When I was at Infant School, I remember being taught a song for the 5th of November:
On Bonfire Night at 5 o’ clock,
I took my Daddy to the Firework Shop.
I bought a rocket, it cost 10pence
I took it home and put it on the fence and it went WHOOOOOOOOOOOSH!
A photo of four-year-old me, wrapped up against the cold shortly before November 5th 1993
There is, of course, a better known rhyme for the 5th of November, as it’s celebrated in the UK; the rhyme tells us to remember, remember. For me, the 5th of November has always been about history, heritage and, now that I’m older, memories. I view baking in the same light. I love reading classic recipe books and bringing their ideas up to date, the same as I love reading history books.
The 5th of November, or Bonfire Night, is wrapped up in a blanket of childhood memories for me. I grew up in a small seaside community with just one Infant, Junior and High school, and so all major calendar events from Easter to Christmas were celebrated with one event held by the combined schools’ PTA (Parent/Teachers Association), in conjunction with the local council and churches.
I fondly remember wrapping up in woolly hats, gloves on string so that they didn’t get lost, big coats and Wellington boots, and standing on the playing field adjacent to the school to watch the town firework display and the lighting of the bonfire that had been steadily built over the previous month. All those amazing colours and patterns in the sky, followed by so much warmth from the flames that your face stung as the cold of the night air was vanquished.
Best of all though was the Bonfire Night meal that we had beforehand. Delicious foods like baked potatoes, hot dogs, roast root vegetables, pumpkin soup, toffee apples, roast chestnuts, Parkin, and treacle toffee; all very traditional for Guy Fawkes Night, to give the 5th of November it’s more ‘official’ title. Sweet, filling foods that warm you right through.
This year, I was at home to help my puppy through her first experience of fireworks, so my baking for the family had to be quick and simple, but of course I still wanted a bit of a show-stopper, which is clearly the Great British Bake Off mentality coming out! I decided to make a quick butterscotch sauce for dipping pieces of apple in, and a cake. I opted to adapt a recipe from my favourite classic recipe book by Be-Ro. If you want to get into baking, Be-Ro has to be your starting point because it covers all the basics and is really easy to follow.
It’s absolutely easy to make a cake look like a bonfire using some matchmakers (chocolate sticks) and thrown-on frosting. Anyone can impress without having to call on any major icing skills, and best of all, the cake is cheap to make and most of the ingredients are bog-standard ones that you’d have at home anyway!
Ultimately, you need to end up with a conical cake on top of a traditional round cake, and that really isn’t as difficult as you may think. The conical shape means that you can ‘build’ up your bonfire flames with absolute ease by making a pyramid out of cake. The quickest way to get the required shape, and the way I did it, is to use a giant cupcake mould. You can buy them for under £10, and then you can make giant cupcakes to your hearts content! They usually come with a mould for the base of the cupcake, and a conical mould for the top part. I used the same cake mixture to fill two regular round cake tins, and also the conical giant cupcake mould. When everything was cooked and turned out, I had my round base and my cone.
If you don’t have a giant cupcake mould, fear not! Just make your base cakes and then a super-deep cake in a regular round or (preferably) square tin. When the cake is cooled, assemble your pyramid by cutting the deep cake into square layers and stacking them on top of each other until you have a pyramid.
Let’s face it; buying a giant cupcake mould is a good idea!
For my Bonfire Night cake, I decided to make a chocolate spice cake. The spice is to give warmth, to bring back my homely Bonfire Night memories, and the chocolate adds a lovely flavour. Because the cake is quite dense, due to its height, the milk and golden syrup adds much needed moisture. Here’s the recipe!
Chocolate Spice Show-stopper Bonfire Cake
(This recipe makes a lot of cake, so you could easily halve the amounts)
420g Caster Sugar
100g Chocolate (I used orange flavoured chocolate to make things interesting!)
4 Separated Eggs (You will need both parts, so don’t throw them away!)
1tsp Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
370g Self Raising Flour
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
1) Pre-heat the oven to 180°c, 350°f or Gas Mark 4. Prepare your baking tins by greasing them thoroughly with butter.
2) Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl together and set aside.
3) Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks and beat very well.
4) Melt the chocolate and beat it into the mixture.
5) Sieve in the flour and spices, alternating with the milk. Add the golden syrup and mix thoroughly.
6) Whisk the egg whites until very stiff.
7) Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture, followed by the peel.
8) Bake in the centre of the oven. Two cake tins should take 25minutes, whilst one deep tin will take around 40-45minutes. The cakes are done when they are golden in colour, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave in the tins for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
9) When the cake is thoroughly cooled, cover the top of the two round cakes with any jam of your choice. I used a mixture of cloudberry jam and orange curd. Don’t put the jam too near to the edges (or it’ll all ooze out), and don’t put too much on (or the cakes will slip off each other). Place one on top of the other. Put the conical sponge on top, or build up your own top to give you the desired pyramid shape.
Now, for the frosting!
This is my super-secret, absolutely awesome frosting recipe. It makes a relatively stiff icing that is easy to work with, and is usually vanilla flavoured, but for this cake I changed that to orange. The best thing about this cake is that you don’t need to make the icing pretty, you can just slap it on!
300g Icing Sugar
Pinch of Salt
2 tbsp Orange juice.
Food Colouring Gel
+ 1-2 boxes of Orange Matchmakers
1) Beat the butter until very smooth. Add the salt.
2) Slowly add the icing sugar, beating until smooth and adding the orange juice when necessary to keep the frosting smooth and moist. Beat very well. Add more orange juice (or milk) if necessary.
3) Divide the frosting into three bowls. Use a small amount of food colouring gel to make the frosting red, yellow and orange. Food dye that comes as a gel tends to work better than the liquid version, because it doesn’t affect the composition of the frosting as much.
4) Using a palette or flat knife, dollop the frosting onto the cake. Swirl the different colours together to create a fiery look. You don’t need to be precise at all, just slosh it on!
5) Break Matchmakers into pieces of various sizes and stick them around the bottom of the cake to create the effect of the logs that make up the bonfire. Again, this doesn’t need to be perfect, in fact, it looks better if they’re a little chaotic and all over the place. The most important thing is to have fun with it, because that’s what baking is all about!
So there you have it! One very easy to make cake, which is sure to dazzle your friends and family.
I hope you made sure to ‘remember, remember’ to have a wonderful November 5th, and stayed safe if you had a go at making your own firework display!
xoxo CK xoxo