Madeleine: Beautiful eyes or ‘beautiful frying pans’ as Andrew once said trying to impress me with his amateur Spanish skills when we first met! He was holding a bunch of broccoli with a ribbon tied around it behind his back instead of flowers. Apparently the florist was closed but the grocers weren’t. I couldn’t stop laughing, I knew I’d found the right man for me!
As I’m sure anyone reading this knows; Andrew is obsessed with eyes. He spends all day looking at them, cutting in to them or researching things related to them.
With the baking challenge set, and with a clear “focus” on eyes, I needed to develop a “signature eye bake”. I really wanted this bake to celebrate the beauty of eyes on presentation and taste, not that I’ve ever eaten any eyes, although Andrew once asked me to collect a bag of pre-ordered eye balls from our local butchers for him to practice a new surgical technique on, you should have seen the other customers faces! My first attempts at piping didn’t work too well but I was very happy with the taste. Lucas got involved stirring and sieving the flour…aside from getting the mixer down from above the cupboard, it is possible to make most of this recipe with one hand…i.e. Lucas on my hip! However twirling the eye-cake in the chocolate definitely should have been done with two hands! It was a little quicker when I made the batch for Andrews fellow eye lovers once he was snoozing.
Andrew: Madeleine crept in to bed at gone 1am last night. The kettle bubbling away and the Kenwood Mixer whirring at an ungodly hour. I knew there was going to be something interesting awaiting me in the morning. I came down to find our corridor kitchen (not designed to fit more than one person) was not the bombsite that usually follows one of Madeleine’s late night frenzied baking sessions, in fact, all was calm and sat on the counter were these beautiful chocolate brown eyes. Madeleine gently lowered them into neatly packed boxes having been close to a break down when two dropped and broke, ready for transporting to be shared with my workmates at the International Centre for Eye Health.
I think it was fair to say they were a big hit amongst my fellow eye lovers.
110g soft butter (I use Lurpak Unsalted)
275g soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs – beaten (3 if the eggs are small)
175g self raising flour (Technically I don’t think you are meant to use 3 raising agents, I’ve always made this cake this way for no particular reason!)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1tsb bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa powder (preferably good quality)
200ml cider, Guinness or milk, your choice. Guinness gives a lovely malty taste and help keeps it moist.
…to mix with cake crumbs to make cake eye ball – apologies for non-metric weights…this is how I’ve always made this icing.
1/2 oz butter
1/2 tbsp castor sugar
2.5 oz icing sugar
1/2 oz cocoa powder
200g of good quality milk chocolate like green and blacks
50g of dark chocolate over 70% cocoa
50g of white chocolate
20 plastic lolly sticks/cake pop sticks (you can buy these from Amazon)
1. Start by making the cake. Turn the oven on to 180̊C̊. Grease two 15cm cake tins. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy, the dark sugar will look at least a shade lighter.
2. Gradually beat in room temperature eggs – room temperature helps the eggs not to split.
3. In a separate bowl sieve the flour and raising agents.
4. Weigh the cocoa and sieve into a separate bowl, measure out the cider/Guinness or milk and gradually mix into the cocoa until you have a chocolaty paste.
5. Carefully fold in a bit of chocolate mix and flour alternately until it is all well folded in.
6 Divide into the cake tins, shake gently to flatten mixture evenly throughout the tin and place in the oven for 20mins until the sponge is slightly coming away from the sides of the tin and a knife remains clean when poked into the sponge.
7. Let the sponge cool.
8. Whilst the sponge is in the oven. Break up the dark chocolate and melt over steaming water in a robust glass or small dish. Draw out an eye to use as a stencil. Cut an approx A4 sheet size of baking parchment. Fill a piping bag with the melted dark chocolate with a small nozzle. Place the stencil under the baking parchment and pipe the outline and eyelashes of an eye. Repeat this 20 times, you may need more baking parchment. Place in the fridge to firm up.
9. Crumble up the cooled cake from one tin (The other can be used as spare or a separate mini cake, or practice).
10. Make the icing, gently heat the butter, sugar and water and stir until melted and combined, at this point add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and beat in off the heat, but go back to the heat if you need, until smooth. Next mix in the crumbled up cake, until one combined gooey mixture.
11. Roll 20 cake balls to the size you require, about an inch (2.5cm) in diameter, don’t make them too big, they may be unstable on the lolly stick and they don’t look as dainty!
12. Once rolled, place the cake balls either in a cake pop mould or on baking parchment and place into the fridge.
13. Melt the white chocolate. Using a piping bag pipe the whites of the eyes and place the eyes back into the fridge.
14. Once the eye cakes have been in the fridge until cool, melt the milk chocolate, dip the lolly stick into the melted chocolate then into an upside down cake ball, press into the cake ball about 2/3, careful not to pierce through the cake ball, put back into the fridge until chocolate is set.
15. Whilst the cake balls are back in the fridge, pipe the milk chocolate for the iris and pop back in the fridge. They set quickly; afterwards, pipe the dark chocolate pupil, put back in the fridge then pipe on the white reflection.
16. Once the lolly sticks are set into the cake balls remove from the fridge and dip into the milk chocolate (I found by using a glass the chocolate was deeper so it was easier to coat the cake ball) turn around until chocolate firms and there are no drips, leave to harden. I found it hard to balance the cake eyes at this point, but by putting some kitchen roll in the bottom of a mug it just raised and steadied the cake balls so the chocolate coating could firm.
17. Very gently lift up an eye from the baking parchment and stick to the chocolate coated cake ball.
18. Voila …beautiful brown eyes! Just don’t knock a finished glass over…they are a bit fragile and so was my patience by this point!….enjoy…!