So the week of the Great Bake Off at work had finally arrived, and ideas had been whirling around my head for ages. Would I go traditional Victoria, cupcakes, loaf cake or a spruced up layer cake? In the end it was a trip back up home for the weekend that helped me make my decision…
Most people say they have a flash of inspiration in the bathroom, for me it was the long and winding queue of Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, the manic craziness of the Saturday shopper desperate for a a caffeine fix, coupled with a warm early autumn day got me thinking of cake! To be honest, it’s a little scary how quickly Autumn has come around; I’m not even going to mention the other thing that comes next, it is far too early for that! But wandering in Starbucks at the weekend, they were full into Halloween mode and Pumpkin Spice Latte was back on the menu. It got me thinking about seasoning up my cake for the Bake Off, a little.
Now, I used to bake a pumpkin cupcake when I had the shop; it was a spiced pumpkin cake with a light maple syrup frosting. Mmmmm! It was popular, but it was one of those cakes that if you really weren’t sold on, it was passed by for something a little more ‘normal’. But with pumpkin season just starting and not being able to get hold of either a pumpkin, squash or can of pumpkin puree at 5.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, when I finally had chance to bake, it wasn’t going to happen for the Bake Off.
Raiding the cupboard as usual (I really should have been more organised), my mind drifted back to the caffeine queue. Sorry I know I said I wasn’t going to bring up ‘that’ time of year, but by the time I spied the ginger, treacle and dark muscovado sugar, those red cups were imprinted on my brain… and so was Gingerbread Latte. Oh yes, it was going to happen and there was no stopping me.
I love a good layer cake. I love the neatness of the layers and filing when it’s sliced into. I love the simplicity of the frosting and the way you can jazz it up with a few bits and pieces, or just keep it ‘naked’. I love that you can mix up flavour combinations, filling types and everything else layer cakey. So putting together a Gingerbread Latte style cake was sort of like a cake jigsaw. Should the layers be coffee, gingery coffee or just gingery? What frosting would fit with the layers? Decisions, decisions…
In the end, I thought that a gingery frosting and coffee sponge might not be to everyone’s taste palette, and really my beloved red cup is more spicy then caffeine. Switching them around seemed a better idea; a nicely spiced gingerbread sponge, not a dark, rich gingerbread but one to give that warm, gingery glow, add a shot or 2 of espresso to the frosting, but not too much coffee with it just between the layers, then wrap the whole lot in a vanilla bean frosting, a little sweetness for balance. Perfect!
Anyway, heading back to the Bake Off everyone’s masterpieces were fantastic; there was sweet, savoury, cupcakes, layer cakes, loaf cakes, vegan cakes and one with gin in it. We raised a fantastic amount for MacMillian Cancer and had a huge amount of fun. The Star Baker was a pecan and parsnip cake, made by The Cheeky Vegan’s boyfriend, who made not one but two cakes, and if you count Sian’s vegan Oreo birthday cake as well, 3 cakes in the space of 3 days! Congratulations and kudos Sean!
So, there’s a new layer cake in my cake arsenal now… and I can guarantee you that it’s coming out again, most probably as a Christmas Cake alternative.
- 250g Unsalted butter
- 250g Dark muscovado sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste
- 4 Eggs, medium
- 325g Self raising flour
- 2 tsp Ground ginger
- 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
- 100ml Whole milk
- 350g Unsalted Butter
- 700g Icing sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste
- 2 tbsp Whole milk
- 2 shots Fresh espresso
- Chocolate sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 180C or 160C (fan).
- Line a 6 inch cake tin with baking parchment, or three individual 6 inch cake tins.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until softened. Alternatively, you can make the cake batter, in a large mixing bowl, by hand or with an electric hand whisk.
- Add the dark muscovado sugar and vanilla bean paste beat until well mixed.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, to the mixture. Beat well between adding each egg, until the mixture is thick. Don't worry if it starts to curdle.
- Sift the flour, cinnamon and ginger together, and add half to the mixture. Gently mix together.
- Add half of the milk and mix well.
- Repeat with the remaining milk and flour, and gently mix together until the cake batter is soft and smooth.
- Pour the cake batter into the lined cake tin, or split evenly between the cake tins.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow the cake(s) to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until soft.
- Add half the icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Beat until smooth.
- Add the half the flour and half the milk. Beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining icing sugar, flour and milk. Beat until smooth.
- If the frosting is too stiff, add a tbsp of whole milk and beat until smooth.
- Put half of the frosting into a separate bowl, and with the remaining half beat in the espresso, a little at a time, until smooth.
- Using a large serrate knife, level the top of the cake and spilt into 6 layers of equal thickness, or if baked in 3 cake tins split each layer in half.
- Fix the 'bottom' layer to a 6 inch cake board with a little of the frosting.
- Using a palette knife, spread about 3-4 tablespoons of the espresso frosting evenly across the bottom layer, place the next layer on top, and repeat.
- Top the cake with the final layer, bottom-side up, and spread the vanilla frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Use a palette knife or cake side scrapper to take off the excess buttercream and give a smooth finish.
- Chill the frosted cake for 15 minutes in the fridge, to allow the layer of frosting to firm up.
- Add another layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake, and remove the excess.
- Chill the frosted cake for another 15 minutes in the fridge.
- Cover the bottom of a baking tray with chocolate sprinkles, and place the chilled cake in the centre. Using clean hands, smooth the sprinkle up the sides of the cake, as high as you want to go.
- Pipe small mounds of frosting on top of the cake, and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
PS. A little apology about the photos, as it was dark by the time I’d finished and I didn’t get chance to photograph the finished cake properly before taking it to work.