Making a Pirate’s Treasure Chest cake from scratch.

Seeing as I can’t bake in Hong Kong, I thought I would write an informative post about how to make a cake instead.

A Pirate’s Treasure Chest cake would definitely go down well at any children’s birthday party. I made my for myself when I turned 27 as I had a pirate themed BBQ. Each to their own I suppose. Anyway, here goes my attempt at a useful blog post.

Making the sponges

IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure the margarine and eggs are the same temperature. If you use different temperature eggs vs marg, the mix can split and it’ll look horrid.

I made two sponges for my cake. I used a 6 egg vanilla sponge mix as follows:

2 x 2lb loaf tins
Weigh the eggs (shells on)
Self raising flour = egg weight
White caster sugar = egg weight
Baking margarine (I like Sainsbury’s the best) = egg weight
2 tsp Vanilla extract

1. Turn on the oven to preheat at 160 Celsius. Make sure the shelf is in the middle.

2. Beat the margarine and caster sugar until it has gone a much lighter colour and has a ‘fluffy’ appearance. I use a hand mixer for this, a wooden spoon takes too long.

3. Crack the eggs into a bowl/large mug and add the vanilla extract. Whisk with a fork until well mixed together.

4. Add the egg/vanilla mix to the margarine/sugar mix bit by bit. Use a wooden spoon or low hand mixer setting to make sure the eggs mix in completely as you add them. Add all the eggs. The mix will be very sloppy once you’re done.

5. Sift the flour in bit by bit and mix it in with a wooden spoon. If you use a hand mixer at this stage, your flour could explode on the counter. Not a good look.

6. Once all the flour is in, get the hand mixer back on the job and beat until the batter has gone a much lighther yellow than the original colour. I never bother to scrape down the sides of the bowl into the mix until the very end as the batter stuck to the sides is a fabulous indicator of when your hand mixing has got to a lighter shade of yellow. Please see my crude example below:
cake batter colour example

7. Grease both loaf tins well with margarine and line just the bottom of them. I can’t be hassled with lining the sides. It never works for me and besides, a wooden spatula is your best friend with loaf tin sides.

8. Split the mix between both tins but make one slightly deeper than the other. NOTE: The deeper cake will cook slower than the thinner cake.

9. Bake for 15 minutes then check them through the window. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. If they are doming in the middle,
turn the oven down 10 degrees. if they are sinking in the middle, turn the oven up 10 degrees.

10. Bake for another 10 minutes and check them through the window. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Repeat previous check. Doming = 10 degrees down, sinking = 10 degrees up.

11. Check obsessively every 3-4 minutes IT IS NOW OK TO OPEN THE OVEN. Remove when they are a little bit springy to the touch.  I don’t normally use the clean skewer test but if you’re not confident with your ‘by eye/feel’ timings, break out the skewer.

12. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes or so then turn them out onto a cooling rack. Leave them until they are completely cool.

That’s the baking part done. Now, the decorating.

Shaping the cake

First of all, you need to level off your cakes. You can do this by eye with a sharp knife or you can use a cake leveller (available at good cookery shops like Lakeland etc). Once they’re levelled you should have something looking like this:

Levelled cakes

Place the levelled, thickest cake onto whatever you want to serve the cake on. Place the thinner cake top side down onto a board as you’re about to slice a wedge off it. The wedge will prop up the lid of your chest so that you can have treasure spilling out of it.

You need to cut a wedge that has the cross section of a right angled triangle. It is very important that you cut the wedge entirely from the bottom side of the cake. The topside of the cake needs to be complete and untouched. Please see my photos below for an example of what I mean.

DSC02046

You can see, the topside of the cake has not been cut, it’s all taken from the bottom of the cake. Here’s a shot with the wedge removed from situ:

Wedge cut

Once you have your wedge, place it onto the base cake as follows:

DSC02047

To get the wedge in the correct place, put the wedge on the edge of the cake first. Look where the wedge finishes then place the wedge so that it starts where it previously finished i.e. place the wedge it’s own width into the base cake.

Once the wedge is in place, you can sit the top cake onto the wedge. It should not need any extra supporting but, if you’re worried, you can butter cream/jam the parts together. Here’s a side on and front on snap of the cake with the lid on.

DSC02048
DSC02042

Decorating the cake a.k.a. the fun bit

So, you have your cake all shaped, now for the fun. Decorating!

I used chocolate fudge butter cream icing, chocolate coated biscuit sticks (‘Pocky’ brand), edible silver balls and gold coins.

TIP: Outside of Christmas time, it’s a real struggle to find gold coins. in the end, Thornton’s came through for me with the pound shop a close second.

Here’s what I did.

First, make the butter cream. This is a recipe from the Peyton & Byrne British baking book that I swear by:

60g dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
90g butter
250g icing sugar
Half tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1) Melt the chocolate and add the vanilla extract to the melted mix.
2) Dissolve the cocoa powder and salt in the boiling water.
3) Stir the cocoa powder/water mix into the melted chocolate. Leave the mix to cool.
4) Beat the butter until very light and fluffy
5) Sift the icing sugar in little by little. Stir it with a wooden spoon at this stage or your icing sugar will explode everywhere under the power of a hand mixer. Mix in all the icing sugar. The mix will actually be more like a bowl of crumbs at this stage.
6) Add the cooled chocolate mix and mix into the icing sugar/butter mix. Use a hand mixer on low to start with and crank the speed up as you can. Beat the icing until it’s smooth and lovely.

Once the butter cream is made, spread it all over the cake with a palette knife/smooth side of a regular table knife and smooth it over. It doesn’t need to be pristine as you are going to cover it with biscuit sticks. TIP: If you want it to be pristine, dip your chosen smoothing implement in water and then smooth.

The biscuit sticks I used (Pocky) had a bit of uncovered biscuit at the ends of them so I sliced these off to leave me with just chocolate or biscuit bits. I arranged the sticks all over the sides of the cake by pressing them into the butter cream. I used the chocolate only pieces for the main parts but I used the plain biscuit parts to the edges of the cake to produce a bit better effect. I also created a fake locks with the plain biscuits. You can see what I did below.

DSC02049

It was quite tricky to do if I’m honest and, should I make this again, I would not use biscuit sticks. I would do the following:

A) Draw the detail into smoothed off butter cream with a cocktail stick/drag a fork through it or use a more malleable substance for the wood effect e.g. chocolate matchmakers.

B) Make the locks from roll out icing.

C) Use plain butter cream for the edge details.

The biscuit sticks also made the cake hard to slice and ended up being picked off and eaten by the guests before we could actually eat the cake. Anyway, I digress.

Once your covering is done, refrigerate the cake so that the butter cream doesn’t go too soft. Once it’s refrigerated you can put your gold coins into the cake and have your finished article.

Finished

My full spread at the BBQ was as follows:

Full Pirate spread

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Tis the month you can be legitimately jolly in, fa la la la la la la la la.

I started organising Christmas quite early this year due to my geographical displacement. I knew it would be a task to organise gifts from Hong Kong to England. As many of my friends, and previous employers will testify to, if there’s one thing I can do it’s organise. Organise anything, almost. I even enjoy it. So for me, this was a pretty basic task.

I went for a variety of methods in order to organise myself. Some gifts were purchased via the internet and delivered to the central shipping location (a.k.a. my Mum’s house). Others were bought in Hong Kong and delivered to the central shipping location, via the Philippines, by hand courier (an incredibly helpful best friend’s Mum). They were then dispatched to various local and national addresses by the location Manager (my Mum).

In order to fully address present protection issues (i.e. Mum can’t wrap her own present, that’s not right), I had to set up an auxiliary shipping location (a.k.a. my sister’s house). Gifts for my Mum & Dad were duly dispatched to the auxiliary location and will be successfully re-routed in plenty of time for Christmas day.

Organising Christmas from abroad has been fun but it is actually all done now. Therefore I have been looking for other way to get festive now December is here (hooray)!

I can officially, and unashamedly, begin to get over excited about Christmas. I have, so far, crammed in a lot of festive activities in just two days. This has left me practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the rest of December, Christmas and New Years. What have I done in 2 days? Well, I’ll tell you:

I have decorated the tree for the flat and I think it looks pretty snazzy to be honest. We found the tree when we moved in but we didn’t have decorations. No problem for Hong Kong. I simply took the lift down to the ground floor, walked 3 shops to my right and bought all the decorations and lights. I went for a blue and silver theme with coloured LED lights. The lights are very cool. There’s a magic button that you can press and make them do different things. They can flash, they can chase, they can feed in and out, basically, they’re very snazzy. Here’s a not very good picture of the tree all lit up.

tree

Secondly, I went to the Christmas market at Hullett House. The main reason I went to this market today was to take advantage of a free festive nail art offer seen on http://www.sassyhongkong.com. The market itself was mainly food stalls (none of whose products I could actually sample) but there was a lovely vibe there. They had a section where local schools sung carols and performed dances. They had a Christmas tree and Hullett House is actually a very nice building. I believe it’s normally a hotel. Here’s a little picture of the market.
Christmas market

The few goods stalls there sold interesting stuff. There were your expected Christmas decorations, jewellery and less traditionally, flip flops and cacti. The decorations on offer covered a good range of traditional (think embroidered mini cushions saying ‘Seasons Greetings’) to the ultra modern (minimalistic metal Christmas trees). We had a jolly good poke around and I purchased some festive rings. I also cashed in my festive nail art offer and enjoyed free nail painting. I am very incredibly pleased with the results of my free session. Here’s a picture of the nails and the rings.
festive nails
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty blooming excited it’s almost Christmas, are you?