A mesmerising cake homage to surrealism
When I was a kid and absolutely did not fit in at school the art department was my refuge and it was in the paintings of Dali I discovered that weird can be pretty damned magical so maybe I shouldn’t be so ashamed of mine. This cake is my way of saying thank you for showing me a different way. There's some ombre frosting, fondant clocks and a chocolate tree to salute this remarkable man.
Line four 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan.
In a bowl combine 4 oz each of sf flour, sugar and butter, 2 eggs and 3 tbsp of hot water (from the kettle) with an electric whisk until smooth. Repeat 3 more times for the other pans.
Bake for 30-35 mins or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack upside down. I find when I allow the sponge to cool upside down I don’t have to flatten the top later with a knife.
When cool, wrap in cling film and place in the freezer overnight.
Melt 50g of dark chocolate over a bain-marie when melted, cover the tree structure.
Leave a space at the bottom roughly 2 ½ inches. This bare end will go inside the cake. Leave to dry in the fridge. When covering the dowel with chocolate I found it easiest to place a large piece of cling film under the tree and pour the chocolate on top. Then, you can mould the cling film into a rounded shape while the chocolate dries.
Continue melting the chocolate in 50g batches and coating the tree until you are happy with the shape. Leave to dry in the fridge
After 10 minutes the chocolate should be hard but not entirely solid. Carefully, using a sharp knife, carve the chocolate to better match the shape in Dali’s painting. IF you make a mistake, melt more chocolate and re-cover it
When you’re happy with the shape melt 25g of milk chocolate and brush onto the sides of the tree with a paintbrush to create a more realistic look. Leave to dry in the fridge.
The next day remove all 4 sponges from the freezer and unwrap.
Dab a little of the frosting onto a plate or cake board and place the first sponge on top. If it isn’t entirely flat on top then use a knife to even it out.
Add a thin layer of frosting and jam to the top and then layer another sponge. Repeat until all sponges are stacked with a layer of frosting and jam inside and a flat top.
Ensure all sides are straight and even, then place the cake into the fridge for at least 30 mins. This allows the frosting to stiffen so the cake will be more stable and easier to decorate.
Remove from the fridge and apply a thin layer of frosting to all sides and the top. Even the frosting with a palette knife, making sure it is smooth on all sides. Return to the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Split the remaining frosting in half, placing each into separate bowls. Colour one bowl dark blue.
Split the remaining bowl in half, colour one half yellow.
Split the remaining uncoloured frosting in half again. Colour one pale blue and one brown.
Apply to the cake in the following order, brown at the bottom, then pale blue, then yellow, then dark blue.
Using your palette knife smooth the frosting, moving only side-ways in the same direction until all the sides are even..
Take a small teaspoon and pull up each colour into the one above, ever so slightly at 1 cm intervals.
Smooth around again with the palette knife. This allows the colour change to be more gradual and blended. Return the cake to the fridge.
Keep any spare frosting that comes off during the smoothing process.
Colour a portion of fondant, roughly the size of a golf ball, pale blue.
When the colour is even, add in another golf ball sized piece of white fondant. Knead these together until you have a marbled effect. When kneading ensure that your hands are always coated in a thin layer of margarine or butter, this will stop the fondant cracking.
Roll out until the fondant is 1/3 cm thick and cut into a melted clock shape. Store the excess cuttings for later.
Colour a piece of fondant the size of a golf ball golden yellow by mixing tiny drops of red and blue into the yellow colouring. Be very careful with the colour, you can always add more but you can never take it out.
Roll this into a round strip ½ cm in diameter.
Wet the edges of the clock face and attach the golden strip around the outside. You should have some excess, mould this to place at the top of the clock as the hand-turner.
Gently rub a little butter or oil into any places of the clock face that will bend when attached to the cake to stop it cracking.
Remove the cake from the fridge and attach the clock to the front and turner to the top with a little leftover frosting from earlier.
With a strip of kitchen paper, gently blot the surface of the clock to remove any excess liquid.
Using a mixture of clear alcohol (I used gin but vodka is great too) and black food colouring paint on the clock numbers. Rather than fully mix these I put a splash of gin in the bottom of a shot glass and dab food colouring around the rim. Wet the paint brush in gin, tap off the excess and then dip into the food colouring to paint.
If you haven’t attempted this before it’s best to practice first but if you do make a mistake, carefully blot with straight alcohol and then dab off with a piece of kitchen paper, this should lift the stain if done immediately.
Colour a small piece of frosting black for the clock hands, cut into shape and attach to the cake with a little water.
I created the light reflection in the centre by rubbing in a very small piece of white fondant with oiled hands and smoothing off the excess
To add depth to the clock, mix a little brown food colouring and paint the outer of edges and ridges of the golden parts using the same alcohol technique as before.
It’s best to practice first on a scrap piece of fondant to check the colour before painting the cake.
Place the chocolate tree behind the clock to the right, push the dowel in and then pull back out.
Melt the remaining milk chocolate and transfer to a piping bag, cut a small hole in the bottom. Pipe a little chocolate into the hole you just created and then, push the tree dowel back in. return to the fridge for the chocolate to harden and provide a stable base to hold the tree.
After 15 minutes chilling, pipe and smooth the rest of the chocolate around the base of the tree to make the join look more organic. Return to the fridge.
With oiled hands, colour a small piece of fondant dark grey, roll out very thin and cut into a small clock shape. Feel free to make yours bigger than mine, it’s the one thing in retrospect I really wish I had done differently.
Using the leftover marbled fondant from earlier roll and cut a piece the same shape as the grey one but slightly smaller. Attach this on top of the grey piece with a little water.
Use your fingers to roll the grey edges in creating a rounded outline.