Monday, 9 February 2015

Chocolate heaven toffee hell

It's catch-up week for the Alpha Bakers and I've chosen to bake the rather mysteriously named Chocolate Cuddle Cake which I missed while I was on Christmas holidays. I googled cuddle cake and it seems to be a specific type of cake in the US but I couldn't find a definition. I guess it comes from a land which has Shoo Fly Pie, Dirt Cake and Whoopie Pie so it makes perfect sense...? 

Anyway I can see why you might want to cuddle it since it's airy chocolate cake covered with chocolate ganache and caramel cream. Since I haven't completed it yet the picture below just shows the chocolate cake, which appears delicious enough by itself. It wouldn't win any prizes with the CWA ladies though - those lines from the baking rack would be death to any chance of a prize at the local agricultural show. (Rule No. 12. NO RACK MARKS ON ENTRIES) The capitals are theirs.

I'm making this to celebrate my neighbour's semi-retirement at drinks tomorrow so I'm going to finish it off then. Photo update to come.

The cake is a relatively simple affair involving flour, eggs sugar and cocoa.  The only fat comes from a little canola oil.

This recipe calls for a pan with 7cm high sides which you line with baking paper. Actually I found the instructions on the baking tin arrangements a bit confusing but having read the other Alpha Bakers I muddled through. My makeshift baking tin worked very well.

One of my favourite tricks from the Cake Bible is Rose's technique of mixing cocoa into a paste with hot water. It's amazing how rich it makes the chocolate taste, almost like using chocolate itself. In this recipe you make the paste and mix it with the egg yolks and oil and then add it to the flour and sugar.

You then whip the egg whites and make a meringue with the remaining sugar.

Then add it to the chocolate mixture.

And fold it in to make a luscious batter.

I baked my cake for about 65 minutes (give or take). It domed impressively but didn't split as expected.  The skewer came out clean so I called it done.

I cooled it upside down on an elevated baking rack, which made me feel like I was applying some sort of medieval punishment. And really the cake hadn't done anything wrong. The caramel however...

Gratuitous cake shot. I'm not sure if the sides are meant to come off like that but they were delicious. They came off with the baking paper. Truly.

Caramel ingredients. Yes, well it's all downhill from here, swearing all the way.

It started well with sugar, golden syrup and water dissolving in a saucepan. And descended into hell.

There aren't any in-between pictures here because you can't photograph hell. Well not with an iPad anyway.

I have a few suggestions for the toffee/caramel stage (Rose take note; possible edits for the next edition)

1. At some stage Rose recommends spraying a measuring jug with non-stick spray. A very good idea when dealing with sticky toffee. In fact if you have slapdash tendencies like me and are also (consequently?) accident prone, I highly recommend spraying a good deal of the kitchen and yourself with a covering of non-stick spray before starting the toffee stage. It will save a lot of scrubbing later.

2. Use caster sugar rather than ordinary sugar. It will dissolve faster than the 40 plus minutes I spent desperately standing over a hot pan. No doubt there's some good reason for Rose specifying the sugar BUT I DON'T CARE.

3. Also use a smaller pan. I don't have a smaller pan so I'll have to buy one. The amount of toffee you make is very small so a very small pan is called for.

4. Realise it's not going to work earlier so you can add more water and save yourself hours of torturous, hot, desperate stirring and staring at sugar crystals. Well, many minutes anyway.

5. Then when you finally save the toffee from crystalising and successfully turn it into rather delicious caramel make sure you wait for the various elements to cool properly before combining them with the whipped cream. Otherwise when it curdles add more cream and hand whip it until your arm falls off.

Somehow that traumatic process turned into the most delicious caramel cream. This is not the most tempting looking photo but I can assure you the taste is divine, even when slightly curdled.

I don't know what's up next week for the Alpha Bakers and frankly I'm too exhausted to go and look.  I'm sure it will be something delicious. It won't have toffee.


  1. Caramel has so many things that can go wrong, doesn't it? But the cake looks delicious, and the caramel tastes good, and everyone will ooh and aah when they taste the cake.

  2. Yum! Ya, caramel is a tricky one. I've watched so many youtube videos on making caramel including swirling the pan, never ever stir they say, keeping the sides brushed down with a wet pastry brush so the crystals can't latch on to each other, on and on ad nauseum. Was a bit nervous seeing this component of the cake. Definitely understand the swearing factor! But all is well that ends well. Just don't tell them it curdled and they'll never know!

  3. Your cake looks perfect! The CWA ladies would never see the grid lines once you get that whipped cream on top!!! I had many problems with the whipped cream but it tastes so good, it was worth it. Glad your arm held out! This is a spectacular recipe, prepare to receive MANY compliments! --Michele

  4. you're a cuddle cake looks great love your post too.

  5. Lol - you're so funny. I had trouble with the caramel whipped cream too. made it work somehow in the end, but it never turned out the way it was supposed to.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Also, I've lived in the US all my life and have been a baker for years and years - never heard of a cuddle cake before the alpha baker project. Just thought I'd let you know. :)

    3. It would be good if Rose had provided an explanation. Or I can just continue poking fun at American cake names... :)

  6. OMG, your post had me cracking up!! I love your tips for Rose :) I'm so impressed with the height on your cake!

    I actually made the caramel whipped cream this past weekend too, since I skipped it when I made the cuddle cake, to pair with next week's cake (also made in advance) - it was delicious! I do, however, completely identify with your feelings about caramel. I'm pretty confident in the kitchen, but it scares me a little bit!

  7. LOL! You are so funny! I won't have known you had problems with your caramel because your cake looked beautiful and the caramel cream looked beautifully whipped too!

  8. OMG, the picture of your cake makes me long for another chocolate chiffon cake, plain just like yours. You got so much height on it! I know what you mean about the caramel cream. It is ridiculously delicious. Enjoy it when it's put together!