Spider's Nest Cake

This scary spider's nest cake will make your guests gasp at first sight but before you know it they'll be curious to try a slice.

Prep time: 120 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Servings: 24 people

Preparation

Preheat the oven to gas 4,180°C, fan 160°C. Grease and line 3 x 20cm (8in) sandwich tins.

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, using an electric whisk, until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla and red food colouring.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and 1 tsp salt into a separate bowl. Beat in a third of the flour mixture to the egg bowl, followed by a third of the buttermilk.

Repeat until all the flour and buttermilk has been added.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add to the batter, beating to combine.

Divide the batter evenly between the tins and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When cool, cut each cake in half, horizontally, to make 6 layers. Using a 8cm (3 1/2in) biscuit cutter, cut out a round from the centre of 4 of the layers and carefully remove, leaving a hole.

Crumble the rounds into a bowl and reserve for the spider’s eggs.

For the buttercream icing, put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat for 5-8 minutes, until soft and fluffy. Add half the icing sugar and, starting on a low speed, beat for 3-5 minutes.

Beat in the remaining icing sugar, then add the milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract, until combined. Cover and chill. 

For the hidden spiders’ eggs, put the reserved cake crumbs in a bowl with 3 heaped tbsp of the buttercream icing and the ginger; mix to combine.

Using clean hands, shape the mixture into balls about 1.5cm wide. Arrange on a tray, cover with clingfilm and chill for 1 hour (or freeze for 15 minutes). 

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of shallow, simmering water.

Dip each cake ball in the chocolate, and then remove with a fork, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off.

Roll the balls in the desiccated coconut and put on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper. Chill for 30 minutes or until set. 

Meanwhile, make the flies. Using a sharp knife, carefully make a slit on either side of each chocolate raisin and stick a flaked almond in the gap to make wings. Set aside. 

To assemble the cake, put one hole-free cake layer on a cake stand. Spread with a layer of buttercream and then top with another cake layer – this time with a hole.

Spread with another layer of buttercream and then repeat with the remaining three hole layers, to create a central cavity. Fill the cavity with as many spiders’ eggs as you can fit in, then top with the remaining cake layer.

Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake, then chill for at least 30 minutes. 

To decorate, dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and roll out the fondant icing to a circle just large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Lift the icing with a rolling pin and drape it over the cake.

Smooth the icing over the top and sides, and then trim the excess icing at the base. 

Put the marshmallow in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second blasts, until melted.

Stir the melted marshmallow mixture until cool enough to handle, and then, using your fingers, scoop up small amounts and pull and stretch it out to make thin, web-like strands; drape all over the cake being as messy as you like.

Stick the flies to the marshmallow web. Top the cake with a plastic spider.

 

Ingredients

For the Cake
180g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
350g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 x 10g tubes red food-colouring gel
500g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 x 284ml carton buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp cider vinegar
4-5 tbsp cherry jam
For the Buttercream Icing
300g slightly salted butter, softened
225g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tbsp milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
For the Hidden Spider's Eggs
3 balls stem ginger, finely chopped
175g white chocolate, melted
50g desiccated coconut
For the Flies
8 chocolate-coated raisins
16 flaked almonds
To Decorate
1 x 1kg block ready-to-roll fondant icing
1 x 170g pack white mini-marshmallows (for the cobwebs)