With Mother’s Day on the horizon I thought it was time for a big old celebration cake.
When my Save the Children trip was being arranged I was told that in Rwanda they eat grasshoppers as a snack. I went fully prepared to munch on a grasshopper (all in the name of research you understand). Whilst I was there did a see a grasshopper, be it alive or snack crispy fried version, no I did not. Disappointed? Yes a little but in hindsight it was probably a good thing!
Anyway I’m waffling….if you say to me Grasshopper I instantly think Grasshopper Cake (that’s the daft way my brain works) – the fab combination of chocolate and mint. When I was young Mum taught me to melt a Fry’s Peppermint Cream Bar onto the top of chocolate cake under the grill. This cake is just a posh version of that – perfect for Mother’s Day.
And of course there are no real grasshoppers involved!
Makes 1 x 8″ Cake
185g butter, softened
330g caster sugar
3 eggs, large
70g self raising flour
230g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
80g cocoa powder
2 tbsps vinegar
150g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp peppermint extract
green food colouring (optional)
225ml double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup
200g dark chocolate (Bournville is ideal)
To Decorate (optional)
After Eight Mints
Peppermint creams (Bassetts Clarnico Mints are ideal)
Preheat the oven to 160c (fan)/180c/Gas Mark 4.
Prepare two matching cake tins, lining the base and greasing well.
Measure the milk into a jug, add the vinegar (malt or white wine) and stir. Set to one side.
Cream together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and beat again.
Finally add the dry ingredients and the milk.
Give it a good mix until it is thoroughly combined.
Split the cake mix between the two tins and level roughly with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until fully cooked. Test with a skewer – it should come out dry.
Remove from the tins and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.
Prepare the ganache, it will need a couple of hours to cool so that it is spreadable.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl or large jug.
Heat the cream and golden syrup in a pan until just below boiling.
Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and allow to stand for a couple of minutes before stirring to a lovely glossy ganache.
Set the ganache aside to cool at room temperature to thicken. Whilst hot it is very runny and you’ll get in a mess if you try to use it like that. How long it will take too cool is a bit like how long is a piece of string – it all depends on the cream, chocolate and the weather!
You need it to still be soft but thick enough that you can scoop it up with a palette knife without it all running off!
If the ganache sets too much you can heat it very gently in a microwave in short bursts until the correct consistency is achieved.
And it’s on to the buttercream. Beat together the softened butter and sifted icing sugar. Add a teaspoon of peppermint extract and taste. If you want it extra minty add a little bit more.
Take the cooled cakes and trim off the domed tops, so that the cakes are flat. These never go to waste in our house, boys are quite happy to eat cake off cuts, or you could freeze them for a batch of cake pops later!
Spread the top of one cake with a thick layer of buttercream. Apply a very scant layer the the top of the other cake. Don’t use it all though, we’ll need some to coat the cake.
Using the After Eight mints create a complete layer on top of the thickly buttercreamed cake. The chocs can easily be trimmed with a knife or scissors to fit the awkward bits!
Sandwich the two cakes together.
To prepare the cake for the ganache layer it needs to have a crumb coat of buttercream first.
Apply a thin layer to the top of the cake.
Now turn your attention to coating the sides. A palette knife is the easiest tool for the job, working your way around the sides and using the edge of the knife in a plastering action to create a smooth finish.
Neaten up around the very top edge with the palette knife and place the cake in the fridge for 45 minutes or so until the buttercream sets firm.
Once the buttercream layer has set and the ganache is good to go, prepare your serving plate. It’s best to ganache a cake in situ rather than trying to transfer it later.
So you don’t mess up the serving plate cut three long strips of baking paper and arrange on the plate.
Set the cake on top of them and centrally on the plate, adjust the strips if need be. They should cover the exposed part of the plate and sit just underneath the edges of the cake.
Ganache the cake in the same way you applied the buttercream, starting with a good coating to the top and then working your way around the sides. Smooth the finish with your palette knife as you work, adding extra ganache in any places where the buttercream is peeping through.
When you are happy it is all covered and you have tidied up any messy spots carefully slide out the strips of baking paper.
For decoration I have added some extra After Eight mints cut into quarters and crumbled two Clarnico peppermint creams for the top. Personally I don’t mind eating the rest of the bag but don’t go out and buy them specially!
And if that’s not enough inspiration for you, you can check out Edd Kimber’s Grasshopper Cake here - and no, he doesn’t use real grasshoppers either!
And lastly if you haven’t already signed the petition for Save the Children’s Name a Day campaign, please visit the link and pledge your support x
It won’t cost you any money, just simply a little bit of your time and it could make all the difference.
Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire