“Black Velvet Cake” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”


Does this cake look like a Great British Bake Off contender to you?

Nope. I didn’t think so.

This cake was a disaster. “How?” you may ask.

Let me count the ways, though it’s so hard to know where to begin.

The reason I wanted to make this cake in the first place was because I was intrigued by the icing, whereby you take a bottle of champagne (not a typo) and boil it down into two tablespoons to act as the flavouring. This was a variation on champagne cupcakes I had made last weekend from “Lola’s Forever,” but in that case, for the icing you add just two tablespoons of champagne to it after adding two tablespoons to the cake mixture. This method comes with a special bonus because you then have to drink the rest of the bottle yourself because it’ll lose all its fizz by the time your guests arrive. I can fully endorse a recipe that has leftover fizz that I need to drink right away. (If you’re curious, those cupcakes were delicious.)

To Gizzi’s credit, she says you don’t actually have to use champagne– though I wouldn’t mind having a life whereby you’d give no thought to having a spare bottle that you could use in that way. I ended up using a bottle of Cava we had kicking around. I was curious as to how it would work, and it was fun to see the Cava fizzing away on the stovetop. But at the end of the day, it meant I spent £6 on two tablespoons of ingredients, which seems a bit rich to me.  We couldn’t even taste the cava in in the icing anyway. Also, as you can see in the picture, the icing was a bit gloopy, which meant I couldn’t really ice the cake well.

The other method she endorses that I’ve never really understood or used when I make cakes myself (though other people, including the Queen of Cakes herself Mary Berry do sometimes do it this way) is to make one large cake. Once it’s baked, you then slice it into thirds for your three layers. I don’t know why you’d do it this way when it’s so much easier to just divide the batter into thirds and bake them.

In this case, this created one large cake that then cratered in the middle. I’m not sure if it was operator error or a problem with the recipe, but either way, it didn’t work. Consequently, it was impossible to then divide it into thirds. I could then use all the icing to fill up the crater in the middle, which was a means to an end but not the way I’d like my cake to be.

It looked a disaster and it tasted fine. Not delicious exactly, but our friends seemed to enjoy it. On the other hand, that might have had something to do with the copious amounts of wine we drank that night. But when I went to eat the cake, I could only taste bitterness, because I thought of the wasted cava and the wasted afternoon lost in the making of this cake.

Important Addendum: Thanks to “A Cookbook Collection,” she told me that Gizzi posted an apology on her Instagram feed that said the recipe should read 2 1/2 teaspoons NOT tablespoons. Duh! I should have known better, but sometimes you just have to trust what they tell you to do. (That was my mistake.) If you want to read the apology yourself, it’s here. As I don’t follow Gizzi on Instagram, I didn’t see the correction. At least now I know it wasn’t operator error. But there’s no way I’m giving this cake another chance, given all the other amazing things I want to bake. As a variation on the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” I would say, “You only get one chance to boil down an entire bottle of Cava.”

Will I make this again? I think you all know the answer to that one.

“Black Velvet Cake” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

11 thoughts on ““Black Velvet Cake” from “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”

    1. Maureen Stapleton says:

      I have angered the Champagne Gods! To make amends, I feel as though I should drink some more as soon as possible and beg forgiveness. Hopefully that will work.

  1. Adeline says:

    Hilarious, Maureen, you are such a talented writer 🙂

    I’m sorry the cake ended up the way it did, but then I’m not, because I got to read your epic retell. Thank you thank you!

  2. Catherine says:

    Hilarious! I once tried to make champagne&strwberry jam. I wasnt impressed either!
    I would love to suggest simply Nigela as the next cookbook of a month! Its my first Nigella book but I loved her shows on tv! Now I just have to decide which Nigella book to get next… 🙂

    1. Maureen Stapleton says:

      It seems to me the best way to use champagne is to drink it.

      Thanks for the suggestion for next month’s book. We will keep it in mind. We are also massive Nigella fans!

      Thanks for reading.

  3. I think Gizzi posted an apology on Instagram that there was a big error in one of her cake recipes. Can’t remember which one but it stated too much raising agent causing cakes to sink. That still doesn’t excuse the waste of champagne though 🙂

    1. Maureen Stapleton says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I just had a good search looking for it, but couldn’t find it. But it introduces a good question: what happens when the cookbook author knows there’s a fatal error in one of their recipes, and how do they get the word out?

      1. Just had a quick look back, there’s a pic there of the cake from 3 weeks ago and an apology for the error.
        It must be so frustrating for the writers when this happens, it’s not the first correction I’ve seem on Instagram.

  4. Maureen Stapleton says:

    Thanks for finding it! I just saw the apology too. I should have known better, since I bake all the time, which makes me more embarrassed. Perhaps I need to give this another go, though I’m so scarred by the first experience, I doubt I will try.

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