Have your cake and eat it!
What is the one food item that is a part of our lives and a must-have at every memorable celebratory occasion? It’s cake! From birthdays to weddings and from christenings and anniversaries to all sorts of festive holidays – such as Easter, Christmas and Diwali – cakes are always the centrepiece of the table. It’s no wonder then that the cake should have a day all to itself, and International Cake Day is celebrated around the world on Thursday, November 26.
The history of cake dates to ancient times with the first cakes being more bread-like and sweetened with honey, nuts and dried fruits. According to food historians, the precursors of modern cakes were baked in Europe in the mid-17th century, but it was not until 200 years later that cake, as we know it today arrived on the scene.
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” or “Let them eat cake!” Perhaps the most famous quote about cake ever, were the words of the 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette, upon being informed that the peasants were so poor that they had no bread to eat during one of the famines that occurred in France during the reign of her husband, Louis XVI. Needless to say, the ignorance and arrogance of that disdainful statement did not win either Marie Antoinette or her husband any respect or sympathy from their people, who then proceeded to behead both of them during the French Revolution.
None of this changes the fact that cake is arguably one of the most delicious things humans have ever made to eat, and its numerous varieties continue to astound and delight. Television shows like The Great British Bake Off and Cake Boss, are hugely popular and have given rise to celebrities such as Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry and Buddy Valastro.
To celebrate the day, we asked the hugely talented Capsicum Culinary Studio alumnus Hendrik Pretorius to share three favourite recipes so that you can also make your cake and eat it too!
Heidelberg-born Pretorius, who graduated from the school’s Pretoria campus in 2017, worked for a year in Dubai before being offered the job of pâtissier at Simpli, one of the top coffee spots in Lisbon. He is now in the early stages of launching his own establishment, called Quest Coffee, in the Portuguese capital. The recipes below are taken from Pretorius first cookbook, The Sweet Side of Life, which is due to be published in 2023.
Chocolate Cake with Orange Chocolate Frosting
6 eggs, separated
250g all-purpose flour
120ml vegetable oil
240ml hot water
50g cocoa powder
20ml baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
For the Sugar Syrup96ml water
For the Orange Chocolate Frosting350g cream cheese
375g icing sugar
125g soft butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbs orange juice.
50g cocoa powder
zest of 1 orange
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.
Le Gâteau Marbré au Café
10g ground coffee
1 tbs cocoa powder
100g almond powder
10ml vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 175°C. Using a hand mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs together for 5 minutes, then add the vanilla extract and mix in until light and fluffy. Melt the butter and add it gradually to the mixer until well incorporated. Sift the flour and add the almond powder and baking powder and gently fold the dry ingredients into the mixture until all combined. Remove a small amount of the mixture and mix in the cocoa powder. Fold the cocoa mixture gently back into the other batter to create a marble effect. Gently pour into a prepared 20cm x 10cm loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean you know it’s done. Let the cake cool in the pan before removing and placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Best Carrot Cake
250g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon powder
200g light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
½ cup walnuts, chopped
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
400g carrots, peeled and finely grated.
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ginger powder
Cream cheese frosting**
Whole walnuts and carrot fondants for decorating (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the bottom of two 16cm cake tins with baking paper circles and spray the sides lightly with oil or brush with melted butter. Sift the flour, cinnamon powder, ginger powder, baking powder and bicarb into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, honey and eggs then add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until smooth and well combined. Stir in the finely grated carrots and chopped walnuts. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake for 60 minutes, rotating the cakes tins after 30 minutes. Stick a skewer into the middle and if it comes out clean the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let them cool before taking them out the tins. Make the sugar syrup and the cream cheese frosting. When the cakes have cooled, trim the top of each cake with a serrated knife so it is flat. Slice both cakes in half horizontally so you have four rounds. Place the first round on a plate or a rotating cake stand and brush the top with a layer of sugar syrup. Spoon ¼ of the frosting on top and spread evenly to the edges. Gently place the second cake round, upside down, on top and repeat the sugar syrup, frosting process, followed by the third round and the final round, spreading the remainder of the frosting equally across the top. Decorate with walnuts and/or small carrot fondants.
*For the sugar syrup: Combine 100g sugar and 96ml water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely before use.
** For the cream cheese frosting, use a hand mixer and whisk together 350g cream cheese and 125g butter until smooth then add 375g icing sugar followed by 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the zest of one lemon and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Continue to whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before use.