chocolate berry birthday cake

A dear friend recently celebrated her 40th birthday so naturally I made her a birthday cake. I decided to make a chocolate berry birthday cake inspired by Nadine Ingram's recipe for
Old Fashioned Vanilla Cake

The cake is filled with a mascarpone custard and a berry compote. I made most of the elements, including the cake layers, the day before I assembled it. Nadine suggests cooling the cakes, removing them from the tins and wrapping them snugly in plastic film to help preserve the moisture and flavour of the cakes. The cake layers need to be stored at room temperature not in the fridge or they'll dry out.

Here’s the recipe for you which makes an 8 inch double layer cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. If you like, you can use 1/2 cup of berry jam instead of the compote but spread the jam over the cake first before topping it with the mascarpone custard. 

Chocolate berry birthday cake - makes a 2 layer 20cm cake
Pastry cream
125 mls milk
1 egg yolk
25g caster sugar
10g plain flour

Berry compote
200g frozen berries
55g caster sugar
Juice half an orange

185g very soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
185g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 eggs and 1 white, lightly beaten
160gm self-raising flour
30gm cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
60 ml milk

Mascarpone custard filling
100g mascarpone
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
200mls pure cream

To decorate
A few fresh berries

Pastry cream
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale, then add the flour and whisk until well combined.
When the milk comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low. Remove 60 ml of the milk from the pan and pour it over the egg yolk mixture. This warms it a little in preparation for being added to the scalding milk. Give the yolk mixture a quick whisk, then pour it into the boiled milk (still over low heat), ensuring you scrape all the yolk from the bowl with a spatula. Stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula for 2 minutes or until the cream starts to thicken. As soon as it does, swap your spoon for a whisk and continue to cook the pastry cream for 1 minute longer to ensure the flour is completely cooked. The mixture should be quite thick. Remove from the heat and spread out the cream on a flat tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until cold.

Berry compote 
Place all the compote ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the berries don't catch on the base of the pan. The compote will thicken a little but the consistency you are looking for is not jam. You want to retain as many of the whole berries as possible so that when you cut the cake you will see the berries studded through the layers. Remove the compote from the heat and leave it to cool for a few hours. The compote can be made well in advance of when you want to assemble the cake and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. You won’t need all the compote for this recipe and if you like you could use 1/2 cup berry jam instead.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, conventional. Grease two 20 cm-diameter cake tins, line with baking paper, then grease paper and dust with cocoa. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add egg, a little at a time and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until incorporated.

Meanwhile, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and sift twice. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk, until just combined. Turn off mixer, scrape down sides of bowl and the paddle, then beat on high for 2 seconds to aerate batter. Divide batter between tins and smooth tops. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the cakes then reduce temperature to 170°C and bake until the centre of cakes spring back when lightly pressed (10-15 minutes). Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.

Mascarpone custard filling
Place all the filling ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand whisk). Whisk for 1-2 minutes or until the creams are stiffly whipped, being careful not to over-whip them. 

Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and loosen it first with a spatula then add it to the bowl of whipped cream and whisk on low speed for just 20 seconds - you don't want to whisk the pastry cream for too long after it has been added to the whipped cream as it will destroy the fluffiness of the filling. This filling can be prepared the day before you want to assemble the cake and stored in the fridge.

To assemble 
Level the cakes if needed. Spread half the mascarpone custard filling over one of the layers then spoon the compote over the mascarpone. Place the other layer on top and spread with the remaining mascarpone then top with the berries. Store in the fridge then bring back to room temperature before serving.

Sorry I can't show you a slice of cake but the cake looked very festive topped with 4 candles, one for each decade and the custard filling was a big hit.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



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