Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Is it a burger? Is it a cake? No, it’s a burger cake!

Like burgers? Like cakes? Why not combine the two to create this playful sweet treat perfect for a celebration.

American food has had a culinary revival on British shores of late and our favourite of all is the all-American cheeseburger. Burgers are no longer reserved for emergency pit stops at motorway services or for bleak and fatty hangover cures. Burgers have got poshed up and us Brits can’t get enough of them. Even cabinet ministers are tweeting pictures of themselves tucking into a juicy Byron in an attempt to connect with the public (I’m sure Byron are thrilled to bits at being connected with George Osbourne in the recent Burger-gate “scandal”. Who wouldn’t be thrilled at being connected with George Osbourne? Oh, hang on…).

I love a burger as much as the next person, but I also love CAKE. Many people are frightened to attempt a “novelty” cake, in case it ends up taking a whole weekend only to resemble a digested dog’s dinner after all that effort. If you are not artistically inclined and if you are messy and impatient when it comes to creating smooth sugar paste and pretty marzipan figurines, then this is the cake for you. I promise that once the cakes are baked and cooled, you’ll be able to finish the decorating within the hour and, better still for those with an aversion to sugar paste, this cake is mainly constructed with a generous smearing of simple buttercream.

First you need to bake the cakes. Being a professional cake maker, I have half sphere tins knocking around in the kitchen, perfect to create a lovely burger bun top, but a pudding basin will do exactly the same job.  The “burger” in the picture is a shallow 6-inch chocolate cake, baked in a sandwich tin.  The “bun” is peanut butter cake – just for an added American feel – but you can just as easily make a simple vanilla cake or a Victoria sponge.  Simply bake the bun base in another 6-inch sandwich tin and pour the remaining cake batter into a 6-inch half sphere tin or pudding basin.

While the cakes are baking, make enough buttercream for the buns, mustard and ketchup. I covered the buns in peanut buttercream (simply stir a couple of tablespoons’ worth of peanut butter into your base buttercream) and used a handful of sesame seeds to scatter over the top. I dyed a generous blob of buttercream mustard yellow and another bright tomato red, then I spooned the two colours into a couple of plastic piping bags, ready to squeeze all over the burger during construction.

I dyed a very small amount of sugar paste (75g) bright yellow before rolling and cutting it into a neat square to create a slice of processed cheese. You can miss this stage if you don’t want to make a cheeseburger. I also dyed some more sugar paste bright green before rolling it out and ruffling it up very roughly in pieces to make lettuce. You can use marzipan to the same end or even dye some buttercream green and roughly smear it over the edges of the burger instead. You can buy ready dyed sugar paste if you’re feeling lazy or you’re short of time.

All the decorating for this cake was achieved with a light bit of palette knife work and a bit of squirting and rolling. Frankly, a child could do it. In fact, I felt slightly embarrassed at the enthusiasm this cake elicited from the friend whose birthday I made it for, as the effort involved in creating it was such a relaxed operation. It might take you a little bit longer than me to knock this one up, if you’re not used to baking and decorating, but I promise you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to serve it up (on a paper plate of course, for added authenticity). So, go on, get baking! Your friends and family can’t fail to be impressed.


Buttercream is simple and quick to make as long as your butter is soft and your icing sugar is sifted. I prefer sugarcane icing sugar, to sugar beet, as I marginally prefer the taste but best of all it clouds up less when sifting – much better news for clearing up afterwards.

This quantity should yield enough for your burger cake if you follow measurements for 6-inch round cakes.

Basic buttercream

325g soft, unsalted butter
650g icing sugar (don’t use golden icing sugar as the colours will be less vivid when you dye it)
Vanilla extract (optional)
A splash of milk, if needed

Whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Sift over half of the icing sugar and whisk in until fully combined. Sift over the second half and whisk again. You can add a dash of milk to slacken the mixture if necessary. Buttercream always requires a longer whisking than you’d think for really smooth and soft results.

Add a generous splash of vanilla extract (or any other flavouring you like to the base buttercream recipe). If you’d like to make peanut buttercream, simply whisk a couple of tablespoons’ worth (or more if you like) of smooth peanut butter into the icing.

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