Have you ever tried making paper aeroplanes with card? Actually, let me re-phrase that: have you ever tried making 20 complex paper aeroplanes with card for a paper aeroplane garland?
Pah! Complex?! More like ‘so flippin’ difficult you’ll want to cry, curl up into a ball and give up any hope you ever had of being a pilot’.
Even their names, like ‘Edmonton Shadow’ and ‘Turbo OmniScimitar’ strike fear into the hearts of those who dare to take them on. I had paper cuts to my brain before I’d even touched a piece of card.
The process strongly resembled when the 12-year-old me was challenged to fold a piece of paper seven times, to find that it was in fact impossible**. No matter how much weight I put on it. Even if I stuck it under a table leg and got 3 other kids to sit on the table. Even if I tried to staple it down …
Impossible. 12 year old dreams. Crushed.
**Ok smart ass, you got me.
It was difficult. Really flipping difficult. Difficult like cycling head on into the wind. Difficult like trying to place gold nuts on a cake to look ‘randomly scattered’.
When you look at this cake, what do you see? A mound of carrot-y goodness you just want to bury your face into? An elegant, minimalist cake you could imagine someone bringing to a party as ‘oh, just something I threw together’? A cake with a scattering of gilded nuts sprinkled over the top?
In reality there was no sprinkling, no scattering. Instead, there was a pair of tweezers, a steady hand and an hour of carefully placing each and every nut that tops this cake. And this is how I learnt just how difficult making things look ‘random’ is.
‘Random’ is in fact not random. It’s ‘oh no, I’ve already got a hazelnut and a walnut there, I can’t place another walnut on that edge’ and ‘ah, those three nuts are an equal distance apart, I’ll have to move one just off centre’. ‘Random’ is in reality incredibly purposeful. Can anything ever actually be truly random?
Wow, that just got very philosophical. Sorry. Back to the cake.
24 carat cake
For the cake
1½ large eggs
1½ egg yolks
300g sunflower oil
255g light brown muscovado sugar
150g dark brown muscovado sugar
75g walnuts, chopped
75g ground almonds
210g carrot, grated
The zest of an orange
240g plain flour*
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. grated nutmeg
3 egg whites
a pinch of salt
For the icing
6 tbsp. double cream
7 tbsp. icing sugar (or to taste)
The zest of one orange/8 tsp. orange extract, to taste
* To make GF, substitute this flour for 255g of gluten free plain flour
Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3½ and grease and line three 20cm cake tins with baking paper.
Place the sunflower oil and both types of sugar in a large bowl and whisk briefly before whisking in the egg and egg yolk until the mixture comes away from the bowl slightly. Being careful not to over mix, stir in the walnuts, ground almonds, orange zest and grated carrot. Sieve all the dry ingredients into the bowl and fold in until no flour’s visible.
In a clean bowl and using clean beaters, whisk the egg whites on high speed until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg white into the rest of the cake mixture in 2 additions, being careful not to knock out all the air. Pour the cake mixture into your prepared cake tins and bake for roughly an hour, although be sure to check them before this time. They are cooked when an inserted skewer comes out clean and they spring back when lightly pressed. Let the cakes cool completely before turning out on to a wire rack.
To make the icing, beat the mascarpone with the icing sugar and orange zest/extract until smooth and spreadable. The zest can give you little bumps in your icing so I mix zest into the icing that sandwiches the cakes together and use orange extract in the icing for the outside.
Sandwich the cakes together and cover the sides and top with the icing. To get super smooth sides, ‘crumb coat’ your cakes with a very (and I mean very) thin layer of icing, leave to set slightly and then go over with a thick coating. I found Zoe Bakes’ video very useful for this.