This unique tree spirit cake, taken from Helena Garcia’s The Wicked Baker, is perfect centrepiece for your family Halloween party this year.
It’s just one of many weird and wonderful creations in Helena’s imaginative new book that is a must for Halloween fanatics and bakers alike.
Helena explains the inspiration behind the cake: “Turn this Scandinavian classic holiday bake – the yule log – into a dark fairy tale. Although a yule log is based on a rolled chocolate sponge, I’m stacking this one. And since I’m breaking the rules, I’m also adding peanut butter to the sponge and the frosting. Of course, feel free to use your favourite chocolate cake recipe for this idea – I’m just a rebel at heart and I think this cake is pretty damn tasty.”
Tree Spirit Cake: Ingredients
- 210g [1 3/4 cups] plain [all-purpose] flour
- 420g [2 cups] caster [granulated] sugar
- 90g [3/4 cup] cocoa powder
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 120ml [1/2 cup] vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 250ml [1 cup] buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
- 250ml [1 cup] very hot water
For the frosting:
- 250g [1 cup] smooth peanut butter
- 225g [8oz] cream cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 375g [3 cups] icing [confectioners’] sugar
- about 2 tbsp milk
- 1kg [2lb 4oz] dark modelling chocolate or dark brown fondant icing
- brown food colour
- black powder food colour
Tree Spirit Cake: Instructions
The day before you want to serve the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C fan [350°F/Gas mark 4] and oil 4 x 10-cm [4-in] round cake tins.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the peanut butter and oil together in an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and continue mixing.
Turn the mixer to low and add all the dry ingredients.
Dissolve the coffee granules in the hot water and add to the mixture.
Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake for 30–35 minutes until a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, combine the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt together in an electric mixer.
Add the icing sugar, alternating with the milk until you get a spreadable consistency. You may not need to use all the milk.
Stack the cakes with a layer of the frosting between each cake. Now crumb coat the stack by coating the cake with a layer of frosting and smoothing the side and top with a bench scraper. Secure with a couple of long wooden dowels pushed down through the layers and refrigerate overnight to let it set.
To decorate, roll the modelling chocolate and shape into ropes of different sizes and lengths. This step is quite tedious but it’s worth it!
Score the rope pieces with the back of a knife, or use modelling tools if you have them, to imitate tree bark.
Stick the pieces onto the cake using frosting. On the front half of the cake, make a dent in the eye and mouth areas (see photo), or create your own expression, such as a Jack O’ Lantern or a scared ghost.
Create the arms and base of the tree using more modelling chocolate and blending it into the tree.
Mould some around the eyes and cheeks for definition.
Finish the look by painting some brown food colour in the cracks and brushing black powder colour around the inside of the eyes and mouth to create depth.
Extracted with permission from The Wicked Baker by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, STG£12.99). Photography ©Patricia Niven.
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