For those that remember my “trials and tribulations” post, will know that I was tasked with making my sister’s wedding cake for her early November wedding. The cake that was decided on in the end was a tiered cupcake cake, made of mocha cupcakes with espresso marshmallow frosting, alternating with white chocolate mud cake with salted caramel ganache, all finished off with a caramel mud top cake with a banana buttercream filling and white chocolate ganache.
And time rolls around quickly, as it tends to do, and suddenly I found myself a few days before the wedding, at my parents house in Melbourne, starting to mix ingredients together and put it in the oven. People had said to me previously, “no pressure – ha ha” about making my sisters wedding cake. I had thought to myself, perhaps arrogantly, “how many times have I made cupcakes – and these cupcakes, no less, how could anything go wrong?”
I wanted to document, for future me, and for anyone else who is interested, a few of the techniques that I used to make the cake. These are techniques you can go and apply to any cupcake or cake. I also wanted to document some of the lessons that I have learned, and how one must adapt when things just aren’t going to plan. I will start with the white chocolate cup cakes, in a series of posts.
The white chocolate mud cake cupcakes were my idea. I had made them a few times and I told Jen, my sister, that they were delicious, and had always worked out perfectly for me. I used a Women’s Weekly recipe, and I trust them implicitly. I trust them with my baking life, which is essentially what the wedding cake was. I had made them very successfully in my Trials and Tribulations post, link above. The salted caramel ganache was adapted from another Women’s Weekly recipe, and was meant to be a truffle filling, but I found it delicious on pretty much any application. What could go wrong?
The aim was to make 5 dozen of each type – 120 in total to serve 100 people. And so I start making my batch of 4 dozen white chocolate mud cake from the Women’s Weekly Cupcakes book. The recipe was already in such a large quantity, so I wasn’t nervous about the potential dangers which can come with upscaling a recipe (more on that later). I put it in the oven, in my specially sourced white patty pans, of which I had bought 100 (40 spare), at the temperature required by the recipe for a non-fanforced oven.
Opening the oven after the required 40 minute cooking time – and they were flat. Worse than flat – sunken. Hollow. They were cupcake bottoms with cupcake sides and no cupcake middle or top. Unfortunately, it is the middle and top which hold the icing, necessary for covering any other imperfections. They simply could not be used. I googled “hollow mud cupcake”, and it appeared that the cause was the cupcakes rising too much, and then when they expel their air, they sink/break. They must rise at a rate such that the cupcake is cooked around it to support the weight of the mixture. This must not have occurred. One fix was oven temperature. If it was too hot, this can cause the mixture to rise quickly, and the outsides of the cupcake to be cooked, but not the supporting centre.
The temperature of the oven went down for the next 2 dozen to go into the oven of my mass-mix. It would take longer, but so long as the cupcakes were okay, I would wait. 50 minutes later, they were less sunken, but still unusable. For the first time in my life, I cursed Women’s Weekly and it dawned on me that I had never made these in my parent’s oven. I had always used a fan forced electric oven, and theirs was gas. I hoped this wouldn’t affect the mocha cupcakes, too. By this stage, I had already baked my top cake (post to follow) successfully, but my schedule had me finishing the white chocolate mud cake on Thursday. It was 10pm Thursday night. One and a half days to go, but they would have to wait for the morning.
The morning rolls around, and I try another Women’s Weekly cupcake recipe, which has also never failed for me. Hopefully the cupcake gods would be with me today. But again, they were sunken. Now I have 5 dozen sunken sad hollow cupcakes. I swear at the cupcake gods and decide to move onto the mocha cupcakes, so that I would at least have something to deliver to the wedding venue on Saturday.
Mocha cupcakes are turning out well. I sigh a big sigh of relief. What on earth is wrong with my poor white chocolate ones? Whyyy did I insist they were to be a part of the cake? Time to think outside the box. Isn’t the definition of insanity repeating the same task and expecting different outcomes? If rising was the issue, I would copy the mocha cupcake’s ratio of self-raising flour to plain flour. Less self-raising flour, less rising, less falling, less hollow. Fingers crossed.
Side note: Mud cakes are generally made as follows – melt butter, chocolate, sugar and other liquid; cool mix; add a mix of flours, then egg. You have a couple of things you can change. To change the flavour, change the melted mix. To change the consistency, change the flour mix.
So, making up a new white chocolate mud cake recipe on the fly (using a different amount of ingredients, which I had already bought), using different patty pans to those specifically purchased to match the other cupcakes, a miracle occurred. They worked! And tasted good! And the patty pans looked better than the other ones! So, making alternating batches of white chocolate mud and mocha cupcakes, careful not to change anything about the way I made my batches, by the end of the day I had 6 dozen mocha cupcakes and 5 dozen successful white chocolate cupcakes.
There were a few tense minutes there, where I thought I would just make an infinite number of terrible cupcakes, and I started thinking about locations to source 120 cupcakes in one day.
To prevent this from happening to you:
- Practice your cake at the location you will be making it for the occasion
- If you’re making great cupcakes at one location, and the event isn’t too far away, freeze them! Make cupcakes while the going is good, and then you reduce the unknowns on the day.
- Be ready with a backup – I knew I could make buttercake cupcakes in my parents oven, and was pretty close to scrapping the white chocolate mud cake altogether.
For those worried about the plight of the rejected cupcakes, fear no more. They were put to good use in white chocolate and orange Christmas truffles, soon to appear in The Australia Times online magazine.
Saved-my-life white chocolate mud cake
- 125g butter, coarsely chopped
- 80g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup caster sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup plain flour
- 2 tablespoons self-raising flour
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 170degC/150deg C fan-forced. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with patty pans.
- Combine butter, chocolate, sugar, milk in a small saucepan. Stir over a low heat until smooth and melted.
- Transfer to a large bowl, leave to cool for 15 minutes.
- Whisk in flours, then egg. Divide mixture among cases. Lightly tap tray on bench a couple of times to release air bubbles.
- Bake about 50 minutes, or until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean from the centre of a cupcake.
- Leave to cool and harden a little in patty pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
- For more batches, repeat. You can reuse the saucepan for melting, and bowl for cooling and do several batches simultaneously.