If your Instagram feed is anything like mine it will be full of beautiful, quite stylised images. Cakes, flowers, amazing handcrafted items. Ceramics, ‘flat lays’ and scenery. Each image more beautiful than the last. It’s hugely inspiring and quite daunting at the same time. I’ve learnt a lot about social media and how to keep up with it recently by following an online course run by the lovely Emily Quinton of Makelight. My Instagram feed will never be as beautiful and consistent as hers and many of the other accounts I follow. I can’t apply a colour scheme (I hadn’t even realised that was a thing until recently!) or even a particular style a lot of the time as I am limited by the designs and colours I am asked for. It’s easy to photograph a cake I have just finished but it gets more complicated if you are trying to compose a scene. I haven’t yet mastered the art of composing a picture in my head before I start so it can take me forever just to get a decent(ish) photo of a cup of coffee and a piece of cake! But it’s a learning process that I really enjoy.
This cake is from a Peggy Porschen recipe book my lovely cousin gave to me a while ago, called Boutique Cakes. If you haven’t heard of Peggy Porschen, she is a pastry chef with various baking and decorating books to her name, as well as a cake school and a café (‘parlour’) in Belgravia. It is as beautiful as her cakes and her Instagram feed.
It’s based on an Austrian recipe and is easy to make gluten-free if necessary. You could also make it dairy-free by using dairy-free butter and cream alternatives. Not only is it a delicious, slightly decadent cake to serve with coffee, if you are looking for an alternative to a traditional Simnel cake for Easter, bear this in mind. Unlike the fruit-based Simnel Cake it’s made with nuts and chocolate but still has a layer of marzipan for that Easter experience. It could easily be decorated with the traditional marzipan balls (or slightly less traditional mini eggs) and will double up as an Easter dessert and cake at the same time if you need it to. And it’ll look great on your Instagram feed…
75g dark chocolate
50g SR or GF flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, separated
20g caster sugar
150g butter or margarine
100g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20ml dark rum
200g dark chocolate
50ml double cream
Grease, and line the base of an 8” springform cake tin.
Set the oven to 150°C.
Grind the hazelnuts and the chocolate in a food processor until they resemble coarse biscuit crumbs but are not oily.
Put into a bowl, add the flour and ground cinnamon and put to one side.
Separate the eggs.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peak stage and then add the caster sugar. Continue whisking until the meringue is glossy.
Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until pale and creamy.
Beat in the egg yolks, a little at a time, until well incorporated.
Add the vanilla extract and dark rum.
Fold half of the hazelnut mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.
Add a couple of tablespoons of the whisked egg whites and mix in gently.
Fold in the rest of the ground hazelnut mixture and then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. The mixture should be smooth without lumps of egg white but take care not to overwork.
Pour the mixture into the tin and level gently.
Bake for around 50-55 minutes, until the cake is well risen and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out dry.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then remove.
Make the ganache:
Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a heatproof bowl.
Cut the butter up into pieces and add to the chocolate.
Melt the chocolate and butter together either in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bowl does not actually touch the water.
Put the cream into a milk saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the cream to the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth and glossy.
Decorate the cake:
Roll out your marzipan so that you will be able to cut an 8” disc from it and place on baking paper on a metal tray or disc (eg the base of a cake tin).
The ganache needs to be a thick pouring consistency and you may not need the whole recipe quantity.
Pour or ladle the ganache onto the marzipan and carefully and evenly spread it out over the marzipan.
Allow to set and then cut out an 8” disc (the size of your cake). I used the cake tin to mark the circle and then cut the circle out with a pizza cutter.
If necessary, level the cake with a serrated knife and then turn upside down. Cover the cake with a thin layer of ganache to help the marzipan stick to it.
Gently lift the marzipan and place on top of the cake.
If you have a stencil (and a steady hand!) it can be decorated with cocoa powder.