May 28th, 2007

How to temper chocolate

Coco&Me picture of a fresh cacao pod - open

(Picture: I purchased two fresh cacao pod several years ago during the National Chocolate Week. The shop assistant told me they are from Cameroon. I bought them for £7 each. Très expensive. But it was an experience to remember for sure! – One was for keeping to dry, & the other for cutting open. The fresh beans were acrid & I didn’t like the taste atall, but the white pulp surrounding them was sweet & exotic like I never ever tasted before.)
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Here comes the big entry.
I am finally tackling this rather lengthy subject of tempering chocolate, after avoiding it for sometime…, shunning it under the carpet of “let’s write about easier things for now”.

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But it’s become inescapable. I’ve already featured two recipes (ganache truffles, easter eggs & white chocolate wedding cake) in my blog requiring tempered chocolate to be used. Gotta press on with it, don’t I?

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And besides, I had this impelling will to write this to give any assistance I can to the people looking for this type of information on the world-wide-web. – Because when I was self-teaching chocolate-making several years ago, I used to surf the web day-on-end to find useful introduction to tempering, but never had any luck! So maybe…, my contibution here would help out someone somewhere who’s in those same shoes I was back then!
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One note to people new to tempering is that this technique is quite advanced. You’d certainly be practising this again & again. But don’t give up, don’t give up. You can use the same chocolate again to re-temper (unless it’s burnt). And cetainly don’t go spending silly money on automatic tempering machines which are notoriously temperamental.

After a dozen or so go’s, it’ll be written in to your body, straightforward like riding a bicycle, & you’ll be laughing about why it was so difficult in the first place.
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WHY :: The reason for tempering

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‘Tempering’ is a word to describe the very particular method of controlling the temperature of your melted chocolate.

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When you melt down chocolate, the chain of cacao butter crystals become intrinsically unstable and loses its neat formation. Controlling the chocolate with certain precise temperature (tempering) stablizes back the crystals that went haywire.

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The chocolate with the temper treatment will have the most beautiful glossy sheen that screams sophistication & a crisp snap when broken.
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Chocolate needs to be tempered if you want to use it as-is, or for moulding (de-moulding would be easier as the chocolate will shrink), for coating your bonbons, & making chocolate decorations.

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If you allow your chocolate to solidify without tempering, or after inadequate tempering, you’d notice that you’d get the most aestheticly awful looking end-product with white streaks called ‘fat bloom’. Not only that, you yourself would be losing your ‘temper’ (excuse the pun! Had to say it didn’t I…) because it takes absolute ages to harden…

‘Fat bloom’ is a term used to describe the marks on your chocolate when the natural fat from the cocoa butter has displaced to the surface. Note it could also appear when you have nuts or nut oil in your bonbon filling. The nut oil will slowly migrate to the surface over time.

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Please note that improper storage with high humidity would also un-temper your chocolate, & unapetizing marks such as ‘fat-bloom’ & ‘sugar bloom’ would appear on the surface.

‘Sugar bloom’ = the splotchy sweat marks after the chocolate had been in contact with moisture. The moisture dissolves the sugar present in your chocolate & when that dries, the dissolved sugar crystallizes leave marks behind. Also worth remembering that sugar bloom may occur when chocolate encounters sudden temperature fluctuations, such as when removed from the cold fridge & then left open in a room. This is because it condensates moisture from the air.

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With WHAT :: The indispensable equipments

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  • Mixing bowls
  • Spatula
  • Digital probe thermometer, to constantly check the temperature of the chocolate. Once you’ve mastered tempering, you’ll ‘just’ know how the temperature of you chocolate is doing, & eventually & quite naturally this equipment will become redundant for you!
  • Marble slab, larger the better. In the kitchen where I did my short apprenticeship, they had a slab that was huge – like around A0 size – it was too heavy for me to carry. The size I use in my kitchen is A3 size, which I think is the minimum size you’re required to have to do tempering on. Anything smaller you’d be encountering lots of over-spilling from the sides. – If you’re finding getting a marble slab a problem (I got mine from the local run-of-the-mill household goods store), I have heard that alternatively, you can try use a very clean & dry stainless steel surface, that is, if you don’t mind the potential scratch marks!
  • Stainless steel scraper & palette knife for pushing, spreading & scraping the chocolate about on the slab. If you’re looking to purchase what the proffesionals use, try Keylink, a good UK supplier I’m constantly using for my chocolate making.
  • Double boiler. To initally melt down your chocolates & then to keep the tempered chocolate at a constant & optimum temperature while you’re doing your chocolate work, such as dipping your truffles. I use a machine called Caloribac (purchased from Keylink). And oh, please don’t waste your time with doing a bain-marie over your hob (although keep in mind that this is purely just ‘my’ opinion!). I’ve tried doing that, & I managed to spill water in to my bowl of chocolate when I clumsily handled the extremely hot bowl with my oven gloves. Doh! And you can forget about putting the bowl back on the hob to keep the tempered chocolate at a constant temperature – It’s really hard to gage precise temperature control over it. You’re likely to lose the temper & have to re-do the whole tempering process again…

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HOW :: The tempering methods

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There are three methods.

The ‘seeding’ method.
The ‘icy water’ method.
The ‘marble slab’ (tablage) method.

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The ‘seeding’ method:

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Note, for this you need a supply of tempered chocolate, as the whole idea of the method is to introduce (‘seed’) stable cacao butter crystals to unstable liquid chocolate.
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1. Put aside 1/3 of the chocolate & melt the rest. Melt until the temeprature of the liquid reaches:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Deposit the 1/3 you kept aside.

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4. Slowly mix it in (so as not to create air bubbles in your mixture). Constantly keep check on how the temperature’s doing. You need the temperature to go down to the following numbers before using it for your chocolate work:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate
26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate
25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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The ‘icy water’ method:

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It’s a good way to temper on a Summer’s day when the kitchen is too warm.

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1. First melt all your chocolates to the following temperatures:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Place this bowl in a larger bowl with cold water & ice. 10 to 20 seconds at a time. It’s a good idea to place a pastry ring or anything similar in the water bowl for the chocolate bowl to rest on so that it doesn’t slip around & risk pouring water in to your chocolate by mistake.

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4. Spatula constantly, especially the sides & the bottom of the bowl where it cools quicker.

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5. Bring the temperature DOWN to the following:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate

26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate

25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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6. Then place your chocolate bowl over another bowl of warm water, approx. at 35 ºC (95 ºF). Do this to bring the temperature UP to the following. Make sure you don’t go over the suggested figures or you’ll lose the temper:

30 – 32 ºC (87 – 89 ºF) for dark chocolate
29 – 31ºC (85 – 88 ºF) for milk & white chocolate.

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The ‘marble slab’ (tablage) method:

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1. First melt all your chocolates to the following temperatures:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Pour 2/3 of it on to your marble slab. (Leave the remaining 1/3 in the mixing bowl. – Make sure you spatula down the sides of the bowl, you don’t want to have thin layers of chocolate drying up on the sides of the bowl as you work on your marble)

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Using your palette knife, spread it across your marble.

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5. Use both palette knife & scraper to bring the chocolate in to a mound in the middle again to keep the temperature of the mass uniform.
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6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 (spread & regroup) while constantly checking the temperature. (If you’re fortunate to have a large marble slab, you’ll be tempering much quicker if you try shifting your scraping work from one end of the slab to the other. That way you’d always be using the cool surface that hadn’t been warmed up with chocolate yet!) Make sure you’re not introducing air bubbles to the liquid as you work it.
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7. Bring the temperature down to the following:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate
26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate
25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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8. Pour back this chocolate in to the bowl where you’ve left the other 1/3. (At this point you’ve got to work quickly. The chocolate is rapidly cooling down as we speak!)
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9. Slowly mix the two mixtures with your spatula. Make sure you thoroughly mix.
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10. After mixing, the chocolate should reach the following temperature:

30 – 32 ºC (87 – 89 ºF) for dark chocolate
29 – 31ºC (85 – 88 ºF) for milk & white chocolate
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Top Tips:

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Take time melting your chocolate. There are 6 elements to cacao butter crystals, which has different melt points, & you want to make sure you break it all down. You’ll also get a thinner coating on your bonbons.
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Don’t go over the suggested temperatures when melting. The cassein & the milk protein in the chocolate will burn. And don’t go too low than the suggested temperature when you’re doing your chocolate work either – you’d end up with a layer of coating that’s too thick.
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Never artificially cool the marble slab, as it’ll get too cold. Tempering must be done by gradually cooling.

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Remember, the temperature & the humidity in your kitchen would seriously play a big part. Forget tempering in the Summer unless you’ve got a room cooler.

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I personally find the ‘icy-water’ method risky & fiddly. Not only there’s the danger of getting the water in the chocolate, the temperature of your chocolate becomes very uneven.

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Do use couverture, chocolate with real cacao butter, with atleast 31% of it – do not ‘coating chocolate’.

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It’s fiddly to temper a small amount of chocolate. Atleast half a kilo is required.

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A good way to test wether you’ve tempered correctly is to dip a clean knife in to it & pop it in the fridge for half a minute. If you see a set coat of shiny chocolate, you’ve got it right!

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Well, I hope it’s been of any help… Good luck… As for me, I’m off to bed…

May 21st, 2007

A bit of press again!

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Last week UK Jack (Japanese newspaper circulating in London) featured Broadway market. Among the shops & stalls that they mentioned, they’ve also mentioned me! Thank you UK Jack! It’s amazing y’know, the power of media… – there were definately a much larger chunk of Japanese visitors last Saturday! I had many Japanese customers approaching my stall, telling me that they came because they saw the article!

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This week I decided to take time off the market. The weather forecast was rain, & I had no pre-orders. I felt I could do with putting my feet up & actually fully spend my Friday & Saturday with my son. It also meant my parents can have a time off from looking after him on the Friday too, which they so totally deserve…
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So how did I spend my time off? Well, er, nothing special really. Went swimming, & also to a shopping mall, & hang around the toy stores. I did a not-so-little (!) retail therapy for myself while he was happily asleep in the pram. Bought mainly clothes… Coz y’know what? I flippin’ deserve it – the last time I bought any garment for myself was around Xmas time!
Jeez, I tell ya, my old-self from the singleton dayz would be screaming like Munch in disbelief of how I’ve changed! I used to go clothes shopping ‘Atleast’ every month, & come home with bags n’ bags of beautiful stuff…

May 13th, 2007

Coco&Me Wedding Cake 01 (with recipe)

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(Three tiered chocolate butter cake with raspberry ganache layer. Coated in pâte à glacer, & decorated with couverture slabs)

cocome_weddingcake02.jpg(I wish I could show you what the inside looks like… Obviously, I can’t cut in to it… Now I know I should’ve taken a picture of a slice when I did the test-bake…!)

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Last Thursday I made a 3-tier wedding cake for Sue’s daughter Hannah. Sue has a stall close to mine, & she is one special lady, always looking out for me, buying cakes from my stall when times are tough on a rainy day, & always when she has guests that weekend. She would also bring me all sorts of “finds” that I might like (& I do!) from car boot sales & fairs. Cake plates, vintage cadbury’s toy car, chocolate moulds, vintage childrens books for my boy, beautiful vintage cake pillars… I really like her. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because she gives me things! It’s because she is a warm person, & I think it’s important to have nice people like her around you, to remind you to mellow out & breathe a bit, because there’ll be someone there for you. And so I was honoured to be asked to make the wedding cake for her daughter. I’m happy that my first-ever wedding cake (which means so much to me) goes to such a good home!
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Yesterday Sue & Hannah gave me the most wonderful gift. The cake stand that Hannah used for her wedding! I couldn’t believe it. The stand had been in their family for a very long time apparently, & it was Hannah’s strong wishes that it be used for her wedding cake. To give me such a special stand that means so much to them… I was honoured, & moved.

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Do you remember I did a test-bake of it earlier this year? (check this link out to read a post from that time). Well, finally it was the time to do it – & the good thing is, I was not nervous about it atall, thanks to that test-bake. I knew exactly what to do, how long it’ll take, & importantly, how delicious it tastes. I tell ya, it’s just miles better than the traditional fruit cake kind (yuk, I never liked ‘em) with overly thick icing that sticks to the back of the teeth.

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Here is the recipe for the Coco&Me Wedding Cake. (although unfortunately, I do not have the ‘process pictures of it as I promised to do – Sorry guys, maybe next time – I just did not have the time nor the will to tinker with a camera on a big baking mission like this – especially when I had the pressure of meeting the deadline of 7pm handover!)
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For bakers who would rather not have the trouble of tempering your own chocolate slabs, I think a good alternative is to use store-bought chocolate thins such as ‘Jules Destrooper Chocolate Thins’ or anything rectangular!

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Some top tips when baking:

- Please read through the recipe thoroughy beforehand. That way there’ll be no surprises!
- If you do not have a 6 inch tin, do what I did – bake in a smallest that you do have (I had a 7 inch one) & cut a 6 inch cake out of it! Just remember to increase the recipe abit to compensate for it!
- And if you want to know about how to successfully whip egg whites, or how best to cream the butter, click this link for a thorough write up about it.
- Always buy some extra eggs! Just incase you brake one by mistake…
- Make sure your eggs are also at room temperature. Adding ‘straight out of the fridge’ cold yolk &/or cold meringue in to your cake mix would seize it up!

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Feeds: 25 to 30 people
Difficulty: Intermediate, if you substitute the chocolate slabs with something else such as store-bought chocolate thins.
Time to make: 3 to 5 hours (it depends on how competent you are at baking!)

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CHOCOLATE SLAB RECIPE:
Before you bake the sponges, make enough chocolate rectangles, clingfilm them & store in the refrigiator. I used over 60 slabs for the decoration. But I made alot more to make sure I had enough to hand ‘just incase’. The measurement was 3cm x 8.5cm.

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To make the slabs:

1. Temper 1kg white couverture.
2. Pour it on to a big sheet of clingfilm that’s crease-free, layed out on your table. Spatula the chocolate surface to 3 or 4mm thickness.
3. When semi-set, use a sharp knife & a clean ruler to cut to size.

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THE CHOCOLATE SPONGE RECIPE:

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Ingredients:

450g unsalted Butter – room temperature
450g dark Chocolate – melted
160g castor sugar (for step 3 in the recipe)
23 egg yolks
225g almond powder
egg whites 23 eggs worth
300g castor sugar for mixing with the egg whites to make meringue

450g plain flour
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You will need the following items:

6inch (15.2cm) round springform baking tin
8inch (20.3cm) round springform baking tin
10inch (25.4cm) round springform baking tin
Cake cards for the three sizes – It has to be thin, not drums.
18 x thin wooden BBQ skewers cut precisely to 8.5cm high
2 x extra large mixing bowl
3 x cake racks
A long piece of clean string for tying around each tier to support the slabs while it sets

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And prepare these before your baking frenzy:

Pre-sift the flour.
Have the chocolates melted in a seperate bowl.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Butter the baking tins. Sift flour in to it so that it sticks to the bottom & the sides. Tap out excess flour, & store the prepared tins in the refrigiator until needed.
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Method:

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the room temperature butter.
2. Pour in the melted chocolate. Constantly whisk while doing so.
3. Whisk in the sugar.
4. Whisk in the egg yolks.
5. Whisk in the almond powder.
6. In a seperate bowl, make stiff meringue (To read up on how to obtain a perfectly whisked up meringue, click here).
7. Fold half of the meringue in to the cake mixture from step 5.
8. Sift in all of the flour & fold.
9. Next fold in the rest of the meringue.
10. Divide the cake batter in to the three cake tins.
11. In to the 180 degree oven it goes. (Pre-heated ofcourse!)
12. The ‘bake time’ for each size tin will be different. Because of this, you’ll be taking the tins out at different times. Please use the following as a guide, but please also do a ‘skewer test’ (inserting a skewer in the centre to see if it comes out clean).

6 inch = take out after 30 minutes

8 inch = take out after 50 minutes

10 inch = take out after 1 hour

13. When baked, take the tin sides off & cool them completely.

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RASPBERRY GANACHE FILLING RECIPE:

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80g unsalted butter (room temperature)
1000g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solid, in button form for quick melt, or finely chopped from a bar – although bear in mind that chopping it up takes more time to do than you think)
800g fresh double cream
200g raspberry jam

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1. Boil the cream in a pot.

2. Pour hot cream over the chocolate & the jam in a mixing bowl.

3. Leave to stand for 10 seconds. Then use your spatula to mix it in slowly from the centre, incorporating more cream from the sides as you do it.

4. Mix in the butter. Mix until it dissolves (if you still have lumps left, give it a 5 second wiz in the microwave).

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Pâte à Glacer (coating chocolate) Recipe:

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2kg White couverture chocolate
160g pure vegetable oil

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1. Melt chocolate in a mixing bowl.

2. Add oil. Mix together.
3. Place the mixing bowl in a ice filled water bath & keep stiring the chocolate/ oil mix with your spatula. Make sure you stir from the bottom of the bowl, where it is most cold. Keep stiring til it thickens.
4. Place the bowl in a hot-water bath for a very few seconds to bring the temperature up again.

5. Now it is tempered for coating the sponge.
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CAKE ASSEMBLY:

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1. Cut cake in to two horizontally, & sandwich 5mm layer of the raspberry ganache.

2. Put the sandwiched sponge on a cut-to-size cake card.
3. Place the first sponge to be coated on a cooling rack, on top of a clingfilmed tray.

4. Pour some pâte à glacer over the cake. Smooth it down the sides, to cover it completely.

5. Sit down. Get comfortable. Take your time sticking one slab at a time to the side of the cake. Make sure to overlap each one slightly. Once you’ve stuck it all on, tie a string around it to support them. Now is your chance to really make sure each slab is straight. When you’re happy, pour more pâte à glacer in the centre of the sponge & let it fall down to all the sides. This would help fill any gaps inbetween the sponge & the slabs.

6. Repeat these steps for the other two tiers. Note, you can re-use the pâte à glacer that had fallen to the tray again to cover the next sponge.

7. Once you’ve done all three, next skewer some wooden sticks in to the bottom two layers. These would act as plinths to hold the weight of the next tier up. More skewers mean more stability, but also means lots of holes on your slice. Placing nearer the outskirt also gives you stability, but make sure it is not visible when assembled. Place one in the middle, & then symmetrically skewer in a circle.
8. Finally tower up your tiers & et voila! Phew… sit back, you can relax now, & enjoy the monumental view, possibly with a beer because you deserve it!
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