A Labour of Love
It's February 1st, the day that makes so many of us start to feel that slightly anxious twitch about how we're going to celebrate Valentine's Day. It's the two week countdown: What did I get them last year? What did they get me? Should I reserve a table out or try to cook a romantic meal? And that most important question of all... how did I not see this coming?
Baking is the most beautiful solution to the Valentine's Day dilemma. Baking for someone is more heartfelt than buying chocolates or sweets and for those who aren't comfortable in the kitchen, it's easier than making a whole meal. Baking a cake is an act of dedication, of patience and attention and love. There is really no better way to show how you feel.
I bake for virtually all occasions so baking for our 10th wedding anniversary was no different. But it was different. In fact, it felt very different. I wanted to push the boat out, impress, show Chris (through the medium of cake) that he is and always will be the love of my life and that the last ten years have been beautiful in so many ways. Every time I bake for him is an expression of love, but this had to be special. I agonized for weeks over what to do but the classic combination of chocolate and strawberries, that stalwart of Valentine's Day, symbolic of love and delicious to eat, had to be at the center.
So for this Valentine's Day, I present to you my Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake. I hope you try it and make your special ones feel loved.
GlutenFreegan Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 12 generous portions
For the cake layers:
2 pouches GlutenFreegan chocolate cake mix
400g dairy free spread
400g caster sugar
280g apple sauce
180ml (6oz) water
For the cream layers:
750ml cold coconut cream (ideally refrigerated overnight)
100g icing sugar
40g cocoa powder
400g fresh strawberries
1) Bake the chocolate cake in a 23cm/9in spring form cake tin as per the instructions on the back of the pouch. First preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line the bottom of your tin with baking paper and grease the sides. Then cream together the dairy free spread and caster sugar, add the apple sauce to the sugar mixture and stir. Then add the chocolate cake mix and water and stir together. Separate the batter equally into two cake tins and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
2) Leave the cakes to cool completely.
3) To prepare the cream, whisk together the 750ml coconut cream and icing sugar and cocoa powder until it's a light and fluffy consistency. Leave the cream in the refrigerator until the cake is entirely cooled.
4) Assembly time! This is the fiddly bit. You need to make a collar of baking paper (like a tube that comes up approximately 6cm above the top of your tin), pick the cake you'd like to be on the bottom, and without removing the cake tin, slide the collar around the cake on the inside of the cake tin. As the cake bakes, it pulls away from the side a little bit so it should slide in easily but if it doesn't, go around the edge of your cake with a knife first. Then, hull and slice all of your strawberries in half. Choose approximately 15 of the prettiest halves and put them along the edge of your cake, against the paper, touching each other and with the hulled side down. With the remaining strawberries, set some aside for decoration on the top and the rest lay sliced side down all over the surface of the cake. Then, spread approximately half of your chocolate whipped cream all over that layer, completely submerging all the strawberries in a delicious chocolaty blanket. Then remove the second cake from its tin, and place it inside the collar, on top of the whipped cream. Take the rest of the whipped cream and lovingly spread it on top. Decorate with any remaining strawberries. Finally, remove the sprung outside of the bottom cake tin and gently lift it up over the cake. Unwind the collar and presto! You will have a beautiful chocolate strawberry layer cake worthy for any special occasion.