The beauty of the little cake is not just in its pretty darn cute good looks. There’s also the exquisitely selfish pleasure of having such a sweet little treat all to one’s self, without having to share. There’s a certain way that people the world over approach a little cake, a particular way of gently selecting and then raising and admiring it before relishing its delicate flavour and texture in one, two or maybe, at a push, three bites.
Yes, I could try to sell you the little cake concept based on its convenience, portability and sensible treat size, but I’ll admit that I believe the real appeal of these bite-size beauties is the pure fun of them.
Let’s start with the little tiramisu squares, based on the classic Italian layered dessert. It’s all there – the sponge soaked in coffee and marsala, the mascarpone cream mixture and the grated chocolate – but assembled and sliced into neat little squares with chocolate ganache on top and oozing down the sides.
The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Inspired by traditional American favourites there are the adorable palm-sized yellow cakes with chocolate fudge frosting, and the rich petite Lady Baltimore cakes, filled with brandy-soaked raisins and figs plus walnuts, topped with a meringue frosting - truly unforgettable.
Tart and tempting, yiaoutopita are beautiful three-bite lemon yoghurt cakes from Greece. It’s triple the lemon, with grated lemon rind in the cake plus a lemony syrup and glaze on top.
Nothing says ‘cute’ more convincingly than pink icing, and the Austrian punschkrapfen have the name to match. You’ll love this Viennese sponge cake layered with apricot syrup. Also from Austria comes the divine fragelite - hazelnut meringue cakes layered with coffee buttercream, which are the perfect partner for a cup of tea or espresso.
But before you jump in and start cooking, here are some tips to make your cakes positively Bakeproof.
- Use silicone pans where possible as their flexibility allows you to ‘pop’ your small cakes out of the pans more easily than from ridged metal ones.
- Have a small palette knife handy for small icing jobs and to create decorative patterns in small spaces with ease.
- If you’re going to split and fill your cakes, make them a day ahead so that the crumb is easier to cut and more stable to layer.
- Include a surprise filling – contrasting layers of flavour and texture will add punch and interest to your little cakes.
- Keep an eye out for uniquely shaped individual cake pans – the shape of a little cake takes the experience of devouring it to the next level.
Anneka's little cakes
This Italian classic is taken to a whole new level as elegant individual dessert cakes with a rich chocolate topping.
Everyone needs a good classic yellow cake in their repertoire and this one, made as cute individual cakes with a rich, velvety fudge frosting, is the one to add.
Hailing from the deep south of North America, Lady Baltimore cake is a classic wedding cake choice. With its simple buttercake layers, fruit and nut filling and dreamy meringue frosting, the resulting flavour combination is delightfully complex.
These little handfuls are more-ishly tangy, and the lemon icing makes them all the more mouth-puckering.
These sweet little morsels are traditional Viennese petit-four cakes. Their delicate sponge layers, punchy rum-spiked apricot filling and pretty pink exteriors make them rather addictive.
Decidedly rich and one for sweet tooths, it’s the mocha chocolate layers between nutty meringue that make these the perfect little cakes for an indulgent afternoon tea or ending to a meal.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven viaFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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