Sunday, 31 May 2009

Dutch apple torte

It’s week two of my love affair with Aaron Maree’s “Cakes, Tortes and Gateaux of the World” and all is progressing well. This torte is a lot of work but well worth it if you have the time to devote to it.

You know how whenever a stalker who’s obsessed with a singer gets arrested, the stalker usually claims, in their defence, that the singer was directing particular lyrics in a song to them; never mind the millions of other people who heard the same lyric, it was meant for them only. Well that’s how I feel about this recipe. Aaron Maree meant it for me – look at the evidence: my favourite things in the world of cake are sponge, apples, coconut, cinnamon, almonds and pastry. This tart contains all of them. Mr Maree – what are you trying to tell me?

What caught my eye with this recipe was the way that it gets rid of that thorny issue of ‘shall we have pie or cake?’ Of course, the answer is to have both, but this recipe allows you do that in one piece. A whole Genoese sponge sits in the pastry case! Genius. The CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) observed that it feels like you’re eating three cakes/pies in one and it is a little strange at first as you won’t have eaten anything like it before. Once you overcome that sensation it’s deliciousness all the way!

Here is the sponge sitting in the base:

This gorgeous mix of apple, cinnamon and coconut is then added:

It is a nightmare to try and slice prettily though. This is probably a good place to ask whether any other bakers out there hate cutting the cake they’ve made? I loathe it and always pass the task to the CCM, standing on the sidelines panicking at every incision she makes. If it’s just me being weird then, fair enough, I accept I’m weird! The CCM worked her wonders with the knife and got a nice clean slice for a photo:

I made some tweaks to the recipe – the original recipe said to use cooking apples but the idea of Bramley apples with only 100g of sugar made my mouth pucker so I used a tart eating apple instead (Granny Smith’s). I also made 1.5x the pastry quantity as I have often found that professional pastry chef’s recipes are a bit stingy on the pastry because they’re so skilled at rolling it out paper thin. I’m glad I did extra as there wasn’t a lot spare. The quantities set out in the recipe below are what I used.

I loved the way the tort glowed when the apricot glaze was added:

Final thing to point out, the pastry in this recipe is quite hard to handle. It’s like a halfway house between shortcrust and shortbread and is delicious as a result . It’s extremely short and after barely 5 minutes out of the fridge turns soft – more like a paste. It does however patch well and a heavily floured work surface also helps. If you’re not that confident with pastry I would suggest using your own trusted shortcrust pastry instead of this one. You would be losing something though.

Serving suggestion:

For the cake:
112g unsalted butter, at room temperature
112g caster sugar
2 eggs
112g self raising flour
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the ‘shortbread’ pastry:
450g plain flour
225g icing sugar
300g unsalted butter
3 eggs
Water as required

For the filling:
4 tart eating apples (I used Granny Smith. I used 6 apples which was too much – hence my hugely domed pie!)
6 level teaspoons cinnamon
30ml calvados (I used apple juice instead)
100g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
100g desiccated coconut
3 tablespoons apricot jam

For finishing off:
100g apricot glaze (I used ready made from Marks and Spencer, but if you can’t find it simply melt some apricot jam and brush it on)
200g icing sugar
2-4 tablespoons water
100g flaked almonds

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line one 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tin with baking paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Do not skimp on this stage as it’s the key to a lovely sponge.
- Gradually add the eggs, flour and vanilla until fully combined and you have a smooth, thick batter.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin. Level the surface.
- Bake for approx 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
- The sponge can be made the day before and stored in an airtight container.
- Now make the shortbread pastry: place the flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and blitz until you have fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the eggs and blitz again.
- Add enough water to make a dough. Knead until a nice firm consistency then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6
- Lightly butter a 23cm springform pan.
- Take 2/3s of the pastry and roll out between two sheets of floured clingfilm. I floured the clingfilm as my pastry was soft and sticky; if yours isn’t then hold off on the flour.
- When you have a pastry disc big enough to line the inside of the tin and come right the way up the sides, transfer the pastry to the tin. Mine fell to bits but I discovered that it patches well!
- Return the pasty in the tin to the fridge while you prepare the filling.
- Now make the filling: peel, core and slice the apples – I cut each apple into about 12 slices i.e. I quartered it and then cut each quarter into 3.
- Place the apple slices in a bowl and add the cinnamon, calvados/apple juice, sugar, ground almonds and desiccated coconut. Stir so that all the apple slices are covered in the dry ingredients.
- Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the apricot jam over the base.
- Sit the Genoese sponge in the bottom of the tin. It should fit easily as it was made in a 20cm tin.
- Pack the coated apples around the sponge and over the top. Take care, because the tighter you pack the apples, the more you’ll get in!
- Return to the fridge while you roll out the top of the pastry.
- As before, roll the remaining pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm until you have a sufficient disc to cover the top of your torte.
- Remove the torte from the fridge and lay the pastry lid on top. Crimp the edges to ensure that nothing will escape during cooking.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until the shortbread pastry looks cooked. Remember, the sponge is already cooked so judge it solely on the pastry.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. When the tin is cool enough to handle, remove the springform rim.
- Brush the top of the torte with apricot glaze and leave to dry.
- Now make the glace icing: place the icing sugar in a bowl and add a tablespoon of water. Whisk until a thick but runny paste is produced, adding more water as necessary to achieve this.
- Pour the icing over the top of the torte and, before it sets, scatter the flaked almonds over the top
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Vanilla cupcapés

