 115g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg
  • 25ml strong coffee, cooled
  • 115ml sour cream
  • 60ml vegetable oil

For the icing:

  • 60g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Start by melting the milk chocolate, then crumble up the bacon and mix two thirds of it into the chocolate. Spread this out on a piece of baking paper or tin foil and leave to set. Make the caramelised white chocolate by chopping the chocolate and placing in a baking dish in the oven on a low temperature. Stir every 5-10 minutes until it’s golden and caramelised, then stir in 1/2 tsp salt and spread out on baking paper or foil to set, as with the milk chocolate. When both are completely set, chop into chunks ready to use in the cupcakes.

To make the cake mix, sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl beat together all the wet ingredients, then fold this into the dry mix along with the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture between 9-10 large cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing, beat the butter to soften, then sift in half the sugar and beat to combine. Sift in the remaining sugar and cocoa powder and beat again. Once it comes together, add a tablespoon of milk and keep beating until light and fluffy, adding a little more milk if necessary. Spread the icing over the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle the remaining bits on top.

Delicious?!

Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake,¬†paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!