All 18 entries tagged Cake

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February 28, 2013

A Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache


hazelnut brown butter cake slice

I had already decided that I was going to like this hazelnut brown butter cake the moment I saw it. And then I read on:

'This is a cake that has it's roots in dacquoise and meringue.' - Shuna Fish Lydon

A whatcha, whatchamacallit? Dacquoise and meringue.

Meringue is a dessert that we're pretty aware of, but dacquoise? I've been blissfully ignorant of its existence until Monday evening. I was trying to find another cake recipe to make for Sarah's birthday, other than Praline Almond Cake, because I didn't have enough butter for that recipe and I was much too tired to trawl round Tescos. I can't even remember how my brain jumped from praline almond cake to hazlenut brown butter cake, but somehow I found myself reading Smitten Kitchen Deb's enticing blog entry on it. Debs links onto Eggbeater Shuna's detailed poston how to make this cake. I highly recommend reading Shuna's step-by-step instructions before baking the cake because if you follow it, it's pretty fool-proof. And that's where I first stumbled across dacquoise. A dacquoise, so Wikipedia tells me, is a french dessert made with layers of nut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream. The meringue is normally made with almonds and hazlenuts.

I decided to read up a bit more on the cake. I got as far as Jibuyabu's metricised description on making this cake(thank-you) and then I stopped. It was 9:30pm and I needed to begin the baking.

My preliminary reading on this cake intrigued me. All three bloggers were in awe of this chef named Suzanne Goin, like we should all know her. "Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake. Need I say more?" - Smitten Kitchen. Well yes. Who is she? and why should that sway my decision on whether or not I should make this cake? As it turns out she is one of America's most highly-acclaimed chef. That is, at least, according to her book on Amazon. Debs and Shuna are US based food bloggers so that probably explains their awe of her. So, okay maybe that should sway my mind. But it doesn't really. At least, not yet. I wondered, whether she is the equivalent of say, Tom Ketteridge in the UK. Now, all you non-Brits, might be typing Tom Ketteridge into google search because you're scratching your head and wondering, 'who is this Tom Ketteridge dude?' Just this incredible michelin starred chef! Ah - the nuances of across the pond baking.

I tell you what, though, if we just call the cake what it is - a hazelnut brown butter cake - I think that it makes it sound utterly enticing. Don't you think so?

hazelnut brown butter cake ready to go

The 'not your standard cake' ingredients and the fun of trying out a new technique, validated it as the one to make as Sarah's birthday cake (the same Sarah of the Cardamon, White Chocolate and Rosewater angstand Chocolate Macarons)

In Suzanne Goin's original recipe, she serves it up with sauteed pears and icing sugar; Debs from Smitten Kitchen went for a chocolate ganache. It's a no-brainer which option Sarah would prefer, and I tweaked Deb's version and replaced the coffee with baileys liquor.

And I'll tell you what - the cake lives up to expectations and tastes perfectly divine. On Tuesday evening, I served it up and we all commented on how it smelled and tasted like ferrero rocher. It's not heavy, even with all that butter. Moreover, I believe that it would taste better as it gets older because of all that lovely moist nuttiness. Do you know - I'm pretty sure that we all managed two slices, after a pretty big main meal - so there's not much a chance of this cake hanging around that long.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Jibuyabu and Sunday Suppers at Lucques

Ingredients for the cake

  • 140g blanched whole hazelnuts plus some extra for garnish
  • 225g butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1tsp of vanilla extract
  • 170g icing sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 180g egg whites, which is about the equivalent of 5 extra large egg whites or 6 large egg whites
  • 45g granulated sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and prepare a 23cm or 25cm springform cake tin, by greasing the sides and lining the bottom with baking paper. I only had a 23cm cake tin and it turned out fine.

toasted hazelnutshazelnuts and icing sugar

2. Toast the hazelnuts under the grill or in the oven, by spreading them out in one layer on a baking tray, until they smell gorgeously nutty and turn a golden brown. It normally takes between 10-15 minutes. Once done, leave them cool. I transferred them onto another baking tray so quicken the cooling process.

3. Put the butter in a medium sized pan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthways down the middle and scrape out all the seeds onto the butter. Add the vanilla bean to the pan. Now, make the brown butter. I was a bit intimidated by this ingredient until I read this tutorial on Poire au Chocolat. Cook the butter on a medium heat until the butter browns, finishes crackling at you and smells nutty. It'll take a good couple of minutes for this amount of butter. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to one side to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and dump it in the bin.

preparing butter to brown with vanilla

4. Weigh out the icing sugar and place in a food processer. Once the hazelnuts have cooled down, add them to the food processer too and whizz them up until they are finely ground (this takes about 10 minutes, interspersed with moments of me scraping the sides of the food processer with a knife so that everything gets whizzed up). Add the flour and pulse it a few times to ensure that the flour is evenly mixed through. This mixture will smell gorgeously nutty and it tastes good too, if you happen to get some of it on your fingers while you are emptying this out into a large bowl. There are some perks for being a bit clumsy.

5. Whisk the eggs with a stand mixer or a handheld electic beater. I held off adding the sugar until the eggs had formed soft peaks, but in the original recipe she says to add the sugar in from the start. Keep whisking until they form stiff peaks.

6. In a small bowl, take a large dollop of egg white and a generous splash of brown butter and mix it together vigorously before re-adding and folding it to the egg whites. Eggbeater Shuna explains this process as creating an emulsion between two ingredients that would normally repel each other (whisked egg whites and butter) so that after it is introduced to egg whites, it makes it easier to incorporate the remaining large quantities of ingredients.

7. Alternate folding in the dry mixture of the icing sugar, hazelnuts and flour and the liquid brown butter to the egg whites, being careful not to overmix and knock back all the air that you've carefully worked into the egg whites.

cake batterhazelnut brown butter cake

8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. It's done when the cake is coming away from the sides of the tin and a knife comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, before then inverting it onto a wire rack so that you can peel the baking paper from it's bottom.

9. Turn the cake back over onto the plate that you'll be serving on.

** You could serve it just like this with a dusting of icing sugar and sprinkle the reserved hazelnuts. To make it pretty, why not use a stencil?

Ingredients for the ganache

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp baileys or irish cream equivalent

Method

chocolate ganache 1chocolate ganache 2

1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small pyrex bowl. As you can see, I put mine directly into a pyrex measuring jug to make the pouring bit over the cake easier.

2. Heat up the double cream in a small pan until it just starts bubbling and then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a few minutes, then gently stir until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add in the baileys and stir to incorporate.

preparing to dress the cake with ganachecake with ganache


3. Carefully pour the ganache evenly over the cake. It doesn't matter if some of the ganache spills over the sides of the cake. I think that it adds a certain charm and elegance. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining hazelnuts. I toasted and crushed them before sprinkling them over the cake. Alternatively, you could make caramel hazelnuts or a hazelnut praline (unfortunately, I had run out of sugar as well, so couldn't pursue either of those options). Or... just serve it as it is. Plain with the chocolate ganache.

