The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made

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My Bestest Banana Bread

I’m going to let you into a secret. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying new combinations of flours and flavours to make some tasty, healthy (ish) cakes using up food that would otherwise go to waste. And what did I conjure up? My bestest banana bread recipe, with coconut, pistachio and rye. Additional bonuses include an extra cake! This recipe is enough for 2 cakes, so you can freeze one for later or give it to a friend who needs a nutritious energy boost. It’s also low in sugar and gluten. (You could choose gluten free flour if you prefer.)

Bonus Banana Bread

Bonus Banana Bread

When my bananas are on the turn and almost ready for the bin I throw them in the freezer in their blacken skins to save for a later date.  (Yes you can freeze bananas. Feel free to peel them first and pop them in a tupperware container first if you want to use them from frozen for smoothies or milkshakes, then you don’t even need to add ice cream for a chilled drink).

Once I have 3 black bananas stockpiled I whip up my Banana Bread. Leave your bananas to defrost for an hour or so before you peel them to make your banana bread, as if they’re too cold it will make your butter solidify and could give you denser cake and an uneven bake.

This is really quick to make. Basically beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Followed by your bananas, vanilla and eggs, then the combination of flours and baking powder. Finally beat in a handful of sultanas and chopped walnuts. This takes about 15 minutes with an electric mixer.

I use two 6 inch round tins to bake this recipe, or you could bake one large banana bread loaf if you prefer. Liberally sprinkle the cakes with chopped nuts (whatever you have to hand is fine). I use pistachios which gives you gorgeous green flecks singing out in between the flaked almonds and hazelnuts.

As the cake bakes the batter rises up and supports the nuts, holding them in place for the final cake. It’s also the perfect way to disguise any uneven finishes on your cake, if like me you have an unpredictably hot oven.

My initial experiments involved using 100% coconut flour, but this ended in disaster. I think coconut flour needs to be balanced against other nuttier flours (I like using rye flour but spelt or wholemeal would work well too) to absorb some of the natural oils and sugars and avoid the quick to burn, blackened mess that I made.

In less than an hour (50 minutes at 150 degrees c to be precise) you will produce two beautifully moist banana cakes, that are perfect accompanied by a large mug of strong tea, perhaps after a bracing stroll by the coast. I’m drooling just thinking of that sweet sponge and nutty crunch of a cake. Wonder how many bananas I have lurking in my freezer today…

Perfect Cake spot: A blustry day by Alnwick Castle

Perfect Cake spot: A blustery day by Alnwick Castle

 Things I used to make my Bestest Banana Bread

  • 125g margarine (or butter)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g coconut flour (or finely ground dessicated coconut if you can’t find the flour)
  • 90g Rye Flour (or spelt or wholemeal) -NB: Spelt and Rye flours are not gluten free but may be more suitable to those who have a wheat intolerance. Use a wholemeal gluten free flour if you want to avoid gluten in this recipe.
  • 60g plain flour (feel free to use gluten free flour)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon or mace)
  • Handful of chopped sultanas
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • * Topping: (2 handful of chopped/flaked nuts: almonds, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts
  1. Beat together sugar and butter until fluffy
  2. Beat in bananas
  3. Beat in eggs one by one
  4. Beat in vanilla paste
  5. Beat in coconut, plain, rye flours and baking powder and spice
  6. Beat in sultanas and walnuts
  7. Pour into 2 greased 6 inch round tins (or one large loaf tin)
  8. Cover the top of each cake entirely with a layer of chopped nuts
  9. Bake for 50  mins at 150 degrees c (or until a skewer comes out clean)

My other banana based recipes are Fanny and Otto’s Fijian Banana Cake

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60. Japanese Matcha Green Tea Mochi – Gluten Free

Mochi are like no other cake I’ve ever tasted. At first I thought I didn’t like them, with their chewy jelly exterior and smooth paste interior, that’s just not as sweet as I’m used to in my sugar spiked desserts. However once you get past your preconceptions of what a cake should taste and feel like, you’re going to love Mochi. I can guarantee it.

