Happy New Year – Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Frosting

We here at Headquarters (and by that I mean me) would like to wish you a very happy New year !! Are you sticking to your New Year resolutions? Or are you eating leftover new year cake for dinner despite resolving to eat healthy in the new year (yes, me again)? To be fair to myself, I am sticking to at least the one resolution – update the blog regularly.

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Aside from the eating, drinking with friends at home, and putting on some NY-eve worthy make-up, ours was a very sedate new year celebration. I wish we could blame the baby for the fact that there was no loud music or raucous dancing in the house, but truth is we just felt like taking it easy and putting our feet up when the clock struck 12. Perhaps its the result of crossing over into the 30’s, but whatever the reason, an easy and relaxed night felt just right.

We actually enjoyed waking up on the 1st more than counting down to midnight – the hubby got us breakfast from Adyar Ananda Bhavan – what better way to begin the year than with a breakfast of piping hot masala dosas and khara bhaat on a cold Bangalore morning?

But enough of the simple pleasures of life. This cake, made for NY eve, is anything but simple. Its uses a technique that’s clever and is designed to make it stand out, and the ganache and piping ain’t shabby too. I came across the checkerboard technique in Rias blog here for the first time, and was really keen to try it out. Although it looks daunting, it really isn’t – you can follow this simple guide to create a checkerboard effect and it only takes ~10 additional minutes.

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(On a side note, doesn’t the colorful banner look cute? Pinterest is flooded with ideas such as these, and if you are not on Pinterest yet, you should soon)

Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Prepare the cake:
Follow the recipe for sponge cake here, with the following modifications:

  • Omit the cherries
  • Keep a mixing bowl, 2 tsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp red food coloring ready
  • Once the batter is ready, divide the batter into two equal parts (work quickly here, since the baking soda in the batter is already at work)
  • Mix one part batter with the cocoa powder and red food color in the mixing bowl
  • Pour each part of batter separately into 2 9” round prepped cake tins and bake at 170  C for 30 mins
  • Take out the cakes and cool on a wire rack. Each cake should be of equal height, trim the excess as necessary

Creating the checkerboard pattern:
Follow the guide I made below:

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Chocolate Frosting:
Semi sweet chocolate 300  grams
Cream (at least 25% fat) 1/2 cup
Butter 1 cup
Powdered sugar 1.5 cup
Cocoa powder ¼ cup

  • Break the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl
  • Heat the cream and just when it starts to boil, transfer to the bowl and mix with chocolate till a smooth sauce like consistency is attained. This is a slightly runny ganache
  • In another bowl, using a hand mixer at medium speed, cream the butter till fluffy
  • Add the sugar and cocoa powder to this and cream till well combined to attain a cocoa buttercream
  • Mix the buttercream with the chocolate ganache and combine

Sugar Syrup:
Sugar ½ cup
Cinnamon 1 stick
Orange peel (optional)

Cook the sugar, cinnamon and orange peel in 1 cup water till the water reduces and a thick syrup is formed (Around 10 mins). Keep aside to cool.


Assembly:

  • Using a pastry brush, brush the sugar syrup over the 2 prepared cake layers. Wait for 5 minutes till the syrup is absorbed. Stack the layers on top of each other.
  • Using a palette knife or a spatula, spread the chocolate frosting over the cake, reserving some to pipe a pattern on the top. If the frosting becomes too soft at any point, pop it in the freezer to harden.
  •  Pop the cake in the fridge till a few minutes before serving

    My Notes:

  • The initial idea was to make a chocolate ganache, for the cake, but I used Amul cream which is light at 25% fat and the ganache didn’t hold. On adding the buttercream frosting to this runny ganache, the consistency was very each to work with for spreading and piping
  • To define the layers of cake better, the runny ganache can be spread  over each cake layer right after the sugar syrup is soaked by the sponge
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