A word of warning – this one is not for the faint-hearted. John Whaite, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2012, came up with this blood sugar-spiking recipe as a bake he deemed suitable for enjoying on Christmas Eve, as described in the GBBO Christmas cookbook. Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending Christmas Day fighting a stonking sugar comedown doesn’t quite tickle my fancy. But in any case, the marriage of toffee popcorn (a childhood favourite bought from Spar Express many a time), salty peanut butter and a decadent chocolate fudge had me waiting for an opportune moment to unleash this beast on unsuspecting hungry folks. It was admittedly nowhere near Christmas-time, but it went down a treat.
For the sponge
- 5 eggs
- 140g caster sugar
- 120g plain flour
- 40g cocoa powder
- 50g butter, melted
For the peanut butter & popcorn mousse
- 75g toffee popcorn
- 200ml double cream
- 90g smooth peanut butter
- 50g condensed milk
- 100g soft cheese
For the chocolate fudge
- 250g condensed milk
- 50g smooth peanut butter
- 50ml double cream
- 200g dark chocolate
For the caramelised popcorn decoration
- 100g caster sugar
- 50g toffee popcorn
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line the base of a 23cm round springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. My circular cake tins were all a bit too diddy, so I plumped for a square one. Break the eggs into a large bowl, and whip up with an electric whisk for 1 minute until they are light and fluffy.
Add the sugar and whisk on full speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture has quadrupled in volume and you reach the ribbon stage.
At this juncture, I had to jump ship and switch bowls, as the mixture seemed to take on a life of its own. I had created a monster.
Using your suitably XXL sized bowl, sift over the flour and cocoa powder, add the melted butter and gently fold together.
Pour into the prepared cake tin, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
When the sponge is nicely risen, and an inserted knife into the centre comes out clean, invert it onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely, keeping it inside the tin.
To make the mousse, use a food processor to blitz the toffee popcorn into a chunky rubble. Add the cream and mix for another 10 seconds, until it has just thickened. Add the peanut butter, condensed milk and soft cheese, then blitz again briefly until it has all come together. It should be a thick and spreadable consistency, so now you can transfer it into a bowl and pop it in the fridge until later.
Cut the cooled cake in half. Get rid of the greaseproof paper, and place one half of the sponge back in the tin, pressing down gently to make sure it’s at the bottom.
Scoop the entirety of your peanut butter & popcorn filling onto the sponge, and spread it out evenly. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon, until it is smooth and reaches the sides.
Top with the other half of the cake, and pop it in the fridge.
My sponge flopped all the way down onto the wire rack and ended up with these indentations, but thankfully the ganache-to-come saved the day, and hid all unsightly grooves.
To make the fudge topping, put the chocolate, condensed milk, double cream and peanut butter into a saucepan, and stir gently over a low heat.
Allow everything to melt together, until it eventually becomes a smooth, glossy fudge. Pour it over the cake and put back in the fridge to set for at least an hour.
Finally, the last step! To caramelise your already caramelised popcorn. This may seem a tad unnecessary, potentially a case of over-egging the pudding? But nay! The topping was actually what most people who tried it exclaimed their love for. It kept them coming back for more, so don’t be scared to be generous with it and bloody well pile it on.
Firstly, place a sheet of greaseproof paper over a kitchen surface. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sugar, and slowly let it melt, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until it becomes a dark caramel.
Add the popcorn, quickly stir to coat it all, and tip onto the greaseproof paper to cool down and solidify.
Remove the cake from the fridge at least an hour before serving. Run a blunt knife around the edge to release it from the tin, and transfer to your chosen plate. Decorate liberally with the broken up popcorn, et voila, you have created a rather festive masterpiece!