Cooker Chaos and the Fiery Beast in my Kitchen

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

January has been a busy month filled with baking and frustration with the new-to-me-yet-old-to-our-house oven which has no temperature or oven settings remaining on it. Leaving the delicate science of oven temperature in the lap of the gods or in my case the sizzle of the grill.

This month I have successfully

  • set fire to my oven gloves and a pan lid!
  • grilled a puff pastry pie
  • charred a cake that took me 4 hours to make
  • threw 5 inedible cakes away – even Super Hans turned his nose up at them and he has been know to eat raw sourdough starter when it’s been dropped on the floor
  • and sobbed silently at the oven window glued to my newly purchased thermometer checking the temperature hasn’t yet reached ‘towering inferno stage’ and frazzled my Madelines.
Grilled pie anyone?

Grilled pie anyone?

I must admit I considered throwing the fiery beast in the bin, but the bin isn’t quite big enough… so back to patiently burning my cakes and starting over, and over, I went.

I guess this oven is a bit like baking with an Aga? (Having never used an Aga I may be making this up) I put my limited Aga knowledge to good use and attempted to control the heat by placing extra baking tins in the oven, to protect my precious cakes from the uncovered elements in the oven and ward off the extra hot spots. Adding tin foil hats to my cakes wherever possible to guard against the scorch. If you have any suggestions on how to bake in a small, yet very hot, electric fan oven please send them my way!

Undeterred I continued and eventually managed to bake some edible and rather lovely cakes, although I had to admit defeat on some of the more delicate bakes. It seems I shall be baking only robust cakes and breads that can withstand the heat until I can get to grips with the animal in my kitchen.

This month I’ve taken the opportunity to recreate some of my most favourite around the world in 80 bakes with a slightly new twist. Mainly that I have crammed as many international elements and Middle Eastern flavours that I could possibly think of into one cake. And the result? My 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake with cardamom; home made lemon curdTurkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue. Which means I finally conquered the ever elusive Turkish Delight using a very good Rachel Allan recipe. I even treated myself to 2 new cake tins that are the same size! Unheard of in my house, so now I can actually make cakes that sandwich together. Hurrah! I predict there will be many more layered cakes in my future.

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

I also re imagined my Armenian Gluten Free Orange and Almond Cake into a bundt cake with ribbons of orange blossom icing and home made candied peel. Much less syrupy than my last attempt with thick piped glace icing which gave a great sweet contrast to the slightly bitter orange and almond cake.

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

Thanks for reading and I hope January is treating you well. I’m looking forward to hopefully baking not burning some new and exciting international recipes very soon.

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Just the one Jamaican Black Cake – with extra booze!

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Not satisfied with creating a Jamaican Black Cake containing 3 bottles of rum AND a bottle of Brandy, I have returned to my original recipe to see if I can improve it even further. It was such a success when I made it 2 years ago I wanted to make an extra special Christmas Cake and as the festive season is almost upon us now is the perfect time to start soaking the fruit in lots and lots of booze!

Soaking in the rum

Soaking in the rum

When I first tried this recipe I in dove head first without preparing myself fully, or realising that it was in fact enough to create 3 Jamaican Black cakes. This recipe is a slightly more restrained version, for just the one cake, if perhaps you don’t want to bankrupt yourself buying booze and fruit for 3 cakes. However if you have an army of Rum cake lovers or perhaps might be thinking creating a tiered (wedding?) cake the original Jamaican Black Cake recipe may be the one for you! The cakes contain so much rum they will keep very well for at least a month (and perhaps up to a year, if you can hang on to it that long!)

Soak the fruit in rum and brandy for up to 2 weeks

Soak the fruit in rum and brandy for up to 2 weeks

This cake does take a little bit of planning and preparation. I wanted to use spiced rum in the cake as a slightly different alternative to my last cake, but stumbled at the first hurdle. The shop keeper wouldn’t sell me the massive bottle of booze without my ID which was sat at home. The shop keeper wasn’t budging despite my protestations that I’m 30 and have my marriage certificate with me and that I wasn’t even going to drink the rum it was for my cake! Determined to secure my spicy rum I came back with my license and all was well! The dried prunes, sultanas, cherries and mixed peel fruit needs a good long soak to absorb as much liquid as possible. I soaked mine in the rum, brandy and angostura bitters for 2 weeks, but if you’re in a hurry you could soak it for 3 days.

Macerate the fruit - blitz it in a food processor

Macerate the fruit – blitz it in a food processor

Now with this much more sensible amount of fruit and booze I could easily fit it into my food processor bowl without it overspilling. The fruit is much softer after the addition of the booze but there will still be a little rum left that isn’t absorbed, pour the whole lot in and whizz it up into a smooth – ish boozy fruity pulp. There will still be some texture to the fruit which will give a wonderfully moist and keep the cake texture interesting in your mouth.

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

Beat together the butter and sugar. Whack in the spices

Beating the butter and sugar together vigorously until it’s light and fluffy adds extra rise to the cake. I like to beat mine until it’s softer and increases in volume. As there’s spice in  the rum, adding more spice here gives an even richer flavour to the cake which matures with the cake the longer it is kept after baking. I added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla paste, almond extract and lime juice. Yum! Once the eggs are beaten into the mixture, one at a time, until the mixture increases in volume and is light and fluffy, the dry ingredients can then be folded in.

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

Beat the eggs in one at a time until very fluffy

I didn’t have any limes in my house so I grabbed the only orange that I had left, any citrus fruit would work well, but limes are the traditional fruit to use. Fold in the flour, baking powder and zest.

Brown the sugar

Brown the sugar

I’m lucky that I have a Kitchenaid mixer, so I can leave it running whilst I busy myself with the next steps. If you’re using a hand held mixer or beating things by hand, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the sugar as it browns to stop it from burning. I almost burnt mine! Heat the brown sugar in a heavy pan until it melts. Don’t stir as it will crystallise! Swish the sugar around in the pan as best you can by tilting the pan to combine the sugar and the liquid together. As it melts, gradually add a tablespoon of boiling water and allow the sugar to dissolve into a dark caramel. It might erupt like a volcano in your pan if it’s too hot, so be careful. Once it’s browned (and almost burnt) take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly before beating it into your butter and egg batter.

Beat in the browned sugar

Beat in the browned sugar

With the browned sugar fully incorporate the batter becomes wonderfully brown and shiny. It smells amazing too!

Fold in the fruit puree

Fold in the fruit puree

Long gone are the days where I’m trying to mix enormous vats of cake mixture! I could actually fit all of the batter and fruit into my mixing bowl! Hurrah! It takes a little bit of manoeuvring and scraping down of the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the fruit purée is folded in evenly.

Fully incorporated batter

Fully incorporated batter

Once fully incorporated, the batter is wonderfully golden brown with flecks of fruit peeking through. It tastes delicious too! (I couldn’t resist licking the spoon!) The kitchen had a glorious glow from the rum and my cheeks were rather rosy by this point too. This is perhaps not a cake to eat and then drive home afterwards.

Fully greased and lined tins

Fully greased and lined tins

Despite having reduced this recipe down I still ended up producing 2 cakes! I wanted to bake a rectangular Jamaican Black Cake, so I can cut it into chunks to give as Christmas presents.This is a brownie pan about 8 x 4 inches. I also had enough batter to bake a 6 inch round cake too. My guestimate would be this recipe would work well as one 9 or 10 inch round cake too.

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

Double lined Jamaican Black Cakes oven ready

The tins need to be doubled lined to help protect the cake from the heat and bake it gently over a few hours. This is easier said than done with a low sided rectangular tray. I gave up trying to double line the bottom of the tray and sides, instead opting for a tin foil lid, which worked really well. No burnt bits in sight!

Baked Jamaican Black Cake

Hot Jamaican Black Cake soaking up it’s rum

I can safely say that having sampled a slice last night this cake lives up to it’s previous promise of rosy cheeked deliciousness. It’s very moist (I may add pour less rum over the hot cakes next time) but I’m sue this will help to keep it moist ready to be dished out on Christmas Day. It has everything a spicy , boozy, celebration cake should offer. It’s warming and rich. Perfect with a glass of fizz (or I ate my piece last night with a cup of tea and glass of red wine.) Delicious!

