So. Tomorrow is Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind’s first birthday! Wow! I can’t believe how quickly the last year has gone. There have definitely been times where I’ve been a bit over it all, but there have been many, many more times where I’ve really, truly enjoyed the whole thing and couldn’t imagine my life without this blog.
I thought I’d put together a little list of things I have learnt in the last year. Also, I made a cake, but I’ll get to that a bit later.
- I have learnt that I really do enjoy cooking and baking.
- I have learnt that natural light is the only good light for taking photos of food and I don’t know what I’m going to do in winter.
- I have learnt that it’s important to make a schedule and stick to it.
- I have learnt that that schedule should be practical and manageable. There’s no point trying to post 4 times a week if you don’t have the time for it. Your posts will suffer and you’ll run out of steam.
- I have learnt that it’s ok to take a night off. The world will not end.
- I have learnt that the most important thing about blogging is to have fun and stay true to who you are.
- I have learnt that there are some really awesome people out there doing really cool things.
- I have learnt that Pinterest is pretty cool after all.
- I have learnt that you can create amazing food with minimal equipment and take good photos with few props.
- I have learnt that the food blogging community is one that I’m proud to be a part of and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.
I started Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind last year on a whim. I had stumbled across a few food blogs and couldn’t understand how I had gone so long without them in my life. I had never been big on cooking or baking, but I wanted to expand my horizons and try new recipes and dishes. Starting a blog seemed like the best motivation to get into the kitchen and get a-cooking. My pictures weren’t awesome, I didn’t really know what I was doing on the blog side of things, but the accountability of having to post new recipes each week encouraged me to keep going, even when there were failures.
And now here we are, one year on. In the last few months, I’ve finally gotten into a groove that works for me and I’m proud of what Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind has become. It may still be quite a small fish in the great ocean that is the internet, but it’s my small fish and I kinda like it. I think Dory had it right with her motto, ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!’
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…this cake! This is no ordinary cake. This is a Superman cake; it looks like a normal Clarke Kent kind of cake on the outside, right? But it’s got a secret, an awesome secret, and I’ll let you in on it. Are you ready? It is stuffed full of lollies (sweets/candy to my non-Aussie friends)! How awesome is that?! It’s a piñata cake!
This cake is pretty straight-forward and makes a great party cake. You’ll need to make four cakes, cut holes in two of them, stack them, fill the cavity with your preferred lollies and smother with icing/frosting. The best thing about it is that everything can be changed to suit your preferences. You can use your favourite cake recipe, your favourite lollies, and your favourite icing/frosting recipe.
The recipe below gives the instructions for baking the four cakes in two batches, as I have a tiny oven and don’t have a million cake pans. If you have four identical cake pans and a big enough oven, then by all means, make them all in one go.
Prep Time: 1 hour + cooling time
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
450g butter, diced, divided and at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
5 cups + 4 tbsp plain flour, divided
1 tsp baking powder, divided
1 tsp bicarb soda, divided
2 tsp salt, divided
3 cups caster sugar, divided
4 eggs, divided
6 egg yolks, divided
4 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 cups buttermilk, divided
Approx. 3 cups lollies/sweets/candy of your choice (I used 1 (165g) bag of regular M&Ms, 1 (121g) bag of Maltesers and a handful of small white chocolate stars)
340g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup sour cream
4½ cups icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease two 20cm round cake pans with butter, then add 1 tbsp of flour to each pan and turn pan to coat bottom and sides with flour. Tip out any excess flour.
- In a medium bowl, combine 2½ cups plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp bicarb soda and 1 tsp salt.
- In a separate large bowl, add 225g diced butter and 1½ cups caster sugar and use an electric mixer or wooden spoon to cream until pale. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, followed by 3 egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in 2 tsp vanilla extract, followed by one third of the flour mixture and mix well. Add ½ cup buttermilk, one third of the flour mixture and another ½ cup buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Add the final third of the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly into the two prepared pans. I used kitchen scales to ensure the same amount of batter went into each pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn top side facing down onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat steps 1-4 once cakes are turned out onto the wire rack and cake pans have been washed and greased/floured again. Allow all four cakes to cool completely before assembling.
- Once cakes have cooled, prepare frosting: in a large saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until everything has melted completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare cakes for assembly. Using a ruler or tape measure, measure 5.5cm from the rim of one cake. Mark with a knife, and repeat 6-8 more times at various points around the cake to create a guideline for the circle you will need to cut. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle out from the centre of the cake and repeat with second cake. Alternatively use baking paper to create a 9cm circle and trace around with a sharp knife.
- Return to frosting, add sour cream and stir well. Sift in icing sugar and stir until well combined.
- Assemble cake: Place one of the whole cakes on a cake stand or serving plate. Use an offset spatula or regular spatula to frost the top of the cake, then add one of the holed cakes on top of it. Frost the top and inside the cavity and add the other holed cake and again frost the top and inside the cavity. Combine lollies/sweets/candy in a small bowl and fill the cavity to the top with them. Place the last whole cake on top and frost the top and sides of the entire cake. Serve and enjoy!
Note: You can keep the centre parts that were cut from the two cakes and use the leftover frosting to make a small two-tiered cake for more servings and less waste!