Sunday, 26 April 2009

Austrian coffee cake with coffee buttercream

It’s the CCD’s (Caked Crusader’s Da) birthday on the 28th April. It’s also my uncle’s birthday which isn’t all that surprising seeing as they’re twins!
OK, so I can't explain what happened on the "T" in birthday; it took on a life of its own!

The CCD is rather partial to coffee cake and swiss meringue buttercream so I took a recipe for Austrian coffee cake and teamed it up with my trusted recipe for swiss meringue buttercream. The cake was particularly interesting to me as it used a technique that I’ve only previously seen with lemon cake, that of making a syrup to drizzle over and be absorbed by the fresh-from-the-oven cake to guarantee maximum flavour and moistness. I suppose it isn’t dissimilar to the technique used for making tiramisu. Here’s the sponge after the syrup was brushed over:

The original quantities for the sponge layers looked a bit mean to me so I scaled the recipe up, hence the oddly exact looking volumes. I find that all sponges are scalable and you shouldn’t ever fear doing this. My quantities are 150% of the original (except for the eggs, where I scaled three up to five) and gave a lovely tall sponge.

Candles can be used to express that special heartfelt message (this is probably an appropriate place to explain that my family are all blessed with the same "unusual" sense of humour - I think the candles were the CCD's favourite part of the cake!):

It’s a tricky cake to cut and get crisp, neat slices but no one seemed to mind!

These photos show how the sponge absorbs pockets of coffee syrup and stays extremely moist:

Happy birthday CCD and Nunks!

For the sponge cake:
75g walnuts, finely chopped
263g self raising flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
263g unsalted butter, at room temperature
263g golden caster sugar
5 eggs
2 ½ level tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder (I used Nescafe) mixed with 3 tablespoons boiling water

For the syrup:
1 ½ level tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
75g Demerara sugar
83ml boiling water

For the swiss meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
2 level tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder mixed with slightly less than 1 tablespoon boiling water

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking paper.
- Beat together all of the ingredients except for the coffee and walnuts. Ensuring that your butter is soft will make this task easier.
- Add the coffee and walnuts and beat further until the mixture is well combined.
- The mixture should drop from the spoon when tapped on the bowl. If it doesn’t add a little more hot water.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 40 minutes.
- While the cakes are cooking, make the syrup: place the coffee and sugar in a heatproof bowl and then add the boiling water.
- Stir until both the coffee and sugar have dissolved. You will need to stir briskly to ensure this.
- When the cakes are cooked, leave in the tins, on a wire rack.
- Prick them all over – while they are still hot – and spoon the syrup over both sponges, trying to distribute it as evenly as possible. I found this a lot easier to achieve using a silicon pastry brush and gently brushing the syrup over the sponges.
- Leave the cakes in the tin to absorb the syrup and only remove when completely cool. Take care as a moist cake is a fragile cake.
- Now make the swiss meringue buttercream. Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir pretty much constantly to prevent the egg from cooking.
- After 5-10 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved (when you cannot see any crystals on the back of the spoon), remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water and whisk until the meringue has puffed up and the mix is cool.
- Add the butter and coffee to the meringue and whisk until the butter has been completely incorporated into the meringue. At first it will look a disaster – it will collapse and look curdled but don’t worry! Stop when the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.
- Spread approximately a third of the buttercream on top of one of the sponges and then put the other sponge on top.
- Use the remaining buttercream to cover the top and sides as desired.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

Chocolate and vanilla is a perfect combination. So what could be better than a delicious chocolate cupcake topped with creamy vanilla buttercream and dipped in thousands of chocolate sprinkles?

The cupcakes looked lovely straight from the oven:

Dipping the finished cupcake in chocolate vermicelli is such a simple technique but gives a rather sophisticated and intricate looking finish. It’s also lovely to bite into and get the crisp chocolate contrasting with the soft sponge and buttercream.

This is chocolate vermicelli:

I’m a big fan of chocolate vermicelli particularly when made from Belgian chocolate, as this variety is. I found mine in my local supermarket so I assume it is widely available. It’s worth buying more than you think they need as large quantities seem to disappear during the preparation of the cupcakes; it’s definitely a paranormal phenomenon and not at all that I’m eating it.

I found I achieved a nicer finish if I domed the buttercream on the cupcake.... it flattens slightly on being dipped in the chocolate.... this beautiful finish:

All boxed up and ready to go:

For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
3 level tablespoons cocoa powder

For the vanilla buttercream:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g icing sugar
3 tablespoons boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To decorate: chocolate vermicelli

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
- Start by making the cupcakes. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour, milk and cocoa powder.
- Spoon the mixture evenly into the 12 paper cases.
- Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and eave to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the buttercream (make it on the day you’re serving it). Beat the butter in a bowl to soften.
- Beat in the icing sugar, boiling water and vanilla until you have a smooth and pale buttercream.
- Spread over the cupcakes and try and shape into an even dome.
- Pour the chocolate vermicelli into a bowl and dip the cupcakes so that the whole surface area is covered with the vermicelli and you can barely see the buttercream
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Cherry streusel cake

This isn’t a show stopping cake that dazzles with the height of its layers or luxurious buttercream, but it is absolutely delicious. It falls into the category of rustic or farmhouse style cakes and, as regular readers will know, these are my favourites!

You could use a variety of fruits – I think plums would work well, but I went for cherry as I thought it would be delicious with the crumbly, nutty topping. This photo shows the three layers well; sponge, cherry and crumble:

The topping is extremely crumbly and, for that reason, I recommend you eat this cake in a dignified manner using a plate and a fork. No cramming it in leaning over the kitchen sink or you’ll lose half the topping!

Yes, that is a huge amount of cream. I can’t think of a single way to mitigate it....unflattering camera angle perhaps? Unfeasibly small piece of cake? I think you know me better than that...

Serving the cake with cream works particularly well as you can use the cream to pick up the crumbs – I’ve got it all sussed out!

For the streusel topping:
85g chopped hazelnuts
85g plain flour
55g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
55g Demerara sugar

For the cake:
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
75g self raising flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Approx 20 cherries – I used tinned

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
- Start by making the topping: take half the hazelnuts and blitz in the food processor until you have fine crumbs. Chop the other half of the hazelnuts roughly.
- In a bowl rub together the ground hazelnuts, flour and butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and chopped nuts. Put to one side.
- Now make the cake: beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Beat in the vanilla.
- Stir in the flour.
- Spoon the thick cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.
- Place the cherries on top.
- Sprinkle over the streusel topping.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly. Mine took exactly an hour.
- Leave to cool in the tin before removing and storing in an airtight container.
- Serve with whipped or clotted cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Individual sticky toffee puddings

Whenever there are polls in magazines or on TV shows to find Britain’s favourite dessert you can always bet that sticky toffee pudding will nab a place on the podium. As it should– it’s divine!

A lot of people don’t seem to realise that what gives the pudding its luxuriant, rich toffee flavour is the humble date. But if you eat a date and really concentrate on the flavour it suddenly seems obvious! Dates are just like toffee but, as they're fruit, you can pretend they're healthy.

This recipe is particularly nice as you can make the puddings and sauce a couple of days in advance and leave the puddings to steep in the thick creamy sauce. The puddings are luscious and airy and I’m certain, that if they could talk, they would sweetly call “eeeeeeaaaatttt meeeeeeeeee”.

I’ve made this recipe before and posted it on my site but in the very early days when my readership comprised of family and a couple of friends. You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Would it be naughty to confess that I have had one of these puddings each day over the weekend?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter baking

I revisited some old favourites this week but put an Easter spin on them all.

Easter biscuits

The CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) is getting very bolshie of late in her demands and she made it quite clear that she was expecting me to arrive on Sunday with some Easter biscuits. Seeing as there is only one weekend a year you can make these (and be seasonal) I couldn’t really refuse.

Easter biscuits are like little girls i.e. made of sugar and spice and all things nice! The warm spicy smells that waft from the oven as they bake are the food equivalent for me of sailors being lured to the rocks by Sirens, except in my example I eat a biscuit rather than die, which seems the better deal all things considered.

The recipe for Easter biscuits can be found here on my site.

Vanilla biscuits

Next on the list are my favourite vanilla biscuits. I wanted to make these so I could try out my new biscuit cutter.

You will notice that the cutter has a companion piece which you push into the biscuit for detail. This also provides a template for icing the biscuit. I bought my cutter from Lakeland Limited – whatever did we do before this marvellous company existed? I’ve tried to find a link to the item but it’s not on their site anymore. The stencil part, gives very crisp detailing:

These Easter bunnies look so chirpy it was almost a shame to eat them! (NB. I overcame this feeling in about – ooh, three seconds, maybe less)

The recipe for Vanilla biscuits can be found here on my site.

Genoese sponge

My final item involves Genoese sponge. It wouldn’t be a holiday weekend without some sort of sponge creeping onto the tea table!

Normally I make large cakes out of Genoese so thought it would be fun to go to the opposite end of the spectrum. These tiny little sponges are the cake equivalent of a shot or an amuse bouche. The larger sponge in the background is the size of a cupcake, so you can see just how tiny the sponges in front are:

You can fill the cake with cream or buttercream but I went for my favourite ‘dipping sauce’ filling (recipe set out below).

The Genoese sponge recipe can be found here on my site.

Dipping sauce

Dipping sauce has only three ingredients and is the work of minutes to make but is utterly heavenly:

250g Mascarpone cheese
500ml Good quality Ready-made custard

How to make:
- Whisk ingredients together until blended, thick and creamy.
- Refrigerate until needed.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Chocolate banana cake

I’m a bit like the Ancient Mariner at the moment. In the epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” the mariner, who is ancient – hence the title, roams the land looking for people to tell his albatross-killing story to, whether they want to hear it or not. Now let me just state that I haven’t killed an albatross but I do seem to be telling everyone how great banana toffos were. Banana toffos were only available in the tube of assorted toffos so, at best, a rare commodity. They seem to have slipped from history to the extent that if you google “banana toffos” one of the first hits is my previous banana cake.

When my thoughts turn to mourning the demise of banana toffos I know it’s time to make a banana cake. This one caught my eye as it also features chocolate and hazelnuts. It does have a very strong banana taste so is one for the banana fans; a couple of my eatership found it overpowering whereas I really liked the rich banana flavour.

Any cake with banana in it will be moist but this one also contains yoghurt so is extra moist and spongy! The additions of chocolate and nuts gives an extra layer of flavour and texture. It’s a highly comforting cake.

One thing I would advise; this is a simple cake but it requires several bowls. I found it best to weigh out all the cake ingredients into their separate bowls so they were to hand as needed. I used one bowl for the flour and bicarbonate of soda, one bowl for the yoghurt, and one bowl for the mashed banana. It’s a bit more washing up but makes life easier.

For the chocolate mixture:
100g dark or milk chocolate
100g chopped hazelnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons caster sugar
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the cake:
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 bananas, ripe and mashed
175g plain whole milk yoghurt
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the topping:
75g dark or milk chocolate
60ml single cream

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
- Start by making the chocolate mixture: chop the chocolate into small pieces.
- Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Put to one side.
- Now make the cake: beat together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Weigh out all the other ingredients. In one bowl put the flour and bicarbonate of soda, in another bowl measure out the yoghurt, and in a third bowl mash the banana.
- Beat the vanilla into the creamed butter mixture.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Beat in the banana and the yoghurt. The mix will curdle at this point.
- Gently beat in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Don’t overbeat, it’s better to finish it off with a spoon that overbeat.
- Spoon half of the cake mix into the tin and level.
- Scatter a generous half of the chocolate mixture over the batter.
- Spoon the remaining cake mix into the tin and level.
- Scatter the remaining chocolate mixture over the batter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Mine took 37 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes before turning out and letting cool completely on a wire rack.
- When the cake is cool make the topping: gently melt the chocolate and cream in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water.
- Stir the chocolate and cream to ensure the mix is smooth.
- Using a teaspoon, squiggle the chocolate over the top of the cake. If there is any left over it can be used with ice cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Custard peach pie

This pie isn’t going to win any beauty contests but boy, does it taste good! It is also quicker to make than you might think because you don’t need to bake the pastry blind. The whole thing goes into the oven at the same time.

Fruit and custard is a perfect combination. Here, the custard contrasts beautifully with the biscuity pastry and soft peaches.

I don’t think peaches are used enough in baking; they have a lovely flavour and texture which makes them ideal for cakes and desserts. I loaded up the pie shell with peaches:

This is what I consider an American pie as British pies tend to have pastry lids. The addition of the streusel topping adds a nice extra texture to the custard.

One omission from the original recipe though, which cost me dear, was the failure to warn that the pastry might over-brown. I would recommend checking it after 15 minutes and covering with foil if it’s browning too quickly. This will spare you the heart-break of having something look like this:

Luckily, one quick haircut later and it was ok!

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

For the filling:
5 peaches (approx 700g)
150ml soured cream
3 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
30g plain flour

For the streusel topping:
60g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
60g caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

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 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.
- Wrap in clingfilm and chill for approximately 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C/425°F/Gas mark 7.
- Roll the pastry out between two pieces of clingfilm until it is bigger than a 20-23cm pie dish.
- Ease the pastry into the pie dish. NB, there is no need to grease the pie dish due to the high butter content of the pastry.
- Leave approximately 2.5cm of pastry overlapping all the way around – you can crimp this or simply leave it plain.
- Peel 4 of the 5 peaches and cut into slices. I used sliced tinned peaches.
- Arrange the slices in the pastry case. You get a good fit if you overlap them in concentric circles.
- Beat together the soured cream, egg yolks, sugar and flour until just combined.
- Pour slowly and gently over the peaches – you don’t want to dislodge them.
- Bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the custard is just beginning to set. I recommend checking the pie after 15 minutes and covering the pastry edges loosely with foil if it is browning too quickly.
- While the pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping: rub together the butter, sugar and flour until you have breadcrumbs. Normally I would do this in a food processor, but the amount here is so small it’s quicker by hand.
- Stir in the ground cinnamon.
- After the pie has baked for 30 minutes, evenly sprinkle the streusel over the custard.
- Bake for a further 15 minutes or until the streusel is golden and a skewer inserted into the pie comes out clean.
- Cool the pie on a wire rack. You can serve the pie warm or cold.
- Just before serving, peel and slice the remaining peach arranging on top of the pie.
- I served my pie at room temperature with some spooning cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.