*********************************************I promised I would share the recipe for the Despicable Me Birthday Cake I made for Sugababe 1.
This is also my go-to recipe for all my 3D birthday cakes. There are 3 very good reasons for this:
Firstly, chocolate cake is a real crowd pleaser. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the rate of consumption for chocolate cakes is about 3 times faster than for any other type of cake. Or that people seem to have a separate stomach for chocolate that makes them go back for seconds. My 3D birthday cakes tend to be pretty big, and if I want to avoid having leftover birthday cake for days after the event, chocolate cake it will have to be.
Secondly, this recipe makes a large enough cake for me to construct a proper-sized 3D cake diorama. And allows me to fit all those cartoon characters that my Sugababes are so fond of requesting for their birthdays. Also, this is the largest-sized cake that can still fit on the largest foil-wrapped cake board (and cake box) that is sold here.
Thirdly, this is a buttermilk recipe. You may already know how much I adore the tangy flavour of buttermilk cakes. The other thing to love about buttermilk recipes like this one is how easy and failproof it is. No creaming of butter till 'pale and fluffy' or beating of egg whites to 'stiff but not dry'. Not that I am doubting your ability to do those well. But if you are like me, cakes have a cruel way of failing on me on the eve of big events. I kid you not - I once had to throw out 24 cupcakes I was doing for a birthday. I almost cried, not just because they were so flat, oily and ugly. But from the sheer shame of it all. I mean, cupcakes??? Not only were these very BASIC cupcakes, I had also baked from this recipe umpteen times without incident. No matter how much I think I have improved in my baking skills, tragic events like these keep me humble.
So. If you have to bake a big birthday cake (which is really the size of TWO birthday cakes - think how painful it would be to have to redo that). And do not want to discover that it is possible to suddenly lose your butter-creaming prowess because of Murphy's law. Or if you have more important things to stress over (like what expressions to give Gru's naughty little minions). This chocolate cake recipe will serve you well.
There are so many ways to fill, frost and serve up a good chocolate cake.
For the Despicable Me cake, the basic recipe was transformed into a Coco-Nana Chocolate Cake. Imagine dark, rich and moist chocolate cake layers with a hint of espresso. Separated by generous chunks of sweet pisang mas ('golden bananas'), embedded in rich whipped chocolate. And frosted all over with a layer of fragrant coconut buttercream. That combination of dark chocolate, sweet bananas and salted coconut .... I can't tell you how delicious it was. I hope you try it and find out!
This was definitely one birthday cake I wish I had more left over.
Recipe for Coco-Nana Chocolate Cake
Basic Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from Melissa McKinney's recipe, Portland Monthly Magazine)
Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness. “It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” McKinney says.
3 cups (375g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2.5 cups (562.5g) caster sugar
1 tbsp and 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (75g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
70g semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (187.5ml) canola oil
1/2 cup (115g) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (375ml) buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) freshly-brewed, extra-strong hot coffee
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line two 10" by 7" inch rectangular cake pans with parchment paper.
2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine.
3. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave (taking care not to burn) or double boiler. Whisk in the oil to combine.
4. Keeping the mixer on low, add softened butter, the oil and chocolate mixture, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down side of bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and bake until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.
5. Remove cakes from pans. Trim the tops off with a serrated knife to make it even. Split each cake into 2 layers. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refrigerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat.
Coconut Buttercream Frosting
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
125 ml coconut cream (I used Kara brand)
2 teaspoons vanilla
480g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or 1/4 teaspoon salt)
In a large bowl, cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla and then salt. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add coconut cream and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Chocolate Buttercream Filling
85g butter, room temperature
370g icing sugar
60g unsweetened cocoa powder
80ml heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Cream together butter and cocoa powder with electric mixer. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla then salt. Gradually add icing sugar and whipping cream. Beat until thick and of spreadable consistency.
Bananas (in 1 cm thick slices)*
The quantity depends on the type of bananas used. I used a bunch of pisang mas, which are very small. Do avoid Del Monte if you can - they taste so bland!
Arrange 2 cake layers side by side on foil-wrapped cake board (with the trimmed-off tops face down).
Fill with half the amount of Chocolate Buttercream, and press banana slices into the frosting. Cover evenly over bananas with the remaining Chocolate Buttercream. Press down the other 2 cake layers on top of the filling (with the smooth untrimmed sides facing up). Using a long palette knife, frost top and sides with Coconut Buttercream.