57. Iranian Pistachio Cake

Iranian Pistachio Cake - powered by pistachios

Iranian Pistachio Cake – powered by pistachios

How delicious are pistachios? Ever since I’ve ventured to Greece and gorged myself on Baklava and Pistachio Gelato in Italy I’ve longed to flavour more with the glorious green god of nuts. I could eat them every day and love the Middle Eastern desserts which feature the beauteous nuts. Thank god I remembered to buy shelled pistachios this time round as this contains a HUGE amount of pistachios! No more lonely hours spent cracking nuts in the kitchen or broken nails for me.

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

I was looking for an especially decadent cake for my friend’s birthday and the Iranian Pistachio Cake offers everything I was looking for. A delicious, moist, sweet sponge with a hint of exotic spice. I know Pistachios aren’t cheap, so you could try substituting them for your favourite nuts (or whatever you have in your cupboard) instead. Maybe almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts? They would also be gorgeous versions of this cake.

Start with beating the butter and sugar together...

Start with beating the butter and sugar together…

As with most cakes the Iranian Pistachio Cake begins with beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Adding as much air as possible to get that wonderfully tender sponge.

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Then for the fun part, smashing up the nuts! Blitz the pistachios with an electric blender/food processor until they’re finely ground. Careful not to grind them too much though as the nuts will release their oils and end up as a pistachio paste which will deflate your cake (or if you keep going you could make your own raw nut butter). I  ground my cardamom along with the salt for extra friction in a pestle and mortar and then added it to the nuts and blitzed them all together to ensure the spice was evenly distributed and fine.

The eggs should then be beaten into the butter one at a time. Beat the mixture until very fluffy and increases in volume.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Combine the ground pistachios, spice and salt with the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and add the vanilla paste. Fold one third of the flour into the butter mixture followed by a third of the milk. Fold in a third of the flour followed by another third of the milk alternately until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin so you don’t knock any of the precious air out of the sponge. I wanted to test out my new fluted brioche tin to make the cake look a little more fancy. (Hope you like my holiday souvenir! I managed to squash 3 cake tins in my suitcase from Portugal! Is it just me who brings baking equipment home from holiday?) I love the moulded shape. Using a smaller tin means the cake requires a longer baking time in the oven but I think the dramatic shape is well worth the effort.

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

After almost an hour in the oven the cake was thoroughly cooked.  I patiently waited 30 minutes before tentatively opening the oven to check if it was done and continued to check every 10 minutes with a skewer that the cake was cooked. The edges did start to brown, so I resorted to a cap of tin foil to protect the top of the cake from burning. You could bake the cake in a bundt tin or a 9 inch round tin. and should take a little less time to cook. You will need to bake it for probably around 30-40 minutes if you’re using a larger tin as the cake will be thinner and require less cooking time. The final cake is a deep brown in colour and springs back when touched.

Rosewater sugar icing

Rosewater sugar icing – the perfect consistency!

Cardamom is a regular character in Eastern cakes and desserts. It compliments the delicious pistachios with it’s subtle spice. Traditionally this cake doesn’t ask for any icing, but I thought something sweet would be a welcome addition. I added my own rosewater glace icing to sweeten the sponge. I always struggle with glace or water icing, with it often ending up runny, resulting in soggy cakes and never endingly wet icing. If I was hoping to make a syrup I would be able to do this with my eyes closed. Desperate to get it right, I actually measured my liquids before adding them to the icing sugar! Using my kitchen aid I beat the icing sugar adding the rosewater one teaspoon at a time to ensure I didn’t over egg the pudding, as I’ve learnt from experience you can’t take extra liquid out if you get a bit too enthusiastic with the bottle…

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Triumph! I succeeded in making a thick pipeable rosewater icing for the first time ever!! Hurrah! If anything it could have been a tiny bit more runny so that it could run down the sides of the cake giving a natural trail in it’s wake. Next time I may add a smidge more rosewater to make it slightly more runny. But hey I’m not complaining! I was aiming for an rosey flavoured iced bun effect and that’s exactly what I got.

Crushed pistachio topping

Crown of crushed pistachios

Smashing up a handful of pistachio in the pestle and mortar I got a bit artistic, adding a crown of crushed pistachios whilst the icing was still sticky so it holds the nuts in place once set. I didn’t want it to look too pristine, so I threw some nuts at the edges of the cake too allowing the crumbs to stick to the icing tracks too.

Happy Birthday Mel!

Happy Birthday Mel!

I loved this cake, so much so I helped myself to 2 slices. (Me? Greedy?) It makes a wonderful alternative to the traditional chocolate birthday cake. A grown up cake full of flavour. Sweet, light and spicy with a tiny crunch to it powered by pistachios. It feels wonderfully exotic with every waft of cardamom balanced against the gentle rose icing. I will most definitely be baking this cake again.

The perfect pistachio slice

The perfect pistachio slice

Each slice glows with the subtle green flecks from the pistachios, contrasting beautifully against the white icing. The cake cuts smoothly and is really robust, so it travels well. (Just in case like me you end up regularly carrying cake around to surprise people with.)

Iranian Pistachio Cake recipe

Iranian Pistachio Cake

Things I used to make my Iranian Pistachio Cake

  • 170g butter
  • 200g sugar

Beat until light and fluffy

  • 3 eggs

Beat in the eggs one at a time until pale and fluffy

  • 180g (3/4 cup) of pistachios
  • 1 tsp of ground green cardamom (this was 9 or 10 cardamom pods)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blitz the pistachios, spice and salt together until finely ground

  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Stir the pistachios into the flour and baking powder

Fold one third of the flour mix to the butter and eggs

  • 110ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the milk

Fold one third of the milk to the butter and flour mix

Alternate adding flour and milk to the mix and continue until all ingredients are incorporated

Pour into a greased (and lined if your tin will allow for this) tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Put a tin foil hat on the cake if it starts to darken too much.

