I hope you enjoyed my last blog post all about my visit to Whitby – seaside adventures, teashops and all. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you can catch up with it here!
In this post, however, I want to continue my ESB Musical Bake series by sharing with you another recipe inspired by one of my favourite musicals. This time, I want to share with you the emerging magnificent masque, Persephone.
Based on a Greek myth, Persephone describes how the seasons may have come into being. One day, when the goddess Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Demeter, is picking flowers in broad daylight, she is abducted by her evil uncle, Hades, god of the underworld. Obsessed by her beauty, Hades takes her to his kingdom in the Underworld by force and holds her captive. Demeter, her mother and goddess of the harvest, discovers what Hades has done and in her anger takes her power away from the earth so it lies barren. In the Underworld, Persephone is tempted by a pomegranate seed that seals her fate in that she is no longer free to live above the earth, as she always has. Her father, Zeus, decrees that although Persephone must now spend half the year in the Underworld, to appease Demeter and make the earth fertile again, she can also spend half the year as she has always lived. And so the seasons are born.
A collaboration between poet, Simon Rae, and singer-songwriter Sue Casson, Persephone is a masque in the making which premiered at Grimeborne a few years ago. Soon to be staged again, I think that Persephone is a character that would inspire many with her determination and care of the world around us.
I have come up with Seasons Cake, encompassing the different seasons and gods that represent them. Demeter’s half represents spring and new growth with a light orange sponge decorated with fondant cherry blossom flowers and filled with whipped cream. Hades’ half represents the underworld and the darkness of winter with a rich Devils Food Cake covered with chocolate ganache and chocolate covered mint leaves.
This cake is a showstopper, perfect for any special celebration, whatever the season, giving your guests the chance to choose between the two flavours! Although the recipe has a lot of ingredients and steps, it isn’t complicated to make if you take your time, as it involves baking two different cakes which are later made into one.
To give you a flavour of the music from the masque, here is ‘Even though I cannot die.’ Persephone sings it when she realises that she is stuck as a captive in the Underworld, far from the airy world she lives in. Although she is an immortal goddess, she knows that a part of her would die, even though she never could, if she couldn’t escape the darkness of the Underworld and Hades’ clutches.
Without further ado, here is the recipe…
Hades’ Devils Food Cake
For the cake
50g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
100g light brown sugar
250ml boiling water
125g soft butter, plus extra to grease the cake tin
150g caster sugar
225g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the ganache
125g good quality dark chocolate
120ml double cream
For the decoration
100g good quality dark chocolate
Large mint leaves, about 20
Demeter’s Orange ‘Spring’ Cake
For the cake
225g soft butter, plus extra to grease the tin
225g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
For the drizzle
Juice of 2 oranges
25g caster sugar
100ml double cream, whipped
For the decoration
White Fondant Icing, about 50g (depending on the amount of flowers)
Pink gel food colour
20cm spring form round cake tin
Multiple mixing bowls
A wooden spoon
A small saucepan
A pastry brush
A skewer or cake tester
A wire rack
A cake stand or serving plate
A sharp bread knife
A small flower cutter
A rolling pin
How to make the bake
- A day of two before you want to serve the cake, make a start on the decorations.
- To make the chocolate covered leaves, wash the mint leaves, press them flat and dry with kitchen roll. Melt the chocolate over a small saucepan of boiling water before using a pastry brush to coat each leaf with a thin layer of chocolate. Place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and leave in the fridge to set.
3. To make the fondant cherry blossoms, knead a small amount of white fondant with pink gel food colour until it is a light pink. Roll out the coloured fondant with a rolling pin to about 1 cm thick and cut out as many small flower shapes as you can. Mould each flower around your thumb to give it a cup shape before setting aside on another greaseproof paper lined baking tray. To colour the centre, use a skewer to put a small blob of gel food colour in the middle of each flower and slightly spread to make spidery lines coming out to each petal. When you have coloured and shaped them all, leave them to one side to dry out completely.
4. On the day you want to make the cake, preheat the oven to 180’C and butter and line the cake tin with greaseproof paper. To make the chocolate devils food cake, sieve the cocoa powder with the light brown sugar into a mixing bowl. Pour over the boiling water, whisk together and leave to one side. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix, then beat in one egg at a time followed by a spoonful of flour, to stop the mixture from curdling. When the eggs are well incorporated, use a spatula to fold in the remaining flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda before finally adding in the cocoa and water mix, little by little, till you are left with a runny chocolate mix.
5. Pour the mix into the prepared tin, level off with the back of the spatula before baking for 45 – 50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Don’t worry if the top is cracked as you will level it off later!
6. While the chocolate cake is in the oven, make a start on the orange cake. Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth cake mix. When the chocolate cake is baked, take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack. Grease and re-line the tin with more greaseproof paper and pour in the orange cake mix, then bake for another 45 – 50 minutes until it is a light golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. When the orange cake is baked, leave to cool on the wire rack while you make a start on the fillings.
7. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the cream in a small saucepan until small bubbles start to appear around the side. Break up the chocolate in a bowl and pour over the hot cream to melt it. Stir with a spatula till the chocolate has fully melted.
8. To make the drizzle, juice the oranges you zested earlier and add to the caster sugar in the small saucepan. Boil together for 5 – 10 minutes until it looks syrupy in texture.
9. To assemble the finished cake, take the chocolate cake and level off with the bread knife to make a flat surface. Then divide down the centre vertically, rather than horizontally and place one half on the serving plate. Cover with half the ganache before placing the other cake half on top to make what looks like half a cake. Use the remaining ganache to cover the top of the cake before placing on the chocolate leaves.
10. Cut the orange sponge down the centre, like you did with the chocolate cake and place on the other side of the serving plate. (ESB Top Tip : To separate the sponges, you can place a small piece of greaseproof paper between them to make sure they don’t touch!) Brush the bottom half of both halves of cake with drizzle before filling with half the whipped cream and putting the second half of cake on top. Cover with the remaining cream and the fondant blossom flowers.
11. Serve at any celebration to revel in the change of seasons and give your guests the choice between two different flavours!
Thank you for popping by my blog today. I hope you enjoyed my recipe inspired by Persephone and I have tempted you to find out more about the story for yourself! If you decide to bake my recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @englishsingingbaker #esbmusicalbakes.
See you next time for another tuneful recipe but in the meantime,
English Singing Baker x