Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dark Knight cake

Some blog posts just end up a a bit more extensive than others. Writing this post has actually taken quite a while, and I despaired about ever finishing it. There are so many photos, and even though I don't do anything major to the photos, it takes a fair amount of time to get them through the image processing I use to make the photos. However, last night all of a sudden I got over two extra hours of photo processing time as I was sitting outside my building watching firemen trying to put out the fire in the flat below mine. Thankfully they were very good at their job and managed to save our building from burning down to the ground, and I got my photos edited giving me a chance to finally finish this post. This is something I'm very excited to share as I'm a little bit proud of it.

When I was in high school, me and a friend used to bake birthday cakes for our friends. We would get our inspiration from our friend's hobbies. Once we made a guitar cake for a friend who was a musician, and we made a cake with a druid in a big cape for another friend who was into medieval live roleplaying. One friend who really liked Queen got a cake with the lyrics for We Will Rock You on it, and we actually set it on fire as well. Intentionally that is. Back then, making cakes was much more of a challenge than it is today. We didn't have access to all the colourings, ready made icing, flower moulds, candy melts or other things that you take for granted nowadays. So we really had to be a bit more inventive to do our cakes.

I still like to do cakes, but I do feel like a bit of a cheat as everything is so much easier with the ready made fondant icing. You can even buy it coloured if you don't want to go through the trouble of dying it yourself. I usually try to at least colour the fondant myself to get a bit more of a home-made feel. Obviously if I was doing a cake for a really important occasion I would probably use a ready coloured fondant just be sure it's even and that I would get exactly the colour I wanted.

One very important aspect of the cake making is the planning. First you need to come up with a theme. I try to go for something I know the recipient likes. A hobby, music, movies, even a photo. There are sites online that lets you order your photo printed on icing, so all you need to do is slap the picture on top of a cake, and you will instantly impress with an awesome and very personal cake. After I have decided on a theme, the next step is to  browse recipes and cook books to decide on what type and flavour of sponge to make and what type of fillings to use. I'm not a huge fan of the UK/US type of cakes which are very dry in my opinion, just a sponge with usually some jam in between. Having grown up with the Finnish cream filled and covered cakes, that's the type of cake I like the best. They are so much more moist and flavourful, although a bit more challenging to assemble as you don't want to over-moisten your cake which will lead to a soggy cake which leaks liquids.

This cake was for a friend who really likes the Dark Knight movies, so the theme for the cake was really easy. Also, I have wanted to make a cake with black fondant icing. A while ago, I bought a selection of gel colours. A red, a yellow and blue were obvious choices, but I contemplated for a while whether to get the black or not. In the end I bought the black colour too, but until now, I haven't had any use for it. So I was very excited to see how it would turn out. The next choice was which flavours to use. I knew I wanted one of the filling layers to be lemon, as the recipient of the cake really likes lemon. But what else? I love lemon liquorice, so I thought liquorice would be perfect as it would also make a pretty black and yellow layering. 
Making cakes requires quite a few steps and a lot of time. I try to start a day or two ahead by making the sponges, as they keep well in the fridge over night. And of course you can prepare the patterns for the decorations well ahead of time. I currently don't have a working printer so I use parchment paper to copy the picture right off the computer screen. For this cake, I used the image here as a model for the patterns. Also, I think the cake is best to eat the day after assembling it, as the flavours have time to balance and the sponges have time to really suck up all the moisture and become wonderfully tasty and moist. You can add the fondant topping the day before serving, it will stay pretty as long as you cover your cake with some whipped cream to isolate the cake from the fondant. You can also bake the sponges and fill the cake the previous day, and finish the decorations the day of serving. Any leftover cake will keep in the fridge 2-3 days, and leftovers can also be frozen. Let the cake thaw slowly over night in the fridge. The fondant won't necessarily stay pristine through the freezing, so be prepared for a somewhat weird looking cake. But it will still taste very good. Also, the amounts for the ingredients are not very precise (apart from the sponges) as you can taste your way to the amount of flavouring in the filling you think is appropriate. So consider the amounts I have given more of guidelines than strict rules, and remember to taste frequently along the bake.

