A student's guide to baking

Archive for the ‘Cake’ Category

Rainbow Cupcakes

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Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Food colouring/dye

The icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour.
  • Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • Ideally you want 6 different colours for this recipe: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. If you only have red, yellow and blue, you can mix as necessary to make up the remaining colours, but be careful not to use too much.
  • Split the mixture evenly into 6 separate bowls and add a little of the food dye or colouring to the respective bowls to make the various colours.
  • Divide the purple mixture up between the 12 cupcake cases, using a teaspoon if needs be to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly and covers the base of the cupcake case.
  • Repeat with the other colours, working backwards through the rainbow to end up with red on top.
  • Bake the cupcakes at 180ºC for 12-15 minutes. When done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.
  • Make the buttercream icing by beating the butter until soft, and then adding in the icing sugar and mixing. Add in the vanilla essence and continue mixing until pale and fluffy. Use the buttercream to decorate the cakes.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/13653/rainbow-coloured-cupcakes.aspx)

Today’s post is a bit of a #throwbackthursday. These cupcakes were one of my first forays into the world of baking. At the time I’d just started my second year at university, and my room this time around had access to a kitchen, which I didn’t have in my first year. I decided to christen the kitchen by baking some cakes for my flatmates to try and make unpacking and 0th week work seem a bit more bearable.

And so, in a bid to put off the effort of unpacking for an extra half an hour or so, I decided to make the cupcakes rainbow coloured, seeing as I had various different food colours with me. I must’ve had them for quite some time though, as the purple, whilst still perfectly fine for human consumption, had changed colour to a dark green, so the rainbow effect didn’t quite work. The lesson here is that if the mixture goes green when you add the purple food colouring, then baking it is not going to effect a miraculous change and render the result purple after all. Also, whilst I wouldn’t advocate pouring in half a bottle of food colouring, feel free to add a little more than you would normally to make sure that you get a nice bright colour.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Blueberry Muffins

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Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 110g low fat sunflower spread
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g fresh blueberries

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 150ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cases.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together the spread and sugar.
  • Add in the eggs and the milk and mix well, before adding the flour, baking powder and vanilla extract. Stir until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add in the blueberries, mixing gently to make sure they stay whole.
  • Split the mixture between the cases and bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden and firm.
  • When they’re done, remove from the oven and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from Waitrose magazine)

Blueberry muffins

Now, for this recipe I must thank my dear mother, whose baking speciality is most definitely muffins. When the hectic lifestyle of a primary school headteacher and mother of two allows, she makes up a bunch of these that are great as a mid-morning snack with a cup of tea or as a quick breakfast for an energetic start to the day. They’re wonderfully easy to make, and like so many baked delicacies, they can be left alone to cook once they’re in the oven.

The first time I made these was when I got back from the first stretch of my Year Abroad, where I was a student on a German language summer school in Vienna for a month. Having spent a month living in student halls, in a small student room with access to a similarly proportioned student kitchen, my setup there was never designed for baking. What’s more, I didn’t take utensils and the like with me because I was only there for a month and chances were I wouldn’t have time for lots of baking. That was still very much the case, but by the time I got to the end of the month, I was looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and baking something.

So despite getting back at 8pm on a Saturday evening after having set off at 10am, I was up early the following morning, as had become my habit in Vienna, and I decided to bake these for breakfast. The smell of baking is one that is almost universally adored, but there’s something particularly special about it when you’ve been deprived of baking for a while. I very much enjoyed looking at (and eating) wonderfully presented dishes in bakeries and restaurants in Vienna, but I was glad to get back to making my own after several weeks without.

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Banana Bread

Banana bread

Ingredients:

  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml buttermilk (you can make a substitute by mixing 1 ½ tsp lemon juice with normal milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line or grease a loaf tin. I didn’t have a loaf tin at university when I started making these, so I used a 10” cake tin instead.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs, the mashed bananas, the buttermilk and the vanilla extract into the mixture.
  • Sieve in the flour, followed by the bicarbonate of soda and the salt and mix well.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour at 180ºC, or until well-risen and browned.
  • Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/bananabread_85720)

Here's another banana bread I made, with chocolate chips added into the mixture.

Here’s another banana bread I made, with chocolate chips added into the mixture.

In my opinion, banana bread is one of the best cakes for students and frankly became a bit of a staple in my kitchen last year. It’s rich in potassium and so good for brain functions (how many of us were told to eat bananas during exam season?), and it’s not so sugary that you get a sugar high and then crash shortly after eating it. It makes for a great energising snack and goes very well with a cup of Darjeeling.

The process of making them is rather ideal for students too. I would usually buy a big bunch of bananas at the market as part of my weekly shop, and inevitably I wouldn’t get through all of them before they became overripe, so mashing them and baking with them is a good way of making sure they don’t go to waste. It’s also a fairly quick and simple recipe; it usually takes me about 15 minutes to make up the mixture and get it ready for the oven, and then you can go off and do other things while you wait for it to cook. Granted, the first time I took my books into the kitchen so that I could keep an eye on it, but it happily sits in the oven and slowly cooks, so I usually just went back to my room or the library.

Another feature of the banana bread is that it’s very easy to share, whether you’ve made it as a loaf or a round cake, because you can just cut a slice whenever you need it. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

Carnation Cupcakes

P1090037

Ingredients (makes 36 total, 12 of each colour):

White:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon, zest

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice

Pink:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 12 squares of dark chocolate
  • 12 raspberries

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 12 raspberries

Red:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Red food dye/colouring

Carnation cupcakes 2

Recipe:

  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line 3 muffin tins with cupcake cases. If you don’t have 3 trays, you can make them one colour at a time, remembering to wash and dry the tray after each round.

Each of these cupcakes starts with the same basic recipe:

  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour. Add the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • For the white cupcake, stir in the lemon zest until it’s evenly spread throughout the mixture. Split the mixture between the cupcake cases.
  • For the pink cupcake, sieve in the cocoa powder after adding the flour. Fill each cupcake case half full with the mixture, then place a square of chocolate and a raspberry in the middle of each before pouring the remaining mixture on top.
  • For the red cupcake, add in the vanilla essence before dividing the mixture between the cases.
  • All of the cakes should be baked for 15-18 minutes at 180ºC. Remember to use the knife test to check before removing them from the oven. If you don’t have room in the oven for all 3 colours at once or are only using 1 muffin tray, place them in the centre of the oven to bake.
  • When the cakes are done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

Set a timer so that you don’t lose track of time, and then you can start making the icings. Again, the icing for each different cake starts with the same basic recipe:

  • Beat butter until soft. Sieve in the icing sugar and mix together until the buttercream is pale and forms stiff peaks. As you’re going to be piping and you want the design to hold it’s shape, continue beating the mixture until it’s stiff and holds its shape well.
  • For the white icing, stir in the lemon juice and beat thoroughly.
  • For the pink icing, add in the raspberries and beat thoroughly. The mixture should turn a light pink colour.
  • For the red icing, add in the red food dye or colouring, following the instructions as to how much to use. The icing should turn a bright red colour.
  • Leave the icing to cool in the fridge briefly whilst you’re waiting for the cakes to cool.
  • Once the cakes are cool, you can start icing. Do make sure that the cakes are at room temperature before you begin, or else the icing will melt and start to run.
  • Use a piping bag with a cross-headed nozzle, preferable with one point being slightly longer than the others. Pipe small circular ‘petals’ in a clockwise direction, spiralling inwards to the centre.
  • Once the cakes are iced, leave them in the fridge to allow the icing to set fully.

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One of the many Oxford traditions when it comes to exams is wearing a carnation to mark your progression through your exam period. You start with a white carnation for your first exam, then a pink carnation for all of your middle exams, and you finish with a red one to mark your final exam. It’s a popular tradition in Oxford in May and June, and it’s rather lovely when you get congratulations on the street from people who see you wearing your red carnation.

Part of the tradition is that someone else has to buy your carnations for you, as its apparently bad luck to buy them for yourself. In some ways though, it’s just nice to find flowers in your pigeon hole when you’re otherwise surrounded by revision, even if those flowers do remind you of the upcoming ordeal.

In addition to the carnations, many people also give each other chocolate and sweets as kind little gestures around this time. To those of you worrying about the state of pre-exam nutrition, most colleges also offer a Fruit for Finalists scheme, where you can also get fruit rather than living off a diet of Dairy Milk and Lindt. I particularly like this culture of giving and gestures of goodwill around the time of exams, so I came up with these carnation cupcakes as a way to combine both aspects.

When it came to posting the cakes to various people’s pigeon holes, I put each set into resealable airtight sandwich bags to stop them from drying out, and I wrote a little note, wishing them good luck for their exams and explaining what the flavours were in each cake.

Naturally of course, I couldn’t just do vanilla cupcakes with different coloured icing on top, so I decided to have different flavours for each cupcake. I’ve always been a fan of lemon flavours in cake, and it also lent itself well to keeping the colour a light creamy white, so I went with that the for the first one.

As I’ve mentioned in my melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, I really liked the concept as a cake in itself, and using the raspberries helped not only to create a contrast with the dark chocolate and lighten the taste, but also to create a naturally pink icing for the cake. I also liked the added ‘middleness’ of the cake, in that there was a nice surprise in the middle with the melted chocolate and raspberry as an extra boost, as well as it being the middle cake and carnation of the three. I decided to keep the final cupcake simple, sticking with a reliable vanilla cupcake, and using food dye to achieve the red colour.

Another advantage of using vanilla for the last one is that it would last better than the other two cakes, as there wasn’t any fresh fruit in the cake. As someone who had to have 2 pink carnation flowers to last them through the exam period in first year because the first one was in danger of withering before I reached the final exam, I was aware that exams can end up being spread over some time, and I wanted people to still have the option of eating each cake as they donned the matching coloured carnation.

For those of you who may be wondering what I did about my own carnations and arguably more importantly, my exams, I thankfully didn’t have any. At undergraduate level, the arts subjects only have exams at the end of the first year and at the end of the final year, so I spent last term as I did any other: writing essays, doing translations, and reading. However, many of my friends had exams, whether they were 2nd year science subject exams, first year Prelims or fourth year linguist Finals, so I spent a lot of last term baking these too!

Carnation cupcakes

Raspberry Layer Cake

Raspberry layer cake

Ingredients:

The cake:

  • 350g butter
  • 350g cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g sour cream
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

The filling:

  • 200g raspberry jam
  • 250g fresh raspberries

The icing:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease 3 round cake tins.
  • Cream together your butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs to create a smooth mixture before adding in the sour cream, milk and vanilla extract.
  • Sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth and consistent. The mixture should be slightly more runny than a normal cake mixture.
  • Divide up the mixture between the three greased tins and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake passes the knife test.

Whilst the cakes are baking, you can make up the filling:

  • Lightly mash half of the raspberries in a bowl and then combine with the raspberry jam. Stir gently to ensure an even spread.

For the icing:

  • Start beating your double cream until it starts to thicken.
  • Add in the icing sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until the cream starts to form stiff peaks.

Once the cakes have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

  • When they’re ready, first ensure that they are all flat, using a serrated knife if necessary to trim the tops if they have domed.
  • To assemble the cake, take the bottom layer and spread a layer of the icing over it. On the bottom of the next layer, spread the raspberry filling and carefully place this on top of the bottom layer. Repeat with the next layer.
  • Once you’ve got all three layers together, spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake, using a palette knife to give smooth and even coverage.
  • Push the remaining raspberries gently into the icing for decoration.

(Recipe adapted from: http://recipes.coles.com.au/recipes/2634/vanilla-raspberry-layer-cake/)

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Prior to making this, Ele and I had spent the day at the Worcester College Garden Party, celebrating the fast-approaching end of term in elegant British style. The garden party was a lovely affair; we were greeted with glasses of champagne upon our arrival, and there was also a wonderful array of sandwiches and miniature desserts of various kinds for us to try. As a result, our main source of nutrition turned out to be strawberries and cream and ice cream in various flavours from the local Oxford ice cream parlour G&Ds. There was live music and dancing, giant garden-sized games of Jenga as well as limbo, and plenty of conversation as students emerged from the libraries, remembering the joys of friendship and trying to forget about the fast-approaching exams.

Having enjoyed the champagne, and later on several glasses of Pimm’s and Elderflower Collins, we were a little light-headed as we walked back to Ele’s afterwards. On the walk we decided that having something to eat might be a good idea, and so naturally a summery cake seemed like a rather good idea.

Like the melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, this too was born out of a need to use up some raspberries, and the concept of mixing fresh raspberries with jam turned out to add a nice extra texture to the cake. It also helped to balance out the flavours with the cream frosting, so that despite the considerable amount of cream, it’s actually a rather light cake and tasted wonderful.

Melt-in-the-middle Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes

Melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 35g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 130g plain flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of sode
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 185ml milk
  • 12 squares dark chocolate

The frosting:

  • 170g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 500g fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and stir in the vanilla.
  • Sieve in the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
  • Pour in the milk and mix well.
  • Half fill the cupcake cases and then put one square of chocolate on top. Top up the cupcakes with the remaining mixture, being careful not to overfill the cases, as they’ll rise in the oven.
  • Bake for around 15 minutes, or until they pass the knife test.
  • Once the cakes have finished baking, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

Whilst they’re in the oven, you can make a start on the frosting:

  • Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until soft.
  • Sieve in the icing sugar and mix carefully and thoroughly until peaks start to form.
  • Add in the vanilla extract and the raspberries, saving some for decoration. I tend to go for 2 raspberries per cupcake, so put 24 to one side, and mix in the rest with the buttercream.
  • Using either a palette knife or a piping bag, apply the icing to the top of the cooled cakes.

(Recipes from: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/24811/chocolate-melt-cupcakes.aspx (cake) and http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/dark-chocolate-cupcakes-with-raspberry-buttercream-frosting/ (frosting))

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My girlfriend, Ele, is another avid baker, so when she ended up getting a lot of raspberries on offer at the end of the market one day, using them to make some form of cake seemed the most logical thing for us to do.

One of my flatmates from last year, Jennifer, regularly made melt-in-the-middle chocolate muffins during term, so naturally I was eager to try the idea too.

The result of these two ideas was therefore what you see here: melt-in-the-middle chocolate cupcakes with a hearty topping of raspberry buttercream icing. I was so taken by it, in fact, that I ended up using the idea for my Carnation cupcakes.

Normally I bake for an occasion, or at least I find an occasion to bake a certain recipe that I want to try, but that wasn’t really the case here. Instead, this was baking for necessity, in order to try and use up some of the raspberries quickly. It did prove useful in that I got to have a go at making melt-in-the-middle cupcakes and get an idea for the kind of consistency I wanted, but even so, there wasn’t a particular occasion that the cakes were intended for. As you’d expect though, we weren’t short of people to help us eat them.

They say that money can’t buy you happiness, but money can buy ingredients with which you can bake. If baking doesn’t make you happy, then I’m not sure what will. One of my main plans for meeting new people and making new friends when I’m on my Year Abroad next year is genuinely to bake and bribe people into being my friends through the use of baked goods. You may laugh at me from your moral high ground, but when the cakes come out of the oven and are just sitting ready on the side, there are few who can resist. Me included.

Earth Cake

Earth cake

Ingredients:

Inner layer – Vanilla sponge:

  • 120g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Middle layer – Lemon sponge:

  • 180g butter
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon, zest

Outer layer – Chocolate orange sponge:

  • 240g butter
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 240g self-raising flour
  • 120g cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 large orange, zest

Icing:

  • 500g fondant icing
  • Green food dye or colouring
  • Blue food dye or colouring
  • Icing sugar for rolling

TOTAL INGREDIENTS:

  • 540g butter
  • 540g caster sugar
  • 540g self-raising flour
  • 9 eggs
  • 9 tbsp (135ml) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 120g cocoa powder
  • 1 large orange, zest
  • 500g fondant icing
  • Green and blue food dye or colouring
  • Icing sugar for rolling
All the ingredients, ready to go! (I was also making religieuses and brownies on the same day, hence the obscene number of eggs amongst other things)

All the ingredients, ready to go! (I was also making religieuses and brownies on the same day, hence the obscene number of eggs amongst other things.)

