A few weeks ago Joshua was explaining to me what a rat king was (which, if you don't want to see grizzly photos, is basically a group of rats that get their tails twisted together, forming a living bundle of rats). Wikipedia helpfully tells us that a rat king was often seen as a bad omen... which, well. OF COURSE A BUNDLE OF RATS is a bad omen. Jeeeeeeeez.
Anyway, this conversation then obviously turned into how you would best recreate this in confectionery form, and the Rat King Challenge (aka Joshua's weird birthday cake) began!
I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe, with millions of sweets to decorate. It's really rich, but not too dense, I'd recommend trying it!
You will need:
- 200g dark chocolate
- 170g butter
- 350g light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 370g plain flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 500ml semi-skimmed milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Loads of bowls
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt either in the microwave (be careful that it doesn't burn!) or in a glass bowl over a saucepan.
In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it is pale and smooth. Then separate your eggs, and beat the egg yolks. Add the yolks to the butter and sugar mixture, mix, then add the melted chocolate and mix again.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Combine the milk and vanilla in a jug, and then alternate between adding milk or flour to the chocolate-sugar-butter mixture and stirring, until all of the flour and milk has been added.
In a clean bowl (which must be spotless, because egg white is really annoying), whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks. Fold them into the cake mix using a bowl, and gently mix together (you want to keep as much air as possible in the batter, so no enthusiastic mixing!).
Divide the mixture between both cake tins and bake for 30 minutes. You'll know it's ready when you put a sharp knife in the middle and it comes out clean.
Now for the ridiculous bit. As it's a bit of a disgusting subject matter, I wanted to make the cake as cute and pastelly as possible... while still tying in lots of rat king details.
So I used sugar mice and knotted their tails together, then made tiny little fondant crowns (which were dipped in edible glitter - SO fiddly to do!). I iced the cake in goopy green icing to try and make it look like a slimy sewer (an effect probably lost by edging the "slime" with silver dragees and chocolate buttons). And I also made a nest with chocolate matchmakers, chocolate curls, and shards of sugar (melted down sweets that looked like scary stabby glass). PHEW.
And here it is! Definitely the most ridiculous cake I've ever made, but so much fun to do!