Icing

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 10 tsp rosewater
  • handfull of crushed pistachios
  1. Beat the rosewater into the icing sugar one teaspoon at a time to ensure you get the right consistency. Thick yet runny icing.
  2. Smash the pistachios up to rough pieces and decorate the cake as you wish
  3. Devour with a glass of champagne (if it’s an especially decadent occasion) or proper cup of strong coffee would work wonderfully too. Enjoy!
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56. Lost in Translation – Latvian Golden Coffee Cake – Kliņģeris

A slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

My slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

You can be excused for assuming this cake contains coffee. That’s the first of many surprises that this rather unusual cake bestows. It contains NO coffee but incorporates saffron, cake and a yeasted dough. It’s part cake part bread and mainly liquid!? Golden Coffee cake has intrigued me for months, with it’s promise of a saffron scented pretzel shaped traditional Latvian birthday cake. (I do love a good pretzel) I have been saving this recipe for a special occasion and didn’t realise until I began, just how unusual and complicated it really is.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Not many recipes measure flour in litres or require you to combine an enriched dough with creamed butter and sugar. It was a test of my baking skill and intuition as every part of my brain questioned each step of the recipe. I fear I made a right mess of the recipe and something definitely got lost in the translation. Nevertheless I carried on regardless and produced one very interesting cake…

Is this how it's supposed to look?

Is this how it’s supposed to look?

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake begins life as more of a bread dough than a cake. Kneading together flour, yeast and milk together to create a supple and springy dough.

A supple dough

A supple dough

Whilst your busy kneading the dough together steep the saffron threads in a little boiling water to infuse the liquid with the lovely golden hue and save it to one side for later on.

Steeping saffron strands

Steeping saffron strands

Then to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, whilst the dough rests and proves. Once the butter and sugar are fluffy you then beat the egg yolks in gradually one at a time. I did wonder if I had misread the recipe here as a whole block of butter seems like rather a lot to try to fit into one bread/cake…

Creamed butter and sugar

Creamed butter and sugar

This is where I think it all started to fall apart. In an attempt to save on washing up and effort I used my Kitchenaid to knead the dough and creamed butter together. I also forgot to buy cream so substituted it for milk, which is far more liquid than cream. I adjusted the recipe slightly hoping to compensate for this substitution, but I’m not convinced I did! It took a long time to knead the butter into the dough. They just didn’t want to combine! After a good 10 minutes of kneading the gloopy mess smoothed out into a very fluid (!) and smooth bread/cake dough.

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

It took a good 10 minutes of mixing to get the dough to smooth out and look more appealing. And just when it was all going so well the recipe called for the the juice of 1 lemon and (I guessed as it wasn’t mentioned) the saffron and infused water. All this liquid along with the ground cardamom and zests of 1 orange and 1 lemon made for an even wetter dough…

The proven dough

The proven dough

Leaving the liquid dough to prove in the bowl for a couple of hours, it quickly increased in size and almost overflowed the bowl! The yeast was definitely working. The next tricky stage was to attempt to knead the chopped golden cherries (I didn’t have golden raisins but had randomly picked up some golden cherries on a whim, which were a good alternative) and apricots (the only other golden-ish dried fruit that I had in my cupboard).

Chopped dried golden fruits

Chopped dried golden fruits

I could clearly see that this dough was destined to never blossom into a beautiful pretzel shape despite the instruction to knead it on a floured board. There was not enough flour in my house to get this into a malleable dough state. Yet I found myself pouring it onto my worksurface and racing to catch it before it ran onto the floor. It was more like kneading treacle than bread dough. I resorted to stirring the chopped fruit in on the worksurface and scooping the mixture into a well greased bundt tin instead.

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this?

Covering the budnt tin with greased cling film I left the dough to prove for a full hour to allow the yeast to do it’s magic. Then into the oven for a good bake 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees c.

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead...

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead…

The bundt tin worked surprisingly well to bake the Golden Coffee Cake in. I think having the hole in the middle helps to ensure a cake is cooked all the way through. It expanded so much during baking, you could hardly see the hole in the middle any more! It sure is a yeasty cake.

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

I still managed to make a hash of it however, tipping the cake out too soon, whilst it was still hot. I panicked as it sank further into the tin as it cooled. In my haste to turn it out the cake collapsed even further and bits broke off… I did check that the cake was cooked thoroughly by using a cocktail stick. The dough seemed to be evenly baked as the skewer came out clean, but I felt the cake was still a little too moist to hold it’s own weight. Perhaps 5 more minutes in the oven and 10 more minutes cooling in the tin afterwards would have given it the extra strength to hold it’s own shape a little better.

Tipped out too soon...

Tipped out too soon…

My Golden Coffee Cake has a slightly rugged edge to it which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the cake had expanded enormously there were bits of overhang, that had to break off to get it out of the tin. This means that you get to sample the cake before everyone else! Super Hans and I shared the scraps. He thoroughly enjoyed it which is always a good sign,

The opened cake

The opened cake

I was a bit nervous about presenting this cake to my friends at the Clandestine Cake Club. It really hadn’t gone to plan, despite the many hours of planning and preparation that had gone into this cake. Saffron tends to also be an acquired taste especially when combined with the strong yeast, it’s quite the unusual flavour combination.

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club – my emergency blackberry heart is on the right

The original recipe called for icing too, which frankly I couldn’t be bothered to make as I decided to bake an emergency alternative blackberry and almond cake to take to cake club instead. I didn’t want to waste my Golden Coffee Cake, I still took it along repeatedly apologising for it’s dishevelled appearance.

The Golden Coffee Cake

The Golden Coffee Cake

The verdict? Golden Coffee Cake reminds me of a stronger flavoured Hot Cross Bun. A spicy and fruity bread rather than a traditional sponge cake. It’s similar to an Italian Panetonne, so would be a lovely Christmas bake. The taste definitely improves with age so it’s best baked in advance to allow the flavours to develop and mellow. On the third day, it tasted pretty good! The wet enriched yeast dough gave the cake the moisture it required to create a light aerated texture, with an even crumb I’m sure Paul Hollywood would be proud of.

Golden and fruit filled

Golden and fruit filled

It was a rather moist cake, so a slightly longer baking time wouldn’t do it any harm. It may have been even better if I had got round to icing the cake too! The feedback from my cake club friends was very positive too. Perhaps I had been too hasty in my judgement of this cake, dismissing it as a failure.

Golden Coffee Cake

Golden Coffee Cake

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake is an exotic cake that I’m very pleased I got to experiment with. I love the defined bundt shape of this bake. The dough really holds the grooves of the bundt well and once you slice into the cake it’s beautiful golden saffron interior is revealed. You get a lovely waft of cardamom from the cake too with every slice, bringing it’s own festive cheer to the table.  The sharpness of the citrus fruits cuts through the yeast and spice and gives the cake a light tang. This cake isn’t a cheap to make, once you’ve purchased your precious saffron, cardamom, butter and eggs so I can see why the Latvians save it for special occasions. I fear I may never learn my lesson and continue to substitute ingredients on a whim, so I take the blame for my own additions to this recipe! Don’t add too much liquid if you do try this at home and you may actually get to shape it into a pretzel!

Things that I used to make my Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 tsp Spanish saffron – steeped in
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Knead together

  • 570g strong white flour
  • 20g instant dried yeast
  • 400ml warm milk ( I would use much less! maybe 300ml if using milk or 400ml of double cream)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • The water infused with saffron and the strands

Cream together in a separate bowl

  • 250g butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Then beat in

  • 3 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cardamom

Knead the butter mixture together and dough

Prove dough for 1 hour

Knead in

  • 300g of dried chopped fruit (golden cherries/raisins/apricots)

(Shape like a pretzel if you can! and bake on a greased sheet.)

Pour into a greased bundt cover and prove for 1 hour

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees C

Allow to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes

Ice with a sugar glaze if you like! (Mix icing sugar and water together until gloopy and pour over your cake) or leave plain if you prefer.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Enjoy a slice with a nice strong coffee, hence the name Golden Coffee Cake!

This recipe was adapted from the www.latvianstuff.com/Kringel.html. Thank you for the inspiration and my apologies if I’ve ruined your recipe! Any tips on how to improve my technique would be very welcome.

55. Giant Punschrulle – Swedish Green Marizpan Rolls

too long for a normal plate - the giant prunschelle

too long for a normal plate – the giant punschelle

The Prince family love marzipan. In every shape, form and colour. There is a a rather well known Swedish shop that sells these amazing little green marzipan rolls called Punschrulle and everytime I go I stock up, mainly on food ignoring all the other homeware options.

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

A slice of giant Punschrulle cake

I have been looking for a recipe for Punschrulle or Punsch-rolls forever and was unable to find one that reflected the ingredients described on the back of the packet. The key ingredient was always missing, oats! So in the end I made up my own recipe and tasted it along the way to make sure I had got it as close to the original as possible.

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

A birds eye view of a giant Punschrulle cake

The Punschrulle is also known as dammsugare which in English means rather oddly, “vacuum cleaner”. I think this is related to it’s tube like appearance, like a vacuum cleaner’s hose perhaps? But also because this cake gives you the opportunity to use up leftover cakes and cookies, hoovering up the crumbs from yesterday’s baking. What an efficient little cake this is.

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be mashed up

6 Earl Grey Cupcakes just begging to be beaten up

I was lucky to have 6 earl grey cupcakes waiting patiently to be eaten in my freezer from a rather large baking frenzy I had whipped myself into. now was there time to shine. I defrosted the 6 cupcakes and blended them in my kitchenaid (using the beater attachment) to a fine crumb. You could also use a hand blender or food processor if you wish. I simply couldn’t be bothered to unpack my food processor so used the kitchen aid, which does a pretty good job of beating things to a fine crumb, particularly if you break it up a little by hand first.

cake crumbs

cake crumbs

Chocolate and marzipan are my favourite combination. I could merrily eat a block dipped in dark chocolate all to myself, but tried to resist as far as possible. Punschrulle rolls are filled with a rich chocolatey, oaty cake. Further investigation also indicates that they are a rather boozy cake too, with punsch liquor. However I wanted to make a child friendly recipe, not get my little nephew hammered, so I omitted the booze from my recipe. But feel free to whack a bit in if you prefer your cakes alcoholic. I’m not entirely sure where you purchase punsch liquor from in the UK, but I think brandy , vodka or rum would be a good substitute!

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

The classic storecupboard essential- digestive biscuits

Sieving cocoa powder and sugar into the mix I realsied that I needed something more to bulk the cake crumbs up and balance out the cocoa powder. Rooting around in my cupboards I found some digestive biscuits which were perfect for this purpose. Again I crumbled them into the mixer bowl by hand and let the mixer do the work for me.

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

Chuck in the rest of the cocoa powder and sugar

I was worried that the oats would be a bit too large in this mixture so introduced my hand (stick blender) to blitz the mixture to a much finer crumb. As this cake is uncooked, the oats needed a little time to soften in the mixture, you want texture to the cake, but not to make your friends feel like they have oats stuck in their throat.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter

It’s such a simple cake to make, having completed the baking when I made the cupcakes a few months ago. All that’s left to do is to rub in the butter and shape the mixture into a roll! I wanted to make my punschrulle for my sisters birthday and envisaged a giant punschrulle roll, rather than making individual rolls.

