Monday 25 August 2014

Lightning Mcqueen Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Ganache

This is my biggest birthday bake so far! Big cake plus mini cupcakes! As requested by my friend, I was supposed to make a Lightning Mcqueen chocolate cake for her boy that is enough to feed 40-50 people. This is another long post so bear with me and skip any portions that are not of interest :). Here's the big cake!

Here are the mini cuppies! I made 30 of them.

Recipe for chocolate layer cakes
I adapted the chocolate cake recipe from my black forest chiffon cake. The difference is I left out the kirsch and substituted water with milk and cream to make the cake more rich and moist but still light and fluffy since there is no dietary concern here.

Ingredients (Makes three 10" square layers. Divide ingredients into 3 and bake 3 separate cakes. Alternatively you may bake this in a 10" square chiffon tin and slice into 3 layers. I did the former):
9 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
180g canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
150g fresh milk
150g whipping cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
60g cocoa powder
276g cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

12 egg whites
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
135g caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line the base of the pan with baking sheet.

2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and sugar has dissolved. Add oil and whisk until well combined. Add milk, cream and vanilla extract until well combined. Gradually add in sifted flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk until no trace of flour is seen.

3. Prepare the meringue. In a clean metal bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and the bowl can be overturned without the meringue falling out.

4. Fold the meringue into the egg yolk batter in three additions quickly but gently.

5. Slowly pour the batter into the pan to pop any trapped air bubbles. Tap the pan a few times on the table to release any more trapped air. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. (Bake for longer time if you ate baking one single big cake). Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack to cool. Cover the cake with a baking sheet when cooling to avoid drying out the cake.

Fresh from the oven!

All 3 chocolate layers

You may wrap the cakes in cling wrap and freeze it until it is time to assemble.

Checkerboard cookies and cookie message
Please refer to my previous post for the recipe and checkerboard shaping instructions. I iced the vanilla cookies with blue royal icing and the chocolate cookies with yellow royal icing. I used the just-add-water type of royal icing sugar and pipied it on using Wilton #3 tip. The iced cookies were dried in oven for 30 minutes at 90-100 degrees Celsius, cooled down and then stored in airtight container.

Just some pictures to share...

Cooling off!

Iced and ready to be packed. 

About to be baked

Freshly baked

Lightning McQueen layer cake
I used the vanilla sponge recipe from my sunflower birthday bake. Make sure that you prepare all the ingredients and logistics before hand as you don't want to mess up halfway through. Needless to say, this is the most challenging part of the birthday cake. I was pretty nervous :p.

Egg yolk batter
3 large egg yolks (65g)
15g caster sugar
36g canola oil
54g fresh milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g cake flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/5 tsp baking powder
Blue and white gel food coloring
1/4 tsp cocoa powder

Meringue for main batter
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
48g caster sugar

Meringue for pattern
1 large egg white (more than 65g egg if possible.)
Pinch of cream of tartar
12g caster sugar

Blue/yellow/orange/white pattern
1/2 tsp egg yolk batter
1/4 tsp sifted cake flour
Gel food coloring
1.5 tbs meringue

Red pattern
2 tsp egg yolk batter
1 tsp cake flour
1/4 tsp beet root powder (optional but helps to reduce amount of artificial coloring used)
Red gel food coloring
5 tbs meringue

Black pattern
2 tsp egg yolk batter
1/2 tsp cake flour
1/2 tsp charcoal powder
5 tbs meringue

1. Prepare small piping bags out of baking sheet by making paper cones. Staple the sides to hold the cone shape in place. You will need to snip off a small hole at the tip after the batter is poures in. You may prefer to prepare all 6 colors using this but I prefer to use this only for small amounts of batter (blue, orange, yellow and white). I prepared ziplock bags fitted with wilton tips for black and red, with wilton #3 tip for black and #5 tip for red.

Place the Lightning Mcqueen template in the 10" baking tray and place a baking sheet over it. Remember to use the reversed image of Mcqueen! Lightly grease the surface of the baking sheet with oil. You don't have to use a colored template like me. I was afraid that I would end up piping the wrong color at the wrong place.

