Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Meringue Frosting
I was very excited about making this cake from the Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home. It was my first cake of the year. It was Chocolate Cake Day. I was going to take some brilliant photos with my new kit, and the images of my cake were going to break the internet. In fact, the only thing that did go viral was me. I came down with something fluish so I didn’t make the cake in time for Chocolate Cake Day. I’d lost my enthusiasm by the time I felt better enough to make it, and I completely took my eye off the ball (and the recipe). I doubt that the Hummingbird Bakers would acknowledge that the cake that I ended up with came from their recipe, but it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.
The cake should be a three layer chocolate sponge, covered with a meringue frosting and topped with a marbled chocolate disc.
Marbled chocolate disc
I started with the disc. I melted milk and white chocolate in the microwave (in separate bowls) and poured it onto a plastic pocket that I’d put on top of one of my cake tins (you know the type of thing. Those plastic flimsies with holes punched in them that you use for filing old bank statements and the like. Chocolate cake is a much better use for them). I spread the chocolate over the plastic until I had a disc the same size as the top of the tin, and I made patterns in it with a cocktail stick. My little girl was intrigued. I put it right at the back of the work top to set. Even then I had to keep a keen eye on it to prevent small finger prints or worse.
While the chocolate was setting, I made the sponge. I creamed butter and soft brown sugar together in the KitchenAid, then I added some eggs. I melted dark chocolate, again the microwave, and added it to the butter/sugar mixture with the KitchenAid on slow. Separately, I sieved plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and a bit of salt together, and, in a jug a mixed sour cream, espresso and vanilla extract. Here was my big mistake. I had a 300ml carton of sour cream and I added the whole carton to my coffee. I don’t know why. I’m sure I knew that the recipe amount was less than a carton. I think my train of thought went something like:
(a) that’s enough sour cream,
(b) but there’s only a bit left in the carton,
(c) when are you ever going to eat it?
(d) true, let’s put it all in,
(e) oh, there’s quite a bit more in the carton than I thought,
(f) too late.
I added the flour and the liquid to the creamed butter and sugar in alternate additions. I know I could simply have not put all the liquid in but I was distracted by little girl wandering into the kitchen with a gooey ear. Was she ill, or had just sneaked a Quality Street Golden Penny and had an accident? It turned out that she was ill and, by the time I’d worked it out, it was too late for my cake.
I poured my mixture into three tins. It was quite mousse-like and didn’t seem too sloppy, so perhaps the extra sour cream wouldn’t make too much of a difference. I put them into the oven at 160° (the recipe temperature is 170° for a conventional oven, so, usually, I’d drop the temperature by 20° – I have found with the Hummingbird cakes though, that 150° is too low). Perhaps 160° is also too low, or perhaps it was the extra sour cream. Whatever the reason, the cakes wouldn’t cook. The recipe says to give them 20-25 minutes. I checked them after 25 – they had a crust on the top but were still molten in the middle. They had twenty minutes longer that the recipe cooking time.
I took them out of the oven and let them cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning them out. All of them had collapsed quite a lot and one of them just crumbled to pieces as I lifted it out of the tin.
It didn’t look cooked in the middle at all. I took a deep breath. This was a three layer cake. It could easily become a two layer cake. All was not lost. I waited until the cakes had cooled completely, wrapped them in clingfilm and put them in a tin. I’d had just about enough of chocolate cake for one day.
I decided to make half the recipe amount of the meringue frosting. There were only two layers of sponge to cover after all and, usually, Hummingbird recipes are very generous in their frosting. I fitted my sugar thermometer into a pan and dissolved caster sugar and golden syrup in water. It came to the boil and, despite twitching fingers (no stirring allowed), I watched the thermometer until it reached a magic 115°C (soft ball stage).
Meanwhile, I’d been whisking egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla extract in the KitchenAid. I’d kept the whisking slow while the sugar dissolved – the recipe says that the egg whites should only just be starting to become white and frothy. Once the syrup had reached 115° I cranked up the speed and poured it into the egg whites. I turned the speed up even higher. The machine started its usual march across the worktop. I held it down until the meringue became white and glossy, and the bowl had cooled down.
Very carefully, I lifted one of my very fragile sponges onto my cake stand, put a layer of the frosting on top and lifted my other very fragile sponge onto the top of that. I covered the cake with the rest of the frosting. Since I forgot to put a thin crumb-catcher layer of frosting on first, I ended up with a pretty crumby meringue. I did manage to get the chocolate topping onto the cake in one piece though. One thing had turned out right at least. I was dreading what the cake was going to taste like.
Was it worth it?
As I said, I don’t think that my cake turned out as it should have. The sponge was more like a flourless chocolate cake, a bit gooey and brownie-like in the middle, and one of the layers hadn’t made it. It was still good though. The frosting was sweet and marshmallow-like in flavour. It went really well with the gooey chocolate sponge. For a complete cake failure, it wasn’t at all bad. I’ll have to make another one, pay attention to the recipe, and see what I end up with. I can’t wait.