A student's guide to baking

Posts tagged ‘Fondant’

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!