You can make this a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge or in an airtight container in a cold room. So, go on - bake this one up and impress your friends.

Happy Birthday Sarah Cake

July 19, 2012

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

beetroot chocolate cake
choc beetroot muffins

My sister and her husband are coming to Warwick next week and their imminent arrival reminds me, amongst other things, of the beetroot they left me with the previous summer.

First of all. Whoever came up with the idea of adding beetroot in chocolate cake deserves a medal. You saved me from letting the vegetable go to waste. Let me take you back to my summer last year (when we had a summer!)

Oh dear...What was I thinking?

Everytime I open the fridge door, I have been glared at by the beetroot that has been discarded in the corner. I can't believe that after I discovered my dislike of its flavour, I went ahead and bought some more beetroot.

I know that it's silly, but there's a wee bit of me that believes that beetroot will eventually taste alright if I eat enough of it. However - I just can't face another savoury beetroot meal (see the entry on the fuschia beetroot risotto). So, I have decided that for the timebeing the best place for beetroot is in a cake and I've been baking this Chocolate and Beetroot cake from Delicious magazine. It's main attraction is using raw beetroot, as opposed to the cooked stuff.

Top Tip: Use kitchen gloves when handling and grating beetroot to prevent the juices staining your hands. They'll also protect your nails and fingers from being accidentally grated.

beetroot beetroot

But first, I'll answer the question: why bother adding beetroot to chocolate cake?

Answer: Mostly for the moistness it adds to chocolate cake, and moistness is an essential quality in a goodchocolate cake. It's alright. Not everyone tastes the "secret ingredient" in this cake. Nonetheless, I think that the beetroot flavour comes through. Not at all in an overpowering way; I would describe it as a hint of earthiness. Somehow the beetroot marries nicely to the chocolate, in an earthy kind of way. I'm going to stop before I try to make the chocolate-beetroot combination into a sexy one.

chocolate beetroot muffins 1packing up the muffins

The first time I made it, I baked them as 12 muffins for a friend's picnic and there was enough mixture left over for a small loaf cake for my work colleagues to sample. I made a chocolate buttercream icing to go on top and finished it off with some slivered almonds. That was in the September with the first lot of beetroot given to me. Then with this second lot of beetroot, which I bought (silly me) I recently made three little cakes as a dessert, and a 20cm cake for another friend's dinner do. This time round, I finished them off with the chocolate sour cream icing detailed in Delicious's recipe. I've never been very interested in making icing (or as the Americans call it, 'frosting') as I'm not very fond of it. So, I'm pleased that I pushed myself on to learn something new.

chocolate beetroot muffins

What I like about this recipe is the end result: a scrummy, moist and very indulgently chocolate-y cake. Interestingly, the sponge in the muffins had wee air holes in it, like a wispa bar; the cake was a denser texture. If you like chocolate fudge cake, then I'd recommend you the cake version, especially with the chocolate sour cream icing. There's no fooling yourself that it's healthy, however, as there's an awful lot of chocolate that goes into it. Even on the basis that there is a vegetable in it. (Although surely if you ate enough of it, you could add it as a portion of your daily fruit and veg..?)

So, stock up on your dark chocolate before you bake this because you'll use a lot.

Ingredients for the Chocolate and Beetroot cake, adapted from Delicious Magazine's Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.

  • 250g plain chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g raw grated beetroot

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 and grease a 22cm round loose-bottomed cake tin* (see above for variations). Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper.

2. Slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave in short blasts. The second time round, my pyrex bowl was indisposed because of Herman (more about him earlier). So, I carefully melted the chocolate in a saucepan on a low heat and took the pan off the heat, the moment the chocolate at the bottom started melting, so that I didn't burn it. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool.

3. Peel and grate the beetroot using a normal cheese grater (see top tip about handling beetroot). Put the grated beetroot into a sieve over a sink and squeeze out the excess moisture. Leave it in the sieve whilst you get on with the next steps.

4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract.

5. In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and ground almonds. I'd recommend sifting the flour and bicarb of soda because you don't want to be eating ucky lumps of bicarbonate of soda in the baked cake. Then add them to the wet ingredients and fold it in with a spatula.

6. Now, add in the grated beetroot and pour in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be a dark violet colour.

dark violet beetroot chocolate batterbaked beetroot cake

7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes in the middle of the oven. Mine needed the full hour. Check after 30 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, then cover the top with baking paper or foil. If you bake them as muffins, you'll need 14-20 minutes. The cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean inserted in the middle.

8. Let the cake cool in its tin for a few minutes, then take it out of its tin and let it cool on a wire rack.

I made the chocolate sour cream icing the following morning, but you don't have to wait that long.

Ingredients for chocolate sour cream icing

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 100g sour cream
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

Melt the dark chocolate gently in a pan, or in the microwave. Allow to cool, then add to the melted chocolate, the icing sugar and the sour cream and beat until you have a thick, spreadable chocolate gooey icing.

Spread it over the cake, et voila!

icing on beetroot chocolate cakechocolate beetroot cake
iced chocolate beetroot cakechocolate beetroot cake 2

December 06, 2011

A Carrot, Sultana and Pinenut Cake with a secret – he's Herman!


carrot, sultana, pinenut muffins

This is my favourite Herman cake recipe because it is so flavoursome and moist.

I have never been honoured with so many requests for this recipe from foodies, which confirms my suspicions that this is the BEST variation on Herman cake. So, here it is, by popular demand. (Plus, this medium has the added benefit of being far more convenient than sending the recipe multiple times via text or email to my colleagues and friends who have been asking me for this recipe.)

This cake is a wonderful example of how you can improvise successfully when baking (another example would be the Courgette and Walnut Cake). This time, I made the mistake of putting baking powder in the wrong bowl of mini herman, had run out of apples and was thus forced to improvise an alternative Herman cake, with ingredients I had on hand. Thus, the delicious Carrot, Sultana and Pinenut Cake was born, and proved far tastier than it's apple/pear and cranberry counterpart.

The inspiration for the pinenuts is probably from my love of korean and italian cuisine: it would appear to be a popular ingredient in both countries. Essentially, it is the pinenuts that make this cake what it is, so please don't scrimp and omit them.

Perhaps some of you, who have tended to Herman for a few cycles, have similar sentiments to my own towards Herman. I find it restricting to be tied into baking a Herman cake every 10 or so days. Then the thought of baking the same cake over and over again, kills the joy of baking with such a quirky ingredient. I've spoken to enough of you herman cake bakers to know that you empathise with my need to deviate from the standard apple/cinammon/sultanacake. So, for all of you attentive Herman carers out there, this is a recipe is dedicated to you.

Ingredients

  • one measure of Herman (a cup)
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten (see note below referring to doubling the recipe)
  • 100ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2 large or 3 small grated carrots, which is approx. anything between 150g-200g.
  • 50g pinenuts
  • 50g sultanas

Note: For a double batch, rather than use 4 eggs, I did the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda trick of substituting an egg. Austerity measures are required when baking endless cycles of Hermans.

Method

1. I like to soak the sultanas first by putting them in a small heatproof bowl and covering them with boiling water. If you're super-organised, then do this a few hours beforehand. This will mean that your sultanas are plump and juicy once baked, rather than dry and hard.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin, or line a muffin tin with paper cases. I think that it will make about 18 muffins, depending on how high you fill the cases.

3. Measure out the flour, sugar and spices and make a well in the middle. Add in Herman, the vegetable oil and the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly.

dry ingredients hermanadding hermancarrot cake herman batter

4. Drain the sultanas and add the sultanas to the mixture, along with the grated carrots and pinenuts. Give it a good mix.

herman loaf tinherman muffin tin

5. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Check at 40 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, cover it with baking paper or foil. If you are going to make the muffins, then dollop a tablespoon of mixture in each of the cases. This way, there'll be space to put on the optional cream cheese frosting. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cake/muffins to cool for 5 minutes and then let it cool completely on a wire rack.

The verdict?

Delicious, served on its own or with a dollop of icecream/greek yoghurt. I've frozen the muffins for another occasion and planning on topping them with a plain cream cheese frosting.

herman familydressing for work

On Sunday morning, I baked a double batch of this and produced a wee family of these cakes. In addition to the loaf tin, the mini muffin tin came out, and I borrowed some normal sized muffin tins from a friend. Later on the Monday, I dressed the loaf for work.

And what happened to Herman?

Well, Herman lives on in my flat: I didn't have the heart to finish him off this weekend. I baked a double quantity of my favourite Herman recipe (the carrot, sultana and pinenut cake) and prepared batter for Herman pancakes before I realised that I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Herman... yet.

p.s I couldn't help but notice that Herman has been featured on the Guardian's Life and Style recently. It's amusing how a yeasty goo mixture has madeit onto a national paper. I give props to Lizzie Enfield for pushing my teenage, red-haired, kitchen inhabitantinto the limelight. At some point I mean to write a blog post, entitled '100 days of Herman' with photos of the various Hermans I've produced, from pancakes to streusel coffee cake (thanks allrecipes), by way of celebration. It would have be retrospective given that the 100 day mark has already passed us by. Watch this space.


November 25, 2011

Herman, the friendship cake.

Let me introduce you to Herman. He's been living in my kitchen for a few months.

herman growing

If that hasn't put you off, then read on.

Herman is a sourdough starter cake, aka Amish Friendship cake. David first described him to me, when one of his colleagues gave him a Herman:

David: "So, I leave him out in a bowl on the side for a few days. I have to talk to him! And feed him with milk, flour and sugar.

Me: "Can't you put him in the fridge? Won't the milk go off? Why do you have to leave him out?"...

A few days later, David told me that he has gotten rid of Herman. Herman was smelly and had been cluttering his worktop.

If I can be frank with you. I'd suggest that David's colleague misjudged him in thinking that David and Herman would pair up well. David is a good cook but a 'meat and 2 veg' kind of guy. So, this type of cake didn't stand much of a chance with him.

Well, a few weeks later, Emily asked me if I'd heard of Herman. She had one growing in her kitchen and reported that the herman cake she'd tried was alright. She was still alive, and proof that eating Herman is somewhat safe, even with the souring milk. So, I asked her if she'd entrust me to look after a mini Herman.

By this time, Herman had taken on a personality of epic proportions in my imagination. Naturally, he was german, with spiky red hair, freckles and (as he smells) adolescent.

I duly took care of my Herman and made it through 2 cycles until I went on holiday. I gave him away and thought that was the last of Herman.

Not so. One of my colleagues presented me with Herman at the end of the summer and, as you know, Herman is thriving in my flat. I think that he's taken to my warm kitchen: he keeps bubbling away. I stir him once or twice a day and cover him with a tea towel so that he doesn't dry out. As I don't want to be forced to make a Herman cake every 10 days, I'm fairly relaxed about his feeding and will delay it a day or so, to draw out the cycle. Admittedly, he does smell of yeast. I'm looking forward to this next cycle as his penultimate one with me because I'd quite like to use that plastic bowl and wooden spoon for something else and reclaim the space he takes up on my worktop.

Herman is a great topic of conversation. He is a bit like marmite: people are either allured or repulsed by him. Nevertheless, everyone likes to eat him. Herman adds a tanginess to the cake and he does taste yummy, even if the texture is on the denser side. Below, I've given you the most common recipe, a cinnamon and apple version, with a wee makeover. However, my favourite is my carrot, pinenut and sultana cake.

There are a number of different Herman stories out there. This is my favourite one, which I have adapted.

Herman is a friendship cake which you cannot buy but can give away. Herman is alive and grows slowly but surely because of a yeasting process. It takes 10 days before you can eat him.

DO NOT put in the fridge as he grows at room temperature. You do not need a lid, just cover the bowl with a tea towel.

DAY 1: Today Herman is given to you. Congratulations, you must have a friend. Pour him into a big bowl so he can grow.

DAY 2: Stir Herman 2 or 3 times each day using a wooden spoon. You can leave the spoon in the bowl.

DAY 3: Stir Herman and talk to him.

DAY 4: Herman is hungry! You must feed him with:

  • 200ml milk
  • 150g plain flour
  • 200g granulated sugar

DAY 5: Stir Herman

DAY 6: Stir Herman. He really appreciates your visits.

DAY 7: Stir Herman

DAY 8: Stir Herman. Are you still talking to him?

DAY 9: Herman is hungry again! Feed him as Day 4.

Having been fed, he now needs to be split into equal little Hermans. Give away 4 of the little Hermans and a copy of these instructions.

DAY 10: Your remaining little Herman is absolutely starving after all that!

(experiment with different Herman cake recipes, such as carrot cake, streusel topped herman cake, apple cake - see below for my adaptations on the most common version)

Herman would now like to go to a hot resort, the oven will do. Preheat it to 170C (which is between 3 and 4 on a gas mark oven). With everything mixed in, pour him into a lined deeped baking tin. Leave him at the resort for about an hour. After all this care, attention and nurturing ... eat him!!!


herman apple cinnamon cake

Ingredients for Herman Apple, Sultana and Cinnamon Cake (makes between 16-25 servings)

  • 1 measure of Herman (a cup)
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 150g sugar (tastier with demerara sugar)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g fine chopped nuts or a mix of dried fruit, such as sultanas, cranberries, cherries, apricots...
  • 2 chopped or grated apples - I think that it's tastier when chopped to approx. 1.5cm sized chunks because it tastes like an apple cake
  • 100ml oil

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep 25cm square baking tin. I like to use my pampered chef square stone because I don't need to bother lining it with baking paper.