Yes, you’ve read it right. These aren’t cupcakes but rather cupcapés – in other words, cupcake canapés. I have invented this word and will be trying to get it adopted into common usage. Feel free to bandy it about as you please.

I haven’t made mini cupcakes before but wanted something to serve at Iron Cupcake London that was relevant and bite sized. Hence, cupcapés were born!

Here are 36 of the 50 cupcapés made. If you are now counting the cupcapés to validate the numbers I recommend that you either pursue a career in audit or go and get your OCD sorted!

I used my trusted basic cupcake recipe and simply adjusted the cooking time to take into account that mini cupcakes will bake quicker. They really are lovely to eat – down in one is definitely the best way to enjoy these!

Nude cupcapés:

For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Splash of milk

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line two mini cupcake tins with paper cases. This quantity will make 24 mini cupcakes
- Beat the butter and sugar together until they are smooth, fluffy and pale. This will take several minutes even with soft butter. Don’t skimp on this stage.
- Add the eggs , flour, vanilla and milk and beat until smooth.
- Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 15 minutes until a skewer comes out cleanly. Best to start checking them after 10 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the buttercream: beat the butter in a bowl until very soft.
- Add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the vanilla and milk.
- Either spread or pipe over the cupcakes
- Decorate as desired
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Chocolate sponge with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

You might have gathered from the title that this cake has a chocolate theme (not unlike the first Iron Cupcake London – plug, plug!). There could only be one flavour for the CCBF’s (Caked Crusader’s Boyfriend) birthday cake and it had to be chocolate. I came to this conclusion based on the fact that practically every dessert the CCBF ever selects contains chocolate in some shape or form. He also possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Simpsons, so Krusty and Homer had to feature too!

I stoked up the chocolate sponge with some dark chocolate chips. The idea behind this was to add extra flavour and texture. I always like it when you get little pockets of chocolate in a sponge. The sponges were beautiful even before they acquired their cloak of buttercream:

I am rather proud of my decorations that I made for the top. They are plain chocolate discs, topped with a splodge of buttercream, topped with a Malteser (or Whoppers depending which side of the Atlantic you reside. I wish they were called Whoppers in the UK – I love the idea of going into a shop and asking the person behind the counter if they have whoppers!)

Just so you don’t expect such good quality photos every week I should point out that the photos in this post that look like they could be in a cookbook were taken by the CCBF, who knows his way around a camera and doesn’t randomly point and click like I do. That’s why he will be the official photographer at Iron Cupcake London.

Happy birthday CCBF!

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
175g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder, sifted
1-2 tablespoons milk
100g chocolate chips

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Do not skimp on this stage as it’s the key to a lovely sponge.
- Gradually add the eggs, flour and cocoa powder until fully combined and you have a smooth, thick batter.
- If the batter is too stiff i.e. not dropping consistency, add two tablespoons of milk.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared tins. Level the surfaces.
- Bake for approx 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Mine took 35 minutes.
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tins before removing from the tins and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
- The sponges can be made the day before and stored in airtight containers.
- 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 vanilla extract 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.
- Place one sponge on the serving plate and top with a third of the buttercream.
- Place the second sponge on top and press down gently to ensure the buttercream has levelled out.
- Use the remaining buttercream to cover the top and sides.
- Decorate as required.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is an all-time classic dessert that seems to have been a victim of its own success. After being a staple on menus for so many years it became unfashionable (how can ANYTHING so custardy be unfashionable??) but now seems to be enjoying a surge in popularity. For which I say – Hurrah!

