I love this time of year. As the days gradually get cooler and nights get longer, one of my favourite things to do is to pop on a pot of coffee and tuck into a good slab of home made cake with Andrew.
So when I saw that Denby Pottery were having their second annual Great Denby Cake Off, I jumped at the chance to make my first bake of the season (although it’s not quite officially Autumn yet – close enough!)
So in the spirit of all things Autumn, I decided that would be the theme for my afternoon tea cake. Here’s how I made my cinnamon sponge with salted caramel frosting cake, decorated with a cute pumpkin patch…
First things first, the oven was set at 180 degrees.
For the sponge I used 250g of plain flour, 160g of caster sugar, 75g of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of baking power, 1 tsp of both ground cinnamon and mace, 2 eggs and 200ml of whole milk. It turned out that this made 2 rather thin looking sponges, so to get a bit more height to the cake I baked another 2, but only used 3 tiers in the end! So if you want a cake with a bit more height, adjust the ingredients accordingly and make 3-4 tiers.
As with most simple sponges, first I beat the butter and sugar together to make a cream.
Next I beat the eggs, before slowly adding those to the mixture.
The flour, baking powder, mace and cinnamon all went into a bowl, before sifting it all into the main mixture and gradually folding it in.
I added the milk in last and gave it all a final few folds.
Having greased and lined a couple of tins (or what would turn out to be 4!), all that was left was to pour in the mixture and pop in the oven for 40 minutes, until golden.
See what I mean about the height (or lack there of!) Not sure what happened there – perhaps more baking powder needed next time. Anyway, when in doubt – make more sponge tiers!
I left the sponge to cool fully (window sills work great for this), and moved on to make the caramel and buttercream. I took the recipe from this one I saw for cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.
For this I used 180g salted butter, 200g icing sugar, 125g caster sugar, 80ml double cream, a tsp of vanilla flavouring and about a half tsp of salt. Oh, and 60ml of cold water.
First to make the caramel, which is really simple but takes a lot of patience, attention and was much easier with Andrew lurking around the kitchen as a second pair of hands!
I dissolved the sugar in the water over a medium heat and then brought right up to boil.
This is where the patience comes in. Once it was bubbling away, it took a good 10 minutes to fully reduce. Make sure you keep a close eye on the pan as the colour will change quickly and that’s when you need to act.
The contents of the pan became a mid brown colour, just a little darker than in the below photo.
At this point I pulled it straight off the hob and added in the double cream. Everything in the pan reacts and bubbles up – it’s like a cool science experiment! Be careful to stand back so you don’t get splashed at this point.
Next I gave it all a good stir and added in the salt, before leaving that on the window sill to cool completely as well.
The buttercream itself was much simpler. I just whisked the butter and icing sugar together and left in a bowl, ready to stir in the caramel once it had completely cooled.
In the midst of all of this came my favourite part of cake making – the sugar paste decoration. This is the fun bit (although making the caramel was pretty fun too).
I wanted to make a pumpkin patch of different coloured pumpkins, a few little red apples and an autumn leaf trail. So these above were the shapes, sizes and colours of paste I started with.
The pumpkins were so easy to create and looked so effective. I started with a slightly squashed ball of paste and made a hole in the centre at the top. Using a wooden skewer (you can use any similar shaped object), I then indented the paste into eights. I followed the indentations down the sides all the way to the bottom and did this all the way round to get that ridged pumpkin shape.
I twirled a thin piece of green paste around the skewer and shaped a stalk so that it would fit nicely in the hole on top of the pumpkin. Et Voila! It was that easy!
I repeated the process until I had a nice range of coloured pumpkins.
The apples were just made of small balls of red paste with a fleck of green paste added to a hole in the top, and the leaves were very roughly shaped from the leftover red, orange and brown paste.
By this time both the caramel buttercream frosting, and the sponges were completely cooled. (It had taken about an hour to carve my sugar pumpkins). All that was left was to assemble the cake.
I stacked 3 tiers of sponge and added frosting to each layer, and a good helping all over the top and sides until it was covered. Using this kind of icing gives a nice rustic texture to the cake, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit messy here.
Finally I added all of my carved sugar decorations to the top.
And that was it! All in all the cake took about 3.5 hours to complete from start to finish.
Problem is, when cakes look like this, I never want to cut into them!
When we eventually did, curled up in front of the fire on this dull Sunday afternoon, the spiced sponge was warming and offset by the sweet sugary salted caramel frosting, which was beautiful! I could only manage a small slice as the flavours were pretty rich – but that just means it will last longer! Now off for another slice…
Wish me luck in the competition!
Do you have any great seasonal bake ideas? I’m always on the look out for new recipes and things Andrew and I can make together in the kitchen. Share them with me here or on Twitter @LoveinMindBlog