My oldest daughter has a thing for making the teeny-tiniest models out of Plasticine. She loves to create tiny food items, like burgers and cakes, and she recently made miniatures of the Blue Peter characters in order to try and win herself another BP badge.
For her current homework assignment, Jessie decided to bring two of her favourite activities, model-making and baking, together in the form of this ambitious chocolate chess cake, inspired by the Great British Bake Off and now Junior Bake Off.
New Horizons is the theme of her homework project and over the course of a month, she has to try her hand at a number of new things and write them up as a special report. As well as this monumental show-stopper of a bake, she’s also tried her hand at SLR photography, stop motion videos and is having a squash lesson from her dad at the weekend.
To be totally honest, I wasn’t entirely sure she’d make this baking experiment work. Why not start with flapjacks or a fridge cake? But work it most certainly did. Not only did it look suitably impressive, it was also extremely delicious too.
So OK, there were one or two problems along the way, but who’s counting? Does it matter that the chess board didn’t lie perfectly flat on the domed cake? Or that one of the sponge rings cracked as it was lifted into position? What does matter is that it looked truly sensational and tasted even better. Can you tell I’m a bit of a proud mum?
The sponge cake was beautifully light and the thick, glossy chocolate orange frosting was insanely rich and fudgy, particularly accompanied by the creamy Lindor chocolate orange truffles, which Jessie used as extra decoration. As if the chess board wasn’t enough…
Here’s the recipe as my daughter wrote it up for her school report. You’ll have to forgive one or two spelling mistakes, although I must admit I had to revise the cooking time – her original said to bake for an hour – oops!
Jessie’s chocolate chess cake
For the chess board decoration
‘ready-to-roll’ white and chocolate icing
a square of cardboard
For the cakes
235g softened butter
235g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 large, free range eggs, beaten
235g self-raising flour
small pinch of salt
35g cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk
For the white chocolate ganash (ganache!)
120g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
100ml whipping cream
For the chocolate orange frosting
400g can sweetened condensed milk
150ml whipping cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
50g butter, cut into cubes
juice of 1 orange
To make the chess board, roll out the white and chocolate icing as thin as you can. Cut out little squares of each colour and stick to the cardboard square using a dab of water. Then make your chess pieces from the icing – I used a picture from Google to help me. This is pretty fiddly, so take your time. I made mine the day before the cakes.
Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.
If you have an oven (we have an Aga) preheat it to 180 degrees (gas mark 4).
Using a spatula, scrape your butter into a large bowl. Find a whisk and mix it until very creamy and pale.
Little by little, beat the sugar, before the vanilla, into your butter. Continue beating until your mixture is light and fluffy in texture.
Slowly, add the eggs, approximately a tablespoon at a time. Before you add the next lot, make sure it is beaten in well. Add a tablespoon of your weighed flour before the penultimate spoonful of egg, to stop the mixture curdling.
Sift all of the remaining flour and salt into the mixing bowl and gently fold it in. When you finish, you should not be able to see any remaining flour.
Half your mixture into another bowl and in that other bowl, mix in all of your cocoa powder. Pour the two separate mixtures into the two cake tins, so you get one white cake and one brown.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are risen and golden, and in Agas, check it frequently!
Allow to cool on a wire rack before removing the cakes from the tins.
When the cakes are completely cool, make a round template out of card for the middle ring, and use a sharp knife to cut this out. Then use a smaller round biscuit cutter to cut out the inner circle.
Carefully, pop the small part of the vanilla cake into the middle of the chocolate one and push both of them inside the vanilla large one. Make up another layer similar to this, but the opposite way round.
To make the white chocolate ganash (or ganache!), put all your white chocolate in a bowl. In another bowl, heat the cream and the butter in the microwave, until just melted. Pour slowly on top of the white chocolate and stir until gloopy. Leave to thicken.
To make the chocolate orange frosting, pour the condensed milk and cream into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until it starts to bubble and take off the heat. Add the chocolate and butter, give it a stir and leave to melt. Then mix in the orange juice. Leave to thicken.
Carefully, use the white chocolate ganash as a glue and smother over the top of one of your cakes. Stick your other layer neatly on top of it.
Smother the top and sides of your cake with the chocolate orange frosting and leave it to set (not in a fridge). Top with your edible chess-board. We also decorated ours with Lindor chocolate orange truffles.
When you cut into your cake, the inside should be chequered (or perhaps checkered). Eat within 4 days.
Disclosure: we were supplied with complimentary samples of Lindor chocolate orange truffles for use in this recipe. As always all views expressed are mine – and my daughter’s.