Regular readers will recall my Cambridge Burnt Cream which is actually the forerunner of crème brulee. Comparing the two, the crème brulee recipe I have chosen is actually slightly richer as it uses more egg yolks. Mmmmm egg yolks.....

We all have our list of ‘things-that-if-someone-doesn’t-like-it-alerts-you-to-the-fact-they-might-be-dodgy’. Creme brulee is definitely on mine; show me someone (without an egg or dairy allergy) who doesn’t like crème brulee and I will conclude they are a wrong ‘un. Those interested in the machinations of my mind might be interested to know that the following randomly selected things also appear on the list: dogs, glove puppets, Eric Cartman, vanilla, cake (gosh, who knew?), Christmas, hedgehogs, the seaside, and Kevin Spacey.

I also wanted to make crème brulee after finding my gorgeous new terracotta dishes. Kitchen and bakeware is a purely emotional thing for me – my brain never questions do I need it? Where will I store it? Doesn’t that other item you bought do the same thing? I see it, I love it, I buy it – a modern twist on Julius Caesar’s ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’. These were purchased from Amazon and I love them so much that I have, on more than one occasion, taken one down from the shelf to stroke it.

Unless my oven is rubbish, and I don’t think it is as I don’t find this with any other recipes, crème brulee always takes longer to cook than the recipe states. You’re meant to remove the dishes from the oven when the custard is set but still wobbly. I always find that, after the recommended cooking time, my custard is still liquid. In case your oven is different, I set out the recommended time and the time mine took in the recipe below.

500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
100g caster sugar, plus approx 1 tablespoon per ramekin to make the topping
6 egg yolks

This recipe will make 6 portions if using standard sized ramekins. I doubled it up and found this worked fine

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 140°C/fan oven 120°C/275°F/Gas mark 1.
- Place the cream in a saucepan.
- Slice the vanilla pod in two and scrape the seeds outs. Place both the seeds and the pod in the cream.
- Bring the cream to boiling point then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat the sugar and egg yolks until thick and creamy. It should look almost like yellow whipped cream.
- Bring the cream back up to boiling point then pour through a sieve over the eggs.
- Whisk until the custard thickens slightly.
- Sieve again into a large bowl or jug to ensure there are no lumps.
- Using a ladle, fill your ramekins or dishes. Don’t overfill as you need room for the sugar topping.
- Stand the ramekins in a large roasting tray and pour hot water into the tray so the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake in the oven until the custard is set but still a little wobbly in the centre. The recipe said this would take 30 minutes but mine took an hour.
- Remove from the oven and lift the ramekins out of the water – I found this was easy using a fish slice.
- Leave to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Before serving sprinkle approximately 1 level tablespoon of caster sugar on the top of each custard.
- Using a kitchen blow torch or grill, heat the sugar until it bubbles and caramelises.
- Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then serve.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Whenever I look through a new cook book, I tab the pages containing recipes that I wish to make. I recently bought a copy of Aaron Maree’s “Cakes, Tortes and Gateaux of the World” and tabbed virtually every page! It’s a stunning book and I cannot fathom why it’s out of print. Luckily Amazon seems to have nice condition second hand copies for sale.

The CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) also had a browse through the book and, in her subtle way, suggested that I may wish to make the buttercake recipe. Definition of subtle in this context: repeatedly saying how lovely the cake looked, how it’s just the sort of cake she loves to eat, wouldn’t it be nice to have this cake, hadn’t it photographed well etc

Aaron Maree notes that this cake keeps exceptionally well (I believe him, but mine didn’t hang around long enough to find out!) and is therefore a good choice for celebration cakes as an alternative to fruitcake. He also suggests having it plain for breakfast, dressed up with cream or fruit for afternoon tea or toasted and drizzled with maple syrup for dessert. I think I’d like Aaron Maree if I met him - he sounds a very sensible man!

This cake is lovely with such a rich, buttery taste. I added some vanilla to the mix because I’m a vanillaholic, but I think it would be equally delicious without it.

The large amount of milk in the mix means that the texture is close and firm – like Madeira cake but more refined. Imagine a Madeira cake that had been to Finishing School and you’ll get the idea!

