A giant Tunnock’s teacake for a momentous birthday

We’ve had another big birthday in our house. That’s two in less than a month. Woo! I’m not sure how we’ve coped with all the excitement to be honest. We’re not used to it.

birthday girl grinning

Elsa’s transition into her teens felt momentous and exciting and scary and right. And although she’s 13 and I thought she might be beyond our usual home-styley party, she insisted on having one. So I had an unexpected bonus year of youthful party planning.

Of course one of the most important elements of any birthday celebration is the cake – it’s the bit of children’s parties we carry on right into adulthood. But ironically, given my prediliction for producing absurd cakes over the years; Elsa, it emerges doesn’t really like cake. On second thoughts, perhaps it’s not ironic at all.

So after her declaration as a teenage non-cake lover, we had to think of something else special to stick candles in, sing around and share with friends.

I began to think about biscuits, which she does like and was heading in the direction of a stack of giant cookies. And then I remembered Elsa’s favourite teatime biscuity treat, which really IS a treat. Drum roll please…

The Tunnock's teacake

The Tunnock’s Teacake

Oh what a wonderful confection, starting with the box – perfect in all its yellow and red retro glory and right through to the six foil-wrapped beauties inside.

Plated up, Tunnock’s teacakes look fabulous. I’d like to think that the Queen offers them on silver platters as an eminently superior alternative to Ferrero Rocher. Perhaps I’ll petition the government to make sure there are supplies in every British Embassy. I’m sure tricky negotiations would be eased considerably with Tunnocks teacakes to hand.

Tunnock's teacakes on plates

On the tea table a plate each of blue (dark chocolate) and red (milk chocolate) Tunnockses (that’s the official term) look wonderfully festive and quaint in a his and her’s, ‘boys and girls come out to play’ kind of way.

The red ones are far more widely available but the blue ones do actually have a certain something. Having bought a packet of them for this very blog post, we all tested them and I’m pretty sure they’ll be in my shopping basket again. I got them in Waitrose. The red ones are available widely, including in Poundland, thank you very much.

Opening a Tunnock’s teacake is sheer delight. Even the foil wrapper merits a few minutes of attention, but only AFTER the main event which of course is the teacake itself.

Teacake collage

Maybe she loves them a bit TOO much!

I’m not sure I should say too much about the beauty of that perfect chocolate dome, the joy of cracking through it with your teeth and the taste of the perfectly white fluffy mallow within. I won’t do it justice with mere words. All I can say is, if you haven’t tried a teacake yet, now’s the time. Email me your address and I’ll put one in the post. I can’t guarantee its safe arrival, but I’ll try.

Incidentally there are pretenders – supermarket own brands and the like, but I did a taste test once of three other varieties against Tunnock’s. Guess who won. By a long chalk.

So anyway, back to Elsa’s birthday non-cake. After much deliberation and a middle of the night Eureka moment the answer became clear: a GIANT Tunnock’s teacake. Oh the excitement.

It occured to me that the giant Tunnock’s teacake might have already been attempted, so I headed straight for ‘Pimp that Snack‘. I was right; 3 people have tried, with mixed results in my view, but well done them for trying and a round of applause to Michelle Kershaw and Nick Dodds for their creation.

While Pimp that Snack was a good starting place for some top tips, I went elsewhere for recipes and techniques. The whole process is perhaps not as hard as you think, but you do need to take some care and time, and it’s not one to cut corners on. Remember it’s perfection you’re trying to recreate.

close up tunnocks teacake

Somehow I think most of you won’t be falling over yourselves or each other to make a giant Tunnock’s teacake but you should if you’re feeling adventurous and you want to make an impression. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I think it’s really important to make birthdays memorable. What better way than a giant version of your loved one’s favourite biscuit.

So I’d like to think that sometime, somewhere the 5th brave giant teacake adventurer will benefit from my experience. Whoever you turn out to be, I salute you. Please do say hello, whenever that great day comes.

boxes of tunnocks teacakes

And now here’s my more or less blow by blow account, because I did a lot of research and I wouldn’t want you to have to do the same.

To get us started; when making a giant Tunnock’s teacake there are four key elements to consider:

  • The chocolate dome
  • The mallow filling
  • The biscuit base
  • The distinctive red and silver wrapper

The super smooth chocolate dome is really the key to it all. Its super smooth, perfectly rounded finish is crucial to an authentic end result. Once you’ve got the dome right the rest will follow, sort of. Hopefully.

unwrapped teacake

The naked teacake

Dome first. I inherited my grandma’s round-bottomed copper bowl which she used to whip up egg whites into a frenzy for meringues. It’s about 8″/20cm across. Perfect. If you don’t happen to have a copper bowl in your cupboard (you don’t?) then a large hemisphere cake tin like this one would be just right.

I used this teacake recipe by Paul Hollywood and doubled the quantities for each giant teacake. (I actually made 2 domes and biscuit bases but more on that later). The recipe recommends dark chocolate but I went for a mix of milk and dark. About 2/3rds and 1/3rd respectively. And supermarket own brand rather than the usual high quality stuff I use. More authentic for this project methinks.

In the name of authenticity I decided to temper the chocolate as I wanted that glorious teacake shine. Without getting too technical (I’ll leave that to the experts) tempering chocolate is a process of developing all important beta crystals. These splendid fellows prevent the characteristic white bloom of untempered chocolate that you may have seen if you’ve stored chocolate in the fridge. Tempering involves heating, cooling and reheating melted chocolate to specific temperatures, reasonably quickly. There are several methods out there, but I recommend David Lebovitz’ guide to tempering chocolate.

Word of warning: you need an accurate thermometer for this. I hoped my jam thermometer would work but it doesn’t go to a low enough temperature. Fortunately our digital cooking thermometer did the job. Just make sure you have one before you start.

peeling chocolate off teacake

Obviously the critical part of this whole chocolate dome thing are the acts of moulding and unmoulding the dome. Scary concepts unless you’re a chocolatier with your own lab in Switzerland. So I did considerable research into making sure the chocolate would form the perfect shape AND come out of the bowl. I wiped around the bowl with a smear of flavourless oil and froze it as well. Allegedly one or other of these measures should’ve been sufficient but I wasn’t taking any chances.

To make the chocolate dome spoon a decent amount of melted ( and tempered?) chocolate into your bowl/mould and swirl it around and up the sides of the bowl. Use the back of your spoon to help the distribution process. Keep tilting and tipping and adding more chocolate until the whole bowl is covered with a reasonably thin and reasonably even layer of chocolate. Return the bowl to the freezer for about 20 minutes. Remove and repeat. I opted for a fairly thick and therefore stable (I figured) chocolate dome, coward that I am. Finally, after another short spell in the freezer check that the chocolate is firm and face the scary prospect of removing the dome from its home.

I’ve mentioned that I made two domes – this gives me the opportunity to tell you that the process of removing the chocolate shell can be either really easy or really not easy. The first shell I made slipped out with barely a word of encouragement. I just slid a knife around the top edge to loosen it, inverted it and the little beaut slid out with no trouble.

Eating a Tunncok's teacake

The second was a nightmare. It refused to budge despite the knife trick, hot tea towels laid on the bowl and a few sharp encouraging taps on its bottom. Leaving the bowl to come to room temperature didn’t help either. In the end we took a palette knife to it, pushed right down between the bowl and the chocolate. This on the basis that there must be a sticking point somewhere. I had visions of the dome’s smooth shiny surface being completely ruined but decided it would be hidden under foil so WHO CARES! Me actually, but we were desperate by then.

Anyway the dome did loosen and slid out. And miracle of miracles it was as smooth as. Not a blemish from the palette knife anywhere. The moral? Get tough if you have to. Tell it who’s boss. And if it tells you who’s boss by breaking. Well then you’ll just have to start again. Remember I made two in one evening and I didn’t find that too arduous. In fact we made the whole kit and caboodle in an afternoon and evening.

The biscuit base is straightforward – just find a circle template the right size to fit just inside your hemisphere. I used an 8″ removable cake tin base. Roll the mixture quite thick – about 1cm and bake longer than the recipe says for a beastie of this size. I confess I can’t remember how long ours took, I just kept checking and putting it back for another 5 mins. Once cooled cover all over with melted chocolate – I had enough left from the dome for this. No need for perfection here. As you can see.

smearing chocolate on biscuit base

THIS is the part Alice volunteered to help with…

Next the all important mallow. It’s basically a meringue mixture with some added syrup. The recipe uses golden syrup but I might be tempted to try glucose syrup next time for extra whiteness.

I always seem to have a problem with egg whites – there always seems to be some egg white that remains liquid in the bottom of the bowl. There’s plenty of advice online about meringue weeping once it’s on the pie, but what about when it’s still in the bowl?!

close up bowl of mallow

Anyhoo, the mallow worked out fine – it tasted and looked perfectly great – but there was some weepiness when we cut into the teacake.

Thanks to this very useful ‘Decoding Delicious’ blog post about foaming egg whites there are two things I’ll do differently next time. First I’ll start beating the egg whites at a sloooow speed and secondly I’ll refrigerate the completed mallow/meringue; warmth causes them to deconstruct.

Once we dolloped the mallow into the chocolate shell we carried out the slightly scary operation of adding the chocolate biscuit base and turning the whole thing over, before sealing the edge with more melted chocolate – rapidly piped and smeared on with a teaspoon. This join is not perfection on the real thing, so smearing is fine! You can’t really do this part without a second pair of willing and able hands.

drawing teacake wrapper

Aside from moral support and extra helpful hands, Danny’s most important and much admired contribution was the fantastic wrapper artwork. He copied the signature design (with personalised messages for Elsa) onto tin foil. Don’t use non-stick foil and do use a permanent marker like a Sharpie.

Lesser mortals like myself would need to draw circles and straight lines to ensure a reasonable result, but being a proper artist Danny drew this freehand. Brilliant! So brilliant we’re going to frame it. I love it.

giant Tunnock's teacake wrapper

And that’s it. We’re there. The giant teacake is ready to serve to our newly teenage daughter and her birthday friends. Ta da!

Giant Tunnock's Teacake

Actually I mentioned that I made two giant teacakes. We presented the second one unwrapped and with a small hammer. It was filled with sweets not mallow. A chocolate piñata if you will. Whoop! Alongside we stuck the requisite 13 candles into some proper teacakes for Elsa to blow out and then she hammered and cut her way into her two giant Tunnock’s teacakes.

pinata teacake

The birthday girl couldn’t quite believe her eyes and a special place for Tunnock’s teacakes has been utterly guaranteed for many, many more birthdays in our household. Now who do I write to at the British Embassy? Wait, I know just the man…

teacake and candles

Happy birthday sweetheart x

 

Oh and by the way, this is not a sponsored post!

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17 Responses to “A giant Tunnock’s teacake for a momentous birthday”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Excellent post, and thanks for the link! I wish I could take a big bite out of that teacake! 🙂

    • eethree Says:

      Thanks Amanda – I really appreciate it. Actually I tried to comment on your blog to say thanks for your great post, but clearly it got lost – I’ve just checked.

      You DEFINITELY need to try a Tunnock’s teacake when you come to the UK. Or I could send you one. Not sure it’ll survive the Atlantic crossing though!

  2. Maisa Leibovitz Says:

    wow, I haven’t tried a teacake yet, BUT we have something similar in Brazil which I am a fiend for and my mom will mail some once in a while to Canada. They’re called Auntie Benta and look a tad bigger than teacakes. Yummm

    • eethree Says:

      Thanks for writing Maisa and oh how intriguing. I like the sound of an Auntie Benta. I’ve had a quick look online but I can’t find them anywhere, which makes them even more intriguing.

      Definitely, definitely try a Tunnock’s teacake when you get the chance! I’m happy to send you one as per my offer, but I think it might be a squished mess when it arrives. Mind you if your Mum sends you Auntie Bentas to Canada maybe there’s hope…

  3. Linda Carmody Says:

    Mmmmmm, an impressive effort and I would like to tuck into one now. Not a bad product idea either. Our favourite biscuits scaled up for a birthday celerations! ANd a happy 13th birthday to the young lady too!

    • eethree Says:

      Thanks Linda, yes the possibilities are endless for your favourite biscuit to be transformed at a party. You’re right – maybe it could be my next small (giant) business venture! I fancy attempting a giant party ring next time. Or maybe a huuuuuge iced gem…

  4. Miklos Kiss Says:

    omg. I weep for the beauty of the teacake.

    • eethree Says:

      ‘Tis a wondrous thing. Go buy yourself a box and eat the lot…

      We’ve eaten so many (in the interests of research you understand) that I am doing extra swimming to counter the effects.

  5. rachel foster Says:

    Have Tunnocks tea cake company offered you a job as head of their PR department yet? Golly – what you’ve done is AMAZING! I wish I had half your creativity and drive. Honestly, I’m weak at the knees, and very very hungry. It looks delicious. Bravo.x

  6. Tracie Says:

    Hey, I am about to combat the task of teacake making soon for my about to become 14 year old girl, she also adores Tunnocks, will let you know how it turns out, I had a thought though considering your link to Decoding Delicious I may omit the salt for cream of tartar it looks like that may be why you had the result. Anyway, will let you know how things turn out, brilliant by the way, my daughter will go nuts if this turns out ok, and I wondered if anyone had tried it out. She asked for ages ago after seeing Paul Hollywood’s teacakes.
    Many thanks Tracie 🙂

    • eethree Says:

      Hi Tracie – hooray, another big tea cake fan. Definitely let me know how you get on and yes, interesting comment re switching salt and cream of tartar. Good luck and hope your daughter has a faaaabulous birthday!

  7. Tracie Says:

    Hey again, all went off fabulously her face was a picture certainly didn’t expect that. I have some great pics but don’t know where to post them, my other daughter did an amazing foil cover, this took about two hours. The cake itself did have one big issue, that was with the chocolate. I attempted this four times in all then googled to find out what i was doing wrong, because i was using a metal dome tin from lakelands the chocolate solidified to it even with the oil, therefore making it too difficult to remove. Ended up using cling film inside the dome and pouring choc in making it easier to pull put but it wasn’t easy and because time was pressing didn’t get the lovely round dome shape and next time would use a silicone dome. The mallow was easy, i didn’t use cream of tartar in the end and still worked beautifully as to was biscuit, took a while in oven and overall it tasted like the real thing.
    Overall a great thing to make and enjoyed the outcome and was the best surprise especially to my daughter who loves Tunnocks. Thanks for posting 😋

    • eethree Says:

      Hi Tracie, Success! Sounds like the whole thing went down a storm. Ooh I’d love to see a picture. You on instagram or anything? I agree with you re the cholocate dome-making process – you need nerves of steel. Weird that the oil made it stick more, mystified by that. But it doesn’t sound as if it was a problem on the end. Well done for conquering it and thanks so much for coming back here to share your experience. Hooray!

      • Tracie Russell Says:

        Hi you can add me on facebook if you like Tracie Russell other than that twitter? I will try and post some pics let me know if you have any probs 😊

  8. Natalie Says:

    Hi, iv just attempted this teacake… Thanks git your tips… I’m just wondering how long it will keep for?

    Tia

    Natalie

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