a week and a day.

A week and a day (actually two days… this post is long- I may have been distracted) ago it was Will’s twenty-sixth birthday. It was the fourth time I’ve celebrated his birthday, and to mark the occasion there obviously needed to be cake. A really good cake. An indulgent, over-the-top, verging on ‘we are all going to die from diabetes if we eat this’ cake. A Snickers cake! 

But there is another reason, a more sentimental reason, for this cake’s existence than just our indulgent greediness. When I first met Will he was at university (in theory) and he rode his bike around the city and he lived on Snickers bars. I think it got up to two or three a day at one point. And so when his birthday rolled around, soon- very soon- after we’d got together, and I was panicking a little because he told me not to get him anything but of course I had to get him something, a Snickers bar saved the day. I bought one, tied a red ribbon around the middle and voila! The perfect gift for a two-month old relationship. And the beginning of a birthday tradition, though we didn’t know it then. 

Ever since, Will has gleefully devoured a Snickers bar on every birthday. Except last year it was a ‘deconstructed’ Snickers bar in the form of peanut brittle and melty chocolate because we were in a tiny, beach-side village in India with only one shop selling Snickers bars and on Will’s birthday we couldn’t find that shop. So we improvised. The next day we found the shop and we did, of course, buy a Snickers bar. 

And so this year I wanted Will to have his Snickers and eat it too. An easily fixed conundrum (and one that I’ve never really understood)- just buy two chocolate bars. So I did that, allowed him one to breakfast on and used the other to decorate this outrageous cake- which I felt Will deserved because his last two birthdays were spent in India where the food is incredible but the cakes are beyond shocking. And if anybody knows anything about me, it is that a birthday is most certainly NOT a birthday without cake. So the indulgence of this cake can be understood, forgiven almost, if you think of it as an accumulation of three years of birthdays. Just keep the slices small. 

A few things that perhaps need mentioning: 

This cake is rich. I won’t be upset if you can’t bring yourself to consume that much butter and sugar in one sitting. The cake itself would be fantastic with some sour berries and cream. Simple, elegant, delicious. But for the full Snickers experience, read on…

There are a shit ton of steps in this cake. Which I really like because spending a whole day baking one amazing thing is my idea of a good time. But I understand that I am odd. To make it easier you could combine the caramel and the peanut butter filling into one spread, and you could use that caramelly-peanut butterness to coat the cake, skipping out the chocolate buttercream. It is certainly chocolatey enough to survive that. And the caramel drizzle and peanut brittle are just because I thought this cake needed to be taken as far as it would go. Feel free to exercise restraint. 

To make this into a two day project you can make the cakes, salted caramel sauce and peanut butter filling on day one, and do everything else on cake day. (To be perfectly honest I used a bottle of salty caramel I had sitting in my fridge from a few weeks ago and it was still perfectly fine- which is good because you will probs have some left over. It’s a good thing to have left over though.)

Finally, it might look like a hugely daunting list of ingredients. It is long, admit, but you are using mostly the same ingredients for each component. And there are a lot of steps, but they are all rather simple, don’t fret. So get organised, make some lists, and you’ll be fine.  

So now you are prepared, let’s go build a cake!

THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS SNICKERS CAKE.

This chocolate cake is delicious, and it comes from Christina Tosi, via momofuku milk bar. The salted caramel comes from Sweet Envy, the book from some cool looking cats who run a cake shop in Hobart. Everything else I kind of cobbled together, with the help of my friend Google.

 

METHOD

for the cake:

Heat the oven to 180c. Butter and flour the cake tins. 

Cream the butter with an electric/stand mixer on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat for another 2-3 minutes. With the mixer on a low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium high and beat for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is almost white, twice the size of the original mixture and fluffy and completely homogenous. (Truth be told, my mixture never looks white and enormous and fluffy no matter how long I beat it for… and that never seems to be a problem in the final cake. I always beat the mix until it is homogenous and that is usually enough).  

Add the fudge sauce and mix on low until incorporated. 

Combine the flour, powders and salt in a separate bowl and add them to your mixture, mixing with the lowest speed. Mix until just combined- 45-60 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 45 seconds, to make sure it is properly combined. 

Pour mixture evenly into the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. After 30 minutes the cake should bounce back slightly when gently prodded and the centre shouldn’t be jiggly. If it isn’t, give it a couple more minutes. 

When the cakes have cooled, cut the sides so they are straight and even- if you want a tiered cake, make that happen with your awesome cake cutting skills. 

for the fudge sauce:

 Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl. 

Combine the glucose, sugar and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir occasionally, while bringing to the boil over high heat. The second- the second!- it boils, pour the cream mix over the chocolate mix and leave undisturbed for a full minute. 

Very slowly start whisking the mixture, gently increasing in speed and strength, until the sauce is glossy and silky-smooth. The sauce is now done: you can use it now or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

for the salted caramel:

Cook the sugar and glucose in a relatively large, heavy-based saucepan, over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved- you’ll need to stir occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and cook until the caramel is a dark, golden amber. When you have your desired colour, carefully stir in the butter and the salt. This will stop the colour progression- careful though, the caramel might spit at you. 

Take the pan off the heat and carefully add the cream- again, watch for spitting. Leave the caramel to cool. Any leftovers can be stored in the pantry or the fridge for a few weeks. 

for the peanutty filling:

Leave the cream cheese out of the fridge for an hour or so, to soften. Combine everything except the sugar in a mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, bit by bit, tasting as you go, and then mix until combined. 

for the chocolate buttercream:

Leave the butter out of the fridge for a while to soften to room temperature. Use a stand mixer- or a very tough hand mixer- to beat the butter and icing sugar into white, creamy oblivion (about 10 minutes). Add the cocoa and blend until incorporated.

Warm the milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla bean and seeds. Leave to infuse- off the heat- for five minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and mix the milk into the buttercream, slowly at first so you don’t coat your walls with milk. 

Add the fudge sauce and beat until smooth. It is best to use the buttercream now, but if you have to keep it in the fridge make sure you take it out a few hours before use and beat it to re-soften. 

for the peanut brittle:

If you have a marble (or similar) bench top, lightly brush with oil- because peanut brittle is sticky and this will make it one million times easier to deal with. 

Heat the sugar in a small saucepan, over medium high. As soon as the sugar starts to melt use a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon to move it constantly around the pan so it melts and caramelises evenly. Cook the sugar to a dark amber, 3-5 minutes. 

When the caramel reaches colour, take the pan off the heat and stir in the peanuts. When combined pour the mixture on your prepared bench top. You’ll want to move fast, the caramel will set very quickly. 

Once set, break into shards and store in an airtight container. Clean the pan by pouring hot water over the caramel. 

to build: 

Cut the edges of the cake so they are even and straight- here you can make one smaller if you’d like a tiered cake. Cut the cakes in half and shave the tops to make everything nice and straight. 

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of salty caramel over the first layer, top with a generous layer of peanutty filling and a sprinkle of toasted peanuts. Put the next cake on top, then repeat. Keep going til you have used all your layers up. 

Now for the icing: spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake. Pop into the fridge for 20 minutes or so to firm up. Now ice the cake with a nice, thick even layer of buttercream. Smooth or ‘rustic’- it’s up to you. 

Drizzle a cup or so of salty caramel over the cake, using a knife to coax it into appealing drips and drizzles (you may need to give it a few seconds in the microwave to soften a little first). Sprinkle, place, drizzle and drip your decorations all over that bad boy until it looks amazing. 

  INGREDIENTS 

for the cake

115g butter

300g white sugar

3 eggs

110g buttermilk

40g grapeseed oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 quantity fudge sauce (recipe follows)

155g plain flour

70g good quality cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp good quality salt

for the fudge sauce:

30g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped

18g good quality cocoa powder

tiniest pinch of salt

100g liquid glucose

25g white sugar

55g thick cream

for the salted caramel:

200g castor sugar

80g liquid glucose

30g butter

5g good quality sea salt

 300ml thin cream

for the peanutty filling:

300g cream cheese

a generous 1/2 cup peanut butter-

crunchy or smooth, up to you

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs salty caramel

about a cup of icing sugar- 

you don’t want it too sweet (see above components if you aren’t sure why…), so add and taste the sugar as you go. You want it to be just over the verge of not sweet, without actually being sweet.

for the chocolate buttercream:

150g butter

100g icing sugar

20g good quality cocoa powder

50ml milk

1/2 a vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1-2 tbs fudge sauce

for the brittle:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup peanuts

extras: chopped, toasted peanuts, peanut m&ms,

a snickers bar, edible gold glitter

 

 


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