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

Almost ready for eating Jamaican Black Cake

As I poured the rum on top of the hot cakes the top did sink slightly but this hasn’t effected the taste at all. In fact when I serve my Jamaican Black Cake I’m going to be sneaky and turn it over so the flat bottom will give a smooth top. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. So here’s the recipe for Just the one Jamaican Black Cake (or 2 small cakes if you prefer!)

Things that I used to make Just the one Jamaican Black Cake

Step 1: Soak fruit and make fruit puree

Fruit Puree Base Ingredients

  • 170ml brandy (Cherry brandy could be used to make it extra special)
  • 340ml dark rum (I used Spiced dark rum for extra flavour
  • 2 tbsp Angostura bitters
  • 170g prunes
  • 170g dark raisins
  • 250g currants 
  • 170g dried cherries
  • 85g mixed candied citrus peel

Total dried fruit required = 845g

Soak dried fruit in the booze for at least 48 hours or up to 2 weeks. Blitz into a puree with a food processor.

Step 2: Make Cake Batter

Cake Ingredients

  • 170g salted butter (For a change I used salted and it worked well, but feel free to use unsalted)
  • 170g sugar
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon essence or lime juice
  • The zest of 1 orange (or 2 whole limes)
  • 1 tsp almond essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 170g plain flour (you could also use 1/2 cassava flour + 1/2 lb rice flour for gluten-free baking)
  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in dry ingredients. Fold in fruit puree and browned sugar

Step 3: Brown Sugar

Browning Ingredients:

  • 170g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp boiling hot water

Heat the sugar in a heavy based pan until it melts and then add a little bit of the water at a time until it becomes a dark caramel. Careful not to burn it, but it will come very close to being burnt to achieve ‘browned’ perfection.

Step 4: Bake! 

Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined tin. You could use a 9 inch round tin or a bundt tin. For this recipe I used a 4 inch round tin and a 9 x 4 inch rectangular pan.  Cover with greaseproof paper lid.

Bake at 120 degrees C for 3 hours until skewer comes out clean from the cake

The Final Touch

ADD MORE RUM!

Pour 100-170ml bottle of dark rum for pouring on the hot cakes whilst still in their tins. Leave to cool in the tin. Gradually add the rum until you have fed your cake 170ml in total. It should absorb rather a lot of rum at this point. The cake will get darker with the more rum that you feed it. It may take up to a day for the cake to absorb the rum but it will get there.

Storing the Jamaican Black Cake

Wait until the cake has cooled completely before removing it from the tin. Wrap your cake in a layer of greaseproof paper and a layer of tin foil to prevent air getting in. Store the wrapped cake in an airtight container.

The cake should keep for (at least) a month or even up to a year with this amount of booze going on in an air tight container. this cake also freezes really well. It will keep for at least a month in the freezer and the freezing helps to speed up the ‘maturing’ process to deepen the flavours.

Eating the Jamaican Black Cake

The cake will serve 8-12 people. Or possibly more as it is quite a rich cake so you may only want a small slice. The volume of rum and brandy will bring a healthy rose to your cheeks! You may not want to drive after eating a big slice of it…

My original blog post for this cake can be found here

Jamaican Black Rum Cake – The most alcoholic cake I’ve ever baked

Also I wrote a post about the Jamaican Black Cake that I iced along with many more decorated cake pics 

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!

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.

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

52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!

 

49. German Pretzel Playtime

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

I discovered that I have a slight obsession with Pretzels on our recent visit to Berlin, where I bought many delicious chewy pretzels the size of my head. I really rather enjoyed Berlin, my first venture into German cusine! Traditionally Preztels are a savoury German snack, dipped in a rather caustic solution of lye to achieve the dark brown coating with the distinctive chewy texture.

