The September theme for Band of Bakers (see my links page for more info) was “Regional Baking”. Lets be honest, I enjoy going a bit renegade and I’m truly not the biggest fan of old English baking (Bakewell Tart, Tealoaf, Eccles Cakes – full of dried fruit, cinnamon and zzzzzs). The only place I know where to buy Russian Slices are in Grimsby/Cleethorpes but I think this is more because there are proper old school bakeries selling traditional bakes there rather than Russian Slices being native to the area but I decided that they were good enough to fit with the theme and likely to be unique in the context of Band of Bakers.
Trying to come up with a bake that fits each event’s theme isn’t difficult but I try to throw out my first 5 or so ideas as I figure they’re the first 5 ideas most of us have! I was a bit tentative however as the time I’d made cornflake tart and chocolate concrete did not go well – basically no one ate either of them, despite the fact I also made pink custard! (More fool them!). In the end I wouldn’t say these were my biggest hit (funnily enough he hits always involve meat) but I think they went down ok. I’d definitely make them again anyway, I was surprised how close to the real thing I managed to get them, albeit in significantly smaller portions – probably not a bad thing!
Russian Slices are basically a way for bakeries to use up stale cake crumbs and resell them. Not the most appetising proposition but trust me, they contain a significant amount of booze and are perfectly moist (sorry). I started to research a recipe online and actually came up with very little. I established that it may be an American invention known as ‘tipsy cake’ but none of the recipes I could find seemed to resemble the iced version I knew. The best option I could find came from the website of The Ginger Bread Lad. The sponge recipe is basically the same bur I used sherry instead of rum and added some pink food colouring to emulate my known version which is quite pink.
You don’t have to but it would be wise to bake the sponges a day or two before you want to assemble the slices. Alternatively you could buy a couple of madeira and angel food cakes and use them rather than baking your own sponges.
250g Caster Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Skimmed Milk
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Red Food Colouring
9 tbsp Sherry (Cheap Stuff)
5 tbsp Apricot Jam
50g Dark Chocolate (Cheap Stuff)
9 tbsp Icing Sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Line 2 cake tins.
Tip – The original recipe used loaf tins but I went with standard round tins as I thought the sponge would cool quicker. You could use basically any tin(s) here, even a brownie tin and putting all three colour mixes in to bake together.
Add 250g Butter and 250g Caster Sugar, 4 Eggs and 250g Self Raising Flour to a large mixing bowl and whizz up with an electric hand whisk until fully combined and a bit airy.
Tip – I’m not usually a fan of this all-in-one method and I would normally cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs then fold in the flour. As the texture of the sponge was ultimately going to be compromised by its treatment, I didn’t think the extra effort would be apparent and I think this was the right call.
Scoop just under half of the mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder and 2 tbsp Skimmed Milk to the removed mix and beat to combine.
Tip the chocolate mixture into one of the cake tins and vaguely smooth it level.
Add 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract to the remaining original mixture and beat in.
Spoon half of the vanilla mixture into one half of the other cake tin.
Add 1/2 tsp Red Food Colouring to the remaining vanilla mixture, mix in and spoon it into the second half of the second cake tin.
Tip – It really doesn’t matter about keeping the cake colours super separate – its all ultimately going to be marbled together so don’t panic too much.
Bake the cakes for about 20 to 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Tip – Overbaking the cakes a little so they are a bit dry again won’t hurt here as you’re going to dry them out a bit more in any event.
Once the cakes are cool enough to touch, tear them up into chunks and leave them on a cooling rack to cool and dry out. Leaving them for a couple of days, out but under a fly cover would be ideal.
When you’re ready to make the slices, mix 5 tbsp Sherry and 5 tbsp Apricot Jam together in a small bowl.
Tip – Warm the apricot jam for a few seconds in the microwave so its easier to stir together.
Crumble each colour of cake into breadcrumb size pieces into its own small bowl and split the boozy jam between the bowls. Mix each to a mushy consistency.
Line a tray bake tin with cling film and spoon the mixtures into the tin in a haphazard fashion, pressing them down as you go to create a block of marbled boozy cake crumbs. This is not a good description – see the picture below!!
Melt 50g Dark Chocolate in the microwave until melted and leave to cool a little. Mix 4 tbsp Sherry and 6 tbsp Icing Sugar into the chocolate and beat until smooth and lump free. Add a little extra sherry or icing sugar to achieve the consistency of runny honey.
In a separate bowl, combine 3 tbsp Icing Sugar with a little water to make a slightly runnier white icing. Put this in a sandwich bag or disposable piping bag.
Pour the chocolate icing over the cake mix and smooth out to the edges. Snip the end off the piping bag or corner off the sandwich bag and pipe the white icing in horizontal stripes over the chocolate icing.
Tip – I’d start with the middle stripe and work outwards to make sure the stripes are vaguely even before you run out of icing with only half covered. Saying this, there is nothing to stop you making up some more white icing if you need.
Run a skewer up and down the length of the tin in even stripes to create the feather effect.
Tip – This was the first time I’d tried this feathered icing and piping is not my forte by any means – it wasn’t very neat but its quite forgiving and looked pretty good when cut up.
Put the whole cake into the fridge for the icing to set and the cake mix to firm up.
Serve after its chilled though cut into 16 pieces. I trimmed off the edges for presentation but there is not real reason to do this.