Diplomacy CakePosted: March 12, 2016
Haven’t done one of these in ages – cake! An actual cake! And not a whiff of yeast to be had – yes, I’m well aware not everyone shares my current obsession andit has been a bit yeast-heavy so far this year.
So here’s a cake with a difference. Well, several differences, actually: the flavourings of the layers, the ingredients in said layers, the unusual cream sandwiching everything together…..
This recipe is adapted from something I found on a Russian message board. It’s a distant relation of the Russian Honey Cake in that it requires time to allow the cakes to soften to a delicate crumb, but since they are cake-y to start with, as opposed to biscuit-y, the whole thing ends up beautfully light.
I’ve found versions of this cake listed under a variety of names, but I’ve opted for Diplomacy Cake because the three similar-yet-different cake layers all work wonderfully well together, whilst remaining distinctively separate – which seems to me to be the very epitome of diplomacy!
The three cake layer flavourings are a little different to those we’re used to in the UK – poppyseed and walnut, prunes and chocolate chips and rich raisin. In addition, the cakes are moistened with a suitably boozy syrup before being sandwiched together with a home-made cream mixture ‘stabilised’ with gelatine. This allows the cream to retain it’s volume and become mousse-like as the moisture is absorbed into the cake layers. It is the home-made (and much nicer) equivalent of Cool Whip.
This cake is great to make ahead, if you’ve got a special event coming up, or even if you just feel like an indulgent weekend without having to spend the preceding hours making it: make it Friday night, eat for breakfast Saturday!
A word or two about the ingredients…
- Potato starch is gluten free and makes for a very light cake. You could substitute rice flour or even use 100% wheat flour. NB Dried potato is NOT the same thing at all.
- Citric acid, together with the bicarbonate of soda, reacts with the dairy to raise the cake. You can substitute with ordinary baking powder. Citric acid is available at pharmacies. You will probably be asked why you need it. It’s simplest to say you’re making lemonade.
- I’ve replaced the original sour cream with reduced-fat creme-fraiche. Feel free to reinstate it for a much more decadent cake experience.
- I used mead as the alcohol base – use whatever your favorite tipple is.
These quantities are for one cake layer. You need three layers altogether. The different flavourings are listed below the main cake recipe.
1 large egg
100g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100g reduced fat creme fraiche
90g plain flour
35g potato starch
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp citric acid
- 50g chopped walnuts, plus 4-8tbs poppy seeds – depending how seedy you want it
- 75g ready-to-eat prunes, chopped, plus 75g chocolate chips
- 150g raisins
- Grease and line a 24cm diameter spring-form tin with baking parchment.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
- Whisk together the egg, sugar and vanilla until light and foamy.
- Mix in the creme fraiche.
- Sift the flours with the bicarb and citric acid.
- Gently combine the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. NB Using a balloon whisk will achieve this much more easily than folding-in with a spatula.
- Stir through the nuts and seeds/fruits.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth out evenly.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. It will be a shallow cake, no more than 3cm in height.
- Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
- Repeat twice more until all three layers have been baked.
50g caster sugar
50ml mead, rum, Baileys, whiskey, madeira, etc
- Mix the sugar and water in a pan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and add the alcohol.
- Set aside.
5 sheets gelatine
700g reduced-fat creme-fraiche
200g caster sugar
500g double cream
100g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
60ml mead, rum, Baileys, whiskey, madeira, etc
- Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water until bloomed.
- Mix the caster sugar into the creme-fraiche until just combined.
- Add the icing sugar, vanilla and alcohol to the double cream and whisk until thickened.
- Melt the bloomed gelatine in a small pan over a low heat. Add a little water or more alcohol to dilute.
- Mix the two creams thoroughly and then whisk in the gelatine. It will make for a soft cream that holds its shape when piped.
To assemble the cake:
I didn’t trim the layers to an even height, because I would probably have ended up throwing the trimmings away (and I hate waste), but you could easily trim them for a more delicate overall appearance, as well as making them more open to absorbing the soaking syrup.
- Lay the poppy seed and walnut layer onto a serving plate and brush over 100ml of the soaking syrup.
- Spread or pipe one third of the cream over the cake. It will appear quite a thick layer initially, but as the moisture is drawn into the cake overnight, it will slowly settle.
- Lay on the prune and chocolate layer and repeat with the syrup and half of the remaining cream.
- Finally place the raisin layer on the top upside down (to give a nice flat top to the cake), soak with the syrup and spread or pipe on the last of the cream.
- Cover lightly with cling film and allow to mature overnight. If you have no cool place to leave the cake, it can go in the fridge, but you should give it time next day to soften before cutting.
- Sprinkle with a little cocoa just before serving.