Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Nutella Mortar Board Cake


The fiancé's sister graduated from university this month and Sunday was her celebratory party.  I was asked to provide the cake.

I knew immediately that that cake would be Nutella flavoured.  The fiance's sister is a Nutella addict and she was very fond of the Nutella jar cake I made her back at the start of the year.  Then I had to idea to turn the cake into a mortar board.  It would be quite simple: just add a sheet of square chocolate on top with a decorative, edible tassel.  I could even attempt to make modelling chocolate since I had found a tutorial for the stuff and had ordered liquid glucose weeks ago.  I also decided I would sandwich my layers with Nutella buttercream and attempt a Nutella ganache to give the cake a bit of extra oomph.

I ended up hating this cake.  So many things went wrong.  For a start, I was intending to bake it during Saturday whilst the fiancé was at work.  But my ingredients hadn't been delivered yet and, due to circumstances, I didn't receive them until after 4pm.  Then there wasn't enough of certain things so the fiancé had to run out and get more.  That and the need for dinner meant I didn't get to start baking until around 7pm and didn't stop until after midnight.  So I was already stressed and tired and fed up.  Then the chocolate square melted thanks to it being a summer night and just generally hot in the kitchen due to the oven having been on.  All the corners drooped and set that way, despite my desperate attempts to reshape them with straws and a fan.  And to top it off, I'd already put on the tassel and was reluctant to remove it.  The whole thing looked more like a fez than a mortar board but it was late and I didn't think there was much I could do, so I put it in the fridge and went to bed.

I had to plan and sleep in Sunday but I woke up agitated, knowing I had to fix the cake.  I couldn't take it as it was.  I guess that's the problem with being a perfectionist.  So after breakfast and a shower I went straight back to work.  I carefully cut away the tassel, then chopped off the droopy corners in a somewhat less careful manner.  I melted more chocolate, changing what I used slightly so I could get a colour that matched the ganache, and remade the square.  I kept the fan going the whole time and had the window open.  I wasn't taking any chances.  It worked, thankfully.  It's a shame the cake is not as pretty as I would have liked but it certainly looked better than it did.

There were a couple of things I was happy with.  The ganache, despite being runnier than I would have intended, went over the cake nicely and tasted yummy.  Then the modelling chocolate cake out so well!  Despite putting the liquid glucose into the chocolate too early and getting an oily mess to begin with, the tutorial I was using was so helpful that I was able to fix it and make a successful batch!  I'll be making it again, that's for sure.

The cake tasted good!  The sister's fiancé really liked it, as did the fiancé and their Mum.  There were mixed opinions as to whether you could taste the Nutella.  I could, and so could the fiancé's sister.  His Mum said she couldn't tell but that the cake did have something that made it taste different and lighter than just chocolate.  I wish more people at the party had eaten it.  Unfortunately, someone else made desserts too and everyone seemed to choose those instead, which was really disappointing.  Admittedly, chocolate cake probably wasn't the best choice to make in summer.  The fiancé said as much, saying it might be a bit heavy for summer.  I was thinking afterwards that I should have made a cool mortar board mousse cake instead.  Still Nutella flavoured but the mousse would have been a lighter option than chocolate cake.  Live and learn I guess.  The fiancé's Mum has cut it up to freeze though, so she can serve it as a dessert to other guests at a later date.


Cake - adapted from Chef in Training
  • 55g/2oz unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 250ml/8.8fl.oz hot water
  • 250ml/8.8fl.oz buttermilk
  • 425g/15oz caster sugar 
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml/4.4fl.oz sunflower oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g/10.5oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 180g/6.3oz Nutella
  • 125ml/4.4fl.oz double cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line two 20cm/8inch round cake tins.
  2. Sift the cocoa into a medium sized bowl and pour in the hot water.  Whisk until it is combined.
  3. Add the buttermilk and the sugar and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs, vanilla and oil and whisk again.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk together until it is smooth with no lumps.
  7. Melt the Nutella in a saucepan, stirring it all the time to prevent it burning.
  8. Add this and the double cream to the cake batter and stir until evenly mixed together.
  9. Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins.
  10. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the sponge is springy and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Allow to rest in the tins for about 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
 Nutella Buttercream Filling:
  • 60g/2oz butter
  • 115g/4oz icing sugar
  • 50g/1.5oz Nutella
  1. Cream the butter in a bowl until it is smooth.
  2. Melt the Nutella in a saucepan, stirring as you do to prevent burning.
  3. Add the Nutella to the butter and sift in the icing sugar.  Beat until smooth.
  4. Cover the top half of one of the cake layers in the buttercream.
  5. Place the other half on top.
 Nutella Ganache Glaze:
  • 300ml/fl.oz double cream
  • 50g/1.5oz milk chocolate
  • 100g/3.5oz Nutella
  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium sized bowl with the Nutella.
  2. Heat the cream until it just starts to boil.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and Nutella and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
  4. Whisk the ganache until it is smooth.
  5. Allow ganache to cool for about 30 minutes so it is a bit firmer but still pourable.
  6. Place a tray covered in greaseproof paper under the wire rack that the cake is sitting on. (This is important to catch excess ganache which can be re-used for the chocolate board.)
  7. Pour ganache over the the cake, starting in the centre and working your way out.  Make sure all of the sides are covered. 
  8. Leave to set.
Mortar Board and Tassel:
  • 150g/5.5oz milk chocolate 
  • 100g/3.5oz dark chocolate
  • 60g/2oz white modelling chocolate (made from 60g/2oz white chocolate and 10ml/0.35fl.oz liquid glucose, following this tutorial)
  • Tiny bit of Nutella for fixing
  1. Melt the milk and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water.
  2. Meanwhile, line a 26cm/10inch square tin with greaseproof paper.
  3. When chocolate has melted, mix to combine the two types and get an even colour, then pour into prepared tin and tip about to get chocolate to cover the entire base of the tin.
  4. Leave to set.
  5. Once set, remove from tin and place on top of the cake.
  6. Leave to set.
  7. Get the modelling chocolate to a pliable state by kneading it.
  8. Break off a piece about the size of a walnut and run it through a garlic press to get strings of chocolate.  Cut the strings away from the press with a knife and then carefully mould into a ball shape.
  9. To make the tassel's tail, break off 3 or 4 pieces of modelling chocolate and run them through the garlic press one after the other.  Do not cut off the strings between pieces.  Just keep adding them in and you'll end up with a long tassel tail.  When all the pieces are through, cut with a knife and press one end against the stringed ball shape.
  10. Break off a tiny bit of modelling chocolate and roll into a thing sausage.  Wrap around the join between the ball and the tail.
  11. Break off three more pieces and roll into sausages.  Braid the pieces together to make a plait.
  12. Use a bit of Nutella to fix the tassel on top of the mortar board, with its tail trailing over one side.  Attach the plait in the same manner, making sure one end is pressed against the ball of the tassel.

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