Sunday, 6 October 2013

Snake Cake

I have been planning this cake for ages, and this weekend we were celebrating a birthday so I got to put my plans into practice. Cakes never end up looking like you imagine them in your head during the planning process. Or maybe they do for professionals, but mine always turn out completely different. But it's all about going with the flow, what happens happens. Of course, having enough icing to cover the cake usually makes things easier, this should be a note to myself to always double the amount you think you need, because it looks like a lot until it's rolled out and then all of a sudden it's not enough after all. 
I took the easy way our and got ready coloured icing this time. I have coloured some of my icing myself in the past, but I was a bit constrained on time so I though I might as well make it easy on myself. Other than that, this cake was quick and relatively easy to put together. I had already decided on the basic design of it, I would do it as a swiss roll. Unfortunately, I used a Finnish recipe for swiss roll which I have been used to work with in the past, but it requires potato flour, which I couldn't find in the UK. Potato flour is similar to corn flour, so I substituted with that, but in my mind the cake was a bit too soft and fragile, I'm not sure if it's because I made the cake thinner than it should be or because of the flour substitution. In the end, the ugly and somewhat torn cake didn't matter as it all got covered with buttercream and icing. In my original plan, it was supposed to be a snake tightly rolled up into a ball like our snakes usually are, but it was impossible to get the swiss roll to bend onto a tight ball like structure, so it ended up looking like it did.
This recipe is for a swiss roll cake which in Finnish is called unelmatorttu (that translates roughly to dream cake or dream tart). I remember it from my childhood, my mum used to make it a lot. It is basically a chocolate swiss roll filled with buttercream. I added some cream cheese and white chocolate to the buttercream to add some extra flavour, but I also like the original version with only butter, sugar and an egg yolk very much. I borrowed the recipe from the Kinuskikissa blog (in Finnish). Pop over there to see how the cake is supposed to look if you just want to make the swiss roll if you are baking for an occasion where a snake theme might not be very appropriate (although of course I can't think of any occasion like that).

Dream cake (swiss roll, serves 6-8):
3 eggs
1 1/2 dl (150ml or 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) sugar
1 dl (100 ml or 1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) potato flour (or cornflour)
1/2 dl (1/4 cup minus 1 tsp) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Filling (enough for filling and coating the cake, if you just want to make the swiss roll, make half the recipe):
250 g butter (at room temperature!)
2 dl (200ml, 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) icing sugar
300 g cream cheese
100 g white chocolate
light brown and dark brown icing to cover the cake
candy melts to decorate

The howto:
Start by making the cake. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Mix the potato flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, and sift into the sugar and egg foam. Very gently fold in the dry ingredients. Spread onto a baking tray which has been covered in parchment paper. I have a big oven with a baking tray which is approximately 40x30 cm which was perfect as I wanted a slightly thinner cake, but this recipe is designed for a 30x30 cm (about 12x12 inches) baking tray if you want to make the regular swiss roll which will give you a slightly thicker sponge. Bake for about 8 minutes. While the sponge is baking, sprinkle sugar onto a piece of parchment paper. When you take the cake out of the oven, immediately invert the cake onto the sugar coated paper and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Let cool covered by a tea towel.
If you are only making a swiss roll, not the snake cake, only prepare half of the filling indicated above. Melt the chocolate. Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add cream cheese and white chocolate and mix. 
To assemble a regular swiss roll, spread the filling onto the cake, leaving about an inch or so free of filling at one edge. Roll into a tight roll, using the parchment paper for help. Let cool in the fridge at least for a few hours, preferably over night. You could cover the log with chocolate ganache if you like.
If you are assembling the snake cake, cut the cake into two equally big pieces along the long edge, so you have two long but narrow rectangles. Spread about a quarter of the filling on each, and roll into tight and slim rolls. I wrapped the cakes in parchment paper and let rest in the fridge for about two hours before shaping into a snake shape. I shaped the tail and head just by moulding the roll, it's pretty soft and kept it's shape well. Cover with the rest of the buttercream. Then roll out the light brown icing and cover the cake. Make details from darker brown icing, and make a tongue. I used chocolate chips for eyes. Finally, I melted the Candy melts in the microwave and put into a piping bag and piped some patterns loosely based on the patterning of our snake.

The verdict:
The cake definitely didn't look pretty before the buttercream went on, the cake kept tearing where it had been rolled, but also where I tried to shape some bends in the snake's body. But that doesn't matter, you can patch up ugly bits and bobs with the buttercream, and it will all be covered by icing nonetheless. When it comes to making cake, you can get away with pretty much anything because it will be covered up. The cake was just as delicious as I remember from my childhood, and it went down very well with the birthday boy and guests as well so I would say it was a success. It's not the most healthy of cakes, and it tastes exactly like that. The creamy and full flavour of the buttercream is nicely enhanced by the cream cheese, wrapped in fluffy chocolate sponge and the sweet icing. This is a picture of the cake and the model, you can hardly tell them apart!
Card of the day:
As there was a birthday cake, there obviously was a birthday card as well. The theme is a bit of an inside joke, as elephants have played a role in one of the bigger arguments we have ever had, so they have stuck around. Another thing we tend to... disagree... about is colours, as I like cold colours and the Culinary Consultant like warm colours. So I chose to use Stampin Up Real Red cardstock and stamped the elephant from the Animal Stories stamp set in the same same colour. I used markers to colour the Celebrate stamp from the Tag It set and cut it out using one of the Chalk Talk framelits. I used the outer edge of the same framelit to create the red backing for the tage. The green gekko is stamped in Old Olive, the stamp is from a random set of creatures i bought off Ebay ages ago. Using the gekko stamp again reminded me how you get what you pay for, the stamps were not expensive, but they are also extremely bad. The actual stamp is not high enough, so when you ink it up, you get loads of ink all over the background, and it's really hard to stamp without getting smudges all over the place. Also, no matter how hard you press, not all parts of the stamp come in contact with the paper, leaving ugly white dots all over the place. So lesson of the day, only buy good stamps, they are expensive but it's well worth the investment.

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