Top tip: use a baking tin, it is better than a loaf tin. When I used a loaf or cake tin, the cake took much longer to bake and was a bit heavy. The cake I made in the pampered chef stone (baking tin would do the same) was tastier and lighter. Moreover, it would have taken much less time but I hadn't misread the oven temperature and baked it at 130C! Oooops-a-daisy.

2. You can add all the ingredients and mix it thoroughly.

or, Alternatively, I found it easier to measure out the dry ingredients, then make a small well in the middle and add the oil, eggs and the mini herman and mix thoroughly. Lastly, add the chopped apples and dried fruit or nuts (or both) to the mixture and combine well.

3. With everything mixed in, pour him into a lined deep 25cm baking tin.

4. Now, to make the sugar/butter glaze. I highly recommend this step. It seems a bit weird thing to do and I had some doubts when I was pouring the melted butter over the cake batter. But the glaze really moistens the cake and enrichensthe flavour.

Ingredientsfor the glaze

  • 50g dark muscovado sugar (demerara sugar also works)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • sprinkle cinnamon on top (optional)
  • pecan or walnut halves to decorate on top

Crumble the sugar evenly over the top of the cake and sprinkle over with cinnamon. Pour the melted butter evenly over the batter. I tipped the sides of my square stone to ensure an even spread. Decorate the top with the pecan or walnut halves. Last time, I used 16 pecans but the portions were rather on the big side, so I'd use 25 next time.


prebaked herman apple cake
glaze topping

5. Now, it's time to send Herman on holiday to a hot resort (namely the oven) for 45-60 minutes. Check on him at half time and if he looks like he is browning too quickly on the top, then cover him loosely with baking paper or foil to prevent him burning. I guess it acts like a sun umbrella, if we're to continue the holiday metaphor. Herman is ready when you test him in the middle with a clean, sharp knife and it comes out clean. Let him cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin before cutting him up into squares.

Enjoy.

herman apple cake

October 11, 2011

And finally I baked… Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt Cake


Dorie Greenspan
Saturday, Week 1:

I've indulged myself with a lie-in this morning and at midday, I'm lounging in my pj's with my dressing gown wrapped around me for warmth on this rather chilly October day. I have a to-do list as long as my arm, and I should have been out and about at least an hour ago... However, yesterday my legs were shaking as I got out of bed. The fresh intake of students, the start of the academic year, all that energy and effort, lack of sleep, adrenalin are taking their toll on me. Somewhat sheepishly, I also admit that some of it is my own fault for staying up and baking a cake.

I confess that I am a baking addict. When I have been putting off baking for some time, there comes a point when I just have to bake something. The urge starts in my stomach and emanates out to the rest of my limbs. My fingers drum nervously on the desk, my legs crisscross, and I keep fidgeting in my seat. I am physically twitching to just get on and bake something. I don't get this about cooking food. This is purely related to baking, baking, baking. And so this is how I realised that I am a baking addict.

Earlier this week, 4 sad, brown bananas on top of my fridge kept asking me to bake them in Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt Cake. (I've been wanting to bake this cake since I saw it here as a Secret Agent Cakein Ari's blog six months ago.)

"No brown bananas," I said, "I don't have time to do anything about you now."

"But you must, you must." They sang back, "In a day, we will be too far gone for even a cake to rescue us."

So, I made a date with them for Wednesday evening. Which is how, after walking around my block and talking about freshers stuff with students, at 11pm on Wednesday evening, I eventually started baking Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt Cake (from Baking: From My Home to Yours).

By the way, I noticed that every blog post about this cake only uses cup measures, which rather irritates me as a UK baker, used to measuring things out in grams or ounzes. So, I've measured it out in grammes in this version of the recipe. Instead of plain flour, I substituted self-raising flour for all-purpose flour. I know that all-purpose flour is the US equivalent of plain flour. However, I read on some forum that the results are better with self-raising when baking cakes.

Ingredients

  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed up in a bowl
  • 225g butter, cubed and softened
  • 300g golden caster sugar (I decided on golden caster sugar for a richer flavour, but 3/4 of the specified amount.)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 450g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225ml sour cream or yoghurt (in the absence of sour cream, but wanting the richness, I had some leftover double cream which I mixed with yoghurt)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and generously grease a 12 cup/23-25cm bundt tin. I used a pampered chef oil spray to coat it liberally with oil.

2. Mash up the bananas in a bowl and put them to one side. In another bowl, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for about 5 minutes, until the colour is pale and it looks fluffy. Then add the sugar and cream again for a few minutes. I used my Sainsbury Basic electric mixer but I had total KitchenAid Mixer envy because it would have come into its element with this cake. Indeed, Dorie recommends using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

four sad bananasbanana bundt cake batter


4. Add in the vanilla extract. One by one, add in the eggs and give it a good whizz with the mixer after each egg. Add in the bananas. Give it another whizz with the mixer.

5. Next, add in half of the dry ingredients (flour, salt and bicarb of soda) and mix well. Then pour in the sour cream or yoghurt and mix it in. Finally, beat in the remainder of the dry ingredients and finish it off with a good whizz with the mixer to make sure that everything is beaten in.

6. Pour the cake batter into the bundt tin and spread it out evenly on top. Firmly bang it on a work surface to release any trapped air bubbles.


banana bundt cake batter poured inbanana bundt cake batter 1banana bundt cake in the tinbanana bundt cake and tin


7. Bake in the oven for 65-75 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. However, check on it around the 35 minute mark and cover with foil if it looks like it is browning too quickly on top, so that the bottom doesn't burn.

8. Let it cool in the bundt tin for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wirerack to reveal a beautifully turned out bundt cake and allow it to cool completely.

I made the suggested lemon drizzle icingwhich perfectly complements the cake and is simple to make.

Ingredients

  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • lemon juice. Start with 2 teaspoons. I ended up using juice of half a lemon.

Method

1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add in the lemon juice, starting with 2 teaspoons. Mix. Keep adding the lemon juice, one teaspoon at a time, until the icing reaches the consistency you desire for a drizzle.

2. Drizzle the icing over the cake. Ta Da.

banana bundt cake

my sliver of bundt cake for breakfast

The verdict? Oh, I need to be careful to make sure that I hold myself back and don't come across as OTT at this point because this cake tastes even better than the reviews promised it would be.

Can a cake be described as soft and velvety? Because that's how I would describe the texture of this cake. Each mouthful is an utter joy and delight to eat. The flavour is rich and deep. The lemon drizzle lends a subtle sharpness to the richness of the cake. My colleagues had some the next day and they loved it.

Top Tip: I'll let you into a secret. This is one of those cakes that gets even better if you leave it a day (at least!) if you can resist it. I dare you. Sure, the icing will become more opaque over time, but you can store it in an airtight container for at least a week. The flavours mature and become even softer. MMmmmmmm.....


October 03, 2011

A Cake for Sarah: White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater Cake

a cake for sarah

"cheers" my friend Sarah on a recent holiday to Baynuls-sur-Mer

The other night I made a surprise cake for my friend Sarah who is going to Mozambique for 6 weeks to volunteer with Iris Ministries, set up by Rolland and Heidi Baker. She's going to two of their ministry bases, one in Pemba and the other in Muputu, to serve as a willing pair of hands. Giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting involved with the work out there, she's not quite sure what's in store. She leaves on Tuesday and I'm excited for her and the stories of her experiences that she'll bring back with her.

Well, naturally I felt it was appropriate to mark the occasion with food, and I really wanted to make her a cake that was, a) personal to her b) I could decorate and c) a delicious new recipe. But suddenly (de repente!), I was overcome with all these mini moments of doubt when I forgot what flavours she liked and didn't like. (I felt like such an awful friend!) After several hours of poring over Fiona Cairns and Nigella recipes, it got to the point that all I knew for sure was that - she likes chocolate. Especially white chocolate. So, I picked this White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater sponge from Fiona Cairns, Bake and Decorate.

The story doesn't stop there. I confess that I had many anxious thoughts ready to trip me up and stop me from baking this cake:

  1. The biggest, most glaring, thought that rang alarm bells in me, was - does Sarah like cardamon and rosewater..? Both are pretty strong, unusual flavours. And will the rest of the small group like it? Because if you don't like either of those flavours, then I'm done for!
  2. Secondly there was a step involving a food processor and adding hot water to white chocolate to melt it... this is a new technique and I wasn't sure whether my old food processor and I were up to the task.
  3. My lack of a real pestle and mortar to 'grind the [cardamon seeds] into a powder' (I do love Fiona's writing).
  4. I have never ever made ganache before.

So there you go. This cake almost did not happen. However:

  1. Firstly, I had this vaguely reassuring feeling that Sarah has pretty much liked every flavour of cake that I've baked her. And my small group are happy to venture out and try new flavours.
  2. Then, I thought that I could only give it a go and see what happens with the white chocolate, food processor and hot water.
  3. And I improvised a pestle and mortar with the end of a rolling pin and my trusty small stainless steel pampered chef bowl. Then, it was Alex who did the hard work of bashing the cardamon seeds into a powder and sifting out the husks later.
  4. I love video tutorials!

Result:

white chocolate cardamon and rosewater cake

I didn't tell you that I decorated the cake to look sort of like Mozambique. I don't do decorating cakes. However, as I had to do something(!), I got this idea of using sweets to creating Mozambique from Jen, a friend of mine in my small group, because it is fun and colourful. Kind of what I hoped Sarah's trip would be for her. (Whenever one of Jen's funny, creative 'face birthday cakes' turn up in our small group, there is a lot of laughter. I wish I had some photos to illustrate how funny they are to you! "John, your face is delicious.")

Later on, I put candles on it to mark Pemba and Muputu when we presented the cake to her at our church small group. By way of imagery, the candles also represented that she'd be a light where she was going. Corny isn't it, I know!

When the cake came in with its lit candles, Sarah said, "but whose birthday is it?" and she made us all sing a song.

And what about the flavours and the cake? Well, I'd forgotten that she'd previously made a lime and cardamon cake so she was already a cardamon fan. So, she really liked the cake, as did everybody else. It truly is a delicious cake. Although 20 cardamon pods sound like a lot, I don't think that their flavour was so overpowering that you couldn't taste the white chocolate or the rosewater. I'm wondering when I can make this recipe again.

Now that the cake has been eaten and loved... I can let those stomach knots untie themselves as I wonder whether some of the anxiety around the cake was really to do with wondering, "How will I manage without Sarah for 6 weeks?"

In the meantime, here's Fiona Cairn's white chocolate and cardamon sponge

Ingredients

  • 130g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 20 green cardamon pods, deseeded* (see method 2.)
  • 170g self-raising flour, sifted to add lightness to the sponge
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line with baking paper, a 20cm cake tin. I used a 23cm cake tin and it was probably a bit too wide. I'll use a 20cm next time, so that the ganache can be a bit thicker.

2. Deseed the cardamon pods using the point of a sharp knife. Empty out the seeds and grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. (Or as I improvised, a stainless steel bowl and the end of a rolling pin). Sift the cardamon powder in order to remove the husks that inevitably remain.

3. Well, my old food processor happily stood up to the challenge of this next bit. Place the chopped white chocolate and half of the caster sugar into the food processor and pulse for a few minutes, until it is as fine as possible. Then take 2 tbsp of hot water (important that its hot, not boiling, otherwise the white chocolate will seize up and go firm). Keep the processor going and add the hot water slowly (Fiona describes it as, 'dribble it') to the chocolate, until most of the chocolate has melted.

4. Add in the remaining sugar and butter to the food processor and process it so that it is well mixed. Finally, add in the eggs, ground cardamon, flour and vanilla extract and mix it well. The end result won't be entirely smooth as there may be some white chocolate that hasn't melted and manifests itself as little lumps. Don't worry about it. The baking will sort it out.

5. Transfer the batter into the baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Rest the cake in the tin for a few minutes, then turn it out to cool completely, onto a wire rack.

Then we move onto making a white chocolate ganache. Can I just say,

"This is the first time ever that I have made ganache!"

I was a bit anxious about it and even a year ago, I think that I would have been too scared to attempt a ganache. However, whilst I've been watching the Great British Bake Off, I've been inspired to try out new techniques. I still searched online to learn a bit more before I tried it and build my confidence. I'd like to say that this was fairly simple to do. But I'm not sure that my ganache looked entirely right. I think that I might have whisked it for too long.

Top Tip: Still feeling nervous about making ganache? I'd recommend watching this, to help ease your nerves. It is a really good video tutorialon making white chocolate ganache.

So, the ingredients for a white chocolate and rosewater ganache

  • 100g good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2tsp rosewater

Method:

1. Place the finely chopped white chocolate in a heat proof bowl.

2. Heat the double cream and the rosewater in a saucepan until it boils. You want it to be 'scalding'. Then pour it into the heat proof bowl with the white chocolate.

