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.

Coconut Crazy! Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato

How to make Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

My favourite ice cream in the whole entire world has got to be Italian Coconut Gelato. Now that’s a bold statement I know, but having sampled real Italian Gelato and having lived very close to a Gelato shop in Newcastle I think I’ve tried quite a few flavours and this is without doubt top of my list every time. Yeah chocolate is always lovely but a bit too much of an obvious choice sometimes for my liking. I do love cherry gelato and pistachio is tremendous too but coconut is what is usually what I crave when looking for a cold fix.

dried coconut half

I’ll have half a dried coconut please

I seem to be developing an obsession with coconut, finding ways to incorporate it into all foods. Be that coconut milk, oil, dessicated and dried. In the creation of this gelato I discovered the wonderful ingredient of dried coconut halves which saved me the effort of breaking into a fresh coconut with a hammer and fork (my only suitable kitchen implements I think for such a job!)

Trevi Fountain adventuring in Rome with my Dad

Trevi Fountain adventuring in Rome with my Dad


I visited Rome just last year for the first time with my Dad. It was gorgeous. We spent a few days wandering round, bouncing from the Trevi Fountain to pasta cafes to St Paul’s basilica. Pausing to absorb the beauty and history of our surroundings and to take on more fuel in the form of pasta and gelato. I dragged my Dad to many cake shops and the beautiful and oldest gelataria in Rome, Giolitti. Not that I heard him complain once 🙂

What a view from the top! Colosseum, Rome

What a view from the top! Colosseum, Rome

The main difference between ice cream and gelato is the taste and texture. Gelato freezes at a higher temperature than ice cream. This gives a much more intense flavour than you get from eating ice cream which is colder and numbs your tastes buds slightly. The warmer the temperature the more you can taste! Gelato is also made with less fat, so good news it’s better for you than ice cream! (Depending on how much you eat of it of course). Gelato is also much softer and smoother in texture than traditional ice cream. All the better for eating!

Heating the milk and cream to infuse flavour into the gelato base

Heating the milk and cream to infuse flavour into the gelato base

The initial stage of heating the milk/cream gives you the perfect opportunity to infuse flavours. You can choose to infuse whatever flavour you fancy into your gelato. Some flavours will require a longer infusion time than others. A vanilla pod may take about 20 minutes over a low heat to impart it’s flavour fully, but something like coffee extract, tea bags, cocoa powder or other flavour extracts will give instant flavour and need little infusion time (maybe about 5 minutes).

You can infuse your base with your favourite flavours, such as vanilla, coffee, tea, lavender, rose, cinnamon, cherry, pistachio and much much more! If you’re going to choose a different flavour it would be wise to choose something with a low liquid content as adding water to the mix may cause ice crystals to form. Adding alcohol in small amounts should be ok, but remember alcohol doesn’t really freeze.

Another flavour option can be created by using a different variety of milk. Even better news for people with food allergies or intolerances! I used coconut milk here but you could just as easily use cows, goats, soy, almond or hazelnut. Each will give you a slightly different flavour and possibly texture. Some milks can become grainy when heated, so it may be wise to try heating up a small amount first to make sure it can stand the heat. before you commit to cooking an entire batch. Or have a fine sieve to hand!

Add your choice of flavour to your milk then heat the cream/milk until it starts to bubble. I added 80g of desiccated coconut to the milk and cream here to infuse even more coconut goodness.

Keep stirring it so a skin doesn’t form on the top.  Allow it to cool slightly. Cream and milk have slightly different boiling points so keep a close eye on the pan, you don’t want it to boil over, or get a thick skin on your coconut cream!

Beat together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes - gelato recipe

Beat together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes

Beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth and fluffy. They will become a mellow yellow colour after about 5 minutes of beating with an electric whisk/mixer.

The discarded dessicated coconut - nothing will go to waste in my house! - gelato recipe

The discarded desiccated coconut – nothing will go to waste in my house!

Once the cream/milk has cooled slightly pass it through a fine sieve to remove your flavouring if needed. Squeeze all of you milk/cream out of the coconut so you don’t miss a drop of your infused cream. I kept my creamy coconut mixture to use later on.

Gelato recipe - Sieve your hot cream mixture if you need to remove additional flavourings like vanilla pods or dessicated coconut!

Sieve your hot cream mixture if you need to remove additional flavourings like vanilla pods or dessicated coconut!

As the next stage is to make a smooth custard you can’t add any swirls of fruit/flavours at this point. Your custard needs to be smooth and pure so it can thicken fully. Hang on to any additional flavourings that you would like to add for later on.  You can then swirl them in just before the final freeze. After about 5 minutes of beating, the sugar and eggs will inflate slightly and take on a pale yellow colour.

The beaten eggs and sugar - the custard base - Gelato Recipe

The beaten eggs and sugar – the custard base

Whilst continuing to beat the fluffy eggs and sugar slowly pour the hot coconut cream into the eggs. Add the hot cream gradually to avoid scrambling the eggs! Adding very hot cream at this stage will give you lumpy egg custard, I don’t think anyone would enjoy lumpy gelato although it may be an interesting texture on the palette!

Pour the hot cream into the eggs gradually whilst continuing to beat the eggs - gelato recipe

Pour the hot cream into the eggs gradually whilst continuing to beat the eggs

Once you’ve poured all of the cream into the eggs, keep beating the mixture until it’s fully combined. When it’s ready the  custard will start to thicken as the hot cream gently cooks the eggs. The custard will be smooth, fluffy and a very pale yellow in colour due to all those beautiful egg yolks! (Note my leftover egg whites in the jug. I’m saving them for another recipe later on…)

Fluffy coconut custard - how to make gelato

Fluffy coconut custard

Then all that’s left to do is thicken the custard a bit more. You can do this in a bain marie (in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water) to avoid burning the custard and gently thicken the mixture. Or if you’re in a hurry, whack it all in a pan and heat the custard over a low heat and stir like mad so nothing burns/sticks to the bottom. The key is to keep stirring to distribute the heat evenly and allow the custard to cook thoroughly.

Thickening up the coconut custard in a bain marie

Not letting the precious coconut custard out of my sight as I thicken it in my home made bain marie

Once the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon it’s good to go! The custard needs to cool before you can freeze it and unfortunately this can take up to 6 hours…. Not great when you need a gelato fix right this second! A quick cheat is to carefully place your hot pan of custard into a bowl (or in my case a sink) of cold water to rapidly cool the custard. Keep stirring it every now and then to stop a skin from forming. You can chill it further in the fridge before cracking out the ice cream maker.

Coconut Custard coating the back of a spoon - thick enough to cool!

Coconut Custard coating the back of a spoon – thick enough to cool!

After all this patience the end result is not far off! I recently bought myself an attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer. The ice cream maker! This was my very first experiment and venture into ice cream making. You will need to follow the instructions for your own ice cream maker as they’re all a bit different, but for the Kitchenaid, I had to freeze the special ice cream bowl in the freezer for 15 hours (it now lives there permanently for all ice cream making emergencies) . Once I had fitted the blade to the Kitchenaid mechanism it’s good to go. One important thing to note is that you should pour the custard in whilst the machine is running as the custard may freeze solid instantly and could break your Kitchenaid if you’re unlucky.

Freeze me up - KitchenAid Ice Cream attachment in action - coconut gelato

Freeze me up – KitchenAid Ice Cream attachment in action

It takes about 20  minutes in the Kitchenaid to freeze the gelato to a ‘soft set’ . I couldn’t resist a sneaky taste of it at this stage and it tasted pretty amazing. It will be quite sweet at this stage as when it’s set further in the freezer the sweetness is reduced.

Letting the KitchenAid do all the hard work freezing my coconut gelato

Letting the KitchenAid do all the hard work freezing my coconut gelato – time for a cup of tea methinks

So with 20 minutes on your hands you’ve got plenty time to have a cup of tea and start the washing up. Once the gelato has reached the ‘soft set stage’ where it starts looking like slightly melted/soft ice cream you can stir in any additional flavours. I added 2 tablespoons of the left over desiccated coconut for good measure. You can see some of it lurking on the top of the blades!

Soft set coconut gelato ready for the freezer

Soft set coconut gelato ready for the freezer

You could probably eat it at the soft set stage if you like your gelato extra soft, or scoop it into a freezer container, smooth it down and leave it in the freezer to set fully for about 5 hours. As Gelato contains less fat it freezes much harder than ice cream, so you may need to take it out of the freezer to soften before serving. You could pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes if it’s a bit difficult to get it into a bowl.

Shaving a coconut to create coconut curls

Shaving a dried coconut to create coconut curls

Taking my trusty vegetable peeler I shaved the dried coconut halves into thin slivers to create some pretty coconut curls. I quite like the dark brown edges of the coconut rind against the white coconut flesh. It’s makes a tasty decoration too! Pop a couple of curls on the top of your gelato for a quick and sophisticated looking decoration.

Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Sharing Coconut Gelato with friends - I didn't eat it all myself. I promise!

Sharing Coconut Gelato with friends – I didn’t eat it all myself. I promise!

I didn’t eat it all myself. I promise! My friends came round for tea and we all quickly cleared our bowls of gelato which marks it as a clear success! It was smooth, creamy and extremely coconutty. Just my kind of gelato! I liked it so much that when I was washing up after my friends left I decided to start making some more custard, but this time I experimented with Italian Espresso Gelato instead.

Coconut Gelato - it didn't last long

Coconut Gelato – it didn’t last long

Home made Coconut Gelato  - extreme close up

Coconut Gelato – extreme close up

What I used to make  Italian Coconut Gelato (Gelato di Crema)

Coconut Custard

  • 1 x 400ml can of  coconut milk (which is equal to 1 and 3/4 cups)
  • 109ml of double cream (1/2  cup)
  • 55ml  semi skimmed milk (1/4 cup)
  • (you can use your own combination of cream/milk here to total  545 ml or 2 and 1/2 cups of liquid)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g (or 1/2 cup) granulated sugar (I used vanilla infused sugar)
  • 80g (or 1 cup) desiccated coconut (add your flavour to infuse at this stage)
  • Keep 2 tbs of the desiccated coconut back to add to the soft set gelato before putting it into the freezer.

Coconut Gelato Method Summary

  1. Add flavouring and heat cream and milk until boiling
  2. Beat eggs and sugar together until fluffy
  3. Cool cream slightly
  4. Pour hot cream into eggs and sugar while continuing to beat the mixture
  5. Thicken the custard in a bain marie/pan until it coats the back of a spoon
  6. Cool the custard until chilled throughly
  7. Freeze the custard using ice cream maker for about 20 minutes until soft set
  8. Set the ice cream in the freezer for about 5 hours

Many thanks to Thomson Al Fresco who supplied the ingredients for me to make this Italian Gelato creation! If this recipe has whetted your appetite for all things Italian you might enjoy camping in the beautiful Lake Garda, Lazio, Tuscany, Adriatic Coast or the Venetian Riviera. I’m already dreaming of my next Italian adventure.

If you want to make another Italian classic you could try making your own Espresso Gelato, using the same method but a slightly different recipe.

Espresso Gelato 

  • 3 tbs coffee essence
  • 273 ml (1 and 1/2 cups) milk
  • 218 ml (1 cup) double cream
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g (or 1/2 cup) granulated sugar (I used vanilla infused sugar)
How to make Homemade Espresso Gelato recipe

Homemade Espresso Gelato