Jul 23, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Box Cake

I was asked to make a birthday cake for a lovely local chef. Now, that's a pretty tall order! The brief for the cake was that they wanted chocolate, cherries, and it was to be decadent. Oh, and gluten-free to boot. The original design I wanted to do I couldn't get everything I needed for (chocolate cigarillos are much harder to find at short notice than you would think!). So this is cake mark 2, hope you all like it! :)

One final thing: this is not a cake for the faint-hearted. If you're baking for the first time I recommend starting with something a little simpler, there's a lot going on here so you need to be fairly confident about throwing the cake layers together as 99% of your attention will be on the chocolate sheets and the cherries. By all means have a go but don't be dis-heartened if it doesn't turn out the way you want/expect it to - we all need to walk before we can run!

Chocolate Cherry Box Cake

(for the chocolate layers)

225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
175g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder

(for the cherry layers)
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
175g self-raising flour
1 can pitted cherries, drained and chopped
Red food paste

To decorate
500ml double cream
500g dark chocolate
200g white chocolate
800g fresh cherries
Cup of brandy
1 can pitted cherries, drained and chopped
3 tbsp cherry jam
Red ribbon
Edible Glue

1. Rinse and dry your fresh cherries. Tie knots in the stems. Put them in a large deep tray in a single layer and  pour over the cup of brandy. Cover and leave to infuse.

2. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 4x8 inch square baking tins.

3. Cream together the butter and sugar for the chocolate layers until light and fluffy. Added the eggs one at a time (with a tbsp of the flour to prevent the mixture curdling) into the mixture.

4. Sift half the flour and cocoa into the bowl and fold it in with a metal spoon (metal spoons are best for folding as they have thinner edges and are less likely to knock air out). Sift in the rest of the flour and cocoa and fold this through as well.

5.  Divide the mixture between two of your tins and smooth it down with a palette knife/back of a spoon. Bake for 20-25 mins (until an inserted skewer comes out clean).

6. Allow to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

7. Whilst your chocolate layers are baking you can start coating your cherries. You'll need 49 chocolate coated cherries for this but I'd do a good few more in case there's a few ugly ones (and so you can eat the leftovers too!). Drain your brandied cherries (keeping about 2 or 3tbsp of the brandy for later) and allow them to dry fully. Melt your white chocolate in a glass bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't actually touch the water). Once your chocolate is melted dip one side of each cherry into it (you need to work fast before the chocolate starts to set again). Arrange them on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and pop in the fridge to set.

8. Now, onto the cherry cake layers. Again, cream together your butter and sugar as before. Add your eggs one at a time again and sift in the flour as before as well. Fold in the flour, then fold in the cherries. Add the red food paste a little at a time and continue folding until you have a colour you're happy with.

9. Divide the mixture between two tins again and level off. Bake at the same temperature for 20-25 mins until  an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tin and then turn out onto wire rack to cool fully.

10. Whilst your cakes are cooking you can start on the chocolate sheets for the edges. Melt 400g of your dark chocolate in the same way you melted the white chocolate. Remove from the heat as soon as it is cool. Ideally you should temper the chocolate but I didn't have a marble slab to hand so this is what I did:- leave the chocolate in a bowl until it's about 38C. Whilst it cools cover your kitchen table with LOTS of clingfilm. Pour out the cooled chocolate onto the clingfilm and smooth out into a large square/rectangle with a cake smoother (you want it quite thin so smear to your hearts content!). Leave the chocolate to set (this will take HOURS).

11. Chop your other can of pitted cherries and mix with the cherry jam and reserved brandy. Cover and leave in the fridge until you need it. Melt your final 100g of dark chocolate and dip the other side of your chocolate coated cherries. Put back on their tray and refrigerate until needed.

12. Just as the chocolate was firming (but not set) I covered it with greaseproof paper and went to bed. Had copious nightmares about said cake and then got up at 7:30am on my DAY OFF to finish it. I would not recommend this part of my technique!

13. Once your cakes are cooled and the chocolate is set you can start the assembly. First, whip your double cream until you have very stiff peaks. Take your cake board. Put a layer of red cherry cake down first. Cover this in a layer of whipped cream and then one third of the cherry-brandy jam. Add one of your chocolate layers, cream, one third cherry-brandy jam etc, finishing on a chocolate layer. Cover cake in clingfilm. Invert square baking tin over the top of the cake and weigh down with a really heavy book and some cans (you want to compress the layers together at this point).

14. Whilst the cake compresses slice your chocolate sheets into 4 long rectangles about a half inch higher than your cake.

15. Uncover cake and crumbcoat with whipped cream. Add a slightly thicker layer to the edges. Line up a chocolate sheet to one side. It should stick to the cream for you. Using a solid board behind the chocolate that sticks out the sides, and a sharp knife on the front side, cut off the excess chocolate (this is a very delicate process and a pain in the ass). Repeat on all sides of the cake.

16. Pipe the rest of your whipped cream onto the top of the chocolate cake box and level. Add 7 rows of 7 chocolate dipped cherries to the top. Stick one end of your ribbon to the middle of the chocolate with edible glue. Pull it (gently) round the box, gluing at intervals, until you reach the end which you also glue in place.

So there you have it. One fancy-pants birthday cake which will disturb your sleep and make your kitchen look like Willy Wonka exploded in it. Totally worth the effort though, it does look pretty awesome.