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Race cake


This was the anniversary birthday cake of my son. It took me a lot of time to prepare it and even more to make all the decorations. do I regret spending so much time on just a cake? Not even a minute. I made it with all my heart and I would do it again if needed.

I divided the making of this cake over 2 days: on the first day, I baked the sponge cakes and prepared the ganache, on the second day I shaped and layered them and prepared all the decorations.

The decorations took me almost a full day and I was helped by the little one, placing the big white and black squares on the side. My daughter participated also in the decoration process so it looked more like a family cake.

But a good cake doesn't only have to look nice it also needs to taste good. The combination of cocoa sponge cake and chocolate ganache is heaven. The guests appreciated the cake to be light, not overly sweet and delicious. The kids invited to the party loved it too, as most of the plates I cleaned up after were empty.

I was very careful with the sugar on this cake. There is a huuuuge (for me at least) amount of sugar paste (~750g) to cover the cake. The sponge cakes have 200g of sugar each, but I used only 1.5 sponge cakes, so I can make a total of 300g. There is also a good quantity of sugar in chocolate and there is no need to add more. Then another 100g for the syrup. If you start counting, the sugar sums up, however, remember that chocolate in its pure state is bitter and children do not love it like that. So a certain amount of sugar in this cake is a must. The trick was to find the right balance and I can happily say it was perfect.



Ingredients:

Cocoa sponge cake (make 2 of them, one round, one square). For only one sponge cake you need::
  • 400g eggs (about 8 pieces)
  • 223g flour (sifted)
  • 30g cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 200g sugar (divided into 150g + 50g)
  • 1 tablespoon rum essence
  • half a lemon juice
  • 6g baking powder (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of water/milk
Chocolate ganache:
  • 1000g chocolate (a combination of 600g dark with 60% cocoa content and 400g milk chocolate with 30% cocoa content)
  • 1000g heavy cream (40% fat content)
  • 250g butter
Syrup:
  • 500g water
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of rum essence

Decoration:
  • 750g sugar paste 

Directions:
  1. Prepare first to bake 2 sponge cakes. One will be round, using a pan of 25cm diameter and the second one will need to be a rectangle with a side of 25cm. If you have a small oven (like I do), bake one cake after the other. If you have a bigger even, be sure you can place them one near the other not one on top of the other in the oven.
    Prepare the pans: brush with melted butter and sprinkle flour or cocoa powder over. This step is essential in order to get the cake easier out of the pan after baking (and in one piece). If you prefer, you can use parchment paper to avoid sticking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. In a bowl, mix the flour with baking powder. Baking powder is optional but if you want to be sure that your cake will not fail, I suggest using it.
  4. With the help of a stand/hand mixer beat the egg whites with lemon juice until foam. Add the 150g of sugar in steps and continue to beat until dissolved and the meringue looks glossy and forms peaks. It takes about 7 minutes with the mixer turned on to the maximum speed.
    One note, measuring the egg weight while separating the yolks from whites can be tricky. Either you use 2 kitchen balances or you brake them into a bowl that you weigh and remove the yolks with your fingers (this is a risky version). Alternatively, you measure the eggs with the shell and subtract the empty shells' weight in the end, although it will be tricky to balance back the quantity if you get over. Your choice, however, try to stay in the quantity of eggs with +/- 2%, otherwise, the cake might change its texture.
  5. In parallel, or after the previous step, beat the egg yolks in another bowl with 4 tablespoons of water or milk, the vanilla essence and the remaining 50g of sugar. Mix on a high speed for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cocoa over in several steps and mix at the slowest speed until well combined. You can do this step in parallel with the previous one if you have 2 mixers. I did the egg whites in the standing mixer and the yolks with a hand mixer. This minimises the loss of bubbles from the meringue until you finish the yolks. 
  6. Combine the 2 compositions + the flour mixture in the following way: add 1/3 of the yolks over the meringue, then 1 tablespoon of flour on top. Stir 2-3 times with a spatula using up and down movements. Repeat 2 more times until you finish the egg yolks. Continue with the remaining flour mixture, adding one spoon at a time and stirring maximum 2-3 times with the spatula after. You need to minimise the string while ensuring that all ingredients are well combined. The composition will deflate a bit but it should still remain foamy.
  7. Pour this composition into the pan. On the top, spread it more to the sides as in the middle the cake will raise much more than on the sides.
  8. Put the pan into the oven and bake it at 180ºC for 45 minutes. In the end, test it with a wooden stick (toothpick) to be sure it gets out of the cake clean.
  9. Let the cake cool in the pan until you feel comfortable touching it, without feeling burned. That would take about 15-20 minutes.
  10. Revert the pan on a rack and let it cool completely.
  11. Bake the second sponge cake using the above steps.
  12. Prepare the ganache: 
    1. Break the chocolate into small pieces (unless you are already using chocolate chips) and put the chocolate into a pan in a bain-marie system. 
    2. Add the heavy milk and stir over the steam created in the bain-marie until the chocolate is completely melted.
    3. Add the cold butter cut into cubes and mix until melted.
    4. Put a plastic foil over the composition to avoid making a crust.
    5. When cooled, place it in the fridge for at least 5 hours. By then, the composition should harden and not look liquid anymore.
  13. When the sponge cakes have cooled completely (I baked them the day before) cut the 2 pieces in a shape of a 5. For the round cake, you'll need to remove the centre and a small rectangle. From the squared cake, you'll need to cut  2 pieces to form the straight sides of figure 5. Then, slice the cake horizontally in 3 to create the layers.
  14. Prepare the syrup by mixing the water with sugar and rum essence. Stir until well dissolved.
  15. Layer the cake in the following way:
    1. Put one layer of sponge cake.
    2. Add 1/3 of the syrup over, using a spoon.
    3. Pipe 1/4 of the ganache over the slice of sponge cake.
    4. Repeat the same with the next 2 slices
  16. The remaining 1/2 of the ganache should cover the cake on top and on the sides. Smooth it with a spatula or a knife until you get a nice shape. The ganache is temperature-sensitive, if it is too hard, warms it a bit. If it is too soft, place it for a few minutes in the fridge.
  17. When finished, place the cake in the fridge and start preparing the decorations. You can also do them in advance.
  18. Decorate the cake as you wish, This was the most time-consuming part of the cake, it took me practically 1 day. I started with white sugar paste and I coloured it with food colourant. First I cut a lot of white and black squares using a biscuit cutter. I used them to put them on the vertical walls of the cake. Then I made a long black sheet and placed it on the cake, cutting it with scissors when was already on top. Then, I cut the little black and white squares for the start and finish and I made long white strips to divide the lanes. To cover the margins, I used green stripes to hide the joints between the walls and the top.
    Preparing the car decorations was fun, but also very time-consuming. I made the 5 (as a decoration)it combining sugar paste of different colours and putting them in a silicone mould.

Sponge cake inspired from here.

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