The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Tunis Cake

Friday 15th December 2017.

I must admit I hadn’t a clue what the origin of a Tunis Cake was.  Mary Berry had made one on one of her and Paul Hollywood’s original Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes from a couple of years back.  I remember having a go at making one myself after seeing the pretty impressive chocolate topped almond  and lemon sponge which was finished off with marzipan holly leaves and berries.

The definition of a Tunis cake according to Wikipedia is that it’s “a madeira cake topped with a thick layer of chocolate and decorated with marzipan fruits,”  The origin of the cake dates back to Edwardian times.

I had been at work in the morning and was back home just after lunch time to get jobs done.  Not much had got done this week at home and don’t even ask about the Christmas shopping. But baking would relax me and I fancied baking a cake for my daughter coming home from uni the next day!

When I had my last go at baking the Tunis Cake I used the wrong size tin and therefore the cake was wider and shallower than it was meant to be.  Also, the icing didn’t look as neat as it should be.  Didn’t spoil the taste though!  Traditionally, the decorations are marzipan but I used sugar paste both times.  I needed to save the marzipan for our Christmas Cake!

First of all I started to bake the Madeira Sponge.  I love madeira sponges and this one is full of flavour from ground almonds and grated lemon zest.  All the ingredients were weighed out and mixed together in an all in one method.  The mixture was then put in the greased and lined deep cake tin.  While this was baking I made myself a well needed cup of tea and did the washing up!

The topping for the Tunis Cake is a very deep chocolate ganache.  I heated double cream in a small pan on the hob, then once it was starting to boil I took it off the heat and stirred in the chocolate pieces until they melted.  The ganache was left to cool a little and then poured on top of the cake still in the tin.  It was left in the tin until the chocolate was set. I was worried that the cake wouldn’t come out of the tin properly but it did.

The holly leaves were made simply by using ready made and coloured sugar paste.  I had a holly cutter and put the veins on the leaves using  a mini roller. I also rolled mini red balls for the berries.

Before the cake completely set, I arranged the holly leaves in a wreath pattern around the edge of the cake.  I didn’t dare eat a piece there and then but by the following lunchtime I caved in and ate a piece instead of eating a healthy lunch.  Too much temptation. Over the next few days the cake got eaten.  It’s definitely one you would have as an alternative to Christmas Cake or pudding if you’re not a great dried fruit lover.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

See In The Dark Cake from Frances Quinn’s Quinntessential Baking.

Last Wednesday I had the chance to go and watch Frances Quinn (Great British Bake Off Winner from 2013) doing a demo and a booksigning as part of the hugely popular York Food and Drink Festival. I have always been amazed by Frances’ cake designs and artistic skill so when I found out that a few members of the York Clandestine Cake Club were going to watch her before their cake club event, I jumped at the chance.

My version of Frances Quinn’s See In The Dark Cake- a gorgeously spiced and moist carrot cake with a cream cheese filling and a chocolate icing.

The demo was absolutely brilliant and I thought Frances was very witty and entertaining, telling us about her experiences on the Bake Off.  She showed us how to make homemade flavoured marzipan which she then turned into cute bees with chocolate stripes and flaked almond wings.  She also showed us how she adapted a basic brownie recipe and turned them into owls with Oreo biscuits split apart to make eyes and chocolate button feathers.

A sneaky picture of Frances getting everything ready for her demo.
Frances in action with Julia Lewis from BBC Radio York.
A bowlful of leftover (but absolutely delicious) orange marzipan and the cutest ever brownie Owls!

Afterwards Frances was doing a book signing of her brand new book Quinntessential Baking.  I had already bought a copy and she very kindly signed it for me. I have been very impressed with the book and how there is a chapter devoted to a base recipe, such as Shortbread and then you can use that basic recipe to adapt it and create lots of different recipes.  I thought I would attempt one of the large cakes to take along to the cake club event which was going to be held at Walmgate Ale House and Bistro later that evening.  The theme was Words and Pictures and we were asked to bake a cake using the York Food and Drink Festival as our inspiration. As I had just seen Frances’ demo at the festival and her cakes are truly artistic works like pictures I had to recreate one of her recipes.

I chose to bake Frances’ See In The Dark Cake which is part of the Carrot Cake chapter on page 70.  You adapt a basic carrot cake recipe and add a twist to it.  I loved the play on words for the title of the cake, they say you can see in the dark if you eat carrots and the decoration for the cake was with dark chocolate and with moon and stars on the top.

The day before the demo and cake club on the Tuesday was a day off work for me.  I’m getting back into my supply teaching work after the summer holidays but on that day I was free. So it was me in a relaxed mode enjoying some baking therapy while catching up on what I hadn’t seen on Iplayer over the past few days.

The carrot cake itself was simple to bake.  I had to prep some chopped nuts first. Frances’ recipe suggests pistachios.  I didn’t have any but used walnuts in my cake instead. After I chopped up the walnuts it was the turn of grating carrots.  I managed this ok but I do find grating carrots boring!

Then on with the actual cake itself. First I beat butter and sugar together until it became really light and creamy. After this stage beaten eggs were added with a spoonful of the flour needed to prevent any curdling happening.  The remainder of the flour was also added along with some ground cinnamon which made the mixture smell heavenly.  Finally, in went the carrots and walnuts.  Frances says you can bake the cake in a round deep bottomed tin or in two sandwich tins.  I chose the latter as I’m not good at cutting cakes to make layers. They end up looking like a crispbread at one side and a doorstep at the other!

While the cakes were baking I made up the filling.  This was softened butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla extract to make that classic filling and topping on top of a carrot cake.  Frances’ cake was more unusual in that it had a chocolate ganache for it’s decoration. I’ve never put chocolate with a carrot cake before but it does work.

I totally mucked up the ganache though and ended up with my ganache looking more like chocolate buttercream.  It still looked good though and I wanted to decorate the cake like Frances had done with a moon and stars on the top.  I chose to cheat though and found some gold shimmer sugar and some mini gold stars in my local Booths which worked perfectly on the top.  Keeping it neat though with a moon stencil cut out of baking parchment to me was fiddly as I am a bit clumsy.

My cake all ready to take along to Cake Club after the demo.
Lots of delicious cakes at the York Clandestine Cake Club event in the function room at the Walmgate Ale House.

After the demo we all met back at Cake Club and tried little pieces of each other’s cakes.  I was all caked out after trying about three little pieces, what a good job I hadn’t eaten any tea before!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx