Half and Half Cake
Who doesn’t love birthday cake?! It was my brother James’ fourteenth birthday on the 28th July, and my sixteenth on the 31st July, so of course we should’ve had loads of cake… but we were away in Spain and as soon as we came back James was off to Scout camp, so I didn’t manage to bake cake to have on either of our birthdays!
But given my reputation for baking cakes we couldn’t completely skip the birthday cake, so I decided to bake a belated cake for James’ return home on Saturday…
Two birthdays should equal two cakes, am I right? And normally I would’ve done just that, but I’m away again later this week to celebrate my Nanny’s 70th so it perhaps seemed a little excessive to make two whole cakes. But then there’s also the whole complication of veganism, as I wouldn’t want to stop James from enjoying a fancy chocolate cake like so many of the others I’ve baked in previous years (more about that here) purely because I’m now vegan.
My solution: a half and half cake! Perfect for size and perfect for our different diets!
Half an indulgent, chocolate, non-vegan cake for James and my mum to enjoy, whilst my dad and I have a delicious vegan vanilla cake. Seemed like an ideal solution!
Then came the recipe research. James has always loved Nutella, so I used The Kitchen McCabe’s Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Hazelnut Dream Cake for his half. For me (and my love of strawberries), a Vegan Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream from Wife Mama Foodie. As if making two separate cakes wasn’t complex enough already, I had to scale the recipes and coordinate all of the timings for baking and decorating. And to just add even more hassle - both recipes were drip cakes (something I’d never ever tried before)!
So yes, it was a lot of work to plan, prepare, bake and decorate the cakes. Here’s a peek at my little diagrams of my planned steps (with a scribble of the ideal output at the bottom)…
Friday afternoon was spent making the sponges. I used two 8 inch cake tins (one for each flavour of cake), which I got my brilliant mum to grease and line because 1, I take forever to do it, 2, I absolutely hate doing it, and 3, my mum is a freaking wonderful human being and she’s absolutely great at it!
I started with the Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Hazelnut Dream Cake (which I’m just going to call “chocolate cake” from now on for ease!). I halved the quantities and followed the recipe exactly, apart from using normal salt instead of Himalayan pink salt (because I couldn’t be bothered to go and buy the fancy stuff!). I stuck this mix in the oven whilst I started on the Vegan Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream (which will now simply be referred to as “vegan cake”).
I did a third of the quantities for this one as it was originally a slightly larger cake anyway. Again I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used self-raising flour instead of plain (I find I get better results with it), coconut oil instead of avocado oil (I like the subtle coconut flavour that comes through), and added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract to enhance the flavour.
By the time I finished making the vegan cake, the chocolate cake was nearly finished in the oven. The temperature of my oven is really temperamental so I tend to put the temperature slightly lower than the recipe states and then bake the cakes until I think they’re done (I use a cake tester to help).
I baked the vegan cake after the chocolate one was done, then let both cakes cool a little in their tins before taking them out. The vegan cake was quite fragile, although this was probably because I removed it from it’s tin a little too early. I let the cakes cool fully then wrapped them in clingfilm to leave them in the freezer overnight. I’d never frozen cakes before, but both recipes said to do so so I thought it’d be worth a try!
Saturday morning was decoration time… Here’s a list of my steps (which took 3 hours to complete!):
- make the chocolate frosting
- remove chocolate sponge from freezer
- prepare plate and foil divider
- cut chocolate sponge in half
- arrange base of chocolate sponge on plate
- fill chocolate cake
- cover the outside of the two-layer chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and a smear of Nutella
- make the strawberry buttercream
- remove vegan sponge from freezer
- cut vegan sponge in half
- arrange base of vegan sponge on plate so it lines up with chocolate cake
- fill vegan cake
- cover outside of two-layer vegan cake with strawberry buttercream
- make chocolate ganache
- do the drips on top of the chocolate cake
- make the vegan cream cheese glaze
- do the drips on top of the vegan cake
- top the vegan cake with strawberries
- top the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and ferrero rocher
- neaten up the plate as much as possible
- and relax…
Additional notes on my basic steps:
- I'd never frozen sponges before but it made the assembly so much easier as the cakes were firmer. The icing firmed pretty quickly after spreading, which also helped with balance for adding other layers and the ganache/glaze at the top. I'd definitely freeze sponges again so it's definitely worth a try if you’re baking!
- Even though I did half the quantities, there was a tonne of chocolate frosting and I still have a big bowl of it leftover in the fridge.
- The middle of my chocolate sponge had a bit of a dip in it, so I filled the cake with some chocolate buttercream as well as lots of Nutella to make up for this.
- I couldn't find freeze-dried strawberries anywhere to add to the buttercream, so I used a little strawberry jam and red food colouring to get a bright pink colour. There was less buttercream than I expected so I had to be careful with spreading the layers pretty thinly.
- The vegan sponge wasn’t quite as tall as the chocolate sponge. Instead of just filling it with buttercream and sliced strawberries, I smeared a little buttercream in between the two sponges then balanced whole strawberries on the outside to add extra height, filling the inside with chopped strawberries.
- The vegan cream cheese glaze was pretty runny even though I followed the instructions properly. The drips fell all the way down the sides and were absorbed within an hour or two, so this is something to consider for presenting the cake.
- Major tip: strawberries are very juicy so either add them just before serving or be prepared for some liquid strawberry juice to pool around the side of the cake (which can make the base of the bottom sponge a little softer).
Well, you've read through all of my notes of making the cake now, so after a long wait here's what the final cake looked like..
I had so much fun baking both of the cakes and James was absolutely thrilled when he saw them! I'm not going to lie: they weren't easy. Doing both cakes at the same time probably made for one of my most complicated cakes yet!
I really enjoyed making a proper cake again though as I haven't done so in a while. According to my mum and James, the Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Dream Cake is indulgent, gooey and divine with a delicious hint of hazelnut from the Nutella filling. All of the different elements apparently work together fantastically too! The Vegan Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream is lovely and light, with a beautiful sweetness from the vanilla and fresh strawberries. I particularly love the subtle coconut flavour from the coconut oil which comes through in both the sponge and the buttercream.
Overall I think the cakes turned out pretty well - certainly better than my Snickers cake disaster from 2 years ago (more on that here!). I was so pleased with the result as I was terrified the two cakes wouldn't come together as one in the way that I imagined, but it all worked perfectly to plan! 5 hours in the kitchen was quite a lot of time, but I really did enjoy it.
Which cake would you choose: Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Hazelnut Dream Cake or Vegan Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream?