Birthdays usually present an opportunity to bake a cake that is too complicated, rich or time-consuming for lesser occasions. And I mean occasions like “it’s Monday and it’s been raining the whole day”, because I do bake cakes for such reasons, too.
My daughter delights in thinking up an impossibly complicated cake every year : “Can you make a cake in the form of the Hogwarts castle?” (I didn’t). My son on the other hand, has steadfastly ordered the same cake for five years in a row: the Malteser cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
Even though this cake is not difficult to make, it looks celebratory and is popular with everyone. Our friend’s daughter, who is exactly 10 hours older than my son, fell for the cake, too. So her mother borrows my tartpans to make it for her daughter’s birthday party and then the next day I need them back to make it for my son (good thing they live around the corner). We then get to eat the cake two days in a row, but nobody minds.
Horlicks powder is not available where we live and we brought it back from England, just because of this cake. You could make it without the Horlicks powder and just add more cocoa, but the malted taste is what sets this cake apart.
Chocolate Malteser Cake
From Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
The recipe says you get 8 to 10 slices, but I find that if you’re feeding children, you can get up to 12.
For the cake
150g (3/4 cup) light brown sugar
100g (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
3 large eggs
175ml (3/4 cup) milk
15g (1tbsp) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Horlicks malted milk powder
175g (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
25g (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For the icing and decoration
250g (2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
45g (1/3 cup) Horlicks malted milk powder
125g soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 x 37g packets (2 oz) Maltesers
Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature (though it’s not so crucial here, since you’re heating the milk and butter and whisking the eggs.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C/ 325 F. Butter and line two 20cm (8 inch) loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.
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 (1/2 inch), with a ring of Maltesers or use them to decorate the top in whichever way pleases you.