In amongst the Curry Wursts, Strudels and Pork Knuckle I filled my self up on pretzels as often as I could. We explored the historic sites and the bohemian avenues in the post Christmas and wedding drizzle. Berlin was a very welcome change of scenery, with pickled herring and salmon for breakfast. I went all in with the Germanic food. My instagram feed became awash with a vast array of wonderful and interesting food. Nothing went undocumented!

Dough ready for some good kneading

Dough ready for some good kneading

Upon returning home I wanted to recreate some pretzel perfection, preferably without the hazardous solutions. No chemical burns for me please! Pretzels are made from a basic soft white bread dough recipe. The flour, yeast, oil and water should be mixed together in a big bowl until it can then be kneaded on a oiled board for 10 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and bounces back when pressed your kneading is done.

Kneaded dough ready to prove

Kneaded dough ready to prove

The dough can then be left to prove in a warm place in a greased plastic bag, for about an hour or two.

The proven preztzel dough

The proven pretzel dough

When the dough has doubled in size it’s ready to shape. This is probably the most complicated and time consuming bit of the entire pretzel making process. But it’s not as difficult as it may seem! I shall demonstrate in 10 easy steps…

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1: Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they're all roughly the same size)

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size)

Stage 2: Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size). Redistribute the dough to make sure you have equal sized dough balls here if needed.

Stage 3. Take one dough ball and leave the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3. Roll one dough ball into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3: Take one dough ball at a time leaving the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make. Give the dough a good slap if you spot any air bubbles along the way. You need to pop any air bubbles to get a good even bake and to maintain your lovely pretzel shape.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a circle but don't close the ends.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends.

Stage 4: Start shaping your sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends. You need those loose ends to finish your pretzel shape.

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5: Take the loose ends of the dough and twist the strands together, one under the other up the centre of the pretzel circle.

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6: Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms. Reshape the circle of the pretzel as you go to keep the even shape.

Stage 7: Gently press the 'arms' of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently press the ‘arms’ of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently wrap the ‘arms’ of the pretzel around the pretzel. Gently press the arms into the dough to fix them in place.

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8: Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover them with greased cling film and leave them to prove again for another hour.

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking. In hindsight I went a bit mad with the rock salt. It kind of burns the tongue when you put that much on! I might in the future smash up the rock salt with a pestle and mortar to get smaller chunks and sprinkle a much smaller amount on!

The baked pretzels

The baked pretzels

Stage 10: Give the pretzels a good baking in the oven for 15 -20 minutes at 200 degrees C. These are snack sized rather than the extra large pretzels that I was eating in Berlin, which could probably constitute a main meal. So if you wanted to make yours larger you could divide your dough into 6 lumps rather than 12 and shape them to your hearts content.

The golden pretzel

The golden pretzel

After a quick bake in the oven these mini pretzels beauties are ready to be devoured! The most complicated bit of the entire process is the shaping and after a couple of goes you soon get used to the technique. I’m sure you will end up developing your own pretzel twisting style too. I adore these pretty bread shapes and will most definitely be making them again. They look impressive, so you can wow your friends with your technical know how and let them imagine you’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing treats for them.

Piles of Pretzels

Piles of Pretzels

They also taste amazing with their glistening golden crust. White bread can sometimes be a bit plain, but as the pretzel is thin it takes on the depth of flavour from the egg yolk and salt. Combined with the chewy texture, they are like a plaited bit of bread heaven.  You could even make sweet pretzels if you prefer, with cinnamon and sugar coatings, or add sesame seeds or poppy seeds for a bit of variation. Then you can enjoy them for breakfast lunch and dinner! I may attempt some wholemeal pretzels too to inject some health into my bread products. I will also be attempting extra large pretzels with the distinctive slash as soon as possible! Things I used to create Mini Pretzels Pretzel Dough Recipe

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 215ml of luke warmwater
  • 10ml olive oil

Egg Wash Topping

  • 1 egg yolk mixed with a tbsp of water
  • A sprinkling of rock salt to decorate
  • (Or you could dust them in cinnamon sugar, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds if you wish!)

Bake for 15-20mins until golden brown at 200 degrees C

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

47. A Thousand Layer Cake – Indonesian Spekkoek Spice Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’ve had my eye on this gorgeous Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake (Spekkoek) for quite some time. With it’s perfectly symmetrical stripes of spice interwoven with ribbons of vanilla. Spekkoek or lapis legit is a rich layered cake and is very expensive to buy due to the amount of time it takes to create it, so it’s normally eaten at special occasions and celebrations such as Christmas, weddings or festivals in Indonesian.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

It requires a bit of planning and preparation and a lot of hitting the pause button if you choose to watch a film whilst trying to bake it, as each layer is baked individually for 11 minutes precisely. But it’s well worth the effort.

Most recipes for a Thousand Layer cake ask for up to 30 eggs! I thought this was a bit extreme and not the most healthy of cakes so scaled it back to a mere 10 eggs. Much more affordable too. It’s definitely a special cake lavished with lots of love and attention it had to taste wonderful.

If you’re going to attempt this cake I recommend

  • You own an electric whisk – this would be quite an ordeal to whisk by hand!
  • You have at least 2 large bowls to whisk the eggs in
  • You add lots of spice!
Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

I’m lucky that I own a Kitchenaid and it could take the strain of whisking the egg whites for me whilst I busied myself whisking the yolks. But you could do it in 3 separate stages if you like. You don’t have to multi task to the extreme if you don’t want to. Me, I enjoy adding a bit of danger to my bakes. Doing everything at once. I’ll balance my bowls on top of many ingredients on the work surfaces and hope for the best, like spinning plates, but in my case it’s batter.

Whilst whisking the egg whites with about 100g of the sugar with a hand held electric whisk I set the Kitchenaid away to whisk the egg whites until fluffy.

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Once the whites start to stiffen add 100g of sugar (bit by bit) and continue to whisk until they reach stiff peaks and look glossy.

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Then as if you’re not busy enough, beat together the remaining sugar, with the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

You’re going to need the biggest bowl that you own to incorporate all of the ingredients together. Start with mixing the egg yolk batter and the butter/sugar paste together.

All together now - butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter

Butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter all together

Once all of the ingredients are mixed well (I used my electric hand whisk) the delicate process of folding in the egg whites to the batter can begin. Using a metal spoon fold in gently the egg whites to preserve the air in the batter.

There's a lot of egg whites to fold in!

There’s a lot of egg whites to fold in!

It will start to look like scrambled eggs but persevere until the batter looks smooth.

Yum scrambled eggs!

Yum scrambled eggs! Keep going with the folding

Next up is the relatively small amount of plain flour considering how much egg and butter is in this cake! It also needs to be folded in carefully to the batter with a metal spoon.

Fold in the flour

Fold in the flour

To achieve the two tone and two flavour effect half of the batter needs to be flavoured with spices and the other half left to be as it is, with a hint of vanilla.

Fold in a vast quantity of spice

Fold in a vast quantity of spice to half the batter

Split the batter in half (you’re going to need yet another bowl here!) and fold the spices into half of the batter.

Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

Vanilla batter – Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

The spiced batter should look slightly browner in colour. this will help you to remember which layer you’re up to when it comes to cooking the cake!

Spiced batter

Spiced batter

With your two bowls of batter ready, it’s time to spoon a thin layer (about 5mm) into greased and lined baking tin. I used my new extra long German loaf tin 30cm x 10cm. Make sure you push the batter into all of the corners and smooth it down. Give it a very gentle tap on the worksurface to remove any air bubbles and pop it in the oven for 11 minutes. Some recipes say to follow this bake with a minute under the grill, however my oven doesn’t have a separate grill and oven.  The grill would have to be warmed up each time which to me seemed a bit too laborious. Instead I added an extra minute to the baking time to compensate for the lack of grilling and it worked a treat.

The first layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first vanilla batter layer in the extra long loaf tin

It’s a bit tricky to get the first layer into all of the corners as the batter is quite stiff. I wiped the inside edges of the tin round with a clean finger to remove any extra batter to avoid any smudging of the layers later on. The last thing you want is a smear of burnt batter up the sides your beautiful layer cake.

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

After 11 minutes in the oven the first layer should be slightly golden brown and evenly baked. Ready for the addition of the next layer straight on top of the hot cake. The heat from the first layer helps to melt the butter and spread the batter evenly around the tin. Remember to alternate your batters! One layer vanilla, one layer spice and repeat.

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

As your cake bakes it will probably shrink back from the sides of the tin a little, so don’t be alarmed if some of the raw batter disappears down the sides of the cake and into the layer below. A liberal dusting of icing sugar hides all manner of mishaps to a finished cake!

The second spiced layer

The second spiced layer, smooth and ready for the oven

Keep alternating the batters. Repeating the layering, spreading, baking and even more layering until you’ve no more batter left. This process is not for the time restricted or feint hearted. Baking the cake took at least 4 hours, but it’s almost like a work out, leaping up off the sofa to take the cake out of the oven every 11 minutes.

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity... It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

Let the cake cool in the tin for about 2o minutes before gently loosening the cake from the tin with a palette knife and attempting to remove it from the tin. I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

The final long layered cake out of it's tin

The final long layered cake out of it’s tin

I must admit I was a tad alarmed at how dark the cake was when I removed it from the tin. I did wonder how the initial layers would hold up after being baked time and time again. Would they be burnt and tough? I baked at least 18 layers into my cake, that’s a whole lot of oven time for the first few cms of the cake.

Indonesian Layer Cake

Indonesian Layer Cake

The liquid batter did seep under the greaseproof paper inside the tin. The cake had baked around the paper which made it a his made it a bit difficult remove, but not impossible. However this meant the top was a little uneven, so I trimmed it slightly and dusted it with icing sugar! (shh no one will know!)

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

The white icing sugar gave the layers an extra lift against the contrasting spice. I baked my Indonesian Thousand  Layer Cake for a special Clandestine Cake Club ‘Here comes the sun’ themed event. I was hurrying along to the cakey gathering but just had enough time to slice up some homemade candied orange and lemon citrus peel (Thank you Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles for the how to!) in long thin strips to create my very own sunburst effect, adding a trio of star anise (one of the key spices in the cake) to bring the summery spicey cake to life. As Mary Berry always says, you should include a bit of what’s inside the cake, outside the cake to whet people’s appetites.

Here comes the sun - Indonesian Layer Cake

Here comes the sun – Indonesian Layer Cake

As the tin that I used is supposed to be for bread, I don’t own a cake stand or plate big enough to house such a lengthy cake. I resorted to carrying the cake ,open topped on a chopping board instead. Note to self, icing sugar sitting on a cake will not stay there for long on a windy day. Precariously seated on my passenger seat and me also liberally coated in icing sugar we made our way to the Clandestine Cake Club!

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’m so pleased I took the time to attempt the Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake cake although technically not exactly 1000 layers it feels close enough! A challenge of the patience and my washing up ability it may be but this cake promises so much more than a frustrating time in the kitchen. It is such an unusual tasting cake, quite delicate and surprisingly light, I guess due to the sparse amount of flour and the endless whisking.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

This cake is magic. There must be something in the enormous amounts of eggs that go into the batter that prevent the layers from burning or drying up to a miserable shrivelled mess. It’s moist, spicy and sweet, although not too sweet. It’s a proper grown up cake, sophisticated in it’s beautiful layers and exotic taste. It also improves with age. I had half a piece left from the Cake Club which I shared with Chris 4 days after baking it and it was delicious not dry in the slightest. I think spice cake always deepens in flavour with time. If you want to savour the cake you can even peel each individual layer and eat them separately. I enjoyed devouring it with a strong coffee. I will be baking this again when I have an afternoon to spare and maybe attempting more stripey cakes in the future. I think I’m hooked!

