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Another recipe that came to me at one in the morning. I was making a sugar syrup for toffee apples, and while rifling through the cupboards I found some food colouring, one in red and one in blue. As red is my favourite colour, it won the day and I dropped a few beads of the scarlet liquid into the mix and set about dunking the apples into the hot mixture.
I swizzled it around and placed it on baking parchment and then did the same with a pear. Nice, I thought, but not very impressive, so I poured the hot mixture into a glass heatproof jug and lay a long piece of parchment on the work surface and started drizzling shapes onto it.
At the time I had no idea what I was doing; fatigue had definitely set in. I glanced at a freshly iced sponge and then my mad food scientist mood kicked in. I lifted the band of now warm and hardening sugar and wrapped it around the cake – and so graffiti cake was born. Sometimes I can manage it in one piece, sometimes it snaps into several pieces, but I just stick that around the cake, either way, I rather like the way it looks! Serves 8 (V)... Read more.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the bottoms of the pans with baking parchment and grease the sides with a smear of butter.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until soft and fluffy. Add the vanilla and one egg and beat the mixture like mad, then add another egg and beat it well. Add a couple of tablespoons of the flour, stir, then repeat, adding two more eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Add the rest of the flour and mix well to combine.
Divide the mixture between the two tins, smooth the mixture out a little with the spoon and bake on the middle shelf for 25–30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. The cake will feel springy to the touch, will be golden brown and will smell cooked. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.
While the cakes are cooking, I like to make the sugar syrup. Put the sugar and water in a small pan over a low–medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve, then turn up the heat and let the mixture boil for a couple of minutes. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush the tops liberally with the sugar syrup. If you have any syrup left over, store it in a sterilised jar for a week or so.
While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. Put the butter and vanilla in a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon until it begins to go light and creamy. Add the icing sugar, bit by bit, and beat together until combined and the mixture becomes lighter. Set aside.
To make icing the cake easier, put the cakes in the freezer for 20 minutes to get nice and hard. Put a cake board, if you have one, onto a plate and dollop some buttercream onto it, then take one of the cakes and place it on top of the buttercream. Spread the cake with buttercream and place the other cake on top. Now the fun bit: spread lots of the buttercream over the sides and top of the cake; spread it quite liberally at first, then smooth it out round the edges and over the top to give a neat first layer. Pop it into the fridge for the first layer to become hard (or use the freezer if you, like me, are a little impatient when it comes to cake). Once it is hard, remove it from the fridge and spread over another layer of buttercream. Try to get it smooth so the edges are really sharp.
Meanwhile, make the graffiti. Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment. Have handy a jug, a cup of cold water with a spoon in and a cup of cold water with a pastry brush in.
Put the sugar into the heavy-based pan together with the water and golden syrup or liquid glucose over a medium heat. Swirl the mixture a little rather than stir it, otherwise the glucose can stick to the spoon. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and let it boil away. If there is any sugar stuck to the side of the pan, brush it off with the wet pastry brush.
The sugar needs to be cooked for about 10–15 minutes, but check it every 5 minutes to see if it is ready. To check, take the teaspoon from the cup and dip it into the mixture, carefully scooping out some mixture, then put the spoon back into the cup and leave it there for a minute or so to cool down. Pick up the spoon and feel the sugar mixture on the end of the spoon. If it has disappeared, that shows that the mixture is in the very early stages of cooking. Let it boil again and test it using the same method; if the mixture is soft and a bit squidgy, it is still not ready. It will go through various stages until the hard crack stage – the sugar mixture will be rock hard on the end of the spoon when a bit is scooped out and plunged into the water and left there for a minute or two. The mixture in the pan will also start to go a very lightish brown colour.
Once the mixture reaches this stage, turn off the heat and add the colouring and flavouring. Stir as little as you can so it is just combined and then extremely carefully pour the sugar into the jug. Use oven gloves when handling the pan, as hot sugar can spit and burn you. Leave to cool for a minute or so, then drizzle a long band of graffiti squiggle shapes on the baking parchment. Use a hairdryer to keep the sugar syrup pliable if necessary. The graffiti can be as long as you like, but needs to be at least as high as your cake. Once you are satisfied you have enough bands (and it is good to have a few, as they do break), set the jug down and wait a few moments for the sugar to harden a little.
Remove the cake from the fridge. When the graffiti is firm but still pliable, carefully peel off the back of the baking parchment and stick the graffiti around the cake. If you have one long piece that can go round that’s great, but small pieces done patchwork-style look good too. Once the sides of the cake are covered, you could arrange berries of your choice or chocolate shavings on top and serve.
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