Recently I found myself commenting on a friend’s FB status update, only to discover a comment further down from a genuine celebrity. (Russel Tovey if you’re interested. You know, him from Being Human and Him ‘n’ Her and other stuff). As it happens I did once meet this person; if by meet you mean spot across a crowded theatre bar. Truth be told I don’t really know any famous people, by which I mean I don’t know any famous people, whereas my friend seems veritably inundated by them. I guess this is what happens when you live your life as an international jet-setting menswear designer and not an SAHM.
Not that I’m bitter of course. I could never be a menswear designer, or indeed any designer, possessing not the least shred of artistic ability nor the slightest interest in buttons (a crucial aspect of dress-making as any past viewer of The House of Elliot will confirm). It perhaps bodes ill then, that when it came to making a pre-birthday birthday cake for Baby BB (henceforth to be known as Little BB “LBB” on account of a two-year old not actually being a baby anymore, sob) I opted for a chocolate hedgehog cake. Hmmm. This was mainly because I figured that sticking Cadbury’s fingers into a sponge cake was surely not beyond even me, and the other children’s cake recipes seemed to feature huge quantities of sugarpaste, of which I have an irrational and given my love of cake making, frankly unhelpful, loathing.
Recipe adapted from Rachel Allen’s Cake
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and dust with flour one 2.4 litre/23cm ovenproof pudding basin/Pyrex bowl or similar. Or if you have a particular penchant for specialist bakeware only to be used once or twice every few years, buy a specially made half globe shaped cake tin. I also placed mine on a muffin ring on a baking sheet so it would stay level during baking.
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft in a large bowl or a freestanding mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a jug, and then gradually add them to the bowl, scraping down the sides after each addition to ensure they are all incorporated. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold in gently. Add the milk and mix to combine.
Tip/spoon the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. This took considerably longer for me, about 1hr 20mins, at a slightly lower temperature – 170C. I also ended up putting a sheet of kitchen foil over the top after about 50mins, to stop it from burning.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the basin.
Then use a palette knife to loosen the edges, before placing a wire rack upside down over the base of the bowl and carefully flipping the bowl over. Lift of the bowl and leave the cake to cool completely on the wire rack.
For the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave/over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring briefly to ensure everything has melted. Set aside.
Put the butter into a free-standing mixer and beat until soft. Sift in the icing sugar and cocoa and continue to mix for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of milk to loosen the consistency; a little more if you think it needs it, but remember you want the icing to be reasonably stiff and you will also be adding melted chocolate. Finally, add the melted (and cooled) chocolate and beat in until well combined.
To make the hedgehog, place the cake, domed side down, on a level work surface. If the base of the cake is uneven, use a bread knife to level it off (just eat these bits, or if you have a lot consider making cake pops). Spread a little of the icing 2-3mm thick over the base.
Then cut the cake in half so that you have two half domes. Sandwich the domes together (on the iced sides) to form a roughly oval shape, then spread a little icing on the large cake and place the cake on top so that it sticks down.
Spread the remaining ice (which should be almost all of it) over the cake and use a palette knife to shape the face and snout of the hedgehog.
Add texture with the back of a fork and then decorate with the chocolate fingers (cut in half). To make eyes, cut a chocolate finger in half and insert into the cake, or just use smarties/maltesers etc. Similarly you can use a glace cherry for the nose or a smartie/maltester etc.