Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Chocolate and Vanilla Chess Cake

Happy New Year!

Now I decided this year that New Year is an event that requires a cake. And as I had received a Great British Bake Off recipe book this Christmas, I went straight to Mary and Paul to find a showstopping bake.
And this is the one I settled on:

Isn't that an impressive cake? And not nearly as hard to make as it looks. Mine doesn't look exactly like Mary's, but it all got eaten before I could swipe myself a slice, so it must have tasted pretty good.

This is what is known as a 'hidden design' cake. That is, a cake which when cut into, reveals a design that is not visible from the outside. There are many different types of hidden design cakes and many different methods of making the hidden design. This is the first I have attempted and one of the most easy I have come across. Others include this cake from the Great British Bake Off:

And this tasty-looking zebra cake, a recipe for which can be found here.

If you want to make the Chess Cake you will need piping bags, and at least two sandwich tins of the same size, preferably three (Mary says 20.5cm). You can find disposable piping bags in most decent-sized supermarkets in the baking section. You can get nylon piping bags in specialist baking shops but I can't be bothered with washing piping bags out so I shall not be buying them. Ever. Also, if you do not have two sandwich tins of the same size, you can sometimes hire them from baking shops.

Now, Mary would have you make the chocolate curls by tempering chocolate, which makes it shiny and stuff. But to Mary I say: "Mary, I am a busy woman. I do not always have time to temper chocolate. Not today, Mary." And so I have given you another (much easier) method to make chocolate curls.

So, the first thing you need to know is how to make up a sponge mixture. For this, you will need:

350g unsalted butter or margarine (such as Stork)
350g caster sugar
6 large free-range eggs
350g self-raising flour (weighed out beforehand)
pinch of salt

1. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until creamy, then add the sugar and beat until mixture becomes light in colour and fluffy in texture.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. For the last 2 eggs, add a tbsp of flour at the same time to prevent the mixture from curdling.
3. Sift in the remaining flour and salt and fold in gently using with a large metal spoon or spatula.

Chess Cake

You will need:

For the cake mixture:
sponge ingredients as above
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g cocoa powder
4 tbsp milk

For the white chocolate ganache:
175g white chocolate
125ml whipping cream
50g unsalted butter

For the dark chocolate ganache:
300g dark chocolate
300ml whipping cream

To finish:
100g dark chocolate
half a knob of butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease both tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Make up the sponge mixture as above. Transfer half the mixture to another bowl, add 2 tbsp of milk and sift in the cocoa before folding it in gently. Add 2 tbsp of milk and the vanilla extract to the other mixture and put each mixture into a piping bag.
2. Pipe a ring of vanilla mixture around the inside edge of one tin. Then pipe a ring of chocolate mixture around the inside of that. Repeat with alternate vanilla and chocolate rings until the tin is filled. For the third tin, start with chocolate so it is filled with the reverse of the other tins. If, like me, you only have 2 tins you will have to bake the sponge in those tins and then reuse one.
3. Bake the sponge mixtures for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned, well risen and until a metal skewer inserted inside comes out clean. If you have wider tins your mixture will be shallower and it will not need quite as long. Run a knife around each tin to loosen the sponge, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.
4. Make up the white and dark chocolate ganaches by placing the ingredients for each in a bowl above a saucepan of barely simmering water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until cream and chocolate become completely combined in a smooth ganache mixture. Take off the heat and leave to cool until easily spreadable but not set.
5. After the sponges have completely cooled, place one of the 2 identical sponges on the plate you intend to present it on, and spread the top with white chocolate ganache. Then place the reverse sponge on top and spread that with ganache before placing the final sponge on top.
6. Spread the sides and top of the cake with dark chocolate ganache, cleaning any drips off the cake board or plate with a slightly damp cloth or kitchen towel. Place somewhere cool to set (not the fridge).

7. To finish, make chocolate curls by melting the butter and chocolate together in a bowl above a saucepan in barely simmering water. Then pour the mixture into a  rectangular container out of which it can be easily pressed, and put in the freezer to set. Once set, use a vegetable peeler to slice large chocolate curls off the chocolate block onto the cake. Hold the block in some folded kitchen towel to protect it from the heat of your hand.

If like me, you are badass, finish the cake with edible gold glitter, and a sparkler. Or two.


Not the neatest slice in the world but you get the idea. Again, I apologise for poor-quality photos. When I am a famous baker-journalist I'll get a professional to take my photos.

Until next time, bakelings,



  1. It was very tasty - but there is a neater way to get the checkerboard effect (sharper edges than the piping method, and it'll make sure your checkerboard cross sections line up better than even Mrs B's photograph!).
    Bake a separate chocolate sponge, and a separate vanilla sponge. Cut them in half, lengthways (as if you were going to fill with butter-icing), then cut them all into concentric rings - take out alternate circles from each, swap them over (choc. to vanilla, vanilla to choc., adding a little butter-icing between them to stick them together (the sponge will stay even more moist then!) and then layer them up, 4 layers in total, :P

  2. Ah yes, well I could have done that but I only had a couple of hours in which to make it, I don't think I could cut that neatly, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out, actually.

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  4. That looks really good! I've been very tempted to try this one too, as I also got the Great British Bake Off book and have been doing 'Bake Off Challenges' on my blog - it's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it! Plus, it's a great excuse to eat a ton of cake ;)

    1. It would have been a great excuse to eat cake except my friends got there first! There was none left for me! I am VERY impressed by your gingerbread house - it's huge! I'm going to have to attempt some more of the challenges myself, I've already done the plaited loaf: