You are on page 1of 11

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.

h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 1 of 11

Feature

FEATURE
CHRISTMAS 2015: CALL TO ACTION

Hominid spongyform encephalophagy: cooking time
1-11/2 hours, difficulty ***
Lucinda Whitton provides a fun recipe for a “brain cake” for you to make this Christmas
Lucinda Whitton senior house officer
Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Gloucester GL1 3NN, UK

With shows such as “The Great British Bake Off” captivating
the nation, baking has taken Britain by storm. This article shows
you how to make a “brain cake”—from the core sponge to the
basal layer and gyri. Not only is it “radiculously” tasty, it will
get your neurones firing as you fight with the intricacies of the
anatomy. So find the mixing bowl and conjure up your culinary
creativeness this Christmas. Food for thought indeed.

Step 1: The sponge

A simple Victoria sponge recipe will do the trick. Spherical
baking trays are available from specialist kitchen shops but
ovenproof bowls lined with greaseproof paper can be used
instead.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Butter two spherical baking trays or
ovenproof bowls and line with greaseproof paper.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Divide the
mixture between the two spherical bowls and one small cupcake
baking tray (to make the cerebellum).
Cook for 20-25 minutes until the cake is golden and bounces
back when pressed down. Allow to cool while preparing the
icing.

Step 2: Icing
Achieving the brain colour is one of the most difficult parts of
making the brain cake. Good quality food colouring makes this
easier.

Dividing the fondant into two halves at the beginning means
you can dilute the intensity of the colour or start again if it goes
disastrously wrong. Use the best colour for the top layer of icing:
the gyri.

Once both sponges are completely cooled, spread a layer of
butter icing on top of one with a palate knife. Next, spread a
thin layer of jam.
Place the second sponge on top of the base sponge. Apply a
layer of butter icing and jam to the top of the cake.

Step 4: Hemispheres
To achieve the definition of the hemispheres use a sharp knife
to cut around the cake to leave two crescent shaped sponge
pieces.

Next, position the crescent shaped sponge pieces on top of the
cake so that the filling layer is visible from above and the two
shapes have straight ridges next to each other. In this way the
hemispheres are formed.

Step 5: Basal layer
Apply a base layer of icing to cement the brain cake together.

At this point, you can cover the entire cake in boiled jam to aid
adhesion, but I find everything is sticky enough without.

Sprinkle icing sugar over the rolling pin and kitchen surface,
then roll half the icing into a thin, even layer, about 3 mm thick.

Lift the rolled out icing over your cake using the rolling pin.
Once applied, use a sharp knife to trim excess icing from around
the cake. Add the excess icing to the remaining half.
Apply slight pressure to the top of the cake where a natural dip
should have formed to create the hemispheres.

Step 6: The cerebellum

Step 3: Brain substance

Take the sponge cupcake and apply a layer of butter icing and
jam. Use a sharp knife to trim the cupcake if it’s too big.

For the butter icing, put the butter, icing sugar, and vanilla
extract into a mixing bowl. Use a wide paddled whisk to achieve
a smooth consistency.

Identify the occipital lobe of the brain cake and, using a sharp
knife, cut an indent into the lobe for the cerebellum. Place two

Next, apply a thin layer of icing all over the cupcake.

Correspondence to: lucywhitton@gmail.com
For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 2 of 11

FEATURE

Ingredients
Victoria sponge
200 g each of self raising flour, caster sugar, and unsalted butter, softened
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk

Filling
150 g unsalted butter, softened
210 g icing sugar, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract
Jar of good quality seeded jam

Icing
1 kg packet of ready to roll white icing
Yellow and red food colouring

Other
Apricot jam, boiled (optional)
2 cocktail sticks

cocktail sticks into the cerebellum. Lift the brain cake so that
the cerebellum slots into the space and the cocktail sticks secure
the cerebellum to the main cake.

Step 7: Gyri
This step is the most important in terms of the cake’s overall
appearance and can be as anatomically correct as you like,
depending on the time available and your patience.

To create basic gyri and sulci, roll small pieces of icing into
even sausages. Starting at the hemisphere, fold up the “icing
sausage” to create the gyri. The “sausage” should adhere to the
base layer of icing, but if it doesn’t knead it more before placing
on the cake or use a small brush with cold water to cement the
underside.
Continue with this process until the entire cake, excluding the
cerebellum, is covered. Never cross the ridge of the hemispheres
with gyri.

Step 8: Fiddly folium
This step is the most difficult and requires the most patience.
Use the same method as used to create the gyri but roll out the
sausages very thinly—about 3 mm in diameter.

Layer horizontally until the entire cerebellum has been covered.
To create the cerebellar vermis, use a cocktail stick to carefully
apply pressure in the midline.

Step 9: Dissection
After taking several pictures and admiring your hard work, use
a sharp kitchen knife to dissect the finished product. Coronal
or sagittal it will be enjoyed by all.
Thanks to Geraint Fuller for neurological inspiration and Elena King
(née Binns) for photography and artistic direction.
Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ policy on
declaration of interests and declare that I have none.
Accepted: 25 Oct 2015
Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6310
© BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 2015

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 3 of 11

FEATURE

Figures

Fig 2 Start with 1 kg of white fondant icing and divide into two halves

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 4 of 11

FEATURE

Fig 3 Add 2 teaspoons of yellow colouring; knead well to give an even colour

Fig 4 Add 1 teaspoon of red colouring; knead well

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 5 of 11

FEATURE

Fig 5 Knead in excess fondant icing once colour has been achieved.

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 6 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 7 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 8 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 9 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 10 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

BMJ 2015;351:h6310 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6310 (Published 14 December 2015)

Page 11 of 11

FEATURE

For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/permissions

Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/subscribe