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice lump

Beat the mixture together until it sticks in one nice chocolatey lump

I used cling film to roll the mixture up and flatten at the ends, whilst smoothing the top.

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Plonk your buttery cake crumb lump onto some clingfilm and roll

Sealing the ends of the cling film, the roll can then be transferred easily to the fridge to set, while you get busy colouring the marzipan and rolling it out.

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

a cling film wrapped chocolate sausage

Traditionally Punschrulle rolls are bright green and each end is dipped in dark chocolate. I used a little green gel food colouring and kneaded it thoroughly into the marzipan. dousing the worksurface in icing sugar stops the marzipan sticking and means you can roll it out into a thin rectangle, just enough to cover the entire cake.

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Turn your marzipan green and roll out

Making sure the marzipan was loose enough to remove it from the worksurface, (The last thing you want is to realise half way through icing you cake is that the marzipan is welded on to the worksurface.)

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

Chocolate Sausage ready to be wrapped in marzipan

I plonked the roll face down (the smooth side which is to be the top of the cake) face down on to the marzipan and folded the marzipan over to envelope the cake fully. Strategically folding the marzipan to hide the join underneath the cake and tuck the folds along the edges underneath.

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Wrap up and tuck in the edges

Whilst the bottom of the cake is facing upwards, I melted a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave, reserving one third of the chocolate and stirring every 30 seconds to avoid it burning. Once the chocolate is melted pour in the final third of the chocolate and stir until fully melted. This helps to reduce the temperature of the chocolate and temper it, so it retains a glossy finish and doesn’t look like a sweaty mess when you’re finished.

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

One chocolate cake sausage encased in marzipan

I smeared melted chocolate all over the bottom of the cake in a thin layer and allowed it to set. This means each slice has a layer of chocolate, not just the lucky people who get the end pieces! It also helps to lift the cake when you need to move it later on…

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Smear melted chocolate all over the bottom of the roll

Once the bottom layer of chocolate has set fully, turn the cake face up and paint the ends of the cake with a thick layer of chocolate. Et voila, you have created a giant Punschrulle cake!

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Paint each end with melted chocolate

Now this is when I realised that you have to be a member of my family to think this cake looks pretty. On a giant scale, the Punschrulle looks a bit odd… but it tastes great! (Even if I do say so myself.) I don’t own a plate or chopping board long enough to house such an enormous cake, so I had to resort to using a colourful serving tray.

too long for a normal plate - the giant Punschrulle

too long for a normal plate – the giant Punschrulle

The addition of a giant candleabra birthday candle  gave the cake somewhat of an eccentric finish. What Giant Punschrulle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra? This cake didn’t last long in our house. Despite it’s chocolatey richness, it’s very moreish and disappears very quickly when served with a hot cup of tea. I could easily eat 2 slices in one sitting. The crunch of the dark chocolate is there with every bite, balancing out the marzipan and dense oaty filling.  It’s a great way to use up any leftover cakes and biscuits in your house, so it’s a rather economical and unusual birthday cake. If you want to see how the individual Punschrulle rolls should look, have a pop over to www.nearof.com for a review of the cakes I based my recipe on.

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

What giant prunschelle cake would be complete without a birthday candleabra?

Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister! Here’s a interesting interpretation of the Punschrulle cake just for you!

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Giant Punschrulle Cake

Things that I used to make my Giant Punschrulle Cake

  • 6 cupcakes (you could use whatever cake crumbs you have available, chocolate or vannila would probably work best)
  • 10 digestive biscuits (plain biscuits again work well in this cake, rich teas, shortbread or digestives would be good)
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Vanilla

Icing

  • 300g marzipan
  • green food colouring
  • icing sugar (for dusting the board)

Chocolate 

  • 100g dark chocolate

53. Triple Layer Sachertorte – why have 1 layer when you can have 3?

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte in Berlin

Not one that I made earlier unfortunately but this is one hell of a triple layer Sachertorte that I ate in Berlin

What’s more indulgent and luxurious than a Sachertorte? Surely a triple layer Sachertorte beats them all hands down. Why have merely one layer when you can have three? The Berliners had the best idea and yes I stole it, nay, lovingly recreated it at home for my friend Adam’s 30th birthday present.

Oh dear it's all gone a bit wrong, but here's my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills...)

Oh dear it’s all gone a bit wrong, but here’s my SacHER torte. Check out that glossy ganache (and ignore my terrible chocolate icing skills…)

Sachertorte was invented in Vienna, Austria and although I’m still yet to visit the country I thoroughly enjoy it’s food. One of my very first around the world in 80 bakes, bakes was indeed a 4 foot pastry monster, also known as the Viennesse Apple Strudel.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

After all of that I had to make myself a one too … just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

A very rich and dense chocolate cake, two layers of Sachertorte are usually sandwiched together with apricot jam and chocolate ganache. But for this extra special version I made 3! Well it is a special birthday after all and I had been promising Adam a triple layer Sachertorte for sometime.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

It’s an almost flourless sponge, made mainly from almonds, so it can cope with a bit of handling (or slicing into more layers). It also benefits from a heavy layer of ganache to retain moisture in the sponge.

Melt the chocolate

Melt the chocolate

There’s a lot of real chocolate in this cake, so it’s as chocolately as it’s ever going to get, rather than just adding cocoa powder. This is the real deal. Using a bain marie is the best way to melt chocolate (in my opinion) without burning it. Melt the chocolate gently with a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water.

Beat together the sugar and butter

Beat together the sugar and butter

Once the chocolate is melted, leave it to cool slightly whilst you beat together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy.

The slightly cooled chocolate can then be beaten into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla extract.

Beat in the chocolate - sachertorte

Beat in the chocolate

Then whisk in the egg yolks one by one until the mixture is nice and thick.

Beat in the eggs - sachertorte

Beat in the eggs

The ground almonds and flour can then be introduced and folded into the chocolatey egg yolk mix.

Whisk egg whites

Whisk egg whites

If like me you have a stand mixer you can do a little cheat here. I used my hand held electric whisk to the egg whites to a fluffy state whilst I set my Kitchenaid to task whisking mix the chocolate and egg yolks together in a separate bowl. This helped to save a bit of time and energy on my part. Don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer however you could easily whisk your egg whites after you’ve finished the egg yolk mix.

The egg whites need to be whisked to incorporate as much air into them as possible as this cake doesn’t have any other raising agent to help it do the job. The whites should be whisked for about 2-3 mins at a slow speed until frothy and bubbly. Then increase the speed to high and continue to whisk for about 4-5 minutes, until the whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold into the egg whites

Fold the chocolate mix into the egg whites

Add a good dollop of the chocolate egg yolk mix to the egg whites and fold in gently to help loosen the mixture up. Then carefully spoon the rest of the chocolate mix into the egg whites and fold in, very gently ,to preserve as much air as possible in the mixture.

Pour into the tin

Pour into the tin

Once it’s all combined (and there’s no tell tale spots of egg whites floating about) the batter is good to go. Carefully pour the batter, (holding the bowl as close to the tin as possible so you don’t knock any of the air out of the mixture) into a greased and lined 9 inch round tin and smooth the surface down with a spatula, making sure there’s no holes or lumps. Bake the cake in the centre of your preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes.

Baked Sachertorte

Baked Sachertorte

Once the cake is thoroughly cooked, you can tell this as a cocktail stick when inserted will come out clean, the cake will shrink back from the sides of the tin slightly and when pressed in the centre the cake will spring back. Leave it to cool in the tin slightly and then tip it out onto a wire cooling rack.

You may remember the Sachertorte from the Great British Bake Off technical challenge in series 2. Mary Berry insisted that you had to use the top of the cake so it had to be as flat as can be. I’m not that strict so I use the lovely flat bottom of the cake as my smooth top, although either end of the cake would be fine to use, as it was in fact rather flat.

Sliced in 3 layers

Sliced in 3 layers

The cake really needs to be entirely cold before you take a knife to it. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way and broken many a cake cutting into it while it’s still warm too eager to start the layering process. It always ends in tears and much smaller cake than I envisioned. So patience my friend and a really sharp knife.

I find it easier to swivel the cake round and hold the knife in the same place to (attempt) to get an even slice. I find it easier to cut the top layer off first and work my way down. Using a palette knife to support the cake to carefully lift each layer off and pile them up on a plate.

Ganache Mixing

Ganache Mixing

While your slicing up your cake into 3 layers, pop the cream in a pan and heat  it to almost boiling point. Take it off the heat and add two thirds of the the broken dark chocolate. Keep stirring the ganache until the chocolate is fully melted and add the final third of the chocolate. Continue to stir until it’s glossy and smooth.

First layer all jammed up

First layer all jammed up

As this was a birthday present I bought a cake board to pile the cake onto. I sterilised the board with a little orange brandy, to get the party started. Taking the bottom layer (which technically was the top of the cake previously when it was baking in the tin…confusing?) I sat the sponge on top of a splodge of warm apricot jam on the cake board to hold it in place. The jam must be heated to make it extra runny and also to sterilise it, as you want your cake to keep well. 40 seconds in the microwave should do it, but don’t boil the jam!

Ganache Layer

Ganache Layer

Smear a generous coating of warm apricot jam onto the sponge, to act as a barrier against the ganache so it doesn’t seep too far into the sponge. Then add a nice layer of ganache and plop the next sponge layer on top. Repeat for the next 2 layers.

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

Glazed and stacked triple layer sachertorte

The final layer will need to be neat and tidy so pour the ganache all over the top of the cake and using a palette knife and gravity encourage the ganache to run down the side of the cake. You may need to even things up a little, holding the palette knife vertically and pressing it gently into the side of your cake, run the knife around the side of the cake to straighten up the edges.

Hairdryer at the ready

Hairdryer at the ready

The ganache may start to set before you want it to, so keep a hairdryer to hand (yes a hairdryer- I haven’t lost my mind honest) to heat the ganache a little and allow you to continue to work with it. You can always tip the cake slightly to let the ganache flow around the top of the cake.

Ganached and glossy

Ganached and glossy

Undoubtedly you will get ganache everywhere at this point, on your face, in your hair, up your arms and all over the kitchen, but that’s part of the fun. Keep some paper towels close by to mop up any spillages and to wipe excess chocolate off your palette knife. You’re also going to need a damp paper towel (or 10) to wipe the excess ganache off the cake board. Apparently it’s a really clever idea to put pieces of greaseproof paper under the sponge to catch the ganache which can then be disposed of later on. Or if your cake board is entirely flush to the cake (like mine), you could pop it on a wire cooling rack and let the ganache drip onto a plate underneath, ready to be used again, or eaten with a spoon (I’ll let you decide).

Sack the chef

Sack the chef

The pièce de résistance. The chocolate ‘Sacher’ signature. The name of this wonderful cakes creator. You need milk chocolate to contrast against the dark ganache, melted and in a piping bag. Or like me you may use a sandwich bag with the tip snipped off. You only have one attempt at this, unless you fancy re – ganaching your entire cake, so no pressure. I made a right hash of it (sorry Adam) as my piping/sandwich bag exploded half way through dripping unslightly chocolate onto the cake which then had to be incorporated into the signature.

oh dear it all went a bit wrong but here's my SacHERtorte...

Sack the Chef. Check out my very neat s – a and c

Well my signature is certainly distinctive. But on a positive note the ganache is extremely glossy and mostly smooth. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead… Please note how nice and neat the ‘S’ ‘a’ and ‘c’ are. Maybe it’s a subliminal message to myself SacHER!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Triple Layer Sachertorte! Happy Birthday Adam!

Anyways I’m sure your chocolate handwriting skills will far surpass mine. I’m assured that it tasted lovely despite how rustic it actually appeared…  I boxed it up and delivered it complete with sparkler candles to wish Adam a very happy 30th Birthday!

Cake delivery!

Cake delivery!

I wanted to try making a traditional one layer Sachertorte just to make sure I could definitely do it right, second time round and definitely not because I’m a greedy guts. I absolutely love this cake. It’s a moist sponge and improves (as most cakes do) when left for a day or two to cut it.

I did another one... just one layer to see if I could get it right... shhh don't tell anyone

I did another one… just one layer to see if I could get it right… shhh don’t tell anyone

I must admit that home made was actually more moist than the shop bought cake we sampled in Berlin. The apricot jam infuses the chocolate with a gorgeous fruity flavour, balancing out the slightly bitter dark chocolate ganache with the sweetness of the jam. The ganache is smooth and luxurious and means the sponge keeps really well.

Here's a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

Here’s a slice of my second attempt at Sachertorte (Just the one layer) but beautifully rich and moist!

One thing to note, if you store your cake in the fridge your ganache will lose it’s shine so it’s best to keep it at room temperature if you want to see it glisten in the birthday candle light. It’s a classic celebration cake that will be loved by everyone.

Things that I used to make my Triple Layered Sachertorte

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
One greased and lined 9 inch round tin

  • 140g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 140g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 55g plain flour

Bake for 40  minutes at 180 degrees C

The Ganache

  • 140g plain chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

The Filling

  • One jar of apricot jam, heated

The Writing

  • 25g melted milk chocolate

IMG_20130801_094101

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

It’s no secret I’m not the best sugar crafter or cake decorator. I’m still finding my feet when it comes to making pretty cakes. I’m more at home pouring loads of ganache over a cake and hoping for the best. So why on earth did I decide to attempt to cover a bundt cake with fondant icing you may wonder?! I’m always up for  a challenge and this really was a test of my cake decorating abilities.

A recent cake experiment - I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

A recent cake experiment My Giant Chocolate Truffle Cake – I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

I was invited to participate in Renshaws Baking Competition. The challenge? To bake and decorate a cake fit for the next heir to the throne, to welcome Baby Windsor into the world. My initial idea was to make a 3D crown, hence the bundt cake. however it seems my imagination is far more advanced than my sugarcrafting skills.

Lavender Bundt Baking

Lavender Bundt Baking

What flavour cake do you bake for the royals? Well, I know Kate enjoyed a few Lavender shortbreads during her pregnancy, so a Lavender Madeira Bundt Cake I baked. Hoping that she hasn’t since developed an aversion to lavender. Not that Kate’s ever going to actually eat this cake, but you know it’s the thought that counts.

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Roll roll roll your fondant gently off the table

One of the reasons I don’t venture into sugarcraft very often is that there isn’t a lot of space in my kitchen. Attempting to roll my crown out meant there was a bit of droppage on the floor. I rolled the fondant as thin as I could manage in one rectangular piece.

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Pizza cutter at the ready – crown creating

I don’t own any proper sugar crafting knives so wielding the pizza cutter I attempted to fashion some crown shapes. Cutting triangles out of the fondant.

Hoping the crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Hoping the sugar crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Once I had my basic crown shape I gently lifted it onto a cling film covered bundt tin. and held the pointy ends in place with a crumpled horseshoes of tin foil. Unfortunately the bundt tin then needed to have a cake baked into it, so it all went to hell. The crown ended up as a crumpled mess, so I made another. This crown snapped after it dried. Admitting defeat I returned to the drawing board.

jam up the bundt

jam up the bundt

To help spur on my creativity I decided to apply a layer of marzipan to the lavender bundt. Applying a liberal coating of apricot jam to make it all stick.

A layer of marzipan

A lovely layer of marzipan

Bundts are not usually iced in this way and I can now see why. Pouring a whole lot of chocolate over a bundt is a much easier option. This traditional style of icing is best suited to a more circular cake with flat edges, like with my wedding cake. Anyway who said I had to be traditional! Undeterred I threw a thin layer of marizpan over the bundt and poked a hole in the marzipan, coaxing it into the inner ring and under the moulded edges of the cake.

Marzipaned bundt

Marzipaned bundt

Surprisingly the marzipan worked exceedingly well. I filled in a few gaps with some extra bits of marzipan as no one will know about the messy joins. If you won’t tell I won’t either. AND only a small bit of the extra marzipan fell into my mouth whilst rolling this out, honest. (Did I mention that I have a marzipan obsession?? It is manna from the heavens!)

Smooth fondant finish

Smooth fondant finish

The most tricky bit is trying to get a thin layer of smooth white fondant icing to cover the bundt. The Renshaw white fondant is really lovely to work with, so soft and smooth, but I had to add a lot of icing sugar to stop it sticking to the worksurface so I could lift it all up in one go over the rolling pin. I didn’t have the courage to pop a hole in the middle of the white icing once I eventually got it on to the cake. I couldn’t have faced more rolling after it took me a good few goes to get it the right size to fit the cake. It took a bit of manoeuvring in my little kitchen to get it to work but once in place it worked a treat! Using the palm of my hand I smoothed the fondant and buffed it to a nice sheen so a hint of the moulding of the bundt can be seen through the icing.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

In a bid to create a royal crown for my baby cake I cracked open a pack of yellow fondant. I clearly had to give up on my crown idea, as this looked more like a wonky chimney. A new approach was needed.

