For my grandmother, cooking was never a chore. It was a habit that she took great pleasure in. A day without the heat from the wok or effortlessly tossing a pinch of salt into rasam wasn’t a day at all. There were no cookbooks or measuring cups, cooking was intuitive for her, something she knew all her life without actually ever properly learning it.
But today is not really about my grandmother or “paati’ (granny) as I dearly used to call her. However, it is about someone who is very grandmother-like for thousands of other baking and cooking enthusiasts like me. Sadly, I didn’t know Mary Berry all my life like folks from the UK do. I learnt about her very late in life, after watching The Great British Bake Off.
She is this invisible guardian angel in every baker’s kitchen; if Mary says it’s alright, it really is alright. Her calm and kind persona is no reflection on the kind of perfectionist she is. It is incredible how a look and a whiff is everything she needs to find out whether a cake is flawed or not. Baking for someone like Mary is inherent; it is an art that runs in her blood and veins.
So when I am following Mary’s recipe, I do it rather blindly. I just know it’s going to turn out fine (if I follow it to a tee of course). If you are a baker, you need to have her book Mary Berry’s Baking Bible as part of your repertoire. You don’t need to join a baking crash course or watch all those baking tutorials on Youtube; this book is all you need to master the knowhow of baking.
For the genoise sponge
- 40 g (1/6 cup) unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- 75 g (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) caster sugar
- 65 g (1/2 cup) self-rising flour
- 1 level tbsp corn flour
For the crème au beurre chocolat (chocolate buttercream)
- 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 egg yolks
- 175 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter softened
- 100 g chocolate (39% cocoa solids), chopped and melted in a double boiler
- 75 g (1 cup) mixed nuts, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) shallow square tin with butter and line with parchment paper.
- For the sponge, melt the butter and allow it to cool. Sift the flours into a bowl separately. Beat the eggs and sugar in full speed until mousse-like and thick such that it leaves a ribbon-like trail.
- Fold in half the flour into the egg mixture. Then trickle down half of the melted butter around the side of the bowl. Fold gingerly. Continue with remaining flour and butter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until risen and springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave it to cool for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.
- To make the chocolate buttercream, bring water and sugar to the boil in a saucepan till the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for 3 more minutes until the sugar syrup is clear and slim thread forms when pulled apart between 2 teaspoons.
- Put the egg yolks in a bowl and lightly whisk to combine. Trickle down the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the egg yolks mixture while continuously beating. Continue to beat till the egg yolks become thick and the bowl becomes cold from outside.
- In another bowl, beat the butter till soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolk mixture and beat further. Finally beat in the cooled, melted chocolate.
- Cut the cooled sponge in half horizontally and sandwich them together with a thin layer of the chocolate buttercream. Trim the edges neatly and cut the cake neatly into 2 inch squares. Spread the top and sides of each cake with the buttercream using a offset spatula. Press the chopped, toasted nuts around the sides.
- Fit a piping bag with a 1cm star tip. Fill it with the remaining buttercream. Finish off by piping tiny rosettes on top of each cake.
Recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible