Sunday, 9 February 2014

Bitcoin Birthday Cake

Finally I have managed to combine both of the things I blog and tweet about. No more shall my Twitter followers be divided into two camps who regard each other with suspicion.

That's right - I have reconciled banking and baking in this single recipe. No more shall those who follow me on the basis of my incisive comments on m-payments be bewildered by the difference between demerara and muscovado. No more shall my little bakelings puzzle over the meaning of #mPOS.

OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But I've managed to create a cake that I think those in the banking and payments world appreciate.

As those of you who have an interest in electronic payments may know, a "Bitcoin" is a cryptocurrency - a digital token that is produced by means of mining software. I'm not going to try to explain how that happens because I don't think I fully understand it myself.

But basically, all you need to know is that Bitcoin is controversially used as a currency by some - it's harder to trace than many other forms of payment, meaning it's sometimes associated with the purchase of slightly illegal things. Like drugs. Look up "Silk Road" if you're interested.

Since its creation in 2009, Bitcoin's value has soared. It's currently valued at $700 on bitcoinity, but its value has passed $1000 a few times. It's also very volatile and has been known to lose or gain around a quarter of it value in a single day.

At work, my desk is decided roughly into two camps - the Bitliebers, and the non-Bitliebers (to steal a term from popular culture). The naysayers are led by our editor, Doug, and the believers are led by the deputy editor, Billy. I fall somewhere in the middle - I think I'm more skeptical than Billy but more open-minded than Doug and I don't feel I know enough about digital currencies to judge.

This Thursday was Billy's birthday. So, even though I had the flu, as the resident baker I dragged myself from my deathbed to throw together a chocolate cake for him. And as a Bitlieber, I thought there was no better motif for his cake than a Bitcoin.

Because they exist only in virtual form, Bitcoins have no physical appearance, but they tend to be depicted like this: 

So I rolled out some sugarpaste and cut out the shapes, sticking them to the cake with butter icing and each other with edible glue. If you don't want to use edible glue you could probably use a little water icing, which is just a mix of icing sugar and water.

You could make your own sugarpaste but...

Unfortunately, I only realised that the "B" is in a serif font after I'd cut it out and stuck it to the cake. But Billy was still very appreciative. The finished cake looked like this:

If you too feel the need to combine your love of cryptocurrency and cake, I have included a recipe below. 

You will need:

For the cake:
300g caster sugar
300g butter
250g plain flour
50g cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
2-3 tbsp milk
5 eggs

For the decoration and filling:
125g softened butter
400g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
3tbsp cocoa
1 small pack yellow sugarpaste
1 small pack brown sugarpaste
edible glue 
a very clean fine paintbrush - preferably not one that has been used for painting!
gold edible glitter (optional)
an icing smoother will help if you have one
a couple 8 inch cake tin

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and grease and line a couple of 8 inch cake tin.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar for the cake mixture. 
3. Beat the eggs and beat into the mixture a little at a time. After you've added about half the eggs you will need to beat in a tbsp flour with each new eggy addition, to stop the mixture curdling. Fold in the remaining flour, cocoa and baking powder. If the mixture feels stiff add the milk to loosen it up.
4. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. In the meantime, make the butter icing by beating the butter and icing sugar together, followed by the milk and sifted cocoa. Set aside.
5. When the cakes have been removed from the oven, take them from their tins and cool on a rack. When completely cooled cut off the top of each sponge with a sharp knife so that they are both flat. Sandwich together with the butter icing and spread some on top, making sure you do not spread it all the way to the edges.
6. Dust a surface with icing sugar and roll out the brown sugarpaste, then cut out an 8 inch circle (you may want to use one of the cake tins). Lay it on the cake and smooth it with an icing smoother if you have one. 
7. Roll out a yellow circle of the same size and then cut out a smaller circle from inside it, creating a ring of sugarpaste about half an inch to an inch thick. Stick it on top of the brown icing, applying either edible glue or a little runny water icing to the underside - apply sparingly. 
8. Lastly cut out the B, making sure it's in a SERIF font, and stick it on. You may have a little icing sugar on the surface of the sugarpaste. If you do, dampen the paintbrush and just brush it away lightly. Liberally sprinkle gold glitter over the cake if using. 

A cake fit for a financial journalist!