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sexta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2012

#GATRONOMIA : Green & Gold Checkerboard Cake with Milo Ganache

Okay so I know Australia Day isn't for another week and a half, but I'm attempting to be a good planner/organiser this year and trying not to leave things to the very last minute. Plus as soon as I decided I wanted to make this crazy Green & Gold Checkboard Cake covered in Chocolate Milo Ganache for Australia Day, I knew I better give myself an extra weekend buffer just in case I completely effed it up on my first attempt. This cake took a bit of planning and had a lot of potential to go horribly wrong. But YAY for me, it turned out pretty good! As someone who was born in Australia and has spent the majority of my life in this country, it's important to me to have recipes on the blog that celebrate being Australian. In that same spirit you could also try my Arnott's inspired Tim Tam Cake, Mint Slice Cake or Iced Vovo Cake for any Australia Day BBQs you might have planned.
I've always wanted to try making a checkerboard cake, ever since seeing instructions for it in my Le Cordon Bleu book. It's usually done with vanilla and chocolate flavours, and to get that lovely checkerboard effect when you cut into the cake you need to create alternating layers with the two flavours so that each layer looks like a bullseye/the Target logo. It looked like a lot of work, especially since that recipe involved piping concentric circles of cake batter. A lot of recipes on the internet instruct you to use a special pan that has these circular plastic dividers so that you can bake your layers with two alternating colours, but personally that felt a bit like cheating and I don't like buying a whole new pan for one specific purpose. So I decided to do it the third way, by baking cake layers in two different colours and then cutting concentric circles out of the layers and then swapping the middle circle of the two colours so that they alternated. (It's a mouthful to explain in words but if you look at the picture in my recipe below you should be able to get what I mean.)
As for using the bright green and yellow colours for the cake rather than just chocolate and vanilla, I was particularly inspired by the gorgeous and brightly coloured Battenburg cakes that Sprinkle Bakes made. I thought it would be a great idea to use green and gold in the cake as a celebratory Australia Day cake, and that idea was enough to give me the courage to try this cake. After all, I had managed to pull off the Purple Ombré Cake pretty well (that cake still makes me smile from ear to ear), so I had a pretty good feeling about this cake. Of course, there's no reason why you can't do this cake in different colours for other occasions, you could change the recipe from 4 layers into just 3 layers and use red, white and blue for 4th of July celebrations in the US, or do red velvet and vanilla for Valentine's Day. I ended up using the same trusty yellow cake recipe from the purple cake and it didn't let me down. I even tried my best to convert the measurements into volumes for US readers but no guarantees I did it correctly since there's so much variation in cup sizes and all that (and I'm still a firm believer that if you are a baker you should invest in digital kitchen scales. David Lebovitz agrees, you should listen to him. He has much knowledge).
To hold the cake layers together, I made a quick white chocolate ganache which I spread thinly between each layer. It worked just as I expected, holding the cake together quite nicely without being too visible. I would really recommend you don't skip this step since the cake is likely to fall apart if you don't put some sort of icing/filling in between each layer, especially if you manage to crack some of the circles of cake that you have cut out. I managed to crack a few of the circles, but the ganache and the way the circles fit snugly into each other held it together. The only crack that caused me any trouble was the top outer ring of yellow, which you might be able to see going a bit wonky in some of the photos. So be extra gentle with those outer rings of cake.
Originally I was going to cover the outside of the cake with my usual salted butter icing recipe like I did for the sprinkles cake to give it that stark white exterior with the colourful surprise on the inside, but I decided I wanted something a little more Australian. I was seriously, seriously tempted to try something like a chocolate vegemite ganache, but I chickened out since I'm not a huge fan of vegemite myself. Maybe next year! So I decided to use my sexy chocolate & Milo ganache instead, because it's so tasty and Australians love their Milo. And who doesn't love chocolate malt? The texture of the icing might look a little odd in the photos because I had just taken the cake out of the fridge and it had small beads of condensation on the surface, but I can assure you that it's shiny, smooth, gorgeous and so addictive. So if you're feeling up for it try this checkerboard cake for Australia day, it's not actually too hard or complicated so long as you plan ahead. And it's so pretty!
Green & Gold Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Malt Ganache
(makes one round 18cm 4-layer cake, yellow cake recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Step-by-Step)
Note: For US readers, you could also do this cake using only three layers of red, white and blue cake. I tried my best to convert the measurements for you!
355g (approx 2 & 2/3 cups) plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
225ml (about 1 cup minus 1 tbsp) milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
400g (approx 1 & 2/3 cups) white sugar (I used caster/superfine)
225g (approx 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 medium eggs
Green and yellow food colouring (I used Wilton gel colouring)

For the white chocolate ganache filling:
200g white chocolate, chopped
200ml pouring cream (min. 35% milk fat unthickened pure cream)

For the chocolate malt ganache:
Note: If you prefer a white exterior, look here for a salted butter icing recipe that you can use instead
400g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
300ml pouring cream (min. 35% milk fat unthickened pure cream)
1/2 cup Milo powder (you can increase this to 3/4 cup if you like it more malty, can be substituted with Ovaltine if unavailable)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease whatever 18cm (7 inch) round cake tins you have (I only had one so I had to bake each cake one after the other and this worked fine). You can also use 20cm (8 inch) pans but the layers will be thinner, or use the special checkerboard cake tins that come with the circular dividers. Line the base of tins with baking paper and grease paper and dust tins with flour. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix milk and vanilla together in a measuring jug.

Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 mins or until pale and creamy. Reduce speed to medium low, add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mix and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture (I did it by adding 1/4 of of the dry mixture followed by 1/3 of the wet mixture at a time). Beat until smooth, occasionaly scraping bowl with a spatula. Divide mixture evenly into 2 medium bowls (I did this by weighing the batter, it ended up being about 700g per bowl for me). Gently fold yellow colouring into one bowl and green colouring into another bowl until it's smooth.
Pour HALF of each bowl of batter into the prepared tins (so you end up with two yellow layers and two green layers) bake each layer for about 15-20 minutes or until a skewer into the centre comes out clean and the outside is golden. Cool in tin for 5 mins and then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight. If your cake layers are slightly domed in the middle you may need to slice a little bit off the top of them to make sure they are flat. If you are not using the special checkerboard cake pans you will have to cut concentric circles out of your cake layers as shown in the photo above. For an 18cm cake, I cut a 6cm diameter circle out of the centre of the cake, then cut a 12cm diameter circle out of the centre of the remaining cake by tracing my knife around a plate of the same diameter, so you end up with one central circle and two outer 'rings'. (Obviously if your cake layers are a different size you will have to calculate the right diameter to cut your circles, mathematics is fun!) Swap the middle 'ring' of a yellow cake layer with the middle 'ring' from a green layer, and fit the cut pieces back together as shown in the bottom left photo above. Try your best to handle the cake pieces without cracking them, especially the outer 'rings'.

Prepare the white chocolate ganache, this will act as the 'cement' to hold your cake layers together. Place white chocolate pieces in a medium heatproof mixing bowl and heat your cream in a medium saucepan to gradually bring it just to the boil. Remove from heat and pour hot cream over the chocolate, leave to sit for 5 minutes while the chocolate melts. Whisk gently until the mixture is smooth, then chill until it is just below room temperature, thick but still pourable. Place one of the prepared layers, I started with layer that had a yellow outer ring, and spread a thin layer of white chocolate ganache over the top, then place a layer with a green outer ring over the top of it. Repeat with the remaining layers, so that the colours alternate. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Prepare the milo ganache; place the finely chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Gradually heat the cream and milo powder together until it just starts to boil, then remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave to sit for 5 minutes while the chocoltae melts. Whisk gently until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is quite runny you may need to chill it until it thickens more, it should be easily spreadable but should not run straight off the sides of your cake. If it starts to run everywhere simply scrape it back into your mixing bowl and chill for longer. Spread over the outside of your prepared cake, smoothing with an offset spatula. You can achieve a smoother finish if you dip your spatula in a cup of hot water regularly, or run it under hot water in the sink. Chill cake for at least half an hour, serve at room temperature (I find it is best to leave it sitting out of the fridge for at least an hour to allow the ganache to soften nicely). Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for several days.



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