Matcha Mochi

Matcha Mochi

The first time I experimented with Mochi was on a food adventure around Hong Kong. (Although they are a traditional Japanese sweet treat.) My friend Bobo and her Mam took us on a whistle stop tour of the real Hong Kong. Rolling from Dumpling Soup and Dim Sum, to Duck and Eel banquets. Sampling Chinese Milk Tea, Egg Tarts and Pineapple Cakes and everything in between. Including impressive dry ice tapioca desserts presented with a flourish of icy smoke clouds. This was my kind of trip! Although I must admit I didn’t manage to eat noodles for breakfast. A regret I still carry with me today. Unfortunately I’m much more of a tea and toast kinda gal!

But Mochi were something else. Deceptively bland on the outside in their floury cloak.  When you tentatively choose your mochi you immediately realise how soft and squidgey they really are . Take a bite and there’s a perfect balance of sweet bean paste to rice gel dough. I always thought that Mochi would be difficult to make at home, when in fact they are possibly one of the quickest bakes I’ve ever made! The assembly is the trickiest bit and even then it’s a bit like playing with Play Doh so it’s actually quite fun!

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

You can apparently buy red bean paste (also called Anko) pre made (if you can find it!). I couldn’t find any so made my own, and as per usual, made it up as I went along! I chose dried Aduki beans from my local health food shop. These beans are also know as Azuki or Adzuki beans. They are much smaller than kidney beans and apparently rather good for you. They’re classed as a ‘superfood’ which is a bonus. (Just in case you’re interested they are high in soluble fibre, and rich in other nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper and manganese.)

Tender Aduki Beans after 2 hours simmering

Tender Aduki Beans after 2 hours simmering

You do need to plan this one in advance if using dried aduki beans. You must soak them overnight in cold water. Change the water the next day, then bring them to the boil and simmer them for 2 hours. Once they are tender they’re ready to make into a paste. I didn’t realise that you’re supposed to remove the skins by passing them through a sieve, so I ended up with rather more textured paste than some Japanese confectionery would use… This is called Tsuban (red bean paste). If you sieve your beans you’ll end up with smooth Koshian paste. Once you’ve mastered Anko making, you can use it to fill lots of other Japanese desserts such as Dorayaki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake) or Red Bean Ice Cream (I’m adding these to my list right now!).

The Aduki Sweet Red Bean paste

Anko – Aduki Sweet Red Bean paste

Once your beans are tender, drain the water and stir in the sugar. Then add a splash of water (half a cup) and allow to simmer . As the water evaporates the paste thickens. When you can draw a line along the bottom of the pan with a spoon the paste is ready. Allow it to cool and blend with a hand blender to a smooth paste. If you make too much you can freeze it for future use.

The very runny rice flour sugar and water batter ready for microwaving

The very runny rice flour sugar and water batter ready for microwaving

Technically this is a non-bake bake. You only need to microwave the glutinous rice flour, sugar and water for 3 minutes 30 seconds to produce a wonderfully gelatinous dough! It’s amazing how many Mochi you can eek out of the small amount of flour, water and sugar.

The very hot and thick gel dough. You can see my fingermarks where I tried to remove the piping hot dough out of the bowl with my bare hands. Be careful!

The very hot and thick gel dough. You can see my fingermarks where I tried to remove the piping hot dough out of the bowl with my bare hands. Be careful!

Sift one cup of glutionous rice flour (I used my left over Pandan flavoured flour from my Pandan Chiffon Cake. It’s got to be glutinous rice flour as this is the sticky kind. It’s still gluten free despite it glutinous qualities.), followed by 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tsp of matcha green tea powder, and 1 cup of cold water into a microwave safe bowl. Whisk gently until you have a very smooth thin batter. You could choose other flavourings or colours such as jasmine, taro or coconut. Add your preferred flavouring before cooking!

Cover the bowl with cling film and microwave on high for 3 mins 30 secs. The dough will thicken and inflate. Check it and then microwave for a further 30 seconds if it needed to be a bit firmer.  Et voila you have a extremely green jelly dough ready to shape!

The bright green dough scooped safely out of the bowl with a knife

The bright green dough scooped safely out of the bowl with a knife

IT WILL BE VERY HOT when you take it out of the microwave! Most recipes tell you to shape it whilst it’s hot. I can assure you it’s much easier to work with when cool and less likely to sizzle your hands, so be careful.

Lots of rice flour everywhere to stop the dough from sticky to everything

Lots of rice flour everywhere to stop the dough from sticky to everything

Dust your worksurface with rice flour (other recipes say to use potato starch or cornflour, but as I had rice flour to hand I used that and it was fine.) You’re going to want to dust your hands too as the jelly dough sticks to everything! Mine was a vivid green so it looked like I’d been slimed. I’m still finding green goo in my kitchen… Take a small amount of dough (about 1cm x 5cm) and flatten it out using your finger tips on the worksurface. Press it into a round shape about 3mm thick.

Fold in the edges to seal in the red bean paste

Fold in the edges to seal in the red bean paste

Dollop a nice large marble sized pea of red bean paste in the centre of your dough and fold the dough over the paste to seal it in. Turn the Mochi over and roll it in a cupped hand or on the work surface to encourage the sealed edge to stick together and create a smooth round finish. Roll it in a little more rice flour and pop it into a mini cupcake cake case. Roll and repeat until you’ve used all of your paste and dough!

Shape shape shape your mochi

Shape shape shape your mochi

You could choose other pastes or ice cream to flavour your mochi with. Next time I’m going to try matcha ice cream centres!

The finished Mochi sitting pretty

The finished Mochi sitting pretty

I had to make a second batch of dough as I’d been a bit too enthusiastic with my portion sizes first time round. My Mochi were more dough than paste which isn’t as tasty to eat.

The first batch - I had rolled some too thin so the red bean paste is lurking periliiously close to the surface of some mochi

The first batch – I had rolled some too thin so the red bean paste is lurking periliously close to the surface of some mochi

It could be the complex combination of it’s jelly like texture or the smooth savoury yet sweet paste filling that make Mochi so memorable. Or perhaps it’s the unusually satisfying bite that they possess. Once you’ve tried them I’m sure you’re going to want to try them and experiment with more flavour combinations. They’re small so you probably want to eat at least 2 in a sitting!

A mouthful of mochi! Yum yum yum!

A mouthful of mochi! Yum yum yum!

This dough recipe was enough to make 16 small mochi. I had enough paste left to make another batch so made a second batch of dough. Good news Mochi are gluten free and low in sugar so they’re relatively health conscious snack or dessert too. It’s best to store Mochi in an air tight container. They will keep for a couple of days if you don’t eat them all straight away!

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

You can see the Matcha Mochi are a bit darker in colour and more rounded in shape 🙂 My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

I made my Mochi to share with friends at out Confidential Canapé Collective which we hosted at my new house. I really enjoyed making and eating these little sweet treats. I definitely prefer my Mochi with matcha in the dough. It gives a richer yet subtle flavour whilst tinting the dough naturally with a dark green hue. I was surprised by how many disappeared that night and some friends even took a couple home for later. Therefore I can confidently declare my Matcha Mochi a success! I can’t wait to attempt Matcha ice cream next!

Things that I used to make my Mochi

Matcha Green Tea Mochi Dough Recipe

Really quick to prepare! Makes enough dough for approx 16 small mochi

  • 1 cup of glutinous (sticky) rice flour – I used pandan flavoured flour but you could use plain and add other flavours
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 2 tsp matcha green tea powder

Mochi Filling Red Bean Paste (Anko) Recipe

Takes a bit of preparation: Soak over night and boil for 2 hours

Makes enough to fill approx. 30 mochi

  • 100g dried Aduki beans
  • cold water
  • 50g sugar

Red Bean Paste Instructions

  1. Soak the dried beans in cold water over night
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Cover the beans in cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 hours til tender.
  4. Drain the water. Stir in sugar. Add half cup of water. Simmer til very soft and water is evaporated.
  5. Blend with hand blender to a smooth paste.

Mochi Instructions

  1. Whisk the ingredients together into a thin batter
  2. Cover with cling film and microwave for 3 minutes 30 seconds and then a further 30 seconds if needed to firm the dough up further
  3. Allow to cool before scooping the dough onto a rice floured surface (use more flour as needed to prevent sticking)
  4. Take small pieces (1x5cm) of the dough and shape into rounds
  5. Place a marble sized dollop of your chosen filling in the centre of the dough
  6. Fold the edges over the filling. Press the edges to seal
  7. Turn the mochi over and roll in a cupped hand to seal the edges further.
  8. Dust with rice flour and place into paper case
  9. Leave to set at room temperature for an hour
  10. Eat!

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 

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.

54. Hawaiian Haupai Pie – A Coconut Chocolate Cream Dream

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Having never visited Hawaii I have absolutely no idea what the traditional cake Hawaiian cake would be until I discovered Haupai Pie. I’ll never look back from this tropical chocolate, coconut cream dream pie.

The first slice of Haupai Pie

The first slice of Haupai Pie

Trying to decide on a birthday cake for my sister I put a call out for inspiration on twitter and Haupai Pie was suggested by the lovely @FoodandFrets. I knew instantly that this was the pie for me especially with my upcoming trip to @private_pie club which was to be held the amazing Quilliam Bros Teahouse (which is incidentally also my favourite shop to visit with their millions of teas brewed to perfection and spectacular peanut brownies). The theme of Private Pie club this month was ‘free from’. I interpreted this to mean free from meat but not free from calories.

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

Recipes vary for Haupai pie. Many require just an unspecified ‘pie crust’. Which is helpfully vague but also means I can do what I like best in the kitchen, and make it up as I go along. Sweet chocolate pastry pie crust it is then for me!

Pastry is not my forte. It’s no secret. I have heard that chocolate pastry is particularly difficult and delicate but who cares what the worriers tell you. Just plough on through and it’ll be fine. If I can make it I’m sure anyone can.

Butter me up

Butter me up

Infused with confidence, having churned my own butter recently, I set to work using my Homemade butter to make this challenging crust.

Rub rub run your flour

Rub rub run your flour

Rubbing together the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar and homemade butter by hand means you’re more in control of the pastry and less likely to overwork it. (Not that I could honestly tell the difference between over our under worked pastry as they all taste pretty good to me.) I chose to use icing sugar rather than caster sugar to achieve a smoother pastry. Caster sugar, although finely ground, could be a little too course for this pastry  (Another helpful tip brought to you from the wisdom of Mary Berry!) It’s definitely not because I had ran out of caster sugar and only had icing sugar to hand…

Pastry starting to come together

Pastry starting to come together

An egg is used to enrich the pastry and bring the dry mixture together. I also added a splash of milk to get the pastry to a good rollable consistency. Once it starts to come together, tip it onto an icing sugared dusted surface and knead it lightly and pat it into a round.

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

Moving the pastry as little as possible is apparently the key to good pastry (and cold hands, which I have even in summer). Lightly rolling the pastry away from you, in one direction, turn the pastry 90 degrees clockwise, roll again and turn. Keep repeating until it’s about 5mm thin and big enough to line your tin.

A thin pastry rectangle

A thin pastry rectangle

The best tip I have is to trim off the excess pastry, making more of a round shape as you roll to help keep it all under control. It makes life much easier when trying to fling the pastry into your tin too. Also as the pastry has a high butter content, there’s no need to grease your tin. Hurrah! Another job saved.

Pastry envelope

Pastry envelope

My method is to fold the pastry like an envelope, into thirds and lift it into the middle of the tin. Then all you have to do is unfold the pastry and gently press it into all of the nooks and crannies of your tin (I chose a tart tin with a wavy edge for my main pie). If your pastry is extremely delicate you can press it using a piece of cut off pastry instead of your fingers to stop yourself from poking a hole in it.

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Once the pastry has relaxed and is pressed tightly into the tin you can trim off the extra and save it for later. This recipe made enough pastry for 2 pies! So I made a bonus practice Haupai pie. You could freeze the raw pastry for another day if you prefer or make some tasty biscuits instead.

Trim your edges

Trim your edges

The pastry needs to chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before blind baking the case.

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Before baking the chocolate pastry case prick the pastry all over with a fork to stop it bubbling up allowing you to fill it evenly later on.

Blind baking with kidney beans

Blind baking with kidney beans

I like to use crumpled up greaseproof paper to line the case and kidney beans to hold the pastry down during the blind bake. With my extra pastry I decided to attempt a fancy twisted pie crust…

Fancy twisted pie crust

Fancy twisted pie crust

However in reality the fancy pie crust was a bit over ambitious. It melted in the oven during the blind bake and collapsed into the case giving some lucky people an extra thick chocolate crust! To make sure the pie crust bakes evenly I pop the pie onto a preheated baking sheet. The pie needs to be blind baked for 15 minutes and then baked uncovered for a final 5 minutes until it’s fully cooked in the middle. Some of the crust did stick to the greaseproof paper but hey it doesn’t need to look pretty on the inside, it’s going to be covered in luscious chocolate and coconut pudding. (Please ignore the twisted pastry mess on the outside too.)

Not so fancy pie crust

Not so fancy pie crust

Whilst the pie crust is cooling you can then make the coconut custard/pudding mixture. This recipe seemed worryingly liquid filled to me.  I couldn’t imagine it ever thickening up to a custard consistency. I had visions of the runny custard seeping into the pastry and ruining the crisp base. No one wants a soggy bottomed tart. The recipe called for a lot of coconut milk, milk and sugar to be boiled together and allowed to thicken. I had some homemade dulce de leche that needed to be used up so I substituted half of the milk for this instead, which also helped to thicken the mixture. (But you could just use normal milk or condensed milk for an extra sugary kick if you prefer…)

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

I’ve never made a custard without eggs before, relying solely on corn flour to thicken the mixture. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use up the box of cornflour I had carefully carried through customs all the way back from Berlin recently too, believing it to be a German cake mix. Google translate revealed later that it’s just plain old cornflour that I could buy in any shop here…

This custard/pudding recipe screamed against all my baking instincts, which I had to suppress with all my might to stop myself throwing in the odd egg yolk or two. I’m pleased I ignored my supposed baking instincts and put my faith in the recipe.  Pouring the full volume of water mixed with cornflour into the coconut milk, I held my breath and whisked like mad…

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me...

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me…

Miraculously the custard thickened immediately after I poured to full amount of cornflour into the mix! Producing a gloriously thick and glossy custard.

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

The custard then needs to be divided in half to whisk chocolate into one half and dessicated coconut to the other, until you get a beautifully shiny chocolate custard and a wonderfully textured coconut pudding custard.

Chocolate custard

Chocolate custard

Coconut custard

Coconut custard

With your cooled chocolate and coconut custards at the ready, the rest of the Haupai Pie assembly is pretty straight forward. Pour the chocolate layer in first and spread evenly over the base, followed by a layer of coconut custard. As I was making two pies, I ran out of coconut custard for my second pie, but you get the gist of it… You could just make one really full pie instead if you prefer or have a much more chocolatey second pie, like me.

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Whilst this is setting in the fridge, take the opportunity to whip up your double cream with a little caster sugar, until fluffy and light.

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Spread a final thick layer of whipped cream evenly all over your pie and decorate with chocolate, or coconut or a combination of the two! With two pies to decorate I made one with chocolate buttons and another with homemade coconut curls and a milk chocolate drizzle.

The first slice of Haupai Pie - chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

The first slice of Haupai Pie – chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

I absolutely love Haupai Pie! I love the triple layered effect, with the dark chocolate pastry and custard contrasting with the mellow coconut custard and the white whipped cream! You can probably tell I have a bit of a coconut fascination, so this pie is right up my street.

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

The crisp chocolate base is the perfect partner to the smooth and creamy filling. Adding the extra dessicated coconut to the custard gives an added texture and interest to the pie too. And despite my crust slipping into the pie, I quite enjoyed the extra thick crust.  I could quite happily eat chocolate pastry every day. Who would have thought that this time last year I thought that I didn’t really like pastry or cream?! I’m so pleased I persevered and not only do I now like pastry and cream I can now say I really do LOVE it.

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

I was worried that I had prepared the pies too early as I made them on Monday to be served on Wednesday. I feared that the custard would make the pastry too wet. But lo and behold it was still perfectly crisp after 2 days. This pie definitely needs to be kept in the fridge and is probably eaten as soon as possible but rest assured it keeps very well for at least 3 days (if it lasts that long in your house!).

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Things That I used to make me Haupai Pie

Chocolate Pastry Recipe

  • 90g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1 egg
  • a splash of milk
  1. Rub together ingredients dry ingredients and butter
  2. Add the egg (and milk if needed) to bring the pastry together
  3. Roll out to 5mm thickness and press into tin
  4. Cut to shape and prick with a fork all over
  5. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees c.
  6. Bake uncovered for a further 5 minutes, until evenly baked.
  7. Allow to cool

Coconut and Chocolate Custard Fillings

  • 235ml milk (or 175ml dulce de leche and 50ml milk) (or 235ml condensed milk)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (400ml)
  • 200g white sugar

Heat milk and sugar until boiling and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.

