Christmas baking: Mini chocolate cake bars

Don’t break the mould – you’ll need it for these festive cake bars

Chocolate bar cakes. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Chocolate bar cakes. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

Silicone bakeware – brightly coloured, supple kitchenware – has become very popular. It is possible to buy a full set of cake pans, muffin pans, bundt tins and every style of decorative mould imaginable. I avoided silicone for a time after a few harem-scarem experiences transporting heavy batters from a work surface to the oven. Of course, once you get used to the requirement for a baking sheet underneath to avoid spillages, it becomes child’s play.

Many chefs I know use silicone daily in patisseries, bakeries and other professional kitchens. I decided to give them another go.

They are lightweight, flexible and inexpensive, and their main appeal for me is that bakes simply pop out naturally. However, most bakers agree that silicone is not great for large bakes, as the lack of rigidity can bend large cakes and cause them to crack. For cookies with a crisp bottom, I still prefer to use standard metal baking sheets. It is perfectly possible to grease, flour and paper-line most bakes to avoid sticking.

For me, silicone moulds work best for small delicacies such as these 3cm x 8cm mini cake/loaf moulds (they come in a tray of nine moulds). One tray is sufficient, as the cake batter will sit once made, so you can refill the mould with leftover batter. I love the way the batter rises into uniform bars that don’t stick to the sides. The rectangular shape means the mould is also usable for chilled savoury and other sweets.

If you prefer to stick to your standard bakeware, this chocolate cake recipe can be baked in a square cake tin (it will need to be baked for 40 minutes). Then smaller bars can be cut using a serrated knife to give a similar effect. At this time of year I always enjoy putting that little bit of extra time into jazzing up my bakes. Sugared rose petals are not for everyone, but I couldn’t resist buying a small bag of fragrant pink petals at a food market. In this recipe I used a mixture of chopped rose petals, nuts and a little Crunchie bar dust to give a festive feel, but a single sprinkling of any of them would suffice.

These pretty chocolate cake bars are perfect for passing around at teatime or can be served as a dessert with some ice cream or cream. You can fill the bars with any jam or curd of your choice, but apricot jam is really delicious.

MINI CHOCOLATE CAKE BARS

Makes 12-15
125g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly whisked
150g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
Pinch salt
50ml raspberry jam

For the chocolate icing
100g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
50g butter

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Decoration
Nuts
Rose petals
Crunchie
Mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan). Grease a mini cake/loaf silicone baking mould. 

Break up the chocolate and put it in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water to melt. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes.

With an electric whisk, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and fluffy. 

Stir the melted chocolate into the creamed mixture, then mix in the eggs gradually. 

Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and salt together, then mix the sieved ingredients into the cake batter until fully combined.

Spoon the chocolate batter into each mini-loaf mould until two-thirds full and bake for 15 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Refill the mould a second time with remaining batter. Leave to cool fully in the silicone mould until cool enough to handle and turn out of the moulds.

Once cool, slice each cake bar in half and fill each side with jam, then sandwich together and place on a wire rack.

To cover with chocolate icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted and smooth, pour the chocolate sauce over the top of each filled cake bar and let it gradually spill over the sides (to avoid wasting chocolate sauce, place the wire rack over a bowl to catch any extra sauce, then reuse it).

Decorate with any combination of chopped nuts, rose petals, Crunchie and fresh mint.

Variation
If you can’t find mini silicone moulds in the shops, they can be sourced online through nisbets.ie or amazon.com

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