Chocolate cakes are fun, taste lovely, but chocolate is definitely a medium to be respected and handled carefully.

Most people love chocolate cake, so whatever you coat the cake with make sure you work on a good recipe to start with.

Depending on the occasion/ purpose choc cakes’ texture can vary. Really squidgy cakes are ok for a one tier cake but no good for stacking.

I think Lindy Smith’s fudge cake which is on her blog is very good >> go to fudge cake recipe, and BBC’s Good food online had a recipe for a tiered cake and the choc recipe for the bottom tier is very good too, both contain coffee which brings out the rich chocolatey flavour.

I always make chocolate buttercream by adding a good quality plain chocolate to it, this tends to make the buttercream softer to start with but it sets firm, especially if you fridge the cake before coating.

White chocolate buttercream is also soft but goes so well with raspberry, and is lovely on cupcakes. I don’t make the base cakes white choc as such. Instead I add bake stable white choc chips and frozen raspberries- they bake better- push 2 or 3 into the piped batter before baking.

Ganache, a mixture of chocolate and cream, can be made a variety of ways and has different ratios of cream to choc depending on the purpose.

Always boil the cream if it is going to be used to fill or coat a cake, this makes the ganache able to kept a ambient temperature like buttercream, although it is like buttercream and won’t last indefinitely (the temperature today as I write this it is 30* C outside!).

Ganache is increasingly being used as a filling and to get square edges for sugarpaste coating, there are many tutorials on YouTube explaining the process, the cakes do need to set well in a fridge for this.

Ganache is also used as an enrobing medium, again ensure the cake is prepared properly, skim coat with buttercream, I usually do this twice, letting the cake set well in the fridge between coats.

You can also pipe with beaten ganache, do not over beat as it changes colour, I usually use ganache 24 hours after I’ve made it.

I don’t temper chocolate these days as such, mainly as I don’t have the equipment, tempering is the process of ensuring the chocolate has the correct crystal structure to set with shine and snap. But all chocolate you buy is in temper. All you need to do is very gently melt it in a plastic bowl in the microwave, 20 second blast, stir, even if no melt, repeat, as soon as the melting starts cut to 10 seconds, stirring each time, do not let the chocolate get warm at all.

Once melted, check the chocolate is set by spreading on a cold surface. Then use on transfer sheets, (sheets with coloured cocoa butter designs), on acetate, to pipe or on frozen marble boards to make ruffles or wraps. The latter you have to work quickly with, spread on, take off and use.

Colour white choc with powder colour or coloured cocoa butter, Squires kitchen sell this, to create pretty designs.

Chocolate looks great dusted with edible lustres too.

Modelling chocolate is good to make decorations with too, a mixture of glucose syrup and melted chocolate. The Cake Makery’s ( recipe works well. Use same as marzipan. It sometimes needs a quick blast in the microwave to become pliable.

Tracey’s Cakes ( make a form of this which is softer and excellent to use as a coating, in the same way as sugarpaste.

By the way, candy melts, bakers covering and products like these are not chocolate as such, they have had cocoa butter removed and replaced with vegetable fat. They are easier to use but do not have the same flavour as chocolate. Some varieties are better quality than others and recently some of the chocolate companies have been working hard to make better quality, easy to use products.

Top Class Cakes
Sue Haskell has been a bakery lecturer at Brooklands College, Weybridge for twenty years. She is well known in the baking industry, participating at exhibitions such as Cake International and Food and Drink Expo. She has helped with the competitions at the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees annual conference since 2000.

Brooklands College in Weybridge, Surrey, offers part time catering and sugarcraft IVQ courses, such as a Level Two in Professional Bakery and an ABC Sugarcraft Award Level One as well as one day courses including Design and Create an Easter Egg, Valentine’s Cupcakes and Sugar Flowers for beginners.

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