  • 235ml water
  • 65g cornflour
  1. Mix the cornflour and water until dissolved.
  2. Pour cornflour into the coconut milk
  3. Whisk over the heat until thickened (about 3 minutes)
  4. Take off the heat and divide the mixture in half
  • 210g chocolate (100g milk and 110g dark)
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  1. Whisk the chocolate into one half of the custard
  2. Whisk the dessicated coconut into the other half of the custard
  3. Allow to cool
  • 400ml Double cream
  • 40g caster sugar
  1. Whisk the double cream and sugar together until fluffy
  2. Pour chocolate custard into the pastry case
  3. Pour coconut custard into the pastry case
  4. Top with whipped cream
  5. Decorate with chocolate/coconut (or anything else you like)
  6. Enjoy!
Eat with a big spoon

Eat with a big spoon

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!

 

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!

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

100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

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

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

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

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

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

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

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

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

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

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

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

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

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

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

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

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

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

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

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

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

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

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

Green Tea

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

Vanilla

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

Amaretto

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

Amaretto Sour

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

Coconut

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

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

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

Rose

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

Piña Colada

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

Chocolate Brandy

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

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

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

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

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

 

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

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

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

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

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

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

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

Syrup

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

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

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

Colourings

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

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

Chocolate Ganache

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

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

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

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

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

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

46. Say hello to my Brazilian Roll ~ Rocambole Cake

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Brazil is yet another country on my still to visit list. However I do have a lovely Brazilian friend who was an exchange student at my sixth form. We became firm friends over A Level Media Studies and parties. Thinking of you Gabriella when baking my Brazilian Roll or as you may call it in Brazil a Rocambole.

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This bake reminds me of Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade (one of my very first around the world in 80 bakes more technical challenges). Both are very similar to the wonderful Swiss Roll however the distinguishing factor of the Rocambole and the Roulade is that they use whisked egg whites to fluff up the sponge. This means it’s a fragile cake but very light. Where as the Swiss Roll is more like a sponge cake, less delicate and probably (in my opinion) a bit easier to bake and to handle.

Traditionally the filling in a Rocambole is a Doce de Leite. This is a Brazilian favourite. It’s a creamy milky toffee sauce made from slowly reduced condensed milk. (It’s quite similar to the Italian toffee sauce dolce de leche). It’s reduced down over a low heat until caramelised to produce a thick fudgey gooey paste. As the filing takes quite some time to prepare it’s best to start with this! You need to be really careful with this as if the pan is left to boil dry the can could explode and really hurt yourself (and your kitchen).

how to make doce de leit Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Take one unopened can of condensed milk (Most cans in the UK randomly contain a very precise amount of condensed milk of 395ml. Who knows why? But the process is the same regardless of the size of your tin). Place your unopened can of condensed milk in a pan of boiling water and simmer it for 2 and a half hours. Keep an eye on the pan and keep topping up the water so the water level remains.always around 2 thirds of the way up the can. Allow the can to cool for about 30 minutes before opening it.

Evaporated milk isn’t the same and unfortunately won’t work as a substitute, as evaporated milk doesn’t have as much sugar in it. Never to be defeated I have managed to make doce de leite with evaporated milk. If you’re up for an experiment and evaporated milk is all you’ve got, you could get away with adding sugar to evaporated milk and dissolving it slowly over a low heat to create your own toffee sauce. (I have free styled this recipe before and it gave a rather more liquid toffee sauce so it can be done! Just add enough sugar until you reach your desired level of toffee colour and taste.)

how to make doce de leite

The grand reveal! My doce de leite looks suspiciously like condensed milk. No hint of toffee here. Back in the pan you go

Unfortunately I failed to let the water bubble (being a little too cautious – very unlike me!) so when I opened my can it still looked like condensed milk, just a bit thicker. However undeterred I threw it all into the pan and heated it on the stove to make my doce de leite directly in the pan. It does require a bit more attention and elbow grease however…

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom revealed some thicker doce de leit

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom of the can revealed  the beginnings of some thicker doce de leit. It’s a bit lumpy so needs a good whisk

I’m a little impatient and wanted it to thicken up quickly so kept increasing the heat and whisking by hand until it bubbled, then removed the pan from the heat to allow the residual heat to continue to cook the condensed milk. You need strong arms to keep whisking continuously as the milk thickens! (My arms weren’t feeling the strongest after a full day of Yoga handstands the day before but I still managed)

