Birthday cakes. I do love making them. Despite the fact that I don’t own so much as a piping bag or nozzle (er, is that what they’re even called); no cake stand or offset spatula; and I wouldn’t know where to even start looking for a cake board, I do love making them. To me it’s a sign of affection, of love. To spend so long making something, the different components, gradually building it up, carefully so as not to mess up each stage, decorating and finally, topping with candles. It takes time, and what better gift to give someone (apart from a dream vacation abroad, of course) than time and effort.
Ooh, I know, the choice of what birthday cake they would like. Unfortunately the DH professes not to like cake. The only suitable concoction, apparently, is tiramisu. The conversation went a little like this:
Me: “What cake would you like for your birthday?”
Me: “You had that last year, choose something else.”
DH: “I only like tiramisu. If I can’t have that I don’t want anything.” Riiiight.
This behaviour would be slightly less bizarre if he didn’t happily eat all manner of sweet treats that parade out of my kitchen every weekend. I decided the best I could do would be to find a coffee cake. Or even, a cappuccino cake. It only struck me when he took the first bite, smiled and said “You made me tiramisu” that in essence, yes, I had. But tiramisu in a cake. Aka cappuccino cake.
This is better than tiramisu for three reasons. One: You can eat it out of hand. The stabilised whipped cream is just firm enough you can pick up a slice of this and bite into it. Two: It is lighter than tiramisu. The cake is so fluffy it almost dissolves in your mouth (a function partly I guess of the high sugar-to-flour ratio but hey, nevermind). Three: It lasts longer than tiramisu. No messing around with mascarpone, not enough syrup to make it turn into a dribbly, puddly mess after the first 12 hours. You could even transport this somewhere I think and it would hold up. Or you can serve it right up at home, with candles and singing and everything. Because even people who don’t like cakes deserve a birthday cake.
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
I may have mentioned my hate for volume conversions before and this was no exception. Why I used a recipe for a triple-layer cake when I have at most two pans of the same size is beyond me but there we are. Since my pans are only 7 inches as well, I cut the recipe by a third, and it worked just fine. The layers were a touch on the thin side, though that is more likely to be due to me not whisking the meringue quite enough. They will sink back a little on cooling as well.
1/3 cup gf flour blend, heaped
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons cold espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Another 1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon espresso
300ml double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon gelatine
1/4 cup (62.5ml) water
1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line 2 7″ sandwich tins with a circle of parchment paper, but don’t grease them (these cakes are light, and require minimal fat).
2. In a large bowl mix the gf flour blend, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, coffee and vanilla extract. Set both aside.
3. In another large bowl whisk the 2 egg whites with the cream of tartar until very frothy. Pour in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form (the tops of them falls over rather than staying upright).
4. Pour the egg yolk and oil mix into the dry ingredients, and fold in gently. Then fold in a couple of tablespoons of the egg white mixture to lighten the mix. Fold in the remaining egg white mixture very gently and then pour the batter into the tins. Smooth the surface out, but don’t over flatten the mix. Put the tins in the oven to bake for 10 minutes each, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
5. Leave the cakes in their tins to cool completely. Once cool I wrapped the cakes in greaseproof paper, followed by clingfilm and froze them for a couple of days (since I didn’t have time to make the cake in one sitting).
6. When ready to assemble remove the cakes from the freezer and place each on a plate. Mix together the espresso and brandy in a mug and brush over the cakes with a pastry brush (it will sink in, even if the cakes are frozen).
7. Sprinkle the gelatine over the 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl and leave for a couple of minutes to soften. Then microwave the water and gelatine on full power for 2 minutes, stirring thoroughly after 1 minute, so that the gelatine is fully dissolved. Pop the bowl in the fridge for 5 minutes (no more) to chill; you want it to be cool to the touch but still liquid.
8. Take your by-now ridiculously toned arm (or, y’know, an electric whisk) and whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract into soft peaks. Pour the cold gelatine mixture into the cream and then whisk into stiff peaks. Working relatively quickly use this to ice the top of each layer of the cake; sandwich the halves together and then ice the sides.
9. Finally, sieve a light dusting of cocoa powder over the top of the cake and serve. (By now the cakes will have defrosted, they are so small it takes hardly any time).
Keeps well in the fridge. Mine lasted beautifully for 4 days, and the whipped cream remained stable for the whole duration.