MONOCHROME CAKE

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Ingredients

Cakes:

  • 190 g (1 1/2 cups + 1Tbsp) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 80 g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 240 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) hot coffee
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300 g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
  • black gel food colouring

Meringue Kisses:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 130 g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) caster sugar
  • black gel food colouring

Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate chopped
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 350 g (1 3/4 cups) caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 385 g (13.5 oz) softened unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • black gel food colouring

Ganache Drip:

  • 25 g (1 oz) dark chocolate chopped
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) double (heavy) cream
  • black gel food colouring
  • a selection of black and white sweets (lollipops, liquorice allsorts, marshmallows etc) to decorate


Instructions

Cakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease three 15cm/6inch round tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla, eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and whisk gently until combined. Add black food colouring a little at a time until you reach the desired shade. Bear in mind that the cake will darken a little as it bakes.
  4. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes (check at 25), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  5. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Meringue Kisses:

  1. Preheat the oven to 100C/210F/gas mark 1/4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
    Place the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a large, spotlessly clean bowl and whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in the sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time until it is all incorporated; continue to whisk until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks.
  2. Turn a disposable piping bag inside out over a jug (to hold it open). Use a clean paintbrush to paint about 5 stripes of food colouring down the inside of the bag then spoon in the meringue.
  3. Twist the top of the bag closed then snip off the tip. Pipe out your kisses by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. Squeeze from a 2cm height from the baking tray and then let go before pulling up to form peaks. I like to do a few different sizes.
  4. Bake the meringues for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until they lift away from the parchment cleanly. Allow to cool in the switched off oven then store in an airtight container.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  1. Melt the dark chocolate, either in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, or in short bursts in the microwave. Set aside to cool a little while you make the buttercream.
  2. Place the egg whites and sugar with a pinch of salt in a large, spotlessly clean heatproof bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) and place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water; do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Gently whisk the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, if you rub some between your fingers you shouldn't feel any graininess. It should reach 71C/160F on a thermometer (but don't let it get too hot or it will start to set).
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk on a high speed with an electric mixer until it has formed a thick, glossy meringue and is completely cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the speed down to low and add the butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until you have added all the butter and the buttercream has become smooth and silky. It may become soupy or curdled looking, just keep whisking and it will come back together. (If it doesn't, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons more of butter. Or if it remains soupy, refrigerate it for 15-30 minutes then carry on whisking on a high speed. If it remains curdled, place a couple of heaped tablespoons of the mixture in a separate bowl and microwave it until it melts, then drizzle it back into the rest of the buttercream slowly, while whisking on a high speed.)
  5. Once the buttercream is smooth, whisk in the vanilla extract. Transfer 1/3rd of the mixture to a separate bowl and fold in the cooled melted chocolate. Add black gel food colouring a little at a time until you reach the desired shade (it will darken a little as it sits).

Assembly:

  1. Trim the tops of the cakes to level them. Place one of the cake rounds on a flat board (use a little bit of buttercream to stick it in place) and place that on an icing turntable.
  2. Spread a little of the white buttercream over the cake and place another cake round on top. Spread over some more buttercream then place the final cake layer on top upside-down so that the top of the cake is perfectly flat.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of the white buttercream all over the cake (a crumb coat) then place it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the rest of the white buttercream to a disposable piping bag and the black buttercream to a separate one. Snip off the tips so that there is an approx 1-1.5cm hole.
  5. Return the cake to the turntable and pipe a ring of buttercream around the base. Pipe a ring of the opposite colour on top of that and repeat, alternating colours, until you reach the top. Fill in the top of the cake with whichever colour you have most of left (black in my case). (See image above)
  6. Use a bench scraper or icing spatula to smooth the top of the cake. Don't worry if it's not totally neat yet.
  7. Hold the edge of the bench scraper vertically against the side of the cake. Spin the cake slowly while you hold the bench scraper steady and smooth the buttercream. Stop every few turns to scrape the excess buttercream into a bowl. Wipe the bench scraper down with a warm paper towel to clean the blade between spins.
  8. Use the flat edge of an offset spatula to clean up the top edge of the cake. Swipe the blade across the top of the cake, pulling in from the sides towards the center of the cake. Do this all the way around until your cake is smooth enough.
  9. Pop the cake in the fridge while you make the ganache drip. Place the chocolate and cream in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water and heat, stirring regularly, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in some black gel colouring. Set aside to cool a little.
  10. Carefully spoon the ganache around the top edge of the cake, using the back of the spoon to encourage it to drip over the edge. You can go all the way around the top if you like, or do as I did and just cover half of the cake.
  11. Top the cake with your selection of sweets and serve. The cake will keep well in an airtight container but don't add the sweets until just before serving as they will moisten a little over time.