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leit

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leite

My impatience led my doce de leite to become extremely thick and it pulled the head off my hand whisk! However a little cold milk reduced the heat of the sugar to calm the doce de leite down. It allowed me to get the sauce back to a slightly more spreadable state. To stop the cooking process I placed the hot pan into a sink of cold water. In my ‘wisdom’ I then dipped my finger into the doce de leite to test if it was cool enough to spread! It was most definitely NOT cool enough and welded to my finger. I managed to pull the molten lava doce de leite off my finger and ran it under the cold tap. Did you know a piece of frozen melon makes a wonderful cold compress to take the heat out of a burn? Clutching my melon I managed awkwardly to continue to whisk the sauce still undefeated by my blistering finger. I ended up clutching on to more frozen fruit whilst spreading the doce de leit and rolling up the cake.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

The cake itself takes hardly any time at all to prepare. The whisking is the most time consuming part of the Rocambole. Like a Roulade you have to whisk the ALL of the egg whites (there’s 5 eggs in this cake! That’s a lot of egg!) on a high speed setting. (If you have an electric whisk, if not prepare your arms for a bit of a work out!) until stiff and shiny. This takes about 5 to 7 minutes. The egg whites will double in size. I love this bit!

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

One slight difference between the Rocambole to a Roulade is that the egg yolks are then also whisked into the egg whites. (With a Roulade you whisk the yolks with the sugar and chocolate then fold it into the egg whites.) The Rocambole is a bit quicker banging it all together and whisking to your hearts content. You don’t want to knock any of the air out of the egg whites, so it’s best to beat the yolks lightly first so they are runny. You can then pour the egg yolks in as you whisk.

Adding egg yolks to whisked egg whites - rocambole

Whisking in the egg yolks to the egg whites – lovely creamy yellow colour and very fluffy!

Then to whisk in the sugar. The traditional Brazilian Rocambole recipe doesn’t include any flavourings or spices, it is a plain egg sponge. (A bit like my Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge favourite!)  Ever the experimenter I wanted to add a bit of flavour to this bake so I used vanilla sugar. I made this really simply by shoving a leftover vanilla pod, which I had scraped the seeds from for another bake, into a bag of sugar. I then left it to infuse it’s vanillary goodness for a couple of weeks. It smells lovely and gently flavours the sugar with a hint of vanilla. It’s a good way to get your moneys worth out of those more expensive ingredients as I hate to throw the pods away. I often pop a vanilla pod into any spirit that I have in my cupboard too. Vanilla Brandy or Vanilla Rum anyone?

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar - Rocambole

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar

The eggs should be seriously expanding and threatening to overflow the bowl by this point as they inflate rapidly. You need to continue to whisk the fluffy and shiny eggs whilst pouring in 5 tablespoons of water. This takes around 5 minutes of whisking.

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

In order to maximise the air in the cake and to avoid knocking the air out of the wonderfully fluffy eggs, sift in all 5 tablespoons of plain flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Then using your  best metal spoon fold in the dry ingredients gently. This is probably the smallest amount of flour that I’ve ever folded into a cake. It felt a bit odd as the flour just disappeared to the bottom of the bowl, but trust in the recipe, it definitely works!

Rocambole Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Line and grease a rectangular baking tin. I used a tin 37cm long by 22cm wide and 5cm high. Use a deep tin as it will rise in the oven.  This mixture is really delicate so to avoid knocking the air out of it, hold your bowl of mixture as close to your tin as possible and pour. It’s a very liquid mixture so try to pour it into all of the corners so you don’t have to move it around too much in the tin. Gently level the mixture with a spatula to avoid an uneven bake.

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

After baking it in a preheated oven (350 F/170 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes, it will become golden brown and feel slightly firm and springy to the touch. I always check that a cake is cooked by using a cocktail stick, if it comes out clean from the sponge you know it’s done. Unfortunately I was trying my Mary Berry recommended foil backed parchment paper and it doesn’t always do what it’s told. In the heat of the oven it curled up and into the cake! Maybe a wider variety of paper is needed for this tin so that it reached the edges of the tin and can be scrumpled down over the lip of the tin to hold it in place?

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Allow the cake to cool in the tin slightly so it holds it’s shape. Then carefully lift the cake out of the tin, by the baking paper. But don’t remove the baking paper.

