White Chocolate Cigarello Birthday Cake

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I have a lovely friend who is celebrating a birthday today. She’s one of those rare gems who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She spends so much time looking after everybody and is so generous in every sense of the word she definitely deserves to be spoilt on her birthday. I wanted to make her a cake that reflects her: beautiful, elegant and very special. Cue the cigarellos…

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These rolled chocolate straws instantly add a little sophistication to any cake. I used these from the Chocolate Trading Co.

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I like making cakes that have three thin layers of sponge as I think they look lovely when cut, and allow for more filling (which incidently is very forgiving should you accidentally over bake them. The extra filling helps moisten the sponge). I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe which you can find here, on the BBC Good Food website. If you’re doing three layers I suggest reducing the oven temp to 160oC, and the time to between 12-15 mins.

Once cooled, fill your cake with whatever you want. I used seedless raspberry jam this time.

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Now you’re ready to proceed with the decorating. Make a generous amount of buttercream using a pack of unsalted butter, icing sugar, a couple of tsps of vanilla bean paste and a few splashes of milk to loosen. The consistency should be spreadable, but still fairly stiff. Secure your cake to the cake board using a dollop of buttercream. I find it easiest to pipe the buttercream onto the cake, starting with the gaps around the edges.

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Once you’ve filled the gaps in, continue piping until the entire cake is covered with a thick layer. This doesn’t have to be neat.

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Now take a palette knife and smooth the surfaces down. Again, don’t worry about getting perfect edges as it’s all going to be covered with the cigarellos and fruit.

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Wipe away any stray smears of buttercream off the board. Now you’re ready to start attaching the cigarellos by gently pushing them into the buttercream, which is effectively used as glue to hold them in place. Start at the back of the cake if you’re adding any additional decoration to the front (a name on the board for example). You will end up with something similar to this:

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I decided to top mine with strawberries and raspberries. Wash and hull them and dry well on paper towels. Take the largest strawberry and cut the point off the end. Push a candle in and add a dollop of leftover buttercream to the bottom before securing it to the middle of the cake.

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Now add the rest of the fruit, strawberries first to avoid crushing the delicate raspberries. Crush a couple of cigarellos in your hand and sprinkle over the fruit as a final flurry!

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The birthday girl was happy!

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Chocolate and peanut butter mini cakes

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The other day I watched Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, whip up a batch of peanut butter frosting. As well as smooth peanut butter, she added in regular butter, a splash of cream and icing sugar. 

I had some left over chocolate buttercream in the fridge which I wanted to use up (recipe on the BBC Website), so loosely following what I’d seen the Barefoot Contessa doing, I came up with my own version by simply beating the chocolate buttercream with a tub of smooth peanut butter, a splash or two of double cream, a pinch of salt, and icing sugar.  This is all to taste, making adjustments as you go along. If if tastes good to you, then it’s fine. I put it in a piping bag ready for the next stage. 

I was a bit disappointed my cakes had come put if the oven with unsightly domes on top.

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Never one to be defeated though, I decided to make individual mini cakes, by slicing the tops off the cake, and using a cookie cutter to make little rounds, as so:

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“What about all that waste?”, I hear you shrieking. Fear not my friends, I have plans for the left overs….(see here) Pipe the frosting on each mini cake and adorn with a few halves of salted peanut.

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The amalgamation of the rich sweet chocolate, with the creamy saltiness of the peanut butter is an unlikely union, but as the old adage goes, opposites attract, and this is certainly a match made in heaven. Enjoy!

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