When I asked Mr. Cay what kind of cake he’d like for his birthday, his answer was simple; “any cake, so long as it’s chocolate.” Which was fine with me until he added the proviso “and it needs to be PROPER chocolate too – not some of that 90% cocoa spiked with sea salt, chillies and lime you’re so fond of.” Ah. That was me told then.
In circumstances such as these, I’m forced to put my thinking cap on and think of all the different types of sweet treats that my other half is so fond of. A few years ago, I made a Konditor-and-Cook inspired Curly Whirly Cake for his birthday – a great monstrosity of a thing laden in sickly-sweet cream cheese icing studded with huge pieces of curlywurly bars. Once it was made; I stood back, admired my handiwork and attempted to pat myself on the back with my palette knife. Then I ate a slice and realised it was a one way ticket to type 2 diabetes. Whilst a birthday cake should always be delicious, it really shouldn’t be deadly – after all, no one wants to fall into a sugar coma on their special day.
For a while, I toyed with the idea of making the world’s largest Tunnock’s Teacake until I realised that I’d never made marshmallow before, and messing with industrial amounts of boiling sugar and liquid glucose in my small kitchen may result in me blowing up both my worktops and myself. I was about to give up all hope and just stick a few candles into a Victoria sponge when, whilst munching on a bag of Maltesers, it hit me. Malteser Cake. Hallelujah.
I found this recipe for Malteser Cake on the lovely Afeitar’s blog, and may I just say, it’s possibly one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever baked. Mainly because it actually manages to taste like a giant malteser – from the Horlicks infused sponge, to the chocolate buttercream which is encrusted in a large layer of crushed malty goodness. It also looks pretty bloody impressive too – but then again, who can fail to be impressed by a massive sponge cake covered in rich chocolatey icing?
This is the kind of dessert you make on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with warm sunlight streaming through the window and good music on the stereo. Yes, your kitchen will look like someone decided to hold a dirty protest in there afterwards, but it’s well worth it. When I presented the finished article to Mr. Cay, he devoured his slice in record time before happily declaring it to be “the best birthday cake he’d ever had.” Which, I hope, more than made up for the fact that I’d managed to reduce the value of our house by splattering every avaliable surface with cocoa powder.
MALTESER CAKE (Recipe makes 8-10 slices)
Recipe adapted from Afeitar
You will need:
For the cake
- 150g soft brown sugar (muscavado sugar is best for flavour)
- 100g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 175ml milk
- 15g unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons Horlicks powder (or ovaltine)
- 175g plain flour
- 25g cocoa, sieved
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
For the icing and decoration
- 250g icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
- 45g Horlicks
- 125g soft unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- 2 x 37g packets Maltesers
- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C. Butter and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
- Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.
- Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing – I used my stick blender for this, but it’s probably easier to use a food processor if you’re lucky enough to own one! Put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks into a large bowl, and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape all the excess off, and then blitz again, pouring boiling water down the side of the bowl until you have a smooth, glossy buttercream.
- Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge with a ring of crushed Maltesers (I mashed mine up in my trusty pestle and mortar and it was great fun) – these will also help to patch up any holes, lumps or missed patches of icing. Use any leftover maltesers to decorate the top of the cake – I used around one per slice. When you’ve done this, pop the cake in the fridge for an hour or so for the buttercream to set.
- Serve in large slices, preferably with a cup of something warm and strong (be that tea, coffee, or even Hot Vimto).