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Let them eat cake!

What is the one must-have at every memorable celebratory occasion? Cake!

From birthdays to weddings and from christenings and anniversaries to all sorts of festive holidays, cakes are almost always the centrepiece of the table. So it’s no wonder that this popular confectionary should have a day all to itself – and this year National Cake Day is celebrated around the world on November 26.

Whether chocolate or carrot, cheesecake or red velvet, pretty much everyone enjoys a slice of cake, so we asked three Capsicum Culinary Studio alumni – all of whom are making waves in the baking world – to share their favourite cake recipe with us.

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Khashifah Ismail’s Decadent Chocolate Cake

You’ll need: 250g soft margarine; 1½ cups castor sugar; 4 eggs; 4 tsp baking powder; 4 Tbsp cocoa powder; 2½ cups all-purpose flour; 1 tsp vanilla essence; 400g dark chocolate, chopped; 400ml whipping cream; 2 Tbsp butter

How to:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C and place a rack in the centre.

Line two 20cm x 20cm square pans with baking paper.

Place the margarine and sugar in a bowl and using a hand-held beater with a paddle attachment, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat between each egg.

Add the vanilla essence and mix until all ingredients are well combined. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, mixing in slowly until well combined and lump-free. Pour half the batter into each cake tin (I always weigh the batter to get the exact amount into each pan) and bake for 35 minutes. Insert a cake skewer into the middle and if it comes out clean, the cakes are done.

Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes then remove from their tins. Next, make sugar syrup by heating half a cup sugar and half a cup of water until the sugar dissolves. When cool, use a pastry brush to apply the syrup to both cakes as this will keep them moist and allow the chocolate ganache to stick to the cake more effectively.

For the chocolate ganache, heat the cream until just before it starts to boil then remove from the heat and pour it over the broken-up chocolate stirring all the while so the chocolate melts. Add the butter and mix well so the ganache is shiny. Leave to cool overnight.

To assemble: Cut the cakes in half so you have 4 layers. Whip the ganache to a piping consistency, place into a piping bag and apply it until it covers the entire cake. Set in the fridge until firm then slice, serve and eat!

Durban campus alumnus Khashifah Ismail runs her own cake making company called Pastry by Hatice (Insta: @pastry_by_hatice).

Jaen-Mari Breytenbach’s Carrot Cake

You’ll need: 400g flour; 3 tsp baking powder; 1½ tsp cinnamon; ½ tsp salt; 295ml vegetable oil; 200g sugar; 200g brown sugar; 1tsp vanilla essence; 4 eggs; 300g carrots, peeled & grated (save the peels for garnish); 125g pecan nuts, chopped; 65g raisins; 65g pineapple, grated; 65g zucchini, grated; zest of 2 lemons; 130g dried cranberries

For the cream cheese icing – 113g salted butter, softened; 226g cream cheese; 1 tsp vanilla essence; ¼ teaspoon salt; 500g powdered sugar; ½ cup lemon zest

For the cinnamon tuile – 100g egg whites; 100g icing sugar; 50g cornflour; 100g butter, melted; 150g flour; ½ tsp vanilla essence; 1 tsp cinnamon

How to: 

Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 23cm round cake pans and line the bottom with baking paper then grease the top of the paper.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, both sugars and vanilla essence. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, gently stirring until they disappear and the batter is smooth. Stir in the carrots, nuts and raisins.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until the tops of the cake layers are springy when touched and when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (35 to 45 minutes). Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks, peel off the parchment paper and cool completely.

For the cream cheese icing: 

Combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use an electric hand mixer) and beat until creamy, well-combined and lump-free. Add vanilla essence and salt and stir well to combine. With the mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined. Use to ice completely cooled cake.

For the cinnamon tuile:

Preheat oven to 180℃. Add egg whites to a large bowl and whisk a little before adding the sugar and whisking until frothy. Stir in the flour, cornflour and vanilla essence and then add the melted butter. Add cinnamon and mix to a smooth batter. Spoon onto two lined baking trays and spread thinly using an offset spatula and bake for 7 to 8 minutes until the tuilles are just turning golden around the edges. Remove the baking trays from the oven and let cool completely. Break tuiles into chards.

For the carrot peels:

Deep fry them in hot oil and remove them when golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels then use for garnish on the cake along with the tuile as well as extra nuts and dried fruit if desired.

Jaen-Mari Breytenbach graduated from Capsicum Culinary Studio in 2015 and was in the SA Olympic Culinary Team that competed in Germany in 2020. Details: [email protected]


Hendrik Pretorius’ Chocolate Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting

You’ll need: 6 eggs, separated; 250g all-purpose flour; 350g sugar; 120ml vegetable oil; 240ml hot water; 50g cocoa powder; 20ml baking powder; pinch of salt; 1 tsp vanilla essence

For the sugar syrup – 96ml water; 100g sugar

For the orange chocolate cream cheese frosting – 350g cream cheese; 375g icing sugar; 125g soft butter; 2 tsp vanilla essence; 2 Tbsp orange juice; 50g cocoa powder; zest of 1 orange

How to:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease two 16cm round cake pans and line the bottom with baking paper then grease the top of the paper and the sides of the pans. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix in the cocoa powder, add the hot water and allow to cool. In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, sugar, vanilla and cocoa mixture. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Whip egg whites till stiff and fold lightly into the batter.

Pour evenly into the two cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the cakes from the cake pans when they are completely cooled down. Trim the top part of the cakes with a serrated knife so both cakes are flat on top. Use a pastry brush to brush about one half of the sugar syrup* over the top of the cake.

Spoon one-third of the frosting* on top of the cake and with an offset spatula spread it evenly to the edges. Place the other layer cake on top and repeat the process but using the remainder of the frosting. Garnish with Chantilly cream and orange slices.

* For the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

** For the frosting, mix the butter, cream cheese and cocoa until smooth. Add the icing sugar followed by the orange juice and orange zest and mix further, then lastly add the vanilla essence and whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before use.

Pretoria campus alumni Hendrik Pretorius heads up the pastry section at Simpli Café in Lisbon, Portugal and is working on his first cookbook, The Sweet Side of Life.

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