3. Leave it for a about 30 seconds to begin the melting process, and then begin stirring the mixture gently so that the melting white chocolate and the hot cream are completely mixed together. Once done, leave it to cool completely, then pop it into the fridge to chill slightly.

4. Then take it out and whisk until it thickens.*

*This is where I think that I may have gone wrong. However, since then, I have wondered whether using a more expensive white chocolate would produce a better ganache, rather than Sainsbury Basic.

To finish off...

Fiona suggests that you split the cake into two layers, spread the ganache in the middle and sandwich the two layers together. I modified this to compensate for my poor decorating skills and needing to decorate this cake into something that resembled Mozambique.

On the day, I raced back home during my lunch break to decorate the cake. I spread the ganache on the top of the cake, as a frosting. Then I used haribo men and jelly tots to create a shape that resembled Mozambique, chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, while I went back to work and voila!

Sarah and Cake



March 31, 2011

Allinson's Banana Cake: my marathon training cake

I'm training to run a marathon that is in May - EEEEeeeekK! It's my first one and to say that I'm terrified is an understatement. So, I try not to think too much of the distance or the number of hours that I'll be running. However, I can't seem to stop myself thinking about what food to feed myself towards the end of a long run. I am ravenous. It's a different kind of hunger to when I was training for my first half marathon. Then, I found myself craving melons towards the 10 mile mark. So far, I can't seem to eat enough of this one cake.

Allinsons Banana Cake with Chocolate

I know that my latest posts have been about buttermilk, but bear with me whilst I share one more buttermilk cake recipe and then I'll move onto something else. This is the one that started it all. It began a few years ago when I found this gem of a recipe on the back of Allinson's Wholemeal Self-raising Flour packet. I wasn't entirely convinced at how it would turn out. But I thought, 'why not? I've got the ingredients at hand. What do I have to lose but maybe some bananas that are going off anyway, some sugar, butter and flour?' So, I made it for an English Tea Party for Study Abroad/Erasmus students at Leicester University as part of their Welcome Programme. And then I had to make it again for my colleagues because it all disappeared before they got a taste.

And..?

3 years on and a couple of banana cake recipes later, this has turned out to be one of my favourite banana cake recipes and I bake it frequently. It's also one of the few cakes that I get a craving for. So, I'll buy bananas deliberately in order to bake this cake, rather than eat the bananas as they are. I know that's not the common practice with bananas. A further confession. Sometimes I see how long I can leave the bananas ripening before they become unusable. (Answer - black and mouldy.) I've proved to myself that the banana in its various shades of mottled brown to very black is edible... in a cake... and will last a bit longer if you pop them in the fridge.

One of the nice things about this cake is that you can make variations of it, which is handy when you're baking it frequently. I've experimented by adding 100g of milk or dark chocolate chunks successfully, tried white chocolate chunks (doesn't work because they don't have enough flavour to come into their own in this cake), decorated the top with dried apricots soaked in apricot brandy. My preference? I like it as just a plain banana cake.

I'm sure that you can find even more variations. I'd love to know them so please share :)

Ingredients for Allinson's Banana Cake, adapted by yours truly.

  • 100g/3½oz softened unsalted butter, cubed or as I recently discovered, you can subsitute it with 80ml sunflower or vegetable oil. I think that the oil makes the sponge a bit lighter.
  • 140g/4½oz caster sugar (I halved the sugar, so add some more, if you'd like it a bit sweeter)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 350g/12½oz wholemeal self-raising flour (feel like I should say Allinson's, since its their recipe... and I've only ever used their flour)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 75ml/3 fl.oz buttermilk (how to make your own buttermilk)
  • optional extra ingredient - 100g chocolate chunks; chopped walnuts or pecans...

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a deep cake tin. I find that anything between 18-23cm works. Just vary the baking a time a bit. A 23cm cake tin needs a bit less time in the oven than a 18cm one.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Then gradually add in the egg. Or, if you're using oil, then beat the sugar and egg together first, then add the oil.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. The sifting helps to create lightness which is important when using wholemeal flour. Remember to add the bran that remains in your sieve back into the mixing bowl. I tried using the bran to decorate the cake last time but it just went everywhere so I wouldn't recommend doing that.

4. Add 3. to the butter and sugar and mix well. It will resemble bread crumbs if you're using an electric mixer, or feel very stiff if you're doing it by hand.

breadcrumbs banana cake mixture

5. Add in the mashed bananas and the buttermilk and mix well. If you want to pop in an optional ingredient, such as chocolate chunks or nuts or dried fruit, then do so at this stage

Top Tip: Coat your chocolate chunks lightly with flour before adding them to the cake mixture. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of your cake during the baking process.

6. Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin, smooth and pop it into the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.

banana cake mixture

I think that it's the combination of the wholemeal flour and banana that gives the cake its wholesome and moreish character. The top of the cake crisps up slightly and lends a wonderful slightly crunchy, sweet flavour. The flavour of the banana isn't too overpowering, for those of you who aren't overly keen on it and leaves you wanting to nibble on some more. Mmmmm Mmmmm MMmmmm.

Incidentally, I do recommend the back of flour packets as a good place to find yummy baking recipes. Flour companies should know these things, since flour is normally the primary ingredient. Now, I should listen to my own advice more often and make those chocolate thins that are on the back of the plain wholemeal flour one...


March 02, 2011

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake


raspberrybuttermilkcake

I really like discovering delicious new recipes, especially when you weren't looking for them. It feels like stumbling across some hidden treasure. This cake is exactly that. I found this one in Smitten Kitchen as I was googling for a recipe that I could use up the buttermilk that I had leftover from a banana cake baking session. Fortuitously, I happened to have all the ingredients at hand. Winner! So, I just got up and started baking the cake :)

raspberries

If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute it with natural yoghurt but it doesn't quite taste the same. Better yet, I have since learned how to make my own buttermilk, the cheat's way. The proper way requires either churning butter and using the leftover milk (hence the name, buttermilk) or shaking a pot of double cream for a l.o.n.g time for the same effect.

The raspberries all sank to the bottom the first time I made this (the cake still tasted scrumptious). I had a hypothesis that the fruit wouldn't sink if I first lightly powdered them with flour before I added them to the cake batter. So, I tested this out the second time I made this cake. I poured the batter into two cake tins and scattered in one, lightly floured raspberries, and the other with bright, red raspberries. When both cakes turned out beautifully with raspberries floating dreamily on top, I was flummoxed as to why the first time round had been a disaster. However, now I'm remembering that I forgot to preheat the oven and so the batter was left out for a while, so maybe the raspberries sunk then... *sigh* Basic common sense, Miss Cha - remember to switch on the oven and turn on the cooker at the mains so that the oven can actually preheat.


raspberrybuttermilkcake2twotypesofraspberriesoncaketwotypesofraspberrycake1


Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake, adapted by yours truly from Smitten Kitchenand Gourmet Magazine

List of Ingredients

  • 55g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 135g/5oz caster sugar (for the cake) + 1 tbsp of caster sugar (to sprinkle on top of the raspberries)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 130g/4.5oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125ml/4fl oz buttermilk, stirred
  • 140g/5oz of raspberries

Top Tip: you can substitute the raspberries with other berries. I imagine that blueberries would taste heavenly, or cherries with almond flakes on top...

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F or Gas Mark 5 and line a 18-20cm cake tin, or alternatively dust it lightly with flour.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 2-3 minutes with an electric mixer (I finally got one!) or 5-7 minutes by hand.
3. Mix in the vanilla extract, the lemon zest, and then finally the egg.
4. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
5. Slowly add 4. and the buttermilk to the wet mixture. I'd recommend adding the flour in three batches, alternating each time with the buttermilk. This way, it will be easier to mix and the mixture won't curdle. If you're doing this with an electric mixer, do it at a low speed.
6. Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top, then scatter the raspberries evenly on top of the mixture. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of caster sugar over the raspberries.

raspberrybuttermilkcake2scatterraspberries


7. Pop it into the centre of the oven and let it bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.
8. Let it rest in the tin for about 10 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack.

The verdict? Well, this cake is a winner in my eyes. Its simple to bake and you can make this cake and eat it within an hour. It is wonderfully moist from the buttermilk and the raspberries lend a lovely freshness to it. Also, the cake tastes delicious, even when the berries have sunk to the bottom. If that happens to you (and I don't think it should as long as you remember to preheat the oven) here's how I remedied it - by serving the cake, turned upside down. You could also sprinkle lots of icing sugar on it.

remedyraspberrybuttermilkcake

p.s. The cake freezes well too. Wrap it up twice with foil and a plastic bag to freeze it. Just take it out the freezer the night before and leave it on the side to defrost it - simple.


January 05, 2011

A Taste of Sunshine: Coconut and Lime Drizzle Cake


coconut and lime drizzle cake


It has been really cold outside - freezing in fact. In Aberdeen, I experienced a very rare Christmas of it reaching -15°C. I think that I was the only one who was delighted that it was so cold and guaranteed a white christmas. I didn't quite appreciate that the cold snap just hadn't snapped for 5 weeks in Aberdeen and they were tired of being cooped up by the snow.

I find that when it is that cold it's hard to remember how it could ever be warm enough, that you don't need mittens for a start... or a coat... or thermals (did I go too far with the thermals bit? is that just me?). Does the UK really have a t-shirt and flip flops season? But now that temperatures are above freezing. Well, it feels positively balmy. 'Let's put on those bikinis and do some sunbathing'. Okay - so maybe it's not quite reached that temperature yet.

So, this recipe is dedicated to all of you who would like to be reminded of some sunshine. A taste of hope that seasons do come and change.

How apt. As I write, I realise that on the two occasions that I have baked this cake, they were to celebrate significant milestones in my sister's life.

Milestone #2. (Nope, this isn't a typo, I'm milestoning this chronologically)

Back in November, my mum came to visit me en route to my sister's graduation. Quite a considerable detour since my sister, Ee-Reh, lives in Huddersfield! Bless her - my mum told me later that her main intent on visiting me was to unpack whatever boxes remained from my various moves over the summer. Instead, it was really nice to show her that her eldest daughter had finally seen the light about unpacking everything and was trying to keep her flat tidy.

The following morning, whilst my mum acted on an urge to do my ironing (I love her!), I wanted a taste of sunshine. So, I baked a cake for my mum to take as my sister's graduation present.

Unfortunately the graduation ceremony was called off due to the severe weather conditions.

Milestone #1.

I first made this cake for my sister's wedding in September, along with Ee-Reh's request for my lemon drizzle and dark chocolate cake. My sister had asked several of her guests to contribute cakes. These two were my favourites. The Carrot Cake is decorated with a picture of the swing in the garden where my sister had the wedding ceremony. Then this Bumble Bee Cake, with flying bees. Aren't they fantastic?

carrotcake with swingbumblebee cake
Ee-Reh and OlaEe-Reh in the tree

And, yes. That's my sister up in the tree. On the morning of her wedding. Hanging up the decorations. She's incredible!

I've been wanting to experiment with lime, coconut and chilli since I visited Cambodia in March. Ahhhh... those flavours bring back memories. Cocktails of freshly squeezed limes + sugar syrup + soda water, refreshing chicken and lemongrass soup, steamed spring rolls and deep-fried beetles - what fun! I really enjoyed Cambodian cooking. But it was the sunshine... the sunshine that I desperately wanted to taste.

Honestly, honestly, honestly. The first lime drizzle and coconut cake, the one that I took to my sister's wedding, was dry. Even with the lime drizzle moistening it up. I now have a theory that dessicated coconut sucks up the moisture in a cake: this also happened when I made kentish cake, another cake recipe that asks for dessicated coconut. Hmmm... so, in true Han-Na style, I did some googling for other coconut cake recipes to give me some ideas on how to liven up this recipe and discovered the addition of coconut milk and rum in cakes. Rum, hey? A real taste of sunshine then :) And thank you to my blessed colleague for lending me her lime rum.

A quick note about the ingredients: 1. Coconut milk - Buy some powdered mix stuff for this recipe and others. It's cheaper and more flexible store cupboard ingredient than a tin of coconut milk. You can vary the quantity of coconut milk really easily. I used Maggi's.

2. My colleague lent me her bottle of Lime Malibu and most supermarkets will carry it. However, if you're adverse to alcohol, the rum is an optional ingredient.

maggi coconut milk powder

Ingredients for a Taste of Sunshine: Coconut and Lime Drizzle Cake

  • 125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
  • 75g/2.5oz caster sugar
  • grated zest of two limes - or one depending on how much limey zestiness you'd like.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 150g/6oz self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 50g/2oz dessicated coconut
  • 125ml/4floz coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp lime rum or normal white rum (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2. Put the butter and the sugar together in a bowl and whisk them together with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Alternatively, if like me, you don't have an electric whisk and the butter isn't softening quickly enough (even when you have left it out on the side to soften) then cheat by zapping the butter in the microwave - see top tip.

Top Tip: I don't have an electric whisk and I'm not always so organised to leave the butter out on the side to soften. As you can guess, this results in the butter being too firm to hand whisk with ease. So, I cut the butter into small size chunks (about 3 cm cubes) and zap them in the microwave for just under a minute (the time will vary depending on the power of your microwave) in order to ease the whisking process. I try and do it so that the butter hasn't melted, just softened. In all honesty, I normally end up with a not-entirely-but-pretty-much-melted butter consistency. I guess that it affects the chemistry of the baking in some way but the cakes turn out fine.

