apple walnut cat cake

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This birthday cake went down purr-fectly!

Given that my flat-mate Emma is not particularly into treats of the “too sweet” variety, an autumnal apple and walnut cake seemed the perfect way to celebrate. In fact, there was almost more apple going on than cake! The maple cream cheese icing accompanied it perfectly – despite being a little reluctant to pipe! The cake itself is delicious enough in its own right not to require animal adornment, and the perfect addition to an afternoon tea.

I went into decorating this cake knowing I wanted it to look like a cat, and ideally look cute … however beyond buying some aniseed balls for the eyes and a single pink jelly bean for the nose, I didn’t really have any further plans to make the cat look obviously feline. Googling “cat cake” also didn’t do much to help the cause: I’m not hugely into fondant for decorating (despite employing it heavily with cupcake endeavours circa 2010) – in part because I don’t think it tastes particularly good, but mainly because I think it was more clever (or lazy …) to simply use crushed walnuts and dark chocolate as means of representing what was inside the cake. These decorations were entirely opportunistic, in any case.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Braeburn/medium-sized cooking apples, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
  • 280g high grade/cake flour
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 120ml rice bran oil
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 free-range eggs, room temp and lightly beaten
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 free-range egg whites
  • 100g walnuts, chopped roughly

Maple cream cheese frosting:

  • 150g butter at room temperature
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 250g cream cheese, at room temperature

To decorate: 1 pink jellybean, 2 Maltesers/whoppers, 50g dark chocolate, 20g walnuts, crushed

Make magic:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C/350F, grease and line the base of 2 20cm/8inch cake tins.
  2. Using an electric mixer beat the oil, sugar and vanilla extract together, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Fold the diced apples, walnuts and lemon zest through the wet mixture.
  5. Add the sifted dry ingredients and quickly fold through to combine.
  6. Mix the egg whites using an electric mixer until they form firm peaks. Gently fold these by hand through the cake batter with a wooden spoon, trying not to knock all the air out to keep the batter light.
  7. Fill the baking tins with half of the mixture each and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cake is done (*to test insert a sharp skewer or knife in the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, it is done). Cool in the tin, then transfer to a chopping board, remove the baking paper lining and wrap with cling film to be stored in the freezer until ready for serving.
  8. When its cool, make the frosting / icing. Beat the butter, brown sugar, icing sugar and maple syrup together until it is light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat until the frosting is totally smooth.
  9. Remove the cakes from the freezer and secure the base layer to your cake stand with a little of the frosting. Spread about a quarter of the frosting over the top of the base layer of the cake, right out to the edges before placing the second layer on top.
  10. Make a crumb coat for the sides and top of the entire cake with a spatula, spreading a thin layer around the entirety of the cake. Don’t worry if some of the areas are a bit “naked” – the exposure of the cake within is what I was going for with the sides of the cake.
  11. Leave to set for 10 minutes before icing the top with piped Wilton 1M star tip “fur” for the cat (alternatively, just cover the entire cake with smoothed buttercream if not going for the cat thing).
  12. Decorate! Arrange the Malteser eyes and pink jellybean nose, followed by two sprinklings of crushed walnuts to make the cat “cheeks”. Make the ears, mouth and whiskers by melting dark chocolate melts in a snap-lock bag in short bursts in the microwave at ~800W power. Cut a “tip” in one of the corners of the bag, pipe a mouth directly onto the cake. Pipe curved “whiskers” onto a piece of nonstick baking paper, followed by cutting the “tip” to be a larger diameter to piped the ears as evenly sized triangles before sprinkling their centres with the remaining crushed walnuts. Transfer to the freezer to set quickly before arranging on the cake.

Adapted from Drizzle and Drip, who adapted from Ottolenghi – the cookbook.

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