How to Make a Drip Cake
Drip cakes: impressively tall cakes slathered in buttercream and literally dripping with chocolate, topped with oodles of fruit, chocolates, sweets, flowers, macarons or other decoration. Unheard of 10 years ago, it's no wonder that they're now all the rage. And a craze that seems to have staying power, as it's still going strong!
The drip cake was first invented by an Australian cake artist called Katherine Sabbath, who's rather an icon in the baking world. And boy has it caught on! One of the great things about drip cakes is that they make you want to EAT them - they smell good, they look so delicious, and all the yummy ingredients are on display. This is in contrast to a fondant decorated cake, which is often made to look like something that ISN'T cake, on purpose - so while it might wow the guests with its cleverness and artistry, doesn't necessarily make you go "oooooh, that smells so good, gimme a slice!"
I love making drip cakes. They are simple to make, once you've mastered a few handy tips to ensure you end up with an elegant creation rather than, frankly, a hot mess. So here are my top tips for how to make a great drip cake.
1) Bake 'em tall!
The visual impact of drip cakes is very much down to their height. The point is that chocolate is dripping off the top, so if the drips haven't really got anywhere to go, you lose the effect. Bake a 6-inch cake at least 3 layers tall, and a decent 8-inch drip cake should either have 3 tall layers or 4 average sized layers. You can add extra height by torteing (slicing widthways) your layers and adding more filling in between. Mmmmm.
2) Skewer 'em!
Think of one of those hipster burgers. You know, the kind with 8 types of avocado, salsa and halloumi sandwiched in between 3 patties made from the beef of free range, organic, grass-fed, yoga-practicing cows? They come with a bamboo skewer through the middle. Otherwise, the whole thing would fall apart and the layers would slide pathetically around, leaving you with a most confusing and messy eating experience. The same is true for a drip cake. Especially as there is no ganache or fondant to set firm and lock the layers in, once you've filled your cake with buttercream/jam/curd or whatever else, stick a bamboo skewer right down through the cake to keep it together. Once, I forgot to do this, and I'm not going to talk about it.
3) Chill 'em!
Drip cakes look effective as semi-naked cakes, or cakes covered in entirely in buttercream. If you want to cover them entirely, then apply a thinner layer of buttercream (I love Swiss meringue buttercream as it's so much less sweet, but then I don't have a sweet tooth. I know...) first, called a crumb coat, or dirty ice, and then fridge it so it sets dry. Take it out and then apply a thicker layer of buttercream, which now won't catch any crumbs, as the crumbs have all been caught up and set in your first layer!
Then CHILL IT. You must chill it for at least half an hour, preferably more like an hour, so the buttercream is set and dry, and so the chocolate will drip in a controlled manner and not just pour down the sides of a warm, moist cake.
4) Use plain chocolate!
A lot of people ask me what I use for my drips, and the answer is plain, melted chocolate. I don't use ganache. Occasionally I use royal icing or caramel. I take my bowl of chocolate callets, or broken up chocolate, and microwave it, first for 1 minutes, and then in 20 second bursts, stirring each time in between. Then LET IT COOL for a few minutes. So it's still very smooth and stirrable, but a bit thicker than when it's just melted.
5) Put it on the cake board first!
I have a couple of times started dripping my chocolate, only to realise I haven't yet put the cake on the cake board. You need to start dripping after the cake is on the cake board, because some of the drips may go right the way down to the bottom.
6) Start at the back
Always. I always start at the back because you'll get into your stride and then the best bit will be at the front. Take a spoon, scoop up some chocolate, and pour it carefully onto the top of your cake, around 1 inch from the edge. Then nudge some of the chocolate over the edge with your spoon. Nudge more, then less, so you get a variety of drip sizes. Then work your way around the cake.
7) Fridge it again
Once you've done all your drips, stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes so the chocolate sets. If you start piping buttercream on warm chocolate or caramel, it'll just slide off the cake.
There really is no limit to what you can top a drip cake with - meringue kisses, chocolate, doughtnuts, lollies, macarons, flowers, fruit - be creative! You can stick your decs on with more of the melted chocolate, or insert cocktail sticks into things and stick them on that way. I personally really like the look of a personalised topper too. You can even paint your drips gold or any other colour - royal icing works well for this!
Have fun making your drip cakes, and I'd love to see any pictures you have of them!
For birthday drip cakes in Keighley and the surrounding area, visit www.threelittlebirdsbakery.co.uk