Scrolling through the messages on my Blackberry on a day off, I spotted a message about a bake sale at work for Comic Relief the following week. I always bake cakes when there is a charity bake sale and occasionally there has been a competitive element. I won the work bake-off two years ago with this floating malteser cake:
The following year I made this 'surprise inside' Mini Egg ombre piñata cake, but was out done by one of the other entrants (my sponge was a bit dry)
This year I wanted to make something special again and spent a while browsing the internet to get ideas and find out what current cake trends were, and decided to make a unicorn cake. I chose a strawberry cake recipe, bought some of the ingredients, spent time planning exactly what I was going to do... and when I got back to work and read the email properly, I realised that while all cakes were welcome for the bake sale, there were three competitive categories: tray bake, savoury cake, and chocolate cake. And I wasn't going to make any of those.
I considered scrapping my plans and making a different cake entirely but still wanted to do this one, and hit upon an idea: I could make a strawberry cake with white chocolate. I had a feeling that the other chocolate cake entries would all be milk chocolate or plain chocolate so having something with white chocolate might be a nice change.
In the end there weren't that many entries in the chocolate category after all so I won the bake off hands down! The cake tasted delicious, was really light and moist and I hid some white chocolate covered strawberries in the centre, which tumbled out when the cake was cut. It wasn't actually that difficult to decorate either and if the comments I received are anything to go by, it was definitely worth doing!
I didn't want the strawberries to overpower the white chocolate but also didn't want them just in the filling, so I decided to puree the strawberries in a blender and swirl it through the cake mixture in the tin before it was baked. To make sure the white chocolate flavour came through, I made a white chocolate buttercream for the filling and a white chocolate ganache to coat the outside of the cake before covering it with fondant.
Strawberry and white chocolate cake - an original recipe by Caroline Makes
I used a 6-inch cake tin (which is pretty small) as I wanted the cake to be tall but not too large and heavy as I had to carry it into work. This quantity makes four layers of a 6 inch cake.
450g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
450g caster sugar
450g self-raising flour
200g white chocolate, grated
227g punnet strawberries (or roughly that amount), hulled, chopped and blended in a food processor until pureed
for the strawberry centre:
50g white chocolate
for the buttercream:
175g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
350g icing sugar, sifted
100g white chocolate, melted
pink food colouring
PME Cake Release or butter/marg for greasing the cake tins
for the ganache:
60ml double cream
120g white chocolate
about 1kg fondant - I find it easier to have extra for rolling out
PME gold edible lustre spray
black food colouring or a black edible ink pen
a wooden dowel or similar, about 8 inches long
star-shaped piping nozzle and piping bag
First if you want to fill the cake with chocolate-dipped strawberries you need to start by making these. The other thing I'd recommend using for the centre of the cake is Rainbow Drops - I had been planning to use these as I thought I had some in the cupboard but then couldn't find them!
If you are using strawberries: Melt the 50g white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or a bain marie and dip in some chopped strawberries and leave on a wire rack to set. I actually did these the night before I needed them, though they don't take that long to set.
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease two loose-bottomed 6-inch cake tins. or spray with Cake Release.
Spoon a quarter of the cake mixture into each of the two tins (so you will fill four in total).
Take a few spoonfuls of the strawberry puree and swirl through the cake mixture in the tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are cooked through but still fairly soft.
Wipe out the two tins, grease or spray again and spoon the rest of the cake mixture into the two tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes and leave to cool as before.
Make the buttercream by creaming the butter and the icing sugar and stirring in the melted white chocolate.
Make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream in a small pan until simmering. Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside until it has cooled and thickened to a spreadable consistency.
When you are ready to assemble the cake, carefully level the cakes - if they have risen unevenly, slice a thin amount off the top of the cakes so they are flat.
Place the bottom cake on a cake board. Then take the next two layers and using a round cookie cutter, cut out a circle from the middle of both cakes. Spread some buttercream on the bottom layer, place the second layer on top and spread buttercream on top, leaving the hole free; place the third layer on top and repeat. Reserve a little of the buttercream to make the unicorn's hair.
You will now have a three-layer cake with a hole in the middle and a solid bottom layer. Pop your chocolate-dipped strawberries or sweets or whatever you are using into the hole, and place the solid top layer of cake on the top.
Spread the white chocolate ganache around the outside and on top of the cake.
Roll out the fondant on a mat dusted with icing sugar until it is large enough to cover the cake. Lift by draping it over a rolling pin and place on top of the cake. Smooth down the sides and trim the bottom.
Using the offcuts, roll two thin sausage shapes and twist one over the other, tapering as you get to the end - this will be the unicorn's horn. If you want you can use flower paste and the horn should stand up on its own; I used fondant which is too soft, so I poked a wooden dowel into the horn, leaving about an inch and a half at the end, which I later used to insert into the cake.
Place the horn onto newspaper or kitchen paper and spray with PME gold lustre spray. Leave to dry.
Using more of the fondant offcuts, shape two ears - I made these quite thick so they would stand up. Colour a small piece of fondant with pink food colouring and cut two flat pieces to stick inside the ears. I then used a cocktail stick inside each ear to attach them to the top of the cake.
I bought an edible ink pen by Rainbow Dust which has a thin end and a thick end; it took me about ten minutes to get the lid off one end and the other one wouldn't budge at all! So I could only use the thin end. It would have worked better if I'd waited for the fondant covering the cake to fully dry but it was already 11pm so I drew on the eyes, with the nib of the pen cutting into the fondant more than I would have wanted, and I would have preferred a thicker line, but it looked ok.
Add a little of the pink food colouring to the rest of the buttercream and using a piping bag and star nozzle, pipe some hair on top of the unicorn's head. Finally take the horn when the gold spray has dried and fix onto the top of the cake.
When you cut into the cake, the strawberries inside will tumble out, which is a nice surprise - you can just about see the strawberry swirl through the cake as well.
This cake would be lovely for a little girl's birthday I think - and of course it won the Comic Relief bake off!
I'm linking this up with Cook Blog Share, hosted by Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie.
I'm also sending it to We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.