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Just over two weeks into our marriage and I faced the ultimate test…could I make a birthday cake for Nathan as good as his mum’s?  As a child, Nathan’s mum would make wonderful cakes in any shape that he requested, be it a tractor or a dinosaur.  I am not that artistic; so, I decided I would make Nathan any flavour he requested.  He said walnut cake…I said hazelnut would taste better…he went for hazelnut.  See… any flavour he desired!  I also threw some maple and chocolate in there for good measure!

Maple, hazelnut and chocolate cake (adapted from Cake Days by the Hummingbird Bakery)

Ingredients:
 
For the sponge:
120g (40z) butter, softened
400g (14oz) caster sugar
360g (12 1/2 oz) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
360ml (12 1/2 fl. oz) whole milk
40ml (1 1/2 fl. oz) maple syrup
3 large eggs
100g (3 1/2 oz) hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
 
For the frosting:
260g (just under 6oz) butter
500g (1 lb 1 oz) icing sugar
40ml whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 small glass jar of nutella (I think it’s a 5oz or 150g jar)
 
To decorate (optional):
Maltesers
Chocolate fingers
Chocolate flake or twirl bars
Hazelnuts
Chocolate sprinkles
 
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (325 Fareinheit) and line the base of two 9″ sandwich tins with baking parchment.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt with a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, until the mixture becomes crumble like.
  3. In a separate bowl or jug mix together the milk, maple syrup and eggs.  With the whisk or mixer still on low speed, pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and beat until combined.
  4. Stir in the chopped walnuts by hand.
  5. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake tins.  Then, place in the oven and bake for 20-25 mins (or until the sponges are a golden brown colour and bounce back when lightly pressed).
  6. Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes and then turn out and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment on a low speed, mix the butter and icing sugar until fully combined with no lumps.  In a jug mix together the milk and maple syrup; then pour this into the butter and icing sugar mixture while mixing on a low speed.
  8. When all the liquid has been mixed in, mix on a high speed until the frosting becomes soft and fluffy.
  9. If the sponge is completely cool to touch, you can now frost the cake.  Place the first layer on a plate or cake stand and empty out the jar of nutella on to it.  Smooth out with a palette knife.
  10. Place the second layer on top.  Add the maple frosting.  Smooth out with the palette knife or decorate as desired.

Variations:
I put chocolate fingers and chopped twirl bars around the edges so I just used a little bit of frosting to make them stick.  If you’d rather frost the entire cake just make 1 1/2 times the frosting.  Or, if you’d rather get rid of the chocolate layer, double the frosting and use that for the centre layer of frosting.  The cake world is your oyster!…although an oyster cake would probably not taste all that well!
 
Also, since maple syrup is ridiculously expensive in Ireland, I used maple flavoured golden syrup and it still worked a charm!
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