26 April 2013

Nigella Challenge: Autumnal Birthday Cake

This is a cake of epic proportions. I think I freaked my (then) housemates out when they came across it in the fridge. It's giant; but not as intimidating to make as you may think. Approach with caution however - if you don't like maple syrup and you don't like marshmallowy-meringue STAY AWAY! I personally think those factors are the making of this cake, and the motivation you need to give it a go.

My advice? Approach slowly and carefully. There is no need to stress. The recipe takes up one page in the book. The Victoria Sponge, Boston Cream Pie, Courgette Cake and Butterscotch Layer Cake all took up at least 2 each! And as always, Nigella is by your side gently guiding you towards success.

  • 175g soft butter
  • 100g golden caster sugar (often sold as raw caster sugar here)
  • 3 eggs
  • 350ml maple syrup (make sure its the real stuff not the flavoured version)
  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 175ml hot water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 125ml maple syrup
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup extract (this is optional but i do know you can get it in Harris Farm supermarkets & some specialty food stores)
  • 125g pecans, crushed (smaller than what you can see in the picture here if you can)
Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 x 21cm round tins.

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Gradually add maple syrup, beating until mixture is smooth. Turn down mixer speed and spoon flour in alternately with the hot water, beating gently to combine. Divide between tins and cook for 40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean (when inserted in the middle). Leave to cool in tins for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Once cakes are cooled, begin the icing.

Place everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass/metal bowl that fits over a saucepan (to create a double boiler). The water in the pan shouldn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring water to boil and place bow on top and using a hand held whisk, beat vigorously until it stands up like peaks in a meringue mixture (should take 5-10 minutes). Remove bowl from heat and add extracts, beating for another minute to combine. 

Line the cake with strips of baking paper (see here). Ice the middle, sides and top of the cake and give it a "swirly" effect rather than smoothing it out. Sprinkle pecans over the cake and press gently into the sides (a good way of doing this is literally throwing the nuts at the side of the cake - bit messy though). 

This cake doesn't keep well (maybe a day or so at best), so its really an occasion cake. It would be spectacular at a birthday or anniversary of sorts. Its also great with unsweetened coffee to cut through the sweetness of the maple syrup and meringue icing.