Dark Knight cake (serves 8-10):
Sponge (recipe makes one sponge for a 19cm round cake mould, you need two sponges like this for the cake):
2 eggs
flour equal volume to the eggs
sugar equal volume to the eggs
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
zest of half a lemon
1 tsp baking powder
black and yellow food colouring

200g cream cheese
300+150ml double cream
2+1+1 tbsp icing sugar
1.5 gelatin sheets
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Liquorice sauce (I used a Finnish salted liquorice-liquorice sauce)
1/4 cup Tyrkisk Peber liquorice candy crush (seems like you can't buy the candy crush from Amazon, but you can get the candy, and crush it yourself)
1/4 cup Salted liquorice vodka (Salmiakki koskenkorva)
Black and yellow food colouring
2 tbsp Lemon curd (stay away from the cheap stuff!! My favourite is Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Lemon Curd)
Yellow and black food colouring

1 pack (500 g) fondant icing (ready to roll). You can buy a white one and colour yourself, or you can buy white and black icing to avoid messing around with the black food colouring. 
Black and blue food colouring
Silver lustre
Brush, sharp knife, patterns for the decoration

The howto:
Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Butter your cake mould. Even if it's a silicone one (guess how I know...). Get three identical glasses. Break the eggs in the first glass. Fill the second glass with sugar to the same level as the eggs. Add the vanilla sugar, and grated lemon zest. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar. In the third glass, measure flour to the same volume as the eggs and sugar. Add baking powder to the flour. Using a handheld mixer, mix the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, about seven minutes. Very gently fold in the flour, and any possible food colouring. Pour into the prepared cake tin. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. For this cake, you need to make one yellow and one black sponge. Let the sponge cool completely.

Cut sponges in half, i.e. so that you end up with four layers of sponge. That way the cake will have three layers of filling. As the yellow cake was a bit thicker and provided a bit more substantial layers, I decided to arrange the sponges with a yellow one on the bottom, then two black ones and finish with a yellow one. For the filling I decided to do the bottom and top filling layer using liquorice filling and the middle one with lemon filling.
Put your gelatin sheets in cold water to soften. Whip 300ml of double cream with 1-2 tbsp icing sugar until it forms soft peaks. Take 2/3 of the cheese into one bowl for the liquorice filling and 1/3 into another bowl for the lemon filling. Mix in 2/3 of the whipped cream to the liquorice filling and 1/3 into the lemon filling. Then add the flavourings. I added about half a cup of the liquorice sauce, taste your way to a flavour you are happy with. Add a few tablespoons of crushed Tyrkisk Peber crush and black food colouring until you are happy with the flavour and colour. Mix until smooth. Add 2-3 tbsp of lemon curd to the lemon filling, again tasting until you are happy with the flavour. Add yellow food colouring and mix until even. Chill the filling in the fridge while you prepare the gelatin.

To melt the gelatin sheets, take a small amount of vodka (1-2 tbsp), and heat it until hot but not boiling. Take the pan off the stove and add in one gelatin sheet. It should immediately dissolve into the liquid. You could use gelatin powder as well, but I have had problems getting it to dissolve completely, especially in very small amounts of liquid, whereas the gelatin sheets have always worked very well for me. Add the gelatin into the filling by pouring in a very thin stream and mixing constantly.
For the lemon filling, squeeze the juice from one lemon into a small pan, again heat until hot but not boiling and take off the hot plate. Add the half sheet of gelatin and gently mix, the sheet of gelatin should dissolve immediately. Again, add to the filling in a very slow stream, constantly mixing. 

To make the liquid to moisten the cake, take about 1/4 cup of vodka and mix with an equal amount of water. Add a tsp or two of icing sugar if you want it a bit sweeter. Using a spoon or brush, moisten the bottom sponge layer using a third of the liquid, and add half of the liquorice filling, add the next layer of sponge, again moistening and add the lemon filling. Add the next layer of sponge, moisten and add the rest of the liquorice filling. Top with the last sponge layer. Put cake into the fridge to rest while preparing the next steps. Whip 150 ml cream with 1 tbsp icing sugar until it forms soft peaks. Add black food colouring and any possible flavouring you want, I added a bit of lemon extract. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream all over the cake using a palette knife or spatula. This will be the base for the fondant icing. Put the cake back into the fridge and prepare the fondant icing. 
If you are dying your fondant yourself using black food colouring, cover your working surface with cling film as the black colour leaves heavy stains. Set a bit of white fondant aside to make the decoration. Pat the rest of the fondant into a disc about twice the size of your hand. Using a toothpick or something similar, get a generous amount of black colouring and fold into the fondant. Keep working the fondant until the colour is even, adding colour if needed. Add some icing sugar to your hands and the fondant if it starts to stick. Set aside enough black fondant to make the Dark Knight logo. Coat the working surface with icing sugar, and roll the rest of the black fondant into a round disc, large enough to cover the cake generously. While rolling, make sure to move the fondant around, adding icing sugar as needed so that it doesn't stick to the surface. You can wipe off excess icing sugar later if it leaves white marks on the icing. Transfer the icing onto the cake using the rolling pin as an aid. Smoothen the surface using your hands, and cut off the excess fondant.
Roll out the white fondant, and use your parchment paper pattern and a sharp knife to cut out the pattern for the decoration. While rolling out the fondant, make sure there is enough icing sugar to keep the fondant from sticking to the work surface, and keep moving the fondant after rolling it to make sure it's not sticking. You can carefully use a wide knife to unstick the pattern if it has lightly stuck to the work surface while cutting out the pattern. Use a wide knife, transfer the pattern onto the cake. Roll the rest of the black fondant and using the parchment paper pattern and a sharp knife, cut out the Dark Knight logo. Brush lustre on the logo. Make sure you buy an edible lustre, as some colourings are only meant to be used for flowers and other decorations which are not going to be eaten. Place the logo on top of the cake. Add blue food colouring into a very small amount of water, and using a brush, paint blue lines around the logo. The finishing touch to the cake will be a thin ribbon of black fondant to cover the edge of the fondant at the bottom. 
The verdict:
I think the combination of liquorice and lemon is a great one, although the recipient found it a bit surprising and getting better as the flavours had more time to balance. Using lemon juice instead of the Salmiakki vodka for moistening the cake would probably tone down the liquorice flavour a bit. This made me think of a lemon filled liquorice candy from my childhood, and I think it turned out absolutely perfect. 

Whether or not you like the totally fat free sponges is a matter of taste really. I think for the "Finnish" type of cream filled cake they are perfect as they mop up the moisture that is added to the cake in the form of liquid as well as any liquid in the filling, keeping the layers of the cake very pretty and producing a soft, moist and very tasty cake. However, I can understand some people find them too light, and certainly they are not robust enough for building very high cakes. But for me that is the traditional birthday cake sponge. Of course the recipe will work just as well if you make any other type of sponge you prefer. 
All in all, given the huge amount of time I spent on making the cake, I think it turned out rather good both texture wise and especially in the flavour department. I admit not everyone will find the liquorice and lemon filling a bit odd, but I thought it was quite heavenly. And the cake looked rather nice, both on the outside, but particularly on the inside where you could see the different levels clearly forming pretty layers of yellow and black colours. When it comes to fondant icing covered cakes, only your imagination sets boundaries to what you can do.

1 comment:

  1. Kyllä on mukavaa iltalukemista nämä reseptikirjat!
    Sananikkarilla tekstiä tuntuu syntyvän. Toki hidasta minun lukea, mutta ei mahdotonta!