Paper cone piping bags and Mcqueen template

2. Preheat the oven to 165-170 degrees Celsius.

3. Make the egg yolk batter. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and all the sugar has dissolved.  Add oil and whisk until thick and well combined. Add milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Gradually add in sifted flour, salt and baking powder until no trace of flour is seen.

4. Portion the egg yolk batter accordingly for all the colors of the pattern. Mix all ingredients for each color except the meringue.

5. Prepare the meringue for the pattern. In a clean metal bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and the bowl can be overturned without the meringue falling out.

6. Fold the meringue in 2-3 additions into the respective pattern egg yolk batters and transfer into the piping bags. First, pipe the black outlines except for the eyes. Pipe the blue part of the eyes, leaving out the black. Bake for 30 seconds-1 minute or until batter is dry. If you find that the black outline spread a bit too much, you may use a toothpick to carefully remove some of it. E.g. my number 95 ended up without space for the orange at one section. I just scraped it off. Next, fill in the different colors, working as quickly as you can. Bake for 1.5-2 minutes or until the batter is dry.

Phew! That doesn't look too bad :).

7. Divide the remaining egg yolk batter into 2. This is optional if you wish to have a single color for the background. Add blue and white gel food coloring to one portion and sifted cocoa powder to the other.

8. Prepare the meringue for the main batter in the same way as the pattern and fold into the egg yolk batters in 3 additions.

9. Carefully scoop the batter into the pan, forming the ground and the sky of the picture. Tap the baking tray a few times on the table to get rid of trapped air bubbles.

10. Bake for 14 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan and carefully peel off the baking sheet. Cool the cake with another baking sheet over it to prevent it from drying out. You may wrap the cake in cling wrap and freeze it until it is time to assemble.

Done! Not perfect but better than I expected. It just needs some minor touching up. 

Some wrinkling of the cake is unavoidable since baking paper was used to line the tray. Silicone mat would not have this problem but I won't be able to see the fine details of my pattern template if I used my semi translucent mat.

Recipe for chocolate ganache
I adapted from Ann Low's recipe for the chocolate ganache. This portion of ganache is enough to frost the cake and the mini cupcakes.

340g semi sweet chocolate, chopped
220g dark chocolate,  chopped
90g butter
445g whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large bowl.

2. Boil the cream in a saucepan.

3. Pour the hot cream into the bowl of chocolate and stir in one direction with a whisk or spatula until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

4. Add vanilla extract and mix well. Set aside and let it cool and thicken at room temperature before applying onto cake. Alternatively you may store it in fridge or freezer until it is time to assemble. If you are storing it first, bring it to room temperature and whip it until smooth before use.

Assembling the cake
1. Thaw the frozen cakes (if you froze them) and bring to room temperature before assembly. Place one chocolate cake on cakeboard.

2. Apply a layer of ganache.

3. Place a second layer of cake and apply ganache. Repeat until all cake layers are assembled.

4. Frost the sides of the cake with ganache, smoothing out with a spatula. I just dragged the spatula along a side of the square, starting from the bottom of the cake to the top, creating rustic log cake looking patterns at the sides. You can frost it any way you like :).

5. Touch up any imperfections on the design. I needed to touch up Mcqueen's eyes to make them more lively, and a bit of the sides near the "95". I used charcoal powder dissolved in water to make black paint, milk powder + gel food coloring + water to make white and yellow paint.

6. Apply some ganache under the cookie letters and checkerboard pieces and stick them onto the cake/ cakeboard.

Finally done!

Birthday boy was really delighted to see his favorite car on the cake, especially since it was a surprise party :). Everyone loved the rich chocolatey flavor of the cake! My friend is already planning to get me to bake for her again in a few months time.

With love,
Phay Shing


  1. Hi Phay Shing, wow F1 race .... zooom zoom comes a stunning Lightning Mcqueen 95! I'm like a little kid jumping high seeing such a pretty cartoon cake ... love it!

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your compliments :). The birthday boy's reaction was a bit like!