Friday 19 November 2010

The Upside Down Cake

Last year I submitted my whisky and dark chocolate 'The Beautiful and the Damned' Cake to the arts supplement of one of our student newspapers, the Cherwell. This term I decided to try again as it had been such a success last year.

Unfortunately I ran out of time for the first issue of term, which had the theme 'Brave New World'. I had an idea that I'm sure I'll use another time. Then this theme was released and I knew I could do something with it - 'Upside Down'.

Here are the words I submitted:

"This cake is upside down. Inside the upside down cake, horizontal becomes vertical.  What stereotypes do you have about a cake’s appearance? Does the sight make you slightly uncomfortable?

It tastes the same, upside down or upside up: alternating dark chocolate and almond génoise cake layered with milk chocolate buttercream and boxed in with chocolate marzipan."

The thing that interests me most about this idea, as I mentioned above, is the way I feel uncomfortable looking at it, as if something is always nagging in the back of my mind. Something just isn't right.  Compare with the photo below, when the layers are reversed. To me, it immediately looks better. Apart from the difficulties of gravity, why is one right and one wrong?

I had quite a few designs in mind for this cake. At one point I was going to make a circular cake with a white chocolate plate on top and a quote from Alice (below) written around the cake, upside down. It was going to have a similar inside design to this cake. In the end I changed my mind - this just seemed more exciting, and I found having two layers gives it a much more striking look. 

"I wonder if I shall fall right down through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward." Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll. 

The first thing this quote reminded me of was some of my medieval work. In particular the Wonders of the East, an Old English text with great illustrations of weird and wonderful people and animals. I was going to scan in some illustrations from the Beowulf manuscript version for you all, but haven't had time - here's an image from another MS of the text to give you an idea. Monsters are deviations from the norm, like the man in that illustration with two heads. This cake is a bit of a monster in that sense. 

I used the chocolate marzipan I used for my Sinful Chocolate Simnel Cake so that's the post to read if you want to make that. The milk chocolate buttercream is just cooled melted chocolate stirred into plain buttercream. I brushed each sponge layer with some plain sugar syrup too. To assemble I used a ruler and sharp knife to cut out the squares and then stacked it all up. 

I was really rushed at the end so you'll have to excuse the slightly dodgy edges to the white chocolate decoration. I also had a massive incident when the wire rack all the cake parts including the finished top box slid off my work surface and crashed onto the floor. Somehow I managed to rescue it. 

Génoise Sponge
(Adapted from Mini Patisseries Maison by Souksisavanh and Nikolcic)

3 eggs
95g caster sugar
75g plain flour
20g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a swiss roll tin. Sift the flour and almonds together a few times. Put a pan of water on to heat up. Put the eggs and caster sugar into the metal mixer bowl and place over the lightly boiling water. Whisk lightly until the sugar has dissolved and the bowl is hot (don't let the contents cook, but you want the bowl to hold heat while you whisk. Quickly place into a stand mixer and whisk until trebled in volume, cool and holds shape. Sift over the flour and almonds and gently fold in. Pour into the prepared tin and then put into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. 

For chocolate I used 55g flour and 20g cocoa. 


  1. This is really clever, I love the playful element and the whole idea of challenging pre-conceived notions of what cake should look like.

  2. This is so beautiful! I love the idea of having two different kinds of cake in one!


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