Things I used to make my Indonesian Layer Cake

  • 375g sugar (100g added to egg whites, 100g added to egg yolks, and 175g added to butter mixture)
  • 10 egg whites
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cassia bark
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 of a grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g butter
  • 185g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In separate bowl – Whisk egg whites til fluffy add 100g sugar gradually. Whisk til shiny and stiff
  2. In separate bowl – Cream 175g sugar and the butter together til light and fluffy
  3. In separate bowl – Whisk egg yolks and 100g sugar together til fluffy
  4. In a big bowl – Whisk egg mixture and butter mixture together
  5. Fold in egg whites
  6. Fold in flour
  7. Split the batter in half
  8. Fold the spices into one half of the batter
  9. Pour a thin 5mm layer of vanilla batter into tin
  10. Bake for 11 minutes at 160 degrees C.
  11. Pour a thin layer of spiced batter onto cooked layer
  12. Bake
  13. Repeat alternating the batters until all the batter is cooked.
  14. Cool, remove from tin, decorate and eat!

The Final Frontier – Decorating and Assembling my 5 Tier Wedding Cake

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

When I engaged in creating hundreds of Hydrangea blossoms to adorn the wedding cake with I didn’t really stop to think too hard about how I was going to get them on the cake… It can’t be that hard right? I purchased a pot of edible glue (amongst many other things from the lovely cake shop) and trotted off to carry on baking, pushing all thoughts to the back of mind about how edible glue works.

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Fast forward 3 months to December 2012 and I have now 5 iced wedding cakes resting nicely in their cardboard cake boxes, up on some book shelves in our spare  room/wedding dumping ground. I have 1 extra iced cake just in case of any disasters and 2 naked fruit cakes leftover from the epic baking stage of this cake.

We were going to celebrate Christmas early this year, what with the wedding being on 30th December. So I started wrapping all of my presents very early. I was wrapping until 11 one night and popped everything under the tree only to look up and discover yellow stuff running down the walls, behind the tree. I showed Chris and he discovered that I had also placed all of my freshly wrapped presents into a quickly mounting pool of water gathering under the tree.

The wall was quickly turning into a water feature in our house. It also joins onto the spare room. A spot of investigating further revealed that the flood had started in the spare room, saturated the wall and then seeped into the living room and across the floor! Thank god my dress was at my parents house and thank god for Kate’s cake boxes! They were the perfect protection against any damp that was lingering in the air (there was a lot!). Luckily the shelves weren’t up against the soaked wall too and lucky that I had been wrapping presents to discover the leak as I wouldn’t have noticed it until we were swimming in our sitting room.

We're all having a dehumifier party

We’re all having a dehumidifier party

One emergency cake evacuation later and removal of everything out of my kitchen cupboards, the 8 cakes had a new dry home!  Our landlord delivered a dehumidifier to get rid of the damp and the stink and we were good to go. Although further calamities were awaiting me whilst Chris was away for his stag do and I had friends round for festive fizz, mulled cider and spare wedding cake tasters. The dehumidifier started to leak! I then flooded the toilet trying to mop it up and broke a handle off the door just before everyone arrived. I think it was best to get all the bad luck out of the way before the wedding.

Sticking a milliong sugar flowers in place

Sticking  millions of sugar flowers in place

To give myself plenty of time to glue the flowers on to the cakes I set aside a Saturday the week before Christmas to give them a chance to dry fully and me to repair any breakages/falling offs. This happened to coincide with the painter coming to repair our flooded flat. It made for an interesting 5 hours of glueing flowers whilst directing decorators to dust pans, brushes and keeping the cat at bay.

Edible glue takes a ridiculously long time to dry! In hindsight I think royal icing would have been a MUCH better idea… I used a cocktail stick to smear a little spot of glue onto the back of each flower (which had become really rigid and quite fragile so had to be handled extremely carefully). The moulded reverse of each flower results in grooves and ridges that the glue disappears into. It needs a bit more glue so that the it can actually touch the cake.

The glue should be tacky before attempting to apply it to the cake… If you try to stick it on while the glue is still runny you will have a happy game of chase the flowers as they fall off the cake leaving a trail of glue which has now taken on some of the blue food colouring all down the cake. Many of the flowers fell on the floor and smashed this way but I also realised that I have quick reflexes, almost a cake decorating ninja.