3. Add the lime zest and eggs and keep whisking so that the mixture is combined well. I almost forgot to add in the eggs at this stage. The addition of the coconut milk makes it quite a runny mixture so it was easy to forget. I remembered just at the end of the mixing, so I don't think that the order of adding the eggs at the end affected the baking chemistry too much. But I'm going to say - add them in at this stage, so that you don't forget.

4. Thoroughly mix in the flour, baking powder, dessicated coconut.

5. Stir in the coconut milk and lime rum. The mixture will be very gloopy now.


coconutandlimemixturegloopycake


6. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake tester/knife comes out clean.

7. As the cake is baking in the oven, now prepare the sunshine lime drizzle. Oh, I can almost hear the waves crashing on the beach as I write this up. Where is that bikini?

I normally use golden caster sugar for drizzle. However, this time I tried using icing sugar because i didn't want the snowy sugary crust on top. No reminders of the snow please! And it worked well. I try to reduce the amount of sugar that I use in recipes so remember to add a bit more sugar if you prefer it sweeter.

Ingredients for Sunshine Lime Drizzle

  • 35g icing sugar (you can substitute it with golden caster sugar if you want)
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 1.5 tbsp lime rum (more if you want to)

8. Mix the lime juice, icing sugar and lime rum. Don't worry about the lime pulp, I think that the pulp adds personality to the cake when you pour it on.

9. When the cake is baked, make some holes in the cake to ease the journey of the drizzle through the cake. My weapon of choice is a metal chopstick. A cocktail stick will do the job just fine and is easier to source. Pour the drizzle on while the cake is still hot. I find it helpful to use a teaspoon towards the end to make sure that every inch of cake has been covered with drizzle. Ta Da.

coconutandlimedrizzlecakecoconutandlimedrizzlecake2

The verdict? It's a simple cake to make. I made a double batch and gave the second one away to some of my friends who travelled to Cambodia with me. My sister commented, "the cake was very yummy. All who ate it said so. Jennie especially liked how moist it was. I thought, for a lime-lover, it could have been more zesty. However, equally, this could put off those who do not appreciate the lovely greeny limey goodness."


November 30, 2010

Butternut Squash, Apricot and Almond Cake

butternut squash and apricot cake

It's starting to snow again on campus, as I finish writing up this entry.  They look like beautiful, soft flakes and remind me of my birthday in January when there was lots of snow! Maybe it's the snow which is helping me get into the swing of Christmas this year.  I started wrapping my Christmas presents on Saturday - a previously unheard of phenonemon for the queen of last-minute.  But then again, Saturday was the first day of snow and also the BBC Good Food Show, so undoubtedly I was going to be excited.  My highlights were of the day:

  1. Buying my amazing Titan peeler (see photo below) and later making a courgette, garlic, basil and parmesan pasta dish for dinner with it. 
  2. Chatting to Alan Rosenthal, who has written a cook book called Stewed, about his business.  I think the timing of the book launch is perfect for these dark nights.
  3. Having a fun day out with my former housemates, Claire and Sarah and tasting muchos good food. Mmmm...

Well, it has inspired me to write about a cake that we can indulge in guilt-free.  I think it's a handy one to have in mind for after Christmas.  I was hooked the instant I saw this on Kitchenist's blog, 'And I'm Telling You: No-Butter Apricot and Almond Cake'.  The title read like some sort of guarantee in a shop and drowned out the voice of guilt that says, "A moment on your lips, a lifetime on the hips".  (Actually at times, the voice of guilt likes to take on the unwelcome guise of various human beings - what is with that?!)  But the real hook for me was to bake with a butternut squash.  Who can resist one of those golden, odd shaped bad boys?

The original recipe is in Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache.  There's an amazon package sitting in the corner of my room, and I'm hoping my brother has sent me this recipe book as my Christmas present.  I'll let you know after Christmas. 

When it came to trying out this recipe, I didn't have any almond essence.  And after staring at a bottle of almond essence in the shop for 5 minutes, I decided to not to purchase it but to substitute it with Amaretto (an almond liqueor) instead, which I had already. 

I think that the hardest part of the this cake is peeling away at the hard skin of the butternut squash.  The best advice I can give you is to invest in a good quality, sharp vegetable peeler.  I didn't have one both times that I made this cake, so I attacked said butternut squash with a knife.  

cutting up butternut squash

Remember how I mentioned that I have now bought an amazing Titan peeler?  It's my newest kitchen purchase and I love it.  It peels just about anything.  I want to buy all sorts of root vegetables just so that I can peel them.  I'm a bit ridiculous, aren't I, for being so excited about a peeler. *v*  Did I mention already that I love it?

the best peeler

So, here are the Ingredients for my adapted version of Butternut Squash and Apricot Cake:

  • 16 dried apricots
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tbsp of apricot brandy (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash *see top tip
  • 1tbsp amaretto
  • 60g plain flour
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • icing sugar (to serve)

Top Tip: Weigh out the butternut squash before you peel and grate it.  If you go over that's fine.  You'll lose some of the weight when peeling it.  Oh, and double check the weight once you've done the difficult part. 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3.  Line the baking tin with baking paper.  In her blog, Kitchenist, Ele insists that this is a really important step and musn't be overlooked because the cake has a tendency to stick to the tin as no butter is being added to the recipe.  So, I obeyed.

2. In a small heatproof bowl, soak the dried apricots by barely covering them in boiling water and adding 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.  For extra apricot-loveliness, try adding some apricot brandy to it, as I did the second time I made the cake.  1 tbsp of apricot brandy seemed a good amount for me.

3. Measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl - the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt

4. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until it's light and fluffy.  Use an electric whisk if you have one.  Otherwise, it's a good workout for your arms.

5. Add in the grated butternut squash, amaretto, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and combine well.

6. Add in the dry ingredients in 3. to the wet mixture and give it a good mix so that the mixture is well combined.  It should feel quite gloopy but thick.

7. Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly.  Drain the apricots that were soaking and place them on top of the cake.

unbaked butternut squash and apricot cakebaked butternut squash and apricot cake

8. Bake the cake for between 35-45 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.  The top of the cake should be springy and golden in colour.  Let it cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then on a cooling rack.  Dust with icing sugar, just before serving.

Verdict?  I think that the butternut squash adds a beautiful moistness to the cake, rather than a distinct flavour.  The almond and mixed spice make it a truly delectable cake to eat.

So the combination of: no butter easing the guilt + butternut squash and apricot contributing towards your 5-a-day + amaretto and apricot brandy adding a sweet naughtiness to it = the perfect cake to feel good about whilst eating it.  I baked it for my work colleagues on my birthday and, on another occastion, as my contribution to my church's ladies day.  Each time, it received good reviews.  Mmmmm...


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