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Grandma's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Icing


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         Grandma's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Icing

December is the time for baking in the kitchen, insulated against the cold weather by a
festive fug of spices, brandy and rich dried fruit: cookies, mince pies, Christmas
pudding, Christmas cake. The Christmas cake should be prepared well ahead of time
so it has time to develop moistness and flavour. Usually I procrastinate and bake it only
a week before Christmas but this year I was determined to do it right. So yesterday the
kitchen exuded a gentle spicy aroma as the cake cooked extremely slowly for four and
a half hours. Just one whiff is enough to conjure up Christmas.

It is just the sort of rich, damp, heavy fruit cake that Captain Hook put out to poison the
Lost Boys in the original Peter Pan story. That detail seems to have been omitted in the
updated versions, maybe these days it seems too old-fashioned to believe that rich
cake is death to young stomachs! My kids aren't really into the cake itself anyway, but
they love the marzipan and icing, so will nibble meagrely at the cake in order to justify
feasting on their icing and that of the adults as well, who Jack Sprat-like tend to prefer
the cake and leave the excess sweet icing to the children.en.

Just before Christmas I usually get out the reliable old Delia Smith cook book to check
out the cake recipe and quantities for the marzipan. Her recipes almost always work
and are accurate if not always inspired. Now she is long supplanted by the younger,
sexier Nigella, but her books are still at the back of my shelf for when I need to check
details of some ordinary but useful dish.

Rich Fruit Cake Recipe

450g/1lb currants

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175g/6oz raisins

50g/2oz glace cherries(optional)

225g/8oz plain flour

teaspoon salt

teaspoon grated nutmeg

teaspoon mixed spice

225g/8oz unsalted butter

4 large eggs

50g/2oz chopped almonds

1 dessertspoon treacle

grated rind of 1 lemon

grated rind of 1 orange

The night before you want to make the cake, soak all the dried fruit and peel with the
brandy. Leave it in a covered bowl over night or at least twelve hours.

Grease and line a 20cm/8 inch round cake tin or a 18cm/ 7 inch square one.

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Next fold in the flour and spices gently. Stir in the dried fruit and peel, treacle and the
grated lemon and orange rind. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread
it out evenly. Tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin and cover the top
of the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper (with a hole cut in the middle of it)
Bake the cake at 140C/275F on the lower shelf of the oven for 4 - 4 hours. Don't open
the door to check until at least 4 hours have passed. Once the cake has cooled wrap it
in a layer of greaseproof paper then foil. Delia recommends feeding it with brandy
every week or so, by poking a couple of holes with a skewer then letting a few
teaspoons of brandy soak in.

Our cake is now well wrapped in grease-proof paper and foil and stored on a shelf in
the larder to steep in its own flavours. A week before Christmas I'll make the marzipan
to go on it. I'll have a lot of help with that as the children vie to gather up any scraps
that fall or are trimmed off. We've even converted marzipan haters in the family to our
variety of almond paste, just by leaving out the almond essence, which gives the strong
almost metallic taste to shop marzipan. Without it the real almond flavour gets a chance
to shine through, more mellow and delicately nutty. (I'll write up my recipe for the
marzipan and royal icing in my next article.)

On top of the marzipan goes the top layer of royal icing, made with icing sugar and egg
white, put on rough to resemble a snowy scene. You can be creative with your
decoration, go for elegant with a single artificial poinsettia flower or fun with plastic
animals - a donkey and ox, or as I often do being in Africa, a zebra, elephant and
giraffe - standing around in the snow. Silver balls could make a star or you could find a
tiny angel decoration to stand atop the cake heralding Christmas.

This type of icing is extremely popular, as it is easy to work with, easy to cut, and soft to
eat. Over the years it has been given many names, which can be confusing when
buying. In Australia it is known as Plastic Icing.

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The icing can be made at home, and the ingredients include egg white, liquid glucose,
icing sugar and gelatine. Liquid glucose will keep the paste pliable and gelatine allows
it to stretch. It can be used for modelling figures, flowers and leaves. It can be crimped
(marked with a tool, rather like a pair of tweezers) smocked, embossed, draped and
used to make edible frills. Also by softening it with a few drops of water, or egg white, it
can be piped. So as you can see it is a very versatile icing.

However, its main use is still as a coating for cakes. But like everything else, it is easy
when you know how, so here are a few tips to prevent anything going wrong.

First measure the cake - up one side, across the top and down the other side, then add
a couple of extra inches. Measure a square cake diagonally across the top, then
include the two side measurements. If a flat top is needed, and the cake is rounded, cut
this off, and upturn the cake so the base now becomes the top surface. Next coat the
cake with either a thin layer of jam or butter cream - this coating acts as a glue to hold
the paste in position.

Make sure the coating goes right down to the bottom of the cake. Sprinkle icing sugar
(not cornflour, as this dries the sugarpaste and could make it crack) on the working
surface. Now roll out the paste - if possible, using a long rolling pin, as a short one
could leave marks. To prevent the paste sticking to the working surface while rolling,
give it a slight turn every so often. Roll until the paste is approximately " thick.

Then, using the palm of your hand, gently smooth the paste onto the sides of the cake
with an upward movement. If any air bubbles appear on the surface of the paste, prick
them with a sterilised pin.

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Then stick a thin roll of paste around the base of the cake and also mark this with a
crimper. And finally, tie a ribbon around the sides. Good luck!!

It can be difficult to choose what medium to decorate with. Fondant is highly popular
but quite expensive. Moreover, let's face it - fondant is not for beginners. When it
comes to cake decorating, icing is used to make many decorations from flowers to
specialty designs or borders. What you need to do is go talk with others and get their
advice, tips and tricks too.

Cookbooks, kits and a monthly email newsletter are not going to help you much.
Yummy Arts can though and when you visit, you'll see why and how. Just try and
imagine one site, one community that has literally everything you need. You can go and
get your ideas, then you can watch a video and learn or enhance a skill, then you can
talk with others along the way, or email for support and answers. Then you can post
your finished creation for everyone to see, talk about and learn from.

I know you're probably like me and have to see for yourself and seeing is believing
when it comes to cake decorating. I can't imagine what you could do to a professional
portfolio if you have Yummy Arts as your secret weapon, but those that are professional
attest to the substantial rise in orders and income. You'll get all you want and more,
including that gorgeous cake you're about to make and decorate. Good luck.

In our family, my grandmother was a dedicated baker and would bake something for us
every day.

This recipe is done the old-fashioned way and is topped off with some delicious
chocolate icing. If it's hot and humid outside, I recommend storing it in the refrigerator.

Cake Ingredients:

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1/2 pound butter, softened

5 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
Slowly add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat for 1 minute. Stir in
the vanilla extract and beat again.

Note: If your batter seems really stiff, add a little additional milk.

Chocolate Icing Ingredients:

2 1/2 squares baking chocolate

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2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove pan from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Beat icing by hand until
it is thick enough to spread on your cooled cake.


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