The painters were highly amused by my antics in the kitchen where I didn’t even stop for a cup of tea for 5 hours whilst contorting myself into all shapes to catch the falling flowers and hold 4 flowers in place with each hand until the glue dried enough to support their weight. Patience and flexibility were useful qualities to have a this stage in the cake decorating process. It’s a good job I do yoga.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet… have a look at the varied blue hues in the hydrangea

Zoe Clark’s original design for this cake uses buttercream icing to cover all of the cakes. The sugar flowers can then simply just sit on the buttercream and be held in place. No glue required. The fondant icing that I used, had now hardened and had no give to it to help hold on to the flowers, so it really was the glue doing all of the hard work.

I realised after about an hour of catching and reapplying flowers that I needed to paint the flowers with glue, leave them for about 5 minutes and then the glue would be just about right to stick it onto the cake. Some flowers also had to be rejected as when they dried they hardened into such a curly shape that they lacked a flat area on the back where I could paint the glue on.

I wanted the flowers to appear as natural as possible cascading down the cake.  I chose a combination of hues of the blue hydrangea blooms and applied them randomly at different angles to the cake to give a more varied finish. Tapering off towards the bottom of the cake.

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

With most of the flowers stuck into place, reserving a gap down the back of the cake, so I had some space to pick each cake up and stack it back together later on. I retired for an essential lie down.

A couple of hours later the glue was really dry and the flowers were stable enough so the cakes could be returned to their boxes and shelf for safe keeping.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

Back in it’s box. One Boxed Tier – note the gap down the back – no flowers here yet so it can be handled without damaging the decoration.

I arranged to deposit and arrange the cake at Jesmond Dene House the day before the wedding. It was an exciting and cautious trip in the car trying to keep all the flowers on the cake and intact.

I hired a cake stand to add extra height to the cake and whipped up a batch of royal icing to glue the cakes together and popped it in a icing bag so pipe it easily into place in situ.

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! BUt the cake is almost as tall as me!)

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! But the cake is almost as tall as me!)

Each tier of the cake required a generous dose of royal icing to hold it in place but not too much so it oozes out the sides. When royal icing dries it’s rock solid. That cakes wasn’t going to be moving anywhere!

With all 5 tiers stacked and arranged with the floral cascade running down the front and the joins in the ribbons running down the back I could then add more flowers to fill in the gap that I left to pick the cake up down the back. Amazingly only 2 flowers fell off in the process! Royal icing was a perfect glue and each flower didn’t need to be held in place for hours!

The final result was everything that I had hoped for. The 5 tiers of fruit cake ontop of the cake stand made it almost as tall as me! Please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair.

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

I have no idea how the wonderful staff at Jesmond Dene House managed to manoeuvre the gargantuian cake upstairs. The 12 inch tier by itself was just about all I could carry!

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

When we arrived at JDH after the ceremony it was amazing to see everything all together. I loved it. The flowers, the cake, the vintage glass, the real fire, and the sweets and treats I’d made. It was a dream come true with all of my most favourite people in the world together in one room! It was the most perfect day.

Cutting the cake!

Cutting the cake!

And then we got to cut the cake and the dancing began. I didn’t sit down all night but I managed to squeeze in a sneaky slice of wedding cake and it was truly my best ever cake. Rich, extremely fruity and moist, with not too much of an alcoholic burn. The 3 months of maturing were a really good idea! I love the amaretto and cherries. I will definitely be using this recipe again in the future.

What an adventure. This is without doubt my most epic bake yet. Exciting and exhausting in equal measures. I daresn’t even think how much time and energy I spent on the whole cake process, in fact I’m not even going to consider it (or how much I spent on eveything along the way) as it would detract from the very happy memories. I’m so proud that I could make my own wedding cake. Who would have thought a year ago when I hadn’t even made pastry before that I’d be baking and icing a 5 tier wedding cake?  I’m very grateful for the help I’ve had along the way too. It was all the more special that I made it myself and that I could share with all of our family and friends. I even posted some to my Aunty Carol in Canada. Cutting the wedding cake is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. I wonder if making it yourself gives you extra kudos in the luck stakes?

I’ve saved one naked cake for a special occasion and I still have enough cake left for one last slice. I’m saving that one for a rainy day. I’ll even get the wedding photos back out and relive it all just one more time…

 

This is part 4 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake