Oh how I have missed having a roomy kitchen to myself, my favourite ingredients at my fingertips and a fully-functioning oven!
As soon as I got home I was excited to bake something again. I've loved food and cooking for as long as I can remember, and when someone at Uni recently said to me "Oh so you quite like cooking?" I was shocked. It has always been something known about me, one of my biggest characteristics, but of course I haven't been able to show off my enthusiasm and love for all things culinary for a long time, save for the odd lemon drizzle cake constructed using only a microwave and the power of prayer.
Once this wish was expressed, mum spent days suggesting her old favourite cakes, pies, biscuits and buns... my "standbys", if you will. But I was in the mood for something a tad more adventurous.
I decided to make a chocolate and vanilla "chessboard" cake, with buttercream icing and chocolate decorations.
The chessboard effect was a fiddly one to get right, and I think it is testament to maturity that I only recall swearing once or twice during its construction.
The baking itself was incredibly simple. I made two small vanilla sponges and two chocolate sponges with a hint of coffee to both darken the colour and bring out the flavour of the chocolate. I then left the sponges to cool and firm up overnight.
I then took a template from this website which helped me figure out the construction. It was a lot simpler than I'd imagined. I placed the sponges one on top of the other, used cookie cutters as templates, and cut two circles from each. They were all a little lopsided, but equally so so it didn't matter too much.
It was then simply a case of alternating the circles, as the website shows.
I made vanilla buttercream (1 part butter, 2 parts icing sugar, a splash of milk and Madagascan vanilla extract), and spread it thinly between each layer before using it to cover the whole cake (and fill any unsightly gaps!)
As you can see, the icing was far from perfect, but I had plans for decoration anyway.
With melted chocolate on greaseproof paper, I made some hearts and other designs to harden in the fridge, peeling off the paper when set and placing them on top of the cake.
I then made some simple biscuits (recipe here, one use fairly regularly), and half-covered each with more chocolate. I did this by using the edge of some normal printer paper to cover half of each biscuit.
The heart shapes were cut freehand.
I'd highly recommend the "Fin Carré" cooking chocolate I used, which was 55% cocoa and is available in Lidl. It melted and set divinely, was lovely and smooth, and actually tasted like real chocolate! (I haven't even been paid to say this, but that said if Lidl care to reimburse me I would be most interested).
The biscuits were then stuck round the edge of the cake with a dab of chocolate, et voila!
This recipe wasn't actually too complex, just took a little time, patience and planning. Nonetheless, it still had the "wow" factor when I invited the neighbours round to help eat it as I attempt to reduce my waistline!
Next week I'm going to make a simple Victoria sponge with cream by special request for Father's Day.