I loved Maths when I was at school and it’s true to say that helping with Maths homework even now gives me a numerical buzz.
I love the clarity that there is a right and a wrong answer; I love the satisfaction gained from finding an elegant solution to a tricky equation; I love the addictiveness of algebra, the challenge of geometry and the excitement of trigonometry.
But what could be better than a high school maths lesson? A high school maths lesson with cake!
Finn had an amazing Maths teacher last year. Her knowledge went without saying but her enthusiasm for teaching, her dedication to the students and her upbeat, lively approach to her subject made her priceless. At the end of the term, she declared the final lesson before the holidays to be Cake Day and the students all brought in cakes to share while they did their Maths. Does it get any better than that …?
Finn takes his food very seriously – especially his cakes – and he thought long and hard about what he wanted to take into class. It needed to be homemade for sure; probably would involve some chocolate and maybe some gooey caramel too; would be individual cakes (much easier to manage) and would be completely delicious.
And so, from his mood board, the Chocolate and Caramel Cupcakes were born. Inspired by a Rachel Allen recipe for a Layered Chocolate and Caramel Cake, the cake mix was divided into three equal quantities and then flavoured with chocolate, caramel and vanilla. These create a marbled effect in the sponge once cooked. Gorgeous.
Using a sharp knife, I then scooped out a piece from the top of each cupcake, filled it with a secret scoop of caramel and then topped it with a piped swirl of my chocolate icing of choice and finished with the little piece of cake I had cut out earlier. A dusting of icing sugar and ‘Hey Presto…’.
For me, the key to the supreme gorgeousness of these cakes is the secret caramel centre and here is my tip for ensuring that it is no fuss… You may already know that the dark magic needed to make a tin of delicious caramel requires nothing more than –
- a tin of condensed milk
- a pan
- some water – you will need to keep the water topped up so that the cans are always covered
- a bit of time.
It’s going to take you 1½ hours for the condensed milk to transform into caramel, so be sure to make that time count by doing a few cans at once. I tend to do three cans at a time – this number fits perfectly into a small-ish saucepan – and they will keep beautifully in the cupboard until you need them. Put the cans (unopened) into the pan and fill around them with water so that the pans are covered. Now turn on the heat and when the water is boiling, set the timer for 1½ hours. Don’t wander far from the kitchen- the MOST IMPORTANT thing is not to let the pan boil dry – have a kettle of water to hand and just top it up, a little at a time, every time you walk past the oven.
After the time is up, allow the tins to cool in the water and store them until you need them. And there’s no chance of confusing the tins of caramel with the uncooked condensed milk as the labels fall off in the process and the shiny tins take on a dull, grey appearance.
Of course, they are handy to have on stand by for making more of these cakes, but also to turn some everyday ice cream into a delicious sundae and to knock up a few Mini Banoffee Trifles.
And today my favourite equation of all is CAKE + MATHS = HAPPINESS…
- 300g soft butter
- 300g caster sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 300g SR flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 x 397g tin of caramel (or a tin of condensed milk cooked as detailed above) - be sure to stir the can well when you have opened it.
- 2 tbps cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 quantity of 'My chocolate icing of choice'
- Icing sugar for dusting
- 2 x 12 bun muffin trays with paper cases
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350ºF (gas mark 4).
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Next, add the eggs and the vanilla to the bowl and sift the flour and baking powder on top of it. Beat together thoroughly.
- Now take two-thirds of the mixture and divide equally between 2 separate smaller bowls.
- Add 4 tablespoons of the caramel to one of the bowls and stir it in. Sift the cocoa powder into the remaining bowl of cake mixture as well as adding the golden syrup. Combine well.
- Working one bowl at a time, divide the mixture between the muffin cases - I use an American teaspoon (somewhere between a teaspoon and a dessert spoon) and you will need about a spoon of each flavour in every muffin case. Start with the caramel mixture (as it is the runniest), then the chocolate and then the vanilla.
- Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes until well risen and springy to the touch.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Use a sharp knife to cut out a small lid from each cake.
- Now divide the caramel between the cakes and then pipe a swirl of chocolate icing on the top.
- Finish with the cake lid and dust with icing sugar.