A novelty cake for this month’s Clandestine Cake Club, this month’s theme being Where the Magic Happens.
I rarely make novelty/themed cakes and while they are not my strength, I do love a challenge. My philosophy with any cake, though, is that flavour must come first. Ok, a cake should look inviting, but flavour certainly takes priority over design…..how can it not? Besides, good flavours make it easier to forgive any design issues – well, that’s my excuse!!
The cake itself:
The cake uses my absolute favourite flavours in a cake: coffee and walnut. I used a standard all-in-one coffee and walnut cake recipe, scaled up, which takes literally minutes to mix up.
The buttercream is used to sandwich the two layers together, along with some salted caramel I had left over from some cupcakes I recently made. The buttercream also acts as the glue for the thin fondant icing that covers the cake.
I made up some dark chocolate and coffee buttercream and added just a little salt to it: salt works so well with the chocolate and the coffee, but you only want a subtle hint of it.
– Fondant icing can be a sickly-sweet affair, with some varieties tasting almost soapy. I tend to use two excellent quality fondant icings: the Renshaw brand (which I get from Squires Kitchen) for some of the coloured decorations, and Satin Ice, rolled out thinly to cover the cake. Both fondant icings taste great and are easily as good as homemade fondant icing.
– The items such as the wand, red bookmark and scarf and were very simple to model in flavoured fondant. For the sorting hat I coated cake off-cuts with buttercream and fondant icing that had been kneaded with powdered walnuts. The snitch was cake mixed with a little buttercream, shaped, covered in fondant.
– Gold lustre paint, mixed with just a little vodka to form a thick liquid paint (a great tip I was given from Squires Kitchen), was brushed over the fondant ball used for the snitch.
– The floating faces were edible transfers on a thin white chocolate base and stuck to thin wire, giving an attempt at the Wingardium Leviosa spell in action!
Clandestine Cake Club:
There are many Clandestine Cake Club groups in towns and cities around the UK and worldwide, and I cannot recommend highly enough popping along; it’s a great way to meet some lovely people, taste wonderful cakes and get inspired.
Recipe: Harry Potter Spell Book Cake
For the coffee & walnut cake
- 350g unsalted butter, softened
- 350g caster sugar
- 7 large eggs, at room temperature
- 350g self-raising flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 175g roughly chopped walnuts
- 4 teaspoons coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water
For the buttercream:
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g icing sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- 100g dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 teaspoons coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water and cooled
- a generous pinch of ground sea salt
- fondant icing (about 500g), any colours
- a few tablespoons of salted caramel
- cocoa powder
- coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water for the writing
- gold lustre
- Harry Potter-themed decorations
(1) Preheat the oven to 160c(fan) and grease and base-line two square or rectangular cake tins, about 25cm by 20cm, and each about 1″ or more deep.
(2) Sieve the flour and baking powder together and mix the cake ingredients together gently until just incorporated: don’t over-beat or the gluten in the flour will develop and result in a tougher cake. Divide into the tins and bake for 25-35 minutes until well risen and just coming away from the edges. The surface should also feel springy. Leave to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
(3) To make the buttercream, mix the butter, icing sugar, milk and coffee liquid until they come together. Whisk for several minutes in an electric mixer until very soft and light:the longer you beat it, the lighter it becomes, almost taking on a moussey texture. Add the melted chocolate and a little bit of the salt and beat well for another minute or so. Taste and add a little more salt or coffee liquid if needed, making sure you don’t over-do the salt.
(4) Remove the greaseproof from the cooled cakes. Lay one cake on top of the other and cut off the edges to give two identically sized cakes: you don’t have trim but I prefer to have the softer edges you then get (and the off-cuts are great to eat, but you can use some of them for the snitch and the hat if you don’t want to use all fondant!).
(5) Roll out four strips of black fondant: two a little larger than the width of the cake and two a little larger than the length of the cake: this will give the appearance of the leather book cover! Lay the bottom layer of cake on the cake board, using a little of the buttercream to ensure it sticks to the board. Spread some of the buttercream on top, followed by a little salted caramel.
(6) Place the other cake on top. Spread the outside of this sandwiched cake with a thin layer of buttercream:
Shaping and finishing the cake:
(7) Cut out a large V shape, going right up the width of the cake, cutting each side of the centre and cutting almost until you get to the bottom layer of cake. You can make the cut surface a little more rounded and smoother using a sharp knife if you want. It really doesn’t have to look neat at this stage. Spread a little more of the buttercream into the hole: this will give the open book shape, but it looks great just left uncut! NB: it might be easier making the cut on the un-iced cake – I just got a little carried away! Mind you, the iced cut-out is great to eat as a perk!
(8) Roll out white fondant thinly to a large rectangle, making sure it is large enough to cover the cake and sides: you don’t want it too thick. Pat the fondant down firmly against the buttercream and trim at the base. Brush the top with a little water. You can also place a few very thinly rolled out pieces of fondant, cut into small rectangles around the corners and edges, to start to give the appearance of pages.
(9) Roll out another rectangle of fondant, this time the same size as the top of the cake and place over the top, patting down gently onto the fondant below. Lift a few corners or edges up a little to give the impression of turned and creased pages, as well as page depth.
(10) Use a sharp knife and make horizontal cuts into the fondant around the edges, trying not to cut through to the cake, although it is not the end of the world if you do! Lightly brush these edges and under the lifted up fondant with cocoa powder, which gives a simple parchment look.
(11) Using a very thin-tipped paint or decorating brush, dip it in the coffee liquid and write or draw whatever you want: I found it easier doing a stroke at a time. Let it dry and brush a little cocoa powder over the top, including the writing.
(12) Decorate with whatever you have to hand.