180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
250ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
Vanilla extract, to taste

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease or line a 20cm round springform tin.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until they are smooth, fluffy and pale. This will take several minutes even with soft butter. Don’t skimp on this stage.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. If the mix curdles add a little of the flour, but I found I didn’t need to.
- Mix together the flour and baking powder and beat into the butter a little at a time, alternating with the milk.
- Add the vanilla.
- Pour (it will be runny) the batter into the cake tin and level the surface.
- Bake for 1-1 ½ hours until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out cleanly. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
- When cold, dust with sifted icing sugar.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Almond cupcakes with jam and buttercream

The cupcake part of the recipe yielded the lightest sponge I’ve come across for a long time. Usually, when you take a cupcake from the oven it’s very soft and firms up on cooling – these remained so delicately soft that I had to be careful how I held them when applying the buttercream.

As the sponge was so delicate I decided to use the jam in a different way to normal; I made a well in the centre of the buttercream and think it looks rather pretty!

The CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother) got these spot on when he called them Bakewell cupcakes. They do have all the flavours of Bakewells but in a lighter format. I have dabbled in all forms of Bakewells and I know they are the most popular items on my site. Just to recap we’ve had Bakewell sandwich cake, individual Bakewell tarts, and a giant Bakewell tart.

There’s something about jam and buttercream together that is marvellous. For many of us our earliest experiences of cake will be sponge with a tasty, sweet filling. Maybe that’s why it’s so comforting. As I write this the sky is grey and the rain is pouring down but, somehow, my cupcakes mean it will feel like a sunny day.

Also, while we’re on the subject of cupcakes I’d like to remind you all of the upcoming first occurrence of Iron Cupcake: London. All entrants are welcome.

For the cupcake:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g ground almonds
A few drops of almond extract
1 tablespoon milk, if needed

For the topping:
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
A few drops of almond extract
1-2 tablespoons milk (I needed 2)
Raspberry jam

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a patty tin with 12 paper cases.
- Start with the cupcakes: beat the butter in a bowl until very soft.
- Add all the other ingredients, except the milk and beat until you have a smooth, light batter.
- If the batter won’t drop freely from a spoon, add the milk.
- Spoon the mixture into the 12 paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is very soft.
- Sift the icing sugar over the butter and also add the almond extract and milk.
- Beat until you have a smooth, light buttercream. I always take a tiny amount onto my tongue and push it against the roof of my mouth. If it’s smooth, it’s ready. If you sense a gritty texture it needs more beating.
- Spread on top of the cupcakes and make a well in the centre.
- Beat the jam a little to loosen it up, then spoon into the wells. I used about 1/3 – ½ a teaspoon per cupcake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Pineapple upside down cake

Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits – not only is it delicious but it also provides a home for Spongebob Squarepants....altogether now...who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Etc etc

Pineapple, compared to other fruits, seems under-represented in the baking world. This is my second foray into pineapple baking – the first being pina colada cupcakes.

The pineapple upside down cake is a tea time classic but, until baking one, I’d never eaten it! It’s an instantly recognisable cake with the golden rings of pineapple set into the cake.

The addition of some of the pineapple juice gives a lovely flavour and juiciness to the cake. What we all really liked about this cake was that it had an unmistakeable pineapple flavour but it wasn’t overpowering or too sweet.

I served it with clotted cream but in truth – and I don’t often say this – it didn’t need it. The cake is a lovely texture and has such a delicious taste that the cream almost detracted from it.

One warning if you’re using a springform or loose bottomed cake tin– as the cake cooks it oozes sticky syrup out of the bottom of the tin. Wrap the outside of the tin in foil to stop this leaking over your oven!

For the topping:
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g soft light brown sugar
6 pineapple rings in syrup – drain, but keep the syrup (I bought a 432g pineapple rings and this had more than enough rings in it)
6 glace cherries

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g golden caster sugar
150g self raising flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 tablespoons pineapple juice/syrup from the can

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter and wrap the outside of the tin in tin foil. If any syrup leaks out the cake whilst cooking the foil will stop it dripping all over your oven!
- Start by making the topping: beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Spread it over the base of the cake tin and a little up the sides. I found this easiest to do using my fingers.
- Place the pineapple rings in the tin so they touch but don’t overlap. I managed to fit 6 rings but if your pineapple is smaller you might get 7 in.
- Place a glace cherry in the centre of each pineapple ring.
- Now make the cake batter: Beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and beat until combined.
- Spoon over the pineapple rings and level the surface.
- Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly. Mine took 45 minutes. Err on the side of caution – it’s better to give it a little longer and ensure that the cake at the bottom around the pineapple is thoroughly cooked.
- Leave to stand for 10 minutes then turn out onto either a plate, if serving straight away, or a wire cooling rack.
- Serve either warm with ice cream or at room temperature with clotted cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Lemon feather sponge

Birthday season in the Caked Crusader’s family continues at break-neck speed; this week it is the turn of the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma). The photo above shows her coloured flame candles and musical banner that flashed 'happy birthday' whilst playing a lovely rendition of the tune (i.e. the sort of electronic music that is enchanting for 30 seconds and then you want to stamp on the thing!).

I may have mentioned it once or twice (regular readers please feel free to yawn here) but the CCM is fanatical about all baked goods with a lemon theme. When I saw this recipe I knew I had found her birthday cake.

The recipe uses oil instead of a solid fat i.e. butter, which led to a light texture not dissimilar to the airy sponginess of a carrot cake. What I also liked was that instead of buttercream the coating and filling is whipped cream to which you add lemon curd. This creates an ultra light, creamy lemon curd.

It is extremely easy to make lemon curd and, even though I loathe lemon (regular readers – you may yawn again!) I can taste the difference to sugary shop-bought curds. Lemon curd is one of those things that I find ridiculously pleasing to make as it falls into the category of alchemy. You begin with a very thin liquid in the pan and just through heat and a bit of stirring it turns into luscious, thick golden curd in barely 15 minutes!

Happy birthday CCM!

For the cakes:
3 eggs, separated
115ml water
115ml groundnut oil (you can use corn oil if you can’t find groundnut oil but most supermarkets stock it now)
225g plain flour
40g cornflour
3 level teaspoons baking powder
225g caster sugar
2 lemons - zest and juice

For the lemon curd:
1 lemon – zest and juice
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter

For the filling and covering:
350ml whipping cream
Lemon curd (quantity as made above)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line two 20cm sandwich tins with baking paper.
- Combine the egg yolks with the water and oil and beat until combined.
- Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl i.e. the flour, cornflour, baking powder and sugar, and beat the egg mixture into it until you have a smooth batter.
- Beat in the lemon juice and zest.
- In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.
- Fold the egg whites into the lemon batter.
- Divide the mixture between the two prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. I recommend checking the cakes after 30 minutes as mine were ready by then.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack and remove from the tins as soon as the tin is cool enough to handle.
- Now make the lemon curd: Place the lemon zest and sugar in a bowl.
- Whisk together the lemon juice and eggs and pour over the sugar.
- Cut the butter into little pieces and scatter over the top.
- Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (or use a bain marie pan if you have one) and cook for approximately 15 minutes.
- Stir occasionally but not obsessively until you have a golden, thick curd.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- To assemble the cake: Take one of the sponges and spread 2-3 tablespoons of lemon curd over the top.
- Add the remaining lemon curd to the whipping cream and beat until thick and fluffy.
- Spread approximately a third of the cream on top of the sponge with lemon curd on it and sandwich with the other sponge.
- Use the remaining cream to cover the top and sides of the cake.
- Decorate as you wish
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Pecan fudge brownies

These are the first brownies I have ever made. I can’t explain what’s taken me so long to get round to them...I guess there are just too many lovely cake recipes out there vying for attention!

Brownies are versatile cakes – ideal cold with a mug of tea (or coffee, if you must), and equally delicious warm, served with ice cream for dessert. It’s the combination of the rich chocolate flavour with the dense texture that make them so comforting.

These are exactly how I like my brownies – dark, squidgy and almost (not quite, but almost) too rich.

140g unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten
340g light brown muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g cocoa powder
140g plain flour
100g combination of walnut or pecan pieces, and milk or white chocolate chips (I used 40g chopped pecans and 60g milk choc chips)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Line a deep 20cm square tin with foil – this makes the brownies much easier to lift out of the tin when cooked.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- This recipe is best made with a wooden spoon as using a more powerful mixer can overmix the batter and lead to a tough texture.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together until they are well combined and there are no lumps.
- Stir in the cooled butter and the vanilla extract.
- Sift the cocoa and flour over the butter mix and gently stir until just combined.
- Gently stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out cleanly. Mine took exactly 40 minutes.
- Leave to cool, still in the tin, on a wire rack.
- When cool, lift out of the tin (use the foil to help you) and cut the brownies into 16 squares.
- Dust with icing sugar if desired, I didn’t bother.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Cool stuff

Most people reading this site will have a passing interest in baked goods and baking. You will therefore know the joy of seeing lovely baking stuff for sale. I’m sure you will agree, that it is all the more wonderful when you come across original, interesting baking products in the most unexpected of environments.

Take yesterday for example; there I was, wandering around the British Museum generally exuding an air of studiousness and intelligence (hmmmm) when I spotted these:

Egyptian themed biscuit cutters! Instantly I knew these cutters satisfied a need that, until that moment, I didn’t know I had. How have I lived so long without being able to make mummy or Ankh or Egyptian cat-shaped biscuits?

A further highlight was found at a really cool shop called Artbox. Along with a couple of Hello Kitty cake themed items, I had to purchase this cushion especially as I am a fan of Japanese English – note the ingredients in the top right listed as “butter or margaries”:

Special mention and thanks must go to the CCBF (Caked Crusader’s Boyfriend) who didn’t object to entering the packed shop where he was the only male present and then manfully carried a rather dinky shopping basket that I rapidly filled with pink, girly merchandise!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Iron Cupcake London - first challenge announced!

The first challenge can now be announced….drum roll please….

The theme: Chocolate – interpret this in any way you wish: it could be dark, milk or white chocolate, chocolate icing, chocolate sponge, chocolate chips…let your imagination run wild!

Entry requirements – 12 cupcakes made to the same recipe. This is to ensure there are enough cupcakes for the judges and spectators to taste! If you wish to enter more than one variety of cupcake please do – the more the merrier!

The time: 6.30pm – 9pm

The date: Monday 1 June 2009…this gives you all lots of time to rustle up your divine creations over the weekend!

The place: The Barrow Boy and Banker, which is located on the South side of London Bridge, practically opposite London Bridge Station. Please click HERE for a map.

The prize: A chocolate themed goody bag including a chocolate fountain, recipe cards, DVD and lots more. Plus, of course, the coveted winner’s rosette and certificate…dazzle your friends with proof of your baking prowess!

Admission fee: £5 - this applies whether you’re entering a cupcake or simply coming along to sample the delights on offer, and covers tea and coffee. Any other refreshments can be purchased at the bar. Please note that if you are entering more than one type of cupcake, you will still only be charged £5.
In order to gauge numbers for tea and coffee, I would really appreciate you letting me know in advance if you intend to come along, and whether you intend to enter the competition.
Please email me: administrator [at] ironcupcake [dot] co [dot] uk or leave a comment to this post
Details of this challenge can also be found on the official Iron Cupcake: London website

Monday, 4 May 2009

Iron Cupcake: London

OK, so this is a bit of shameless self promotion but what the heck!

I am in the process of setting up the Iron Cupcake: London competition. For those of you not au fait with the Iron Cupcake competition here is a potted summary:

  • Iron Cupcake is a competition that started in the USA. Each month, a theme or key ingredient is announced and entrants have to bake a cupcake that meets the theme or uses the key ingredient. You can be as weird and wonderful as you like, as long as you meet the brief.
  • Iron Cupcake: London is the first Iron Cupcake challenge outside of the USA.
    On competition day all entrants bring their cupcakes along and the judges taste them and vote for the best. The winner receives prizes and glory but all entrants get to try each other's cupcakes.
  • This is a great opportunity to meet other cupcake addicts (oh yes, fear not - there are many of us!), make friends and eat lots of cupcakes!
  • All entries will be photographed and published on this site - so not only is it a great social event, you will also be able to promote your cakes and blogs to a wider audience via this site!

So...anyone in the London or South East area who is up to the Iron Cupcake challenge please visit my Iron Cupcake website (it's work in progress at the moment) and get ready.......

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Raspberry cheesecake

The end of April through early May is birthday central in my family. The CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother) is a cheesecake fiend and dropped subtle hints that he would like a cheesecake for his birthday cake. These subtle hints comprised of several emails saying, “make me a cheesecake”. Subtlety isn’t a gift my family is blessed with.

The addition of raspberries to this cheesecake did make it rather a girly colour but I feel that was balanced against the Darth Vader cake topper. Both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s light sabres lit up when you pressed a button on their backs. Surely they are the most man-friendly cake toppers ever?

I have made this cheesecake before but with peaches. The recipe can be found here.

I pureed 400g of raspberries and, after sieving out the seeds, found this gave me enough puree not only for the body of the cheesecake but also to top the cheesecake. I made the topping by simply heating the puree and then whisking in two further gelatine leaves, that had been soaked in cold water until soft and then squeezed dry.

The cake was a success and the CCB went home with lots of little wrapped packages of individual slices to freeze and enjoy at a later date or, as he termed it: the gift that keeps on giving!