Of all the family traditions we seem to have collected over the years – they range from the bizarre to the utterly ridiculous – one of my favourites is the birthday cake. if you’re at home on your birthday (or about the right time) you get an exciting and customised birthday cake – home-made, of course. This has led to many interesting creations over the years, like a 7 with the long part as runway with plastic fighter jets on it (my then life’s desire), a zoo with a chocolate finger fence and a jelly penguin pool, a chocolate and orange cake (made with some liqueur brought back from some Spanish holiday), and a Martian-green After Eight cake – to name but four of mine from over the years. But these masterpieces are almost always created by my mum; this leaves us a problem when her birthday comes around. The last couple of years I’ve been around, and so the predicament of what to make has fallen to me. Last year, after much debate, I made a chocolate and ginger cake with orange icing, so the pressure was on to come up with something original for this year.
Having flicked through a couple of cook books and put them back on the shelf with as much inspiration as before, I turned to my trusty childhood toy box (a big wooden box, covered in stickers, which once held all manner of games and jigsaws) which has now been recycled into an alcohol cabinet. It was here I came across my trusty bottle of amaretto. It’s a sweet, almond liqueur from Italy and as well as being very tasty as a drink it also works fantastically in baking – I use Disaronno, others are available but they’re not as good (I’d specifically warn against the other, cheaper, brand that Tesco sell – that experience was not pleasant).
I’ve also been watching a ridiculous amount of the Great British Bake Off recently (well, I had to catch up on the episodes I’d missed whilst on holiday!) so I got a little bigger than my boots and let ambitions reach some lofty heights (for me, that is). And so the matter was settled – I would make a Chocolate and Amaretto cake with a whipped Dark Chocolate and Amaretto ganache. Simple…
The recipe for the sponge is adapted from the blog of a former GBBO contestant, Holly Bell, and the ganache was made up as I went along from a combination of GBBO watching and recipes I found online. My ambitions may have got the better of me when it came to piping the ganache, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, and as the rest of my family are terrified of piping bags the thought and effort was noted, rather than the final presentation. Clearly I need to make more cakes with piped ganache on top!
For the sponge:
150g castor sugar
175g butter (room temp.)
150g plain flour
3 large eggs (room temp.)
2 tsp cream of tartar
35g cocoa powder
35g Greek yoghurt
For the ganache:
1. Butter and line two cake tins; put the oven on to 180ºC (GM 4).
2. Cream together the butter and the castor sugar – I was lazy and used the mixer – until the mixture’s light and ‘fluffy’. Then add in the flour, cream of tartar, bicarb soda and cocoa powder and combine.
3. Add in the eggs and Greek yoghurt slowly until the mixture comes together. Then add in the amaretto – I might have been slightly more liberal with the measurements than the volume stated above.
4. Mix for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and smooth. Scrape into the two lined cake tins and shake gently to level.
5. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until risen and bouncy. (My oven appears to be playing up at the moment and over heating – the originally suggested 30 mins in the oven – so keep an eye on them!)
6. Allow the cakes to cool – do not ice until completely cooled as you’ll melt the ganache.
7. To make the ganache pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until it starts to bubble. Then add it into a large bowl containing your chopped up chocolate.
8. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture until the chocolate is fully melted, then add in your amaretto – again I might have taken a liberty on quite how much amaretto went in.
9. Allow the ganache to cool until it has semi-set. For a glossier finish you’re meant to do this at room temp., but I was short on time so chucked it in the fridge, where it took about 20 mins.
10. Once the mixture is thick enough, whip it until it forms soft peaks, then put a couple of spoonfuls in between the two sponge layers and spread almost to the edges. Pipe the rest on to the top of the cake in whatever fashion you chose.
Give it a try – it’s a pretty simple recipe and tastes absolutely wonderful, even if I do say so myself.