Pull up a chair and put the kettle on; we’re in for a long ride. With a combined baking time of 3 hours, plus time for preparing the mixture and icing the finished cake, you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while…

As the seemingly never-ending list of ingredients suggests, this is probably the most complex thing I’ve baked so far. Essentially, it’s three layers of cake, covered with fondant icing. To help you along the way, I took photos of the various things so that you should have an idea of how your baking should look before you get to the end.

A few words of warning before you begin: for this recipe, you’re going to need 3 hemisphere tins or pyrex bowls of different sizes, such that you can fit one inside the other to get the layered effect. The structure of this cake works by baking each layer into the next one, thereby removing the need for any form of adhesive to hold the whole cake together.

To try and make things a bit easier, I altered the recipe for each cake so that all was required was making up the same basic cake recipe and then adding the flavour as appropriate. Feel free to change the flavourings, but bear in mind that you want the inner layer to have a more runny texture initially, as it’ll be baked 3 times in total. If you do change the type of cake you’re using, then the baking times may also be different. In case you’re unsure about whether a layer is baked, leave it in for a little longer. In this case, it’s far better to have a slightly over-baked cake, as you’ll have to trim the layers, but once you remove the cake from the oven, it stops baking and putting it back in may not be enough to save it. The best thing I can recommend with this is to keep a close eye on the oven as you near the end of the recommended baking time to see when it’s done.

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC, and grease the smallest bowl or tin.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the vanilla essence.
  • Transfer the mixture into your greased smallest bowl or tin and bake for about 45 minutes.
The first layer pre-oven baking.

The first layer pre-oven baking.

While that’s baking, you can get started on the next layer, but bear in mind that you have to wait for the first layer to have finished baking and cooled before you can put the next one in the oven.

You can make up the next layers when the first is baking and put them in the fridge to cool whilst you’re waiting.

You can make up the next layers when the first is baking and put them in the fridge to cool whilst you’re waiting.

  • As before, cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the lemon zest and beat to ensure an even distribution throughout the mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to the your greased middle-sized bowl or tin.
  • Once the first layer is baked, remove it from the bowl and leave it to cool. When it’s cool enough to the touch, check that the bottom is round and unbroken, using a sharp knife to shape it if needs be.
  • Once it’s smooth, press it into the centre of your middle layer mixture, and bake for 60 minutes.
The second layer, with the first already-baked layer in it.

The second layer, with the first already-baked layer in it.

The first two layers cooling upside down. The inner layer will rise as the next layer bakes, but you can make it even at the end.

The first two layers cooling upside down. The inner layer will rise as the next layer bakes, but you can make it even at the end.

The next thing to do is make the final, outer layer of cake:

  • As you’ll probably have gathered by now, follow the same plan as before: cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Sieve in the cocoa powder, and then pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the orange zest and beat to ensure an even distribution throughout the mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to the your greased largest bowl or tin.
  • Once the middle layer is baked, remove it from the bowl and leave it to cool. When it’s cool enough to the touch, check that the bottom is round and unbroken, using a sharp knife to shape it if needs be.
  • Once it’s smooth, press it into the centre of your outer layer mixture, and bake for 75 minutes.
  • When that’s finished, remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool. You can now turn off the oven at last.
  • Once the cake is cool, use a sharp serrated knife, such as a bread knife, to flatten the top of your cake carefully. Turn the cake upside down so that the layers are facing down and unseen, and leave to one side.
All three layers of baked cake. As previously suggested, this does have a tendency to mushroom as each successive layer rises from beneath the previous cooked cake.

All three layers of baked cake. As previously suggested, this does have a tendency to mushroom as each successive layer rises from beneath the previous cooked cake.

However, with the use of a sharp knife, you can create a flat base for your cake.

However, with the use of a sharp knife, you can create a flat base for your cake.

For the icing and assembly:

  • Dust a surface with icing sugar and, using a rolling pin, roll out your fondant icing.
  • Split the icing roughly in half, and put one half to one side for now.
  • To the remaining icing, apply your blue food dye or colouring. The quantities of this will depend on the substance you’re using. I used strong food dye, so a pea-sized amount was plenty to give the icing a bright colour. If in down, remember the mantra of all one-way processes such as baking and painting: less is best. You can always add more afterwards, but you can’t take out the colour once it’s mixed in.
You want your icing to have a bright and consistent colour, especially for the blue for the sea.

You want your icing to have a bright and consistent colour, especially for the blue for the sea.

  • Roll out the icing again until you have a large circular piece of blue icing.
  • Your cake should now have completed cooled, so transfer the blue icing to it, draping it over the rolling pin to help carry it.
  • Make sure that the icing completely covers the cake on all sides with no tears, and use a sharp knife to trim the sides.
  • Apply the green food dye or colouring to your remaining icing, and roll it out.
  • Using a sharp knife, carve it into the shape of the landmass(es) of your choice. I would highly recommend having a map or image to work from here.
  • Once you’ve got your green icing cut to shape, apply it to the cake, being careful not to rip it in the process.
A finished slice. I appreciate that the inner layer is rather difficult to see, given that it’s almost the same colour as the middle layer, but I promise you, it was there!

A finished slice. I appreciate that the inner layer is rather difficult to see, given that it’s almost the same colour as the middle layer, but I promise you, it was there!

Congratulations, you’re finished!

(Inspired by http://cakecrumbs.me/2013/05/24/commission-earth-structural-layer-cake/)

As I mentioned earlier, it’s far better to risk over-baking the layers on this one. Unfortunately, I learnt that lesson the hard way… On the plus side, you can eat it like a pudding with custard, except that it’s with cake mix instead!

As I mentioned earlier, it’s far better to risk over-baking the layers on this one. Unfortunately, I learnt that lesson the hard way… On the plus side, you can eat it like a pudding with custard, except that it’s with cake mix instead!

Be warned; this may look baked on the outside, but pyrex bowls are much slower to cook the inside of a cake than metal tins.

Be warned; this may look baked on the outside, but pyrex bowls are much slower to cook the inside of a cake than metal tins.

I saw this idea on the Internet somewhere quite some time ago and was immediately taken by it. One of my close friends and flatmates from last year, Kesia, studies Earth Sciences, so naturally my first thought when I saw this was to make it for her for some occasion. Unfortunately, her birthday is in August, so doing it as a birthday cake would have required considerable planning and organisation.

When I came across this recipe, I had only just started baking, and so I decided to leave it for when I had a bit more expertise in the kitchen and could make a decent attempt at such a complex cake! Thankfully, the two timing requirements came together in the form of a post-exams celebration for Kesia, as she had exams at the end of last year, whereas, being a languages student at Oxford, I didn’t, so I had more time to focus on baking rather than revising.

I had mentioned to Kesia that it would be good to have some sort of celebration for her at the end of her exam period, especially as she was going to miss the last night of term because of a field trip. I’d said that I’d make something for the occasion, so she was expecting baking of some kind, but I’d managed to keep the idea itself a secret from her until it was unveiled.

I decided to do a map of Europe for a couple of reasons: firstly, because it would be fairly easy and hopefully recognisable, despite my less than gallery-worthy art skills. I also decided to go with a European theme, because it was the last day that Kesia was going to be in Oxford with Tess (another close friend and flatmate) and I before we went left for our Year Abroad next year.

I did also make brownies for the celebration, and so as a joke, I presented her with those initially, claiming that they were like a tray of soil, but baked. Being the wonderfully kind person she is, she was very grateful, so I did have to say that I was in fact joking, and then brought out the main cake. Few words were exchanged and many were speechless, but the noises of appreciation and amazement as we were cutting and eating the cake seemed to be a sign of positive feedback!