Monday, 26 October 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon

With any luck, by the time this posts, I will be winging my way from London to Invercargill (be warned this link is only for the brave and really really sums up Invercargill!), New Zealand.  I think this may actually be the furthest destination from London - it is almost 11,800 miles.  If I am not somewhere over Asia/Europe/Pacific, then you may have heard about it on the news.

No, I am not a nervous flyer.  Well, if I am to be totally honest, I will be a touch nervous this time.  Mainly because I will be traveling 31 hours with my very active little assistant - my 15 month old son.  In coach.  With no extra seat.  On my own.  Did I mention he is quite active?   And that he has a cold complete with two green caterpillars extending from nose to everywhere?  I must be completely mad.  On the other hand, if I could contain him like this, then maybe it would be okay, although a little bulky on my lap.

Getting off the plane in Invercargill is a bit like stepping back in time.  First off, you invariably are met with the smell of fresh cow dung carried on howling winds blowing straight from Antartica.  (BTW, the cows live around the airport, not in Antartica - just penguins, birds, wind and a few scientists there).   Secondly, there is hardly anyone there; Invercargill has 49,300 residents and London numbers 7,700,000 - give or take.  So the pace of life is a little slower than London, and that takes a few days to get used to.  I mean, strangers (whom my mother assures me are completely in charge of their faculties) talk to you in the street - and not to get you to get you to move/walk faster/push you aside.  People don't treat you as though you were invisible.  It doesn't take an hour to drive 6 miles.  Very, very weird. 

In an attempt to delay the reality of the journey for a few more hours, I embarked on this week's cake exercise.  Can I just say that this cake looks like a little girly girl's dream come true.  All that is missing is a Barbie poking out of the top.  Well, at least that is what Rose's cake looks like.  And I am now happy to report that my cake is also looking fabulously girly.  Perfect for an afternoon tea with your rose scented Grandmother.  Definitely a cake to be eaten from pretty cake plate with a fork and of course a napkin.

I am yet to completely pack (though I have already packed Rose's book and cooking accoutrements), I still have washing drying and my flight leaves in nine hours - loads of time.  So here goes a very quick round up.

I found this cake pretty easy.  No smoke.  No leaking pans.  No Pollyfilla masquerading as cake.  I know - how disappointing!  Even my non blog reading friends were strangely pleased when I told them of my cake disaster, somehow they thought that all was right in the world if I could end up with such a mess.  So glad to offer a ritual sacrifice to the cake destroying gods every once in a while.

Can I just say that I am loving these cakes of Rose that beat the love into egg yolk and sugar, dust in (!!) the flours then fold in the meringue.  I was extra specially diligent this week and even went so far as to make my own wondra flour with the mix of Kate Flour and cornflour.  I bought all the right ingredients... I may have been cursing living in the UK vs USA when I was microwaving my flour, but boy oh boy, was I glad that the Tiptree seedless raspberry was in my local supermarket and it tastes amazing.   I was very happy to avoid sieving jars of raspberry jam.

As I was saying, the cake came together quite well, a really lovely thick mixture.  Though I wasn't so keen on licking the bowl.  There is something about almond extract that gives me the heebies - I was seriously questioning whether I would even be able to eat the finished cake.

This is my version of a dusting.  It looked less like a dusting and more like Pompeii circa AD 79.  And folding in the glorious meringue is weirdly satisfying.

This chiffon, is quite like a genoise in that you remove the crusts and apply a syrup.  The cake on the left is slightly undercooked, and the cake on the right is probably just right.

The top on the right looks pretty ugly because I improvised the flip flip flip action by using a baking sheet.  And didn't spray the baking sheet to prevent the top from sticking.  Which of course it did.  You know, that Rose, she really knows her stuff!  It didn't really matter though as the top and bottom get taken off anyway.

In this cake ugliness is definitely only skin deep.  The left cake is definitely slightly undercooked, it was harder to remove the surface and the middle was slightly too spongy.  My palate couldn't taste it in the final cake though.  The top and bottom of each cake is brushed with 1/4 cup of amaretto syrup.  This does make the cake a bit fragile, but fortunately after my burnt offerings of last week, I managed to pull off the flip flip assembly without any issues.

Rose's recipe calls for a raspberry jam flavoured whipped cream.  I opted instead for a raspberry jam flavoured mascarpone icing.  Why?  Well, I couldn't be bothered whipping cream, and I had a huge pot of mascarpone sitting in the fridge that wasn't going to be so great in three weeks.  Plus mascarpone in the UK is only marginally more expensive than cream.  Blessed aren't we?   The only thing I will say about the mascarpone icing, is that if it is cold when you put it on your cake, you will definitely get crumbs in your icing.  I even froze the cake before I iced it and I still got crumbs in the cake.  Luckily my only audience was my husband and the neighbours, so not so sure they would even notice that there were crumbs in the icing (especially if I was to not point it out).

A couple of lessons learned here.  See that the parchment strips are still under the cake?  I removed one, and along with it a wodge of icing where it was resting on the parchment, so I ended up having to cut around the parchment and remove the overhang.  Also, I think if you use mascarpone instead of cream, you actually need a bit more because the final icing isn't as aerated.  I just used what I had, so ended up with a less than perfect horizontal surface.  Maybe if I was serving this to a more exacting audience, then I would have bothered more.  Don't tell my husband or the neighbours!

 Here it is in all its pretty pastel purple/pink.  The undercooked cake is on the bottom and you can see that it has a more dense crumb.  I think this is also due to cake position in my rubbish oven.  I think I would have liked a tad more icing on the side, but other than that the icing/cake balance was quite good.  I didn't use the full measure of jam, just added it until it tasted sweet enough.   Though by that stage, I had tasted so much icing that my tongue had no idea whether it was too sweet or not.  No complaints from any of the testers, so I guess it was fine.

This is an excellent, and sophisticated (!) cake.  Quite delicate with the understated almond flavour nicely balancing the raspberry mascarpone icing.  It is so light and airy, even the most jaded palate could tell that this is no cake mix/mass produced supermarket or cake chain cake.  Grandmother would be (quietly) impressed!

Right, off now to finish my packing!  Looking forward to reading everyone's posts from deepest darkest New Zealand.  Fortunately they do have electricity and sometimes even the internet.   I will post some photos, because it is a truly beautiful part of the world, so long as you think sheep and cows and fields and wind blown trees are beautiful (though maybe not as spectacular as Butteryum's autumnal photos).

Monday, 19 October 2009

Upside Down Apple Cake (Smoked)

When I opened the oven to rotate the cake and smoke billowed from the oven, I had an inkling that this cake wouldn't turn out *exactly* like the photo in Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  As I raced the three steps to close the kitchen door so that the smoke alarm wouldn't go off, I ran headlong into our dinner guests.  Hardly an auspicious start to the evening... but at least the smoke alarm didn't go off.

Fortunately, the old adage, "where there is smoke, there is fire" didn't hold true in my kitchen.  The clouds of smoke were courtesy of the caramel that had found its way to the oven floor.  How did it find its way to the oven floor you may ask?  Well, here is where I admit the first of my schoolgirl errors.  Um, I used a springform cake tin in complete contravention of the recipe instructions.  Yes, I am aware that caramel turns to liquid when heat is applied.  And yes, I am aware that springform cake tins are in no way leakproof.  And I didn't place the cake tin on a baking sheet, so heat + caramel + sieve like cake tin - baking sheet + floor heated oven = smoke (lots thereof).

It did start promisingly.  I prepared my apples with precision, I wanted to make sure that they were evenly sliced to ensure even cooking and so that they would look nice. 

I made the caramel, which is always such a nerve wracking experience - is it amber enough now?  how about now?  what about now?  I probably could have gone darker, but as it all ended up on the oven floor - not sure it would have made much difference to my cake!

 I pretended that I was more particular than I usually am as I neatly laid out the apples on the bottom, fantasising about how great they would look when they became the top.  I can tell you that I was bitterly disappointed at wasting ten minutes of my life on arranging those apples.  Because, those Cox apples, they weren't the shape holding type.   Witness the second schoolgirl error - just using the apples I had to hand, rather than looking on the internet to see if they would work.  Um, trial and error for a dinner party is for the stupid or the very brave.  But they sure looked pretty before I introduced them to the oven.

And can you see the folly of my ways with that springform pan.  I amaze myself.  If I had been observing anyone else making this cake, I would have been onto them as they lined it with parchment - but doing it myself?  Nuh uh.  Very annoyed at myself.  But in my defense, I don't actually have a non springform tin.  Perhaps I was in a blissful state of denial?  Have now added it to my "need to buy" list.

And I think all that caramel pooling on the bottom of the oven did something to its thermostat because the oven became blisteringly hot.  So the first 20 odd minutes of the baking was done well in excess of the recommended temperature.  The result of high temperature extreme baking...

I think I was nearly crying, or laughing hysterically at this stage.  Those are big massive bubbles on the top of the cake.  It has pulled away from the sides, because I had already run the spatula around the edge.  Our poor dinner guests had to listen to me witter on about the bloody oven (it is atrocious), while sitting in an ever increasing smoky haze, in the cold (had to get rid of the smoke by opening the door and windows!).  They were even more surprised when I started to take photos of the disaster.  After all, who would blog about smoking a cake?

And this is when I wanted those ten apple arranging minutes of my life back.  I could have used those ten minutes to think about how a springform pan and caramel would never ever work.  It looked like apple sauce on polyfilla.  And it wasn't as though I could just throw it out and pretend I hadn't made it - our dinner guests were sitting right there, watching the whole sorry mess unfold.  Very entertaining I am sure.  What was worse was that after I cooked cremated the cake, I had to use the same oven to bake our dinner.  If ever there was an argument for the absolute need double ovens - then this is it.  The smoke that issued forth from the oven throughout the night was comical to say the least.

It wasn't inedible.  Not quite.  I am probably a bit more exacting (or less polite, not sure which) than our guests.

Look at that... dense dense dense pollyfilla cake topped by an almost imperceptible layer of apple.  I think the cake was so dense for a few reasons.

1. I didn't have time to make Kate Flour, so ended up using a fine grade unbleached flour.
2. Blazing hot oven temperature.
3. Those apples literally dissolved up into the batter.

I served it with vanilla ice cream and clotted cream, mainly because I forgot about the bourbon cream - I had been thinking of making it with whiskey instead.  And I also didn't do the walnuts - I am all nutted out for the moment.

The funniest (and probably most honest) comment about the cake was "The ice cream is nice."  I am still laughing about that even now.

My confidence is a little singed.  I am hoping my mojo will return this week as I embark on baking my husband's birthday cakes for his office.  I am not sure if that is just an English thing, where you supply the cakes to all and sundry if it is your birthday?  The one upside of the financial crisis - there are alot fewer mouths to feed in his office this year.  But it will still be two full size lemon tarts, two dozen Barcelona Brownie Bars (all my kit has arrived now) and about 50 tiramisu cupcakes.  Last year I made 150 odd cupcakes.  And hopefully the comments will be better than "the ice cream is nice...", especially because there will be no ice cream on offer.

Monday, 12 October 