Leaf It Out Cake!

Autumn is definitely making her presence felt, with sultry November sunrises becoming crisp, chilly mornings splashed with sunshine.  The trees have turned tinted leaves into a stunning array of amber hues & luscious colours.  This collection of colourful foliage always draws my admiration, as they seem to suddenly appear in full beautiful bloom & disappear just as quickly.  Recently, whilst parked under a particularly pretty tree at a local supermarket, I managed to snap some shots of it’s vibrantly golden leaves shimmering in the sunshine.

Nature is my biggest inspiration (as you probably can tell from my sugar artwork) & this time of year is no exception.  It’s a deliciously indulgent season, perfect for hot chocolate & comfort foods to sustain us until Spring.  And what better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than with a sumptuous chocolate cake, layered with rich dark cherries & fluffy cream!   Ready to bake it happen?  Hands washed, aprons on & here we go! 

What you need:

8oz Salted Butter, room temperature
5oz Caster Sugar
3oz Light Muscovado Sugar (Soft Brown Sugar)
6oz Self Raising Flour
2oz Cocoa Powder
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Instant Coffee
4 large Free Range Eggs
2 tablespoons Greek Yoghurt

For the topping & filling:
200g Dark/Plain Chocolate, for melting
200g Mascarpone Cheese
300ml Double Cream
1/4 jar Black Cherry Conserve or Jam

What to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C.  Prepare two deep 7 inch cake tins – I used loose-bottomed ones for this, as it’s easier to remove the cakes when baked.  Smudge a little butter around the tins, sprinkle on a little flour & shake all around until thoroughly coated.  Add a greaseproof paper disc in the bottom of each tin & set them aside.

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a bowl & mix well with a fork.  Put to one side.

Whisk together the butter & sugars, until a soft gold & creamy consistency.

Add an egg, whisk in thoroughly & repeat until all the eggs are incorporated.

Sift half of the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture & using a spatula, fold in until all completely blended.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients & repeat until the mixture is a thick, smooth batter & there is no flour visible.

Add the yoghurt & whisk in well.  This will lighten the mixture & also add a moist texture to the cake.

Split the batter between the two tins evenly, smoothing the tops lightly with the spatula.  Place in the oven (lower rack) for approximately 30 minutes, until the tops are risen & cracked.  Poke a stick of spaghetti in the centre & if it comes out clean, your cakes are done.

Place them in their tins on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes, until the cake sides shrink back from the tin.  The centres will dip slightly, but this is fine.

Run a spatula knife around the edge of each cake to separate it from the tin.  Carefully remove the cakes & place on the racks to cool.  Be very gentle, as your cakes will be fragile & soft.  Leave to cool completely before removing the greaseproof disc gently from underneath.

While the cakes are cooling, let’s make the leaves!  Lay out some strips of greaseproof paper on your worktop, about 6 inches wide & as long as a rolling pin.  Melt the chocolate & tip into a greaseproof piping bag, snip off the very tip & pipe some skeleton leaves on the paper strips.  Pipe the outlines first, then a strip down the middle & smaller ones to the sides.  Don’t worry about them being too perfect – real leaves are all kinds of shapes & sizes.  Pipe as many or as few as you like.  Any leftover chocolate (even I laughed at that one!) can be just squished out onto another sheet of greaseproof & left to set for nibbling later.

Carefully drape your strips of leaves over a rolling pin & leave until completely set.  They will become curved & softly shaped, perfect for topping your cake.

Next, make the filling!  Whip the mascarpone & double cream in a large bowl until soft peaks, firm enough for piping (go easy, you don’t want it to become too firm).  Tip into a piping bag with the nozzle of your choice – personally, I like to keep it nozzle-free.  Tip:  If your cream does get too firm, add a teaspoon or two of cold semi-skimmed milk to soften it again.

When your cakes are completely cooled, place one on a decorative serving plate & pipe in a pretty pattern around the edge.  For the spots, I pipe on the outer edge inwards.  Spread a layer of the cream mixture in the centre of the cake & evenly spoon on a good layer of the black cherry jam.

Take the other chocolate cake & flip it over, so the flat side is on the top, then place it on top of the filling.  This will leave you with a nice flat surface for decorating!  If you’re serving this later, pop your cake in the fridge in an air-tight container (to stop it drying out).

Pipe swirls on top of the cake at intervals, then add your chocolate leaves to each swirl – don’t forget the one in the centre!   Sometimes, I also grate a little chocolate to sprinkle on the top of everything (optional, but rather lovely).

Time to indulge, so grab some plates & serve!  The fluffy, almost fudge-like texture of the cake is complimented by the cloud of mascarpone cream & crisp, chocolate leaves that crackle as you bite them.  This cake also looks fabulous with frilly white chocolate leaves mixed in with the dark, dusted with grated white chocolate too.   If you have any extra chocolate leaves, save them for nibbling with your morning coffee or add them to the frothy tops of hot chocolate, amid swirls of cream & marshmallows.

Decadent, dark & deliciously indulgent, this rich cherry chocolate cake will wow your guests whatever the occasion.  Stay hungry!  Aimee 😉 x

 

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