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge - try not to take the cake with you

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge – try not to take the cake with you

Using a spatula and a palette knife , I tried to spread  a thin layer of doce de leite across the cake. This is easier said than done whilst holding a piece of frozen fruit on your burnt finger. The Doce de leite is very gooey and if it’s as thick as mine, it could pull holes in your cake (note the holes in my sponge above…) But who is going to check the inside of your cake? When it’s rolled up no one will notice  and it’s going to taste gorgeous anyway so throw it on as best as you can.

Carefully does it ... Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole

Carefully does it … Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole (excuse my slippers)

There is a bit of a knack to rolling up a Rocambole. I decided to neaten up my slightly rough edges, trimming the longest edge as straight as possible with my very best sharp knife. It’s not the easiest cake to trim as the sponge is very moist and delicate (so it sticks to the knife!). I only trimmed one edge in case I destroyed the other side. This cake was to accompany me to the Clandestine Cake Club and I didn’t have time to make another one (or anyone condensed milk!). Trimming the cake does have it’s benefits however, I could make sure it tasted good before serving it up to my friends! 

 

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole!

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole! (And one pan of soapy boiling water on the stove to dissolve all of the doce de leite)

Before I even attempted rolling the cake I made sure I had loosened all of the edges from the baking paper gently with my fingers to avoid tearing the sponge. It’s best to keep the sponge on the paper so you can use the paper to coax the cake over. I started the roll off by pressing a knife into the sponge about half an inch in from the shortest edge. I then folded this lip of sponge over to start the roll and give a really tight spiral. Then to let gravity do it’s job! Lifting the paper over,  letting the cake fall into place whilst coaxing it into a roll with your hands. Once you start it’s easy to get carried away! Hence my lack of photos of this process the Rocambole was all rolled up before Chris could get into the kitchen to take a photo for me!

Rocambole recipe Gently ease any slightly stuck bits  of cake off the paper using your finger tip...

Gently ease any slightly stuck bits of cake off the paper using your finger tip…

All of the pictures I could find of a Rocambole seemed to show a cake with a very long spiral with a very thin sponge so I chose to roll mine from the short edge to the short edge, to maximise my spiral. If you wanted to get more slices out of your Rocambole you could roll from long edge to long edge and get a much longer cake.

Just rolled Rocambole - trimmed edge to the front!

Just rolled Rocambole – trimmed edge to the front!

Once you’ve rolled up your Rocambole all it needs is a liberal dusting with icing sugar and you’re good to go! I recommend eating it quick as the doce de leite has a tendency to ooze out of the sides when left for a night. But if you like this effect then see if you can hang fire for a bit for an extra level of goo.  I can confirm that this a tasty cake. It’s definitely a winner if, like me, you have a sweet tooth as most of the flavour is derived from the sugar in the cake and the milky caramel doce de leite! It’s an extremely tender sponge that almost melts in your mouth. I’ve heard very good things from my Brazilian friend, who’s Grandma makes Rocambole. She covers the entire Rocambole in chocolate buttercream and adds some texture with a fork to create a chocolate log Rocambole! Now there’s a good idea for another Christmas bake to add to my list!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

Glorious Cake Collection at the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

I took my little Rocambole along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club  at the lovely Pink Lane Coffee shop in Newcastle where we were baking around a ‘New’ theme. This could mean a new recipe, new baking tin, new ingredients. This was perfect for me as pretty much every recipe I bake is new to me and a bit of an experiment. There were some amazing cakes that night, my favourite being a chocolate and peanut butter layer cake (7 layers in total!). Check out Lisa’s blog for more gorgeous pictures of the beautiful cakes from all of the bakers who braved the January snow. When there’s cake nothing will get in my way. It was immense. I must admit I took an extra sneaky piece home for later too. I was so happy that all of my Rocambole got eaten.

So if that has whetted your appetite for a spot of Rocambole here’s what I used to make mine.

Ingredients

Doce de Leite Filling

1 unopened can of condensed milk (395 ml)

Alternative fillings…

If you don;t fancy simmering a can of condensed milk down in a pan I’m sure you could put a jar of nutella or jam or guava marmalade (another traditional Brazilian Rocambole filling) to good use here too.

Cake

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons of vanilla infused  sugar (or just normal sugar will do)
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 5 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder