Wednesday, 25 February 2009

CakeFest III – Part 2

As promised, here are the remaining three recipes from the delights on offer at CakeFest III. I have had quite a few emails and comments asking if you can host your own CakeFests and the answer is....of course you can! Any other answer would be in breach of Commandment 10 – and that would never do!

Soured cream cinnamon cake

My nephew and trusty sidekick, The Boy Wonder, made this cake for part of the CakeFest celebration. It’s one of those reasonably plain looking but deliciously tasty cakes. The topping of sugar, cinnamon and hazelnuts also runs through the middle of the cake packing it full of spicy goodness but whereas the top stays dry and crumblike, the middle turns sticky and rich.

The smell of the cake whilst baking was tempting. There’s something about the smell of warm cinnamon (and vanilla...and chocolate...and coconut etc) that speaks to my very soul!

The nuts added a nice bit of texture to the cake. The original recipe used pecans, and while I love pecans, the Caked Crusader’s Ma (CCM) doesn’t get on with them, so in order not to poison a CakeFest guest (think of the bad PR) we switched to hazelnuts.

For the cake:
210ml soured cream
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the topping:
50g brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
25g chopped hazelnuts or pecans

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a 20cm springform tin.
- Mix the soured cream and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and put to one side.
- Start by making the topping: mix all the ingredients together and put to one side.
- Now make the cake: Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Don’t skimp as this is an important stage.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.
- Add the flour, baking powder and soured cream mix to the bowl and stir until well combined.
- Spoon half the batter into the prepared cake tin and level.
- Sprinkle half the topping mix over the batter.
- Spoon the remaining batter over the topping and scatter the remaining topping on top.
- Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Mine took 45 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Butter cake

I’m always fascinated by unusual recipes for familiar-looking cakes. This looks like a fairly ordinary buttercream sponge sandwich but the method of making is unlike any I have come across in that you add extra air to the sponge by beating the egg whites separately and then folding in. I know it is a technique used for certain cakes but, in my experience, such recipes do not then also use the egg yolk or include any butter. Anyway, I’m probably making it sound way more complicated than it is!

The recipe only used buttercream for sandwiching the sponges, I decided to add a little jam too just to give it an extra flavour and texture.

This is by no means a tricky cake to make but you will need two mixing bowls to hand.

The strange thing is that the texture of the cake is quite dense, but the sponge is very light. It also came out an unusual (i.e. wonky) shape which you can see from the finished cake.

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
210g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
80ml water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk, if required

Optional: jam to sandwich the cake

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Don’t skimp as this is an important stage.
- Beat in the egg yolks one at a time and then the vanilla.
- Weigh out the flour and baking powder, and also measure out the milk and water.
- Beat the dry and the wet ingredients into the butter mix alternately. I split it into three batches of each i.e. dry, wet, dry, wet, dry wet.
- In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until you reach the stiff peak stage.
- Fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a metal spoon. I always fold one spoonful of egg white in first to slacken the mix and find it makes folding in the rest easier.
- The batter should be soft but not runny. Spoon it into the prepared sandwich tins, it should level itself.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Mine took 35 minutes.
- Leave to cool for 20 minutes in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
- The sponges can be made a day in advance if, when cool, stored in an airtight container. To have the buttercream at its soft and delicious best, I would make it on the day.
- For the buttercream, beat all the ingredients together except the milk until smooth and creamy. If the buttercream looks a little solid, beat in the milk.
- If using, spread the jam onto one of the sponges. Spread half the buttercream on top and then sandwich with the other sponge.
- Spread the remaining buttercream on the top of the sponge. I chose to cut my sponges through so I ended up with a four layer cake. It doesn’t really make a difference.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Gingerbread men and dogs

Although called CakeFest, it’s always nice to have a biscuit option too. I first made these gingerbread men at Christmas and the recipe can be found here.

This time I also made little dogs. We all agreed that they looked like Santa’s Little Helper from the Simpsons – I think it’s the eyes!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

CakeFest III

I view CakeFest as a non-religious Easter i.e. a movable feast. Previous CakeFests have been a little more planned, this one had a “hey, why don’t we do a CakeFest this weekend?” feel to it.

To summarise: CakeFest is a weekend long celebration of baking and cake, culminating in a tea party on Sunday. It has few rules but one is that nothing must be eaten on Sunday other than cake (cream and jam is acceptable as long as attached to cake when eaten).

My nephew and trusty sidekick, The Boy Wonder, added his baking skills to mine and much fabulous cake was produced. The order of play for CakeFest III was as follows:

Peach cheesecake – click here for recipe

Fruit tarts – click here for recipe

Double chocolate cupcakes – click here for recipe

Butter cake – click here for recipe

Gingerbread men – click here for recipe

Sour cream cinnamon cake – click here for recipe

Peach cheesecake

Regular readers may recall the quest for MPC (My Perfect Cheesecake) and the near misses and one direct hit that I’ve had to date.

The Caked Crusader’s Brother (CCB) hinted that it was about time another cheesecake appeared on this site at roughly the time that I came across this recipe. I must confess that I changed the fruit – all the quantities and methods are the same but the original recipe used passion fruit; which is in the very rare category of fruits I don’t like.

The recipe caught my eye for two reasons:
1. The fruit is mixed into the body of the cheesecake rather than solely sitting on the top
2. You make a sticky meringue mix and fold it through the cheesecake

You can just see the flecks of peach puree in the cut slice; the texture is creamy and soft:

While a little more work than most cheesecakes, it’s definitely worth it. I would go as far as saying this is the perfect cheesecake. More importantly the CCB, who has eaten more than his fair share of cheesecake, agreed.

110g unsalted butter
300g digestive biscuits, crushed
150g mascarpone cheese
300g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
300ml double cream
200ml peach puree – I made my own by blitzing 240g peach slices in a food processor
6 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water
2 egg whites
110g caster sugar
To decorate: peach slices

How to make:

- Line the inside of an 18cm pastry ring with baking paper and stand the ring on the plate you will serve the cheesecake on. Ensure that the paper comes up 5cm above the top of the ring. Do not line the base i.e. so the biscuit will be going directly on to the plate.
- Crush the digestive biscuits either in a food processor or by placing them in a bag, tying the top and bashing with a rolling pin.
- Melt the butter and then stir in the biscuit crumbs.
- Spoon onto the plate, inside the ring and flatten. Press down hard to compress the crumbs. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.
- Place the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water, and put to one side.
- In a large bowl, beat together the mascarpone and cream cheeses.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until it is at the ribbon stage.
- Put the peach puree in a small saucepan and heat just to take the chill off. When it feels warm to your finger squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves and whisk into the peach puree – keeping the pan on a low heat. I use a silicon balloon whisk to do this. When you are sure the gelatine has dissolved, take the pan off the heat.
- Pour the puree over the mascarpone and cream cheese mix and stir in.
- Fold the cream into the peach mix.
- Whisk the two egg whites until almost at the stiff peak stage.
- Add the sugar and whisk for a few more minutes until you have a glossy and sticky meringue-style mix.
- Carefully fold the egg into the peach mix one spoonful at a time.
- Spoon the mixture over the biscuit base in the pastry ring. It will come up above the height of the ring which is why it is important to have the paper come up high.
- Chill for at least four hours, better overnight.
- Before serving add some peach slices to the top for decoration.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Fruit tarts

These are oh-so-simple to make but look really impressive. Perfect for serving on a pretty cake stand or when you wish to impress.

The combination of pastry, fresh fruit and creamy filling has everything a sane person could want. If the fruit is not sweet enough, simply sprinkle a tiny amount of sugar over it and let it stand for an hour or so; I find this brings out the fruit's natural juiciness and enhances the flavour.

These little silver trays are actually meant for making pies in, but I thought they were just perfect for these tarts.

For the shortcrust pastry:
175g plain flour
120g unsalted butter, cold
3 tablespoons icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling:
250g mascarpone cheese
500g ready made, good quality fresh custard
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping:
Fruit of your choice

How to make:

- Start by making the pastry: put the flour, butter and icing sugar into the food processor and blitz until you get fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolks and vanilla and blitz until the pastry just starts to come together.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a ball of dough, handling no more than is absolutely necessary.
- Roll the pastry out between two sheets of baking paper and cut to line the size containers you’re using.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line the chilled pastry with a sheet of baking paper and cover with baking beans.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the filling: beat the ingredients together until you have a thick custard cream that will hold its shape.
- Spoon the custard filling into the pastry cases.
- Top with fresh fruit.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Double chocolate cupcakes

A good chocolate cake is a thing of beauty. These are a halfway house between cupcake and muffin. They are as light as a cupcake but because of the chocolate chips they have the weightiness of a muffin. They look impressive on my shiny new cake stand:

The batter is truly delicious! I defy anybody to resist having a little dip and taste as soon as the cocoa has turned the batter an inviting, rich, chocolate colour. My nephew and trusty sidekick, the Boy Wonder, and I certainly couldn’t resist!
The finished cupcakes crack along the top and are like little chocolate volcanoe:s

They are also a ‘quick make’ as there is no need to add any buttercream; in fact, I think this is a very rare cupcake in that buttercream would be too much.

Delicious warm when the chocolate chips are still soft! The Boy Wonder did a great job making these.

125g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
300g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
180ml milk
80g chocolate chips (milk or plain, whichever you prefer. I used milk)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line two muffin pans with paper cases. I got 20 cupcakes out of this mix.
- Beat the butter, sugar and honey until soft and well combined.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Weigh out the dry ingredients i.e. the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and also measure out the milk.
- Beat in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the milk.
- Repeat until all the dry ingredients and the milk are combined into the batter.
- Using a spoon, stir in the chocolate chips.
- Spoon the batter into the paper cases until each case is two-thirds full.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean. Mine took 25 minutes.
- Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Guernsey cider cake (Gâche à cidre)

I’m still in the midst of my work travels but snatched some time to bake this cake. Travelling for work eats up time like nothing else, and even when you have free time you mostly can’t do with it what you would like to because you’re not at home! Having said that, there are some plusses and the biggest for me are finding out about the place I’m visiting and enjoying the local shops and markets.

I have spent most of the past two weeks in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which is part of the Channel Islands. The Islands are a British Crown Dependency but not part of the UK. Geographically they are nearer to France than England. “Enough of the geography”, I hear you shout, “where’s the cake?” Here it is:

In the independent bookshop I found local cookbooks featuring Guernsey traditional recipes. It struck me, on browsing these, that Guernsey has a fondness for apples and cake. Suddenly I felt right at home!

Cider cake caught my attention because I had a hankering for sultanas. In the same way that you soak dried fruit in brandy for a Christmas cake, you soak sultanas in cider for this cake. Here they are sitting in a bath of fizzy cider:

There are options too – the recipe notes that you can bake one large cake or cupcakes. The rustic nature of the ingredients – sultanas, brown sugar, cinnamon etc made me opt for a large cake. I added my twist to the cake, which will probably have the traditionalists seething, with a vanilla custard buttercream topping. A lot of buttercream topping.....

The aroma of the cake whilst cooking deserves a mention! It was a lovely warm appley smell with a hint of spice. It’s what I’d term a rustic, farmhouse-y sort of cake. Much as I love fancy cakes this is the sort of thing that really gets my taste buds salivating!

Here’s the cake fresh from the oven:

Here it is before it got ‘buttercreamed’:

On eating the cake we all agreed that it was the best cake we’d had for a long’s that good! It’s light and moist but also crumbly and oh so comforting. I think it would be delicious without the buttercream but, for my taste, the buttercream added an extra layer of loveliness.

For the cake:
180g sultanas
150ml dry cider
250g soft brown sugar
180g unsalted butter
Zest of one lemon (optional, I left it out)
2 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the custard buttercream (optional):
150ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
125g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:

- Soak the sultanas in the cider for at least an hour before making the cake. This will give the sultanas time to absorb some cider and become fat and juicy.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a deep 20cm round cake tin. You can, if you prefer, make cupcakes. I’m not sure how many you will get because I made the 20cm cake.
- Cream together the butter and sugar. This will take quite a while as brown sugar is coarser than caster sugar. Don’t skimp as this is an important stage; using my kitchenaid at a medium speed it took about 10 minutes until I had something light and smooth.
- If you’re using it, add the lemon zest and stir in.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Fold in the flour and cinnamon.
- Stir in the sultanas and cider. The sultanas won’t completely absorb the cider so make sure you pour in all the cider too!
- Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes. If you are making cupcakes instead, check after 20 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. You can make the cake a day before serving it but I recommend making the buttercream on the day.
- To make the buttercream: place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and then pour the milk onto the yolks whisking all the time.
- Return the custard mix to the saucepan and, stirring all the time, cook over a medium heat just until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Take your time over this – if you have too fierce a heat your eggs might scramble!
- Pour into a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
- Beat the butter until it is fluffy and light.
- Gradually beat in the now room temperature custard to the butter.
- Finally beat in the vanilla extract.
- Spread over the top of the cake or cupcakes.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Crispy chocolate cake

I'm posting early again this week as am off on more travels for work tomorrow. I've been dodging the snow that's dogged the UK so far and hope my luck holds out and my flight is untroubled!

Now - a trip down memory lane. One of the first things we all probably baked as children were chocolate rice crispie or cornflake cakes. Apart from being easy to make, they taste good!

This recipe harks back to early memories of baking but adds some sophistication too. The chocolate rice crispies are used as a topping for a squidgy, indulgent chocolate cake. The whole concoction uses three bars of chocolate – do I have your attention yet?

My one disappointment with making this recipe is that you are meant to use spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient grain that isn’t wheat based, so people with wheat intolerance find they can often eat spelt with no ill effects. It also has a nutty taste. While the recipe (from a UK national Sunday paper) assured me that spelt flour was widely available I couldn’t find it in any health food store, supermarket or even Borough food market. If I lived way out in the sticks I would accept this, but these shops were all in central London! So I used self raising flour and it worked perfectly.

My other, voluntary, substitution was to use good quality milk chocolate instead of the recommended dark. I often find that dark chocolate can be too bitter and, given the low sugar content of this cake, opted for something a little lighter and sweeter. The cocoa content of the chocolate you use will decide how dark your cake will be – as I used milk chocolate mine is a lighter colour.

You will notice that the topping is falling off my cake – if I made the cake again I think I would double up the amount of chocolate for the topping; it didn’t seem enough to bind the rice crispies together.

For the cake:
150g dark or milk chocolate (I used Green & Blacks milk which has a 34% cocoa content)
120g unsalted butter
3 eggs
30g refined spelt flour (if you can’t find this use self raising flour)
80g caster sugar

For the topping:
150g dark or milk chocolate (I used milk; next time I would use 300g of chocolate)
40g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
50g rice crispies

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease or line a 20cm springform cake tin.
- Start with the cake: break up the chocolate and melt it along with the butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. The water should not touch the bowl.
- Once you have a glossy runny chocolate mix, remove the bowl from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. I used an electric hand whisk to make this easier.
- Fold in the flour and sugar.
- Pour – for it will be very runny – into the prepared cake tin and bake for approx 2o minutes or until the cake feels firm in the centre. As it is such a squidgy cake the skewer test won’t really work. Mine took 23 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before adding the topping. I made the cake the day before I wanted it and left it untopped. The topping is best eaten on the day made as it starts to go soggy after that.
- Make the topping: break up the chocolate and melt it along with the butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. The water should not touch the bowl. Stir until smooth then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the golden syrup.
- Stir in the rice crispies and ensure that all are covered with the chocolate mix.
- Spoon over the top of the cake and spread. Press the crispies down at the edge of the cake to stop them sliding off.
- Allow to cool.
- If you’re using dark high cocoa content chocolate it’s an idea to serve this cake with cream. If you’re using milk chocolate it’s nicest on its own, maybe just some icing sugar dusted on the top.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Streusel-topped caramel butter cake

This is what’s colloquially known as a “cut and come again” cake. Try stopping at one piece!

Both the cake and the streusel topping allow the butter and sugar to be the stars of the show. So often these are the work-horse ingredients in cakes but here they really shine. The hit of cinnamon in the streusel is just enough to add depth of flavour but not totally overpowering.

I made the cake, as the recipe stated, in a traybake tin but also think the mix would work very well as individual cupcakes, where you’d obtain more height.

The sponge layer goes into the tin first:

Then is topped with grated streusel:

Simple to make and uncomplicated to eat, this cake is delicious!

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
110g brown sugar
2 eggs
110g self raising flour
75g plain flour
2 tablespoons milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

For the streusel:
110g plain flour
75g brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
90g unsalted butter

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin. It needs to be at least 2cm deep.
- Start by making the streusel topping: place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until you can press the mix together into a ball of dough. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Now make the cake. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs on at a time. Add a little of the flour if the batter starts to curdle.
- Fold in half the flour along with 1 tablespoon of milk.
- Fold in the rest of the flour and the remaining tablespoon of milk.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level.
- Grate the chilled streusel over the top of the cake. Work fast, as the ball of streusel will warm up quickly in your hand. Spread out the streusel so it is distributed evenly over the cake.
- Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took exactly minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
- Serve with whipped cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.