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Thursday 5 September 2013

Baking For Beginners: Blackboard Cake

Gather round, class, for a very special show and tell. I want to introduce you to my blackboard cake, and his pals, the candy chalks. Together, they are the very definition of playing with your food.

A Subtle Revelry featured a blackboard cake recently, and obviously upon reading about it I had an uncontrollable urge to try making one. You don't need to follow my recipe slavishly - use fruit cake if you prefer, or halve the quantity of sponge mixture for a smaller cake (mine is ginormous). The main thing here is to have fun and make a brilliant cake that everyone can scribble on - then eat, chalk and all. And not a shudder-inducing scraping fingernail sound to be heard - just giggles and shrieks and noisy chomping.

Let's begin.

Blackboard Cake (serves 20)
You will need:
For the cake
  • 450g butter, softened
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 450g buttercream frosting 
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • 750g black ready-to-roll fondant icing (I used three packs of Renshaw icing)
For the chalks
  • A cupful of granulated sugar (you can reuse the sugar later!)
  • 50g candy melts (I used white, green, pink and blue, adding up to 50g in total)
Make it!
  1. Locate the following important things: two 18cm square cake tins, five drinking straws, some disposable piping bags or sandwich bags, and a couple of wooden skewers. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 5, and grease and line each tin, leaving a slight lip of parchment around the top in case the sponges rise too much. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until smooth and well combined. Add a splash of milk if you need to loosen the mixture. 
  4. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-35 minutes. 
  5. In the meantime, make the candy chalks. Poke your straws (bendy bit cut off, if there is one) in your cup of granulated sugar. This helps them stay upright when you fill them with candy.
  6. Heat the candy melts in a microwaveable bowl for two minutes on half power (the defrost setting, usually - YMMV). Stir well and spoon into a piping bag or sandwich bag. Snip a tiny hole in one corner of the bag, push the melted candy down, and stick the opening into the top of one of the straws. Pipe the melted candy into the straw until you've filled it with about a chalk-length stick of candy. Repeat for each different colour, or until you've finished every straw. Pop in the fridge to set while you get on with the rest of the cake.
  7. The sponges are ready when the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a cooling rack, before turning out and leaving them to cool some more. 
  8. Sandwich the two halves together with buttercream and jam. Using a palette knife or spatula, cover the whole cake with buttercream (this is the crumb coat, and smooths out lumps and bumps).
  9. Dust a clean surface with icing sugar. Knead the fondant icing and then roll out until you have a square that's about 3cm longer and wider than the length of your cake added to the height of your cake (fondant = length + height + 3cm; a simple cakequation). Keep lifting the fondant off the surface to make sure it's not sticking, and remember to dust your pin - the icing sugar won't affect the blackness of the fondant, don't worry.
  10. Working quickly but carefully, lift your fondant and judge where to plonk it down so that it fully covers each side. Then plonk it down! Smooth out any imperfections and straighten the corners by gently pulling them out and down, like you would a bed sheet, and moulding the fondant into shape. Trim the excess from all the way around the bottom. Leave the icing to dry out overnight, or for at least four hours - don't cover or wrap the cake.
  11. Now for the fun part. Remove your candy chalks from their straws by pushing them out with a skewer. If they stick, use a very sharp knife to slice the straw open lengthwise. 
  12. Use a pastry brush to sweep a little icing sugar over the cake to make it look like a well-used blackboard. Then use the candy chalks to doodle to your heart's content. It's possible I went overboard, but I assure you my heart was very content:
    DS 4EVA
  13. If you want to add a jaunty duster ribbon, simply cut two equal-sized lengths from a bog-standard duster, fasten them together to form a piece long enough to wrap around your cake (you can stitch or simply staple the ends) and then use as you would a normal ribbon. 
  14. Serve whole, with the candy chalks, so that friends/family/random passers-by can add to your scribbles, or present everyone with a personalised slice. 
Class dismissed.

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