I give up on the crowns let's make flowers instead!

I give up on the crowns let’s make flowers instead!

And that approach is always flowers! I have a few sugar craft tools in my kitchen, most of which tend to be flowers or stars. The yellow sugar paste was really easy to handle. As it was so soft it didn’t really require any kneading to make it more pliable. It was good to go straight from the packet. As we don’t know if the baby is a girl or a boy (yet) I chose the gender neutral buttercup yellow.

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

I whacked a whole load of yellow buttercups randomly all over the bundt straight from the cutter. As the white fondant and the yellow sugar paste were still moist no edible glue was needed to hold the flowers in place. You could add some for extra security if you like, but the fondants bonded instantly and let me crack on with cutting as many flowers as possible.

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Just when you’re think you’re done… keep going

Just when I started to think I was almost finished, I kept on cutting flowers and piling them up in the centre of the bundt to create a bouquet of buttercups fit for the Duchess.

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

I realised that my bundt was starting to resemble a 1970s swimming cap. I was going for a vintage look but no one wants to eat a swimming cap, especially not Kate Middleton and Wills. The flowers required a lift. Spray on silver lustre is always my go to when cakes need a little something extra. It’s my pièce de résistance. And yet it still wasn’t enough. Back to my cupboard and I discovered a pot of edible pink pearls. Terrific! I studded the still supple yellow fondant flowers with a pearl in the centre. This (in my opinion) makes all the difference.

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Birds eye bundt view – Welcome to the World Baby Windsor

Pushing the pearls carefully into the centre of each flower added variance to the flowers, giving a more natural look and lifting the petals slightly from the cake. The added pressure also encouraged the bond between the fondants to help hold the flowers on to the cake.

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I love a bit of lavender in my baking, you can probably tell from all of the other cakes I’ve made. Lavender keeps coming back. Infusing caster sugar with lavender is so easy to do and gives you a naturally wonderful flavour that enhances any cake, shortbread, meringue, Madeleine or cupcake that takes your fancy. It’s subtle floral scent perfumes the house and soothes the soul (and tummy). A nice hunk of lavender Madeira cake is best served with a strong cup of proper tea. The marzipan and fondant gives you an extra flavour dimension and sweetness. That sugar boost a new mammy needs. Welcome to the World Baby Windsor.

Baby Bundt Cake

Build me up Buttercup – Baby Bundt Cake

Things that I used to make this Baby Bundt Cake

  • 115g Self Raising Flour
  • 115g Plain Flour
  • 175g Margarine
  • 175g Lavender infused sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 500g Renshaw white fondant icing
  • 500g Natural Marzipan
  • 40g yellow sugar paste
  1. Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy
  2. Beat eggs in, one at a time until fully incorporated
  3. Fold in the flours
  4. Fold in enough milk to get a good dropping consitency
  5. Pour into a bundt tin and smooth down, filling all of the gaps
  6. Bake for 50 minutes at 170 degrees C
  7. Cool
  8. Coat with apricot jam
  9. Apply a layer of marzipan
  10. Apply a layer of fondant icing
  11. Apply flowers, lustre and pearls!
  12. Present to your new parent friends.
Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercup Bouquet

Thank you to Renshaw for sending me this lovely box of icing and marzipan. I loved getting creative with the icing and it’s really easy to work with. I shall have to practice my cake decorating skills more often! Now who needs a celebration cake??

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

If you’d like to see the other entries in the Royal baby cake competiton head on over to www.renshawbaking.com

 

 

 

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat.  The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better,  it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1 cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3 cup or 75g  melted butter
  • 1 egg

Custard Cream Filling

Custard

  • 285ml milk
  • 25ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4 cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

We have been busy bees recently. I put some of our wedding present vouchers to very good use and invested in a beautiful Candy Apple Kitchenaid Mixer. I have christened her Joni and she has already proven her weight in gold.

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

My 30th birthday was approaching fast and wanting to mark the occasion my friend Jill (who’s birthday just so happens to be the day before mine!) and I decided to have a little soiree at our local pub. Cupcakes seemed to be a good option for a gathering, so we didn’t have to worry about plates, knives and such like. It also meant that we could go a bit mad with the flavour combinations too.

What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes!

On my actual birthday! What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes from my mam and my sister. We’re not going to go hungry. EVER.

The week before our birthdays, Jill and I spent a merry evening baking everything in sight. Modifying Hummingbird Bakery recipes to our hearts content. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 3 hours by two 29 year old girls, armed with a Kitchenaid and a bottle of prosecco. We got very creative indeed.

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz??

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz?? There’s still more in the oven…

We baked well over 100 cakes and still made it to the pub afterwards to meet our husbands. I must admit we sampled rather a few along the way so not all of the cakes made it into our freezers to await their icing. It’s hard to resist when you’ve got cupcakes hot out of the oven dancing in front of your eyes.

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin!

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin! Soaking in white rum syrup

The following week we defrosted our cupcakes and spent an entire day icing the lot, with lashings of buttercream, glitter and ganache. The results were very well received by our friends and the bar staff! The Jasmine green tea cupcakes were a surprise success after I accidentally  emptied the entire bottle of Jasmine Extract into the cupcake batter… They are the most fragrant cupcakes I’ve ever created. Perhaps an acquired taste for some and definitely an excellent air freshener accessory.

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes – my personal favourite. I shall be rolling many more cakes in coconut in the future

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table! (From left to right; coconut mini bundt cakes, amaretto snowballs cakes, pina colada bundts, jasmine green tea, double chocolate, more jasmine green tea, amaretto sours, and peppermint cream cupcakes,)

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful start to the new decade!

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

I’m not entirely sure if this is the scientific way to create your own recipes but it seems to work for me. My basic understanding of creative baking is to find a recipe that works for you then add and subtract from it. Experiment to the extreme! My general guidelines are

  1. Don’t alter the specified oven temperature (unless you have to because you’re using a fan/non fan oven) cupcakes bake at around 170-180 degrees Celsius and should take about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cases
  2. Maintain the combination of wet to dry ingredients
  3. Use whatever is in your cupboards
  4. Feel free to double the quantities if you need to bake lots but be prepared to bake them in stages
  5. Naked cupcakes freeze really well and can keep for a month. Freeze them as soon as they’re cooled in freezer bags/Tupperware and this holds all of the moisture in sponge. Leaving you with a wonderfully moist cupcake when you choose to ice it later on.
  6. You normally need more buttercream than you think so again feel free to make a double batch!
  7. The more you beat buttercream the better it is.
  8. Feel free to experiment with shapes if you have a Madeleine tin, Gugelhupf or mini bunt tin they work really well too
  9. A squiggle of melted chocolate works wonders if you can’t be bothed to whip up buttercream to top your cakes and a sprinkle of coconut and glitter hides a multitude of sins

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (using cupcake not muffin sized cases)

For the sponge:
Rub together (using an electric whisk if you have one) the sugar, butter, flour salt and baking powder. When it all looks quite sandy beat in the wet ingredients including your choice of flavouring!

Then pour the smooth liquid batter into prepared cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the centre of the oven at 170 degrees celsius until golden brown and springs back when pressed. To be extra certain they’re cooked insert a cocktail stick and if it comes out clean it’s definitely done.

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

  • 120g  (4½oz) plain flour
  • 140g (5oz/) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g (1½oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml (4½floz) milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Cupcake Roulette!
Choose from an array of flavour combinations such as

Green Tea

  • 3 Jasmine Green Tea bags steeped in 3tbsp just-boiled water (reduce the amount of milk by 3
  • Replace 30 ml of milk with jasmine extract

Vanilla

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Replace caster sugar with vanilla flavoured sugar (if you have pre-prepared some but if not don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • You can also add almond extract for extra oomph

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • Add 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Add zest of one lemon

Coconut

  • Replace 25g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of normal milk

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

  • Steep the milk in 1 tbs of dried lavender flowers overnight
  • Infuse the sugar with 2tbs of dried lavender flowers for a week
  • Sieve the lavender petals out of the sugar and milk before use
  • Blitz 1 tsp of lavender into the sugar before use

Rose

  • same as lavender but using dried rose petals
  • Replace 1 tbs of milk with rose water

Piña Colada

  • Replace 40ml of milk with Malibu
  • Replace 25 g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of milk
  • (soak cupcakes in rum syrup whilst still warm)

Chocolate Brandy

  • Replace 40ml of milk with brandy
  • Replace 20g flour with cocoa powder

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

The possibilities are endless! Create your own flavour combinations!!

You could choose your own favourite liquor, (Gin?)  cordial (sasparilla, blackcurrant), extract (Orange Blossom, violet), and just follow this idea. I’m very tempted to create some Brandy Alexander cocktail cupcakes very soon…

Then to choose your topping to enhance your flavour combination even further…

 

The Basic Buttercream Recipe
Depending on your style of icing you may want to double the quantities of buttercream. Piping swirls and roses uses a lot more icing than creating a palette knife swirl.

  • 25 ml milk
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 25 ml milk with amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

You can see here the rules are simple. Add whatever flavour extracts you like. Substitute milk for liquid or boozy flavourings.  Zests are good to add as they are dry so won’t effect the consistency of the buttercream. If your icing is looking a bit sloppy beat in some more icing sugar and return it to the fridge to set a bit if it’s too runny.

Use a piping bag and star shaped nozzle to pipe swirls,  Mr Whippy peaks, stars or roses onto your cupcakes. Or use a palette knife to smooth a swirl of buttercream onto your cakes.

Syrup

If you would like extra moist cakes you can add a syrup to the sponge whilst it’s still warm.

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

Warm the sugar and rum in a pan over a low heat. Simmer it until it’s reduced by half in volume. Once cooled pour over your cakes. Allow it to soak in before icing your cakes. Feel free to use other flavours too! Lemon juice, rose water, cordial etc make a really good syrup!

Colourings

Using a cocktail stick add a couple of drops of your food colour gel of choice and beat until its fully incorporated. You can always add more if needed.

If you want to swirl 2 colours together, split your buttercream in half. Colour each half whatever you fancy. Pipe one colour buttercream down one side of a piping bag and then pipe the different colour down the other side of the bag. You will then get a lovely swirl of colours on you cupcakes when piping the two colours simultaneously from the same bag!

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat up 300ml of double cream to just about boiling
  2. Take it off the heat
  3. Smash up equal amount of dark plain chocolate 300g
  4. Stir the chocolate into the hot cream until completely smooth
  5. Spoon a generous blob onto cupcakes and let gravity do the work to create a smooth level shiny ganache top

You could use white chocolate if you add more white chocolate to the mix as it contains less cocoa solids so it won’t set until there’s more chocolate than cream in the mixture.

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

  1. Sprinkles
  2. Glitter
  3. Desiccated coconut
  4. Chocolate shavings
  5. Hand made chocolate swirls (melt chocolate squiggle it onto some grease proof paper allow it to cool and hey presto fancy looking chocolate bits)
  6. Lustre powders
  7. Popping candy
  8. Pearls
  9. Cupcake wrappers (if you have some)

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

  • Chocolate sponge and peppermint buttercream
  • Jasmine green tea sponge and vanilla buttercream
  • Chocolate sponge and chocolate ganache
  • Amaretto sour sponge and amaretto sour buttercream
  • Piña colada sponge and coconut buttercream
  • Amaretto sponge and coconut buttercream