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It’s no secret that I love baking for others, so when my cousin recently got engaged, I was stoked to be asked to make the cake. Actually, I lie. I volunteered (code for insisted) and she might have just been too nice to say no.

Shel and I spent many weekends together when we were younger – we were neighbours for many years, and our dads worked a lot and so our mums would often get together and take us out on the weekends.

Mum holding me, and Shel with her mum, my aunt Trixie

It’s hard to believe how time has flown. That picture is probably about 25 years old now! I remember when people who were in their twenties seemed old to me.

Back to the cake – their theme was blue and green, James’ and Shel’s favourite colours. She had originally intended to dye the cake batter, but we decided (I may have vetoed it) that colouring the icing was a far better option. They told me they liked rich, dense cakes and not the airy fairy type stuff.

Armed with the Planet Cake book I set out to make a cake. And because I couldn’t stop at just one cake (the Asian in me considered that not having enough cake would be a travesty!) I decided to make two – a dark chocolate mud and a white chocolate mud. I should add that I hate white chocolate and would never eat it on it’s own, but I was hoping it would end up tasting more like a vanilla butter cake.

The book told me that the cake would take three days – one to bake, one to level and ganache, and another to decorate. Three days! Surely the cake would be stale by the time we got to eat it. I had never made a recipe from this book before and wasn’t sure if it was trustworthy so I googled it – everything from reviews to potential problems. There were a lot of mixed reviews, but I suspected it to be more because the book was so popular rather than because the recipe was a dud.

So I put my faith in Planet Cake and gave it a go.

The cakes both turned out beautifully – rich. moist and with a good crumb and kept very well. Eating it on Saturday, you wouldn’t know that it had been baked on Wednesday. This is probably due to the fact that you split the cake into layers and brush each layer with an apricot syrup. I personally thought the dark chocolate mud cake was a hands down winner, the white chocolate ganache was a little too sweet for me – but many thought they were both equally good. The white chocolate mud is a lovely cake too; it tasted more like a rich butter cake.

I don’t normally eat much cake (especially if I’ve baked it) but I couldn’t stop pinching slivers of these. The mud cake itself is quite high, but because it’s divided into three layers and ganached in between, your end cake will be about 7cm high and serve quite a few people.

Chocolate Mud Cake
makes one 8″ square or 9″ round cake
serves approx 50 coffee portions
recipe from Paris Cutler’s Planet Cake

220g butter
220g dark chocolate, cut into pieces
25g instant coffee granules
160ml water
125g self-raising flour
125g plain flour
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda not baking powder)
480g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
7 tsp vegetable oil
100ml buttermilk

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease an 8″ square or 9″ round tin and line the base and sides with baking paper that extends 2cm above the top of the tin.
  2. Put the butter, chocolate, coffee and water into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate has melted, then remove from the heat.
  3. Combine buttermilk, oil and eggs in a bowl.
  4. Mix the flours, cocoa, sugar and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and melted chocolate mixture, stirring with a large spoon until completely combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour 40 minutes or until a skewer poker into the centre of the cake comes out clean though it may be a little sticky. Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
2 parts chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 part cream, heated until just below boiling

Put the chopped chocolate pieces into a bowl and pour the heated cream over it. Stir gently to combine.

White Chocolate Mud Cake
makes one 8″ square or 9″ round cake
serves approx 50 coffee portions
recipe from Paris Cutler’s Planet Cake

300g unsalted butter
300g white couverture chocolate, chopped
270ml water
300g plain flour
150g self-raising flour
400g caster sugar
pinch of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ tsp natural vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an 8″ square or 9″ round tin and line the base and sides with baking paper that extends 2cm above the top of the tin.
  2. Put the butter, chocolate and water into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate has melted, then remove from the heat.
  3. Mix the flours, sugar and pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture, eggs and vanilla stirring with a large spoon until completely combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour 40 minutes or until a skewer poker into the centre of the cake comes out clean though it may be a little sticky. Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

White Chocolate Ganache
3 parts white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 part cream, heated to just below boiling

  1. Put the chopped chocolate pieces into a bowl and pour the heated cream over it. Stir gently to combine.

Apricot Syrup
100g apricot jam
100ml hot water

  1. Combine both ingredients, stir to dissolve then strain to remove pieces of fruit.
Update 7/11/12 – couldn’t stop thinking about this cake and how I didn’t have enough of it, so I made another.
 

Tips for making mud cake:

  • Bake your mud cake without the fan forced setting. This is magical oven science, I can’t explain it, but Paris Cutler says so.
  • Don’t open the oven door too much.
  • If your cake is getting too dark on the top, place a piece of foil over the top of the cake to prevent further browning.
  • I’ve found the baking times in this recipe to be quite accurate. If your cake is sinks in the middle, it’s probably not cooked through.
  • If your oven is too hot, the middle will not cook through. If the cake is cooking too quickly lower the temperature by 20 degrees and place a container of water in the oven with the cake to create humidity and keep the cake moist.
  • When assembling your mud cake, slice into 2-3 layers and brush each layer with apricot syrup to keep it moist.

Tips for chocolate ganache:

  • Cut the chocolate into small pieces, larger pieces don’t melt through resulting in a lumpy ganache.
  • Pour the heated cream onto the chopped chocolate pieces and gently stir. Do not whip or you will create air bubbles.
  • If you still have chunks of unmelted chocolate, reheat the ganache over a saucepan of boiling water.
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