I’m in the process of setting up my cake decorating business, My Fair Cakery, having done it for several years on a low-key friends-and family-basis, and having been hounded to make it all more official. I decided to try and couple it with my second love of the theatre–and what better place to start than with the smash hit Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, Allessandro Nivola and Scott Lowell?
I contacted Mark Stradling, theatre manager at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London and discussed the idea of a celebratory opening night cake. I didn’t think for one moment that I would get the go-ahead so hadn’t told anyone I was going to try for it. But he seemed keen on the idea so I put together a dummy cake, decorated it, and tweeted a photo of it out to several of the actors taking part in the play.
The tweets went out Friday night and were met with much enthusiasm. Because of the Twitter attention the dummy cake had gained, I made the four cake layers over the weekend. My thought being that if I got the official go-ahead I would have very little time to assemble the cake, and if I got a no then I could simply freeze the layers for another event.
I received an email from Mark on the Monday morning to say yes, please deliver the following morning. Panic! I had 24 hours to produce the real thing!
But last minute is when I work best and a busy twelve hours of crumb-coating and cake decorating resulted in what is now referred to at My Fair Cakery as “The Bradders Cake.” It had four tiers. Rich traditional fruit cake on the base was decorated to represent the outside of the theatre in all its grandeur. Tier 2 was a deliciously rich chocolate cake (recipe below) with a chocolate cream filling. Around this tier I created framed pictures of all the actors in rice paper. I use a great company called Eatmyface.com who use food colouring to copy pictures and print them onto edible rice paper, adjust the sizing and get them straight back to me in the post. I then used flower paste to make edible ornate gold coloured picture frames, all on a rich, red base indicative of the interior of the theatre itself.
Tier 3 was a soft Madeira sponge cake with a citrus hint and filled with Madagascan vanilla-flavoured cream. Wrapped in a gold trimmed red curtain to represent the stage was an ornately framed rice paper picture of the star of the show, Bradley Cooper.
Tier 4 was another Madeira cake topped with an edible nod to the Elephant Man himself. Fortunately for me, given my short time frame, I was able to re-use the Elephant Man figure from the cake dummy.
I have to say I was very pleased with the end result, and from the photos it looks like the cast were too. I was also very lucky to get to see the play–probably the most outstanding performance I’ve ever seen, and the lovely Scott Lowell took us backstage to see the theatre from the other side of the curtain.
Opening Night Chocolate Cake
This recipe resembles more of a ‘batter’ consistency as opposed to the normal cake mix texture and results in a slightly denser but very moist chocolate cake. The tin can be filled to three quarters full before baking. Because of the richness of the cake (brought out by the addition of the coffee) be very careful when turning out of the tin and handle as little as possible until completely cold.
For the cake:
- Oil or nonstick baking spray, for greasing pan
- 650 grams (1 1/4 pounds) unsalted butter
- 650 grams (1 1/4 pounds) good quality plain (milk) chocolate
- 100 ml (1/2 cup) coffee
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 650 grams (1 1/4 pounds) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 950 grams (2 pounds) light soft brown sugar
- 10 eggs
- 568 ml (2 1/2 cups) soured cream (sour cream)
For the chocolate butter cream:
- 200 grams (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
- 360 grams (14 ounces) icing (confectioners’) sugar
- 50 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) cocoa
- For the cake: Heat oven to 160 degrees C (300 degrees F) and oil or spray a deep 10″ tin (cake pan).
- Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan and stir in coffee and vanilla.
- Sift flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and stir in sugar. Beat eggs and sour cream together and pour into flour mix. Add melted chocolate and combine.
- Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 2 1/2 hours. Allow to cool completely and remove from tin. Cut horizontally into three or four thin layers.
- For the chocolate butter cream: Beat all ingredients together and spread between the layers of the cooled cake.