There can be no greater way to spend an evening or weekend afternoon than baking and decorating a cake. The repetition creates an almost hypnotic state, whilst the promise of a tasty treat later engages the brain’s pleasure system.
For most chefs, the baking part is simple enough, as there are hundreds of recipes for all varieties of cake to be found online and in cook-books, and it’s usually the decorating part that stumps people. Most fruit based cakes can be topped with a simple layer of brown sugar to give that crisp baked look, so it’s down to the chocolate based cakes to be decorated with love and care. This article aims to give some tips for chocolate cake decoration.
Firstly, take into consideration what kind of chocolate your cake is made from. Chocolate comes in three main varieties – milk, dark and plain. It’s a generally accepted rule not to mix types on a cake, as the contrast in texture and flavors can ruin the overall taste of the cake. Milk chocolate tends to be very sweet and smooth, dark chocolate is much bitterer and coarser, whilst plain usually falls somewhere in the middle, being rich in flavor and fairly smooth. Whichever type you’ve used in the cake batter, you will need extra to make the icing.
To make a simple liquid icing, mix some icing sugar with water until it becomes quite runny -runnier than you would make regular icing. Melt some chocolate in a bain marie (i.e. in a bowl suspended over boiling water), and mix it into the icing. This will make quite a thick paste, but one of the most delicious ones around. Be sure to spread it thinly on the cake, as a thick layer will be too sickly sweet for most cakes. Interesting patterns can be made by mixing cream into the mixture and swirling in. When this is spread on the cake, a marbling effect can be created.
More complex decorations can include fondant shapes, candy and piped icing to spell out words. Think carefully about whom the cake is for, and their interests.