I made the Brooklyn Blackout Cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook this week as a birthday cake for my father in law. It’s a three layer chocolate cake, sandwiched together by a chocolate custard and covered in cake crumbs.
Before I started on the cake, I decided to try to fix the KitchenAid. I was getting fed up of having to hold the mixing arm up myself. I took a trip to the cellar, brought a selection of screwdrivers upstairs, undid several screws, and then did them all up again without solving the problem. I’ve since found some trouble shooting videos on YouTube that may help, but haven’t used then yet. I thought KitchenAid’s were supposed to last a lifetime. I don’t think mine will.
Anyway, with all the screws back in place, I started on the sponge. I creamed together butter and caster sugar, added two eggs and some vanilla extract and then beat in cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then I added 85g plain flour, 160ml milk and, finally, another 85g flour. I poured the mixture into three tins lined with baking paper – that’s the great thing about Hummingbird layer cakes, there’s no mucking around cutting cakes in half and sticking them back together, you just make one cake per layer. The three cakes went into the oven at 170° fan for 30 minutes. They were a bit uneven when they came out, but, since they were going to covered in custard, I wasn’t too worried. I turned them out onto a wire rack and started on the custard.
I followed the recipe really carefully, because I didn’t want the custard to be lumpy or too runny. First, I put caster sugar, golden syrup, 600ml water and 125g cocoa into a pan. 125g is a whole tin of Green & Blacks – a whole tin. I heated the mixture until it boiled. In the meantime, as the recipe said, I mixed 200g cornflour with water whilst whisking briskly. The recipe says that it should take between 120 and 200mls to give the mixture the consistency of thick glue. Here was my problem. My whisk felt like it was whisking thick glue, but the mixture looked very thin. Perhaps all of the cornflour had sunk to the bottom, despite my brisk whisking. I wasn’t sure what to do. I added a bit more cornflour, but the consistency didn’t change. I took a chance and whisked it gradually into the cocoa mixture. It didn’t work too well.Not only was my custard lumpy, I also seemed to have about half a gallon of it. I divided into shallow baking trays, covered them in clingfilm and put them in the fridge. Then I went to clean the fish tank.
Once everything was cold, I assembled the cake. I cut a thin slice off the top of one of the layers and blitzed it to crumbs, then I started work with the custard. It was OK, apart from the lumps, and, given that the whole cake was going to be covered in crumbs, I wasn’t too worried (I seem to have heard that line somewhere before). I sandwiched the cakes together with custard and then covered the top and sides with it. I used about two-thirds. I have found before that the quantities in the Hummingbird Bakery recipes for frostings and cake toppings are generous to say the least. Next time, I’ll try and remember to make two-thirds of amount set out in the recipe (and probably run out). I finished the cake by covering the top and sides with the cake crumbs. The sides were a bit tricky. I used a heaped teaspoon of crumbs and ran it from the bottom to the top of the cake, which worked quite well. The finished cake looked like the one in the cookbook.
The verdict on taste? Well, my in-laws said they liked it – too polite by far I feel. Jon and I didn’t really. The sponge was great. It was let down by the custard. Jon said that it wasn’t the lumps that put him off, he just didn’t think that it was very nice as a cake filling. There’s a joke that gets told every time we visit Jon’s mum and dad. It’s about his dad’s custard. It starts, “there’s a lot of things you can do with your dad’s custard…” I’m not sure how it ends. The punchline seems to have been lost in time. There are also a lot of things you could do with my custard. Resurface a driveway, or make an ornamental rock garden are two that spring immediately to mind. All in all, we were glad that we didn’t have to bring the cake home. I wonder whether it’s been finished yet? I don’t like to ask.