It’s been a while since I posted a cake recipe, so I thought I’d cheer up the chilly weather with a cakey treat.
And it’s fabulous!
I was initially a little conflicted about this cake: on the one hand it tastes amazing, but then it also falls into the category of my pet hate of ‘food looking like something that isn’t food’, even though it is achieved almost by accident. In the end the ease of baking/construction, coupled with the amazing flavours persuaded me to bend my own rules and I hope you’ll be as delighted with the result as I am.
It’s very straightforward, based on a chocolate sponge, and takes almost zero skill to put together. Huzzah!
I found it on a Romanian version of Pinterest, and it appears to be something Romanians can create from a Dr Oetker box cake mix.
However, there’s no need to resort to box cake mixes, no matter how convenient they might be. Hands up anyone who has eaten one and thought “Oh my! This tastes so convenient!”.
So this is a hand-made version, which is only marginally less convenient but with added fresh, natural ingredients. I call it the very best kind of clean eating. I might start a food trend…..
Requiring just 2 bowls – one if you rinse it out after mixing the cake – it also requires practically zero washing up! Bonus!
The cake is my go-to, one-bowl chocolate yogurt cake, so easy you could mix it with just a spoon – although I recommend a balloon whisk. Once baked and cooled, the cake is hollowed out and the bottom filled with whole (or as whole as possible) bananas, then a creamy filling mounded on top. The cake that was hollowed out, plus any excess you cut off to level the top, are blitzed to crumbs and patted onto the mound of cream and voila! Something that resembles a molehill but with a much more appetising taste!
You can make one large cake, or, as I managed, one large and several small, individually-sized versions.
The filling can be as simple as sweetened, whipped cream, a custardy diplomat cream (crème patissière + gelatine + whipped cream) or, my favourite, a combination of cream cheese, crème fraiche and double cream, whipped to firmness with a little vanilla paste and icing sugar.
Also optional is whether or not to include some chocolate in your creamy filling. My daughter voted for chocolate chips in an earlier version (she also preferred diplomat cream), however I went for hand-chopped chocolate. Other options might be pure chocolate sprinkles or indeed none at all.
The comforting combination of the richness of the chocolate sponge, the freshness and sweetness of the banana, the creamy topping and the novelty of the overall appearance have immediately shot this cake into my top five list. In fact, the only downside of this cake is the time spent waiting for the cooked cake to cool down before you can fill it!
Chocolate Sponge Cake
150ml vegetable oil
150ml plain yoghurt
60ml golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
- Line the bottom and sides of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
- Put oil, yoghurt, syrup, caster sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until well mixed.
- Sift flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl. Mix well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
- Bake in the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the cake has shrunk away from the sides, no bubbling sounds can be heard and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Yes, it does seem a long time, but the low temperature means it really needs the full allowance. The result is a beautifully-textured cake that actually improves on keeping, if you want to make it ahead. Additionally, the low-and-slow cooking means it is invariably gently and perfectly rounded on top and without any cracks.
- Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
300g cream cheese at room temperature
300ml low-fat creme fraîche
1-2tsp vanilla paste
2-3tbs icing sugar
300ml double cream
100g good quality chocolate – white, milk or plain – chopped fine
- Mix the cream cheese, vanilla paste and creme fraîche thoroughly.
- Add icing sugar to taste.
- Add the double cream and whisk until firm.
- Stir through the chopped chocolate.
- Cover with plastic and chill until required.
- Cut the cake horizontally at a height of 4cm. If the cake has risen a lot, you might be able to cut it in half and make 2 large molehill cakes. Alternatively, you can cut out circles of sponge from either one or both halves using a baking ring to make individual-sized portions.
- Cut a circle 2cm deep around the edge of the cake, 2cm from the edge.
- Hollow out the middle of the cake so that the remaining sponge resembles a tart case. Be careful not to cut through the bottom of the cake. Reserve the cake scraps.
- Lay whole bananas in the hollow, making sure they cover the whole of the bottom of the cake.
- Pile the cream filling on top, using a palette knife to shape it into a tall mound.
- Blitz the cake scraps to crumb and press lightly onto the sides of the cream until completely covered.
- You can serve the cake immediately, but it does benefit from being wrapped in foil and thoroughly chilled in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
- Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’s garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’s garden in the shade
Short and sweet for this post – I’ve been muttering about mentioning these for ages – and my daughter has eaten them twice today already – and it’s only 2.00pm!
Here’s a quick weeknight supper idea – and a bit of fun if you’ve got young children (or are a big kid yourself): Tinned frankfurter and pasta octopi. If you poach them gently in stock, the sausages keep their flavour while the pasta cooks.
I’ve tried a number of different pastas – angel hair is too thin – just ends up a tangled blob. Spaghetti is not too bad, but the best effect comes from using bucatini – which can be described either as hollow, thick spaghetti, or long, straight, thin macaroni. I found some in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket – 80p for 500g.
I like making them look like jellyfish/octopuses – but we’ve also tried making beetles, centipedes and caterpillars. My daughter likes her monsters tossed in a little red pesto with some grated cheese – but other children I’ve made it for prefer them plain. Your call.
Sausage Spaghetti Monsters – serves 2 big kids, or 4 small ones
1 jar/tin of frankfurters/hot dogs in brine (thick ones work well)
1 packet bucatini
Chicken or vegetable stock
Pesto and grated cheese (optional)
- Drain the sausages and cut each one into 3 or 4 pieces, as you like.
- Break some bucatini in half and push 5 or 6 pieces into one of the cut ends of the sausages.
- Bring some stock to the boil, turn it down to a simmer and gently drop the sausage shapes into the pan.
- Cover and let them poach gently until the pasta is cooked to your taste.
- Steam some green veggies (beans, savoy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) while the pasta is cooking.
- Drain pasta monsters and toss in pesto, if using.
- Arrange veggie garden and populate with spaghetti monsters.
- Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy. 😀
Cost: Approx £1.65 (incl. pesto/cheese, hot dogs 2 tins for £1.00, September 2011)