Sunday, August 1, 2010

Melty Malt Ball Cake

Hooray for cake!  It's the most celebratory thing to eat, and everyone should enjoy it from time to time.  I usually don't feel guilty about eating cake, but if you do, hopefully you won't feel as guilty about eating it now that the sugar is both lessened and replaced with better-for-you sweeteners. 

I really debated about whether or not to post this one, because the whole thing was something of a disaster, through no fault of the recipe itself.  Besides the inconvenient truth that I added a full cup too much flour, the frosting is supposed to sit in place and stay nicely centered on top and in the middle, not dribble down the cake.  In fact, moments after taking this picture, the malt balls began sliding to their death one by one.  But the cake, the recipe, the idea: all good.

I'm aware that in trying to stay refined sugar free, malt balls are a rule breaker, but since the cake was inspired by them and this was how it is pictured on Nigella's cake, I couldn't resist adding just a few to the top.

I came across this recipe out of Nigella's book Feast, which was in the chapter called "Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame".  I am convinced that, in order to die fulfiilled I will need to bake my way through that chapter, one glorious cake at a time.  I chose her recipe, "Chocolate Malteser Cake", because it looked the most fun, and I love the colors, and I love the flavor of Whoppers.  I guess that's what a malteser is in England.  I also figured, since my son is not a fan of chocolate cake, this would he'd like, because it's malty first and chocolatey second.

(Disclaimer: if the cake looks dry in the picture, this is because of me adding too much flour.)

I'd never heard of malt powder before, and didn't know where I should look for it.  I looked all up and down the baking aisle, thinking it was a baking product.  Ages later I found malt powder near the powdered chocolate milk mixes.  Hmm. I guess malted "milk" powder...makes sense.

To the right is the cake in its second attempt, which turned out marvelously!  It didn't rise as high, however.  I used a whipped cream frosting instead of buttercream. The reason the first buttercream was a disaster was because I searched for a buttercream recipe to replace the given one wherein I could replace powdered sugar with honey.  Voila, it exists!  And it was sworn to make a fantastic frost-able frosting, but how wrong that was.  I ended up using quite a bit of powdered sugar to try to redeem it, to no avail, hence the glossy, drippy frosting you see above.

Normally buttercream frostings are too sweet for me.  That's why here and in other cakes I make I usually frost cakes with simply sweetened whipped cream, which is nice and light and barely sweet, so that the cake itself is the center of attention. I'm sure Nigella uses buttercream here to mimick the intense sweetness of malt balls, but the whipped cream frosting was divine, even reminiscent of a Hostess Ho Ho, especially if you crush up the Whoppers and put them in the frosting between the layers.  Mmmmm.  I'm sure you could get the same effect with plain shaved chocolate to give that chocolately crackle. Remember to keep the cake refrigerated after frosting.

If you do decide on a buttercream, you can find a less refined powdered sugar, labeled "organic powdered sugar".  Here is one example.  I will include my malty whipped cream frosting recipe at the end, and you choose which you'd rather use.

Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

Chocolate Malt Ball Cake

1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar, or 1/2 cup evaporated sugar cane crystals
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I use half whole grain, half AP)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preaheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter and line two, eight inch cake pans with parchment paper. 

Whisk together the sugars and eggs while you measure out the rest of the ingredients (if you have a stand mixer).  Heat the milk, butter, and malted milk powder in a small saucepan until the butter melts and it's hot but not boiling.  When the sugars and eggs are light and frothy, beat in the hot milk mixture, then fold in the flour mixture that you've earlier measured out. 

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. (Note, in her show she recommends kind of "slapping" the pans down on the counter after filling them with batter to work out the air bubbles, so they'll rise evenly). 

Frosting-Nigella's recipe

2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 stick plus one tablespoon soft, unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
malted milk balls to garnish

In Nigella's words (I love how she talks!):

Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing. I use a processor just because it makes life easier: you don’t need to sieve the icing sugar. So: put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks  in the processor and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down, and start again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running until you have a smooth 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, about 1cm in, with a ring of Maltesers or use them to decorate the top in which-ever way pleases you.

Chocolate Malt Whipped Cream Frosting (my recipe)

1 cup heavy cream (organic is best)
1/4 cup (or less) evaporated sugar cane crystals or organic powdered sugar
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
1 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa

Whip all ingredients together until the cream  can stand in stiff peaks when a spoon is removed.  Be careful not to overbeat or you'll end up with butter!  Just make sure it's stiff enough to spread without drooping. 

Spread half the frosting on one cake layer, then put second layer over top and frost the top of it.  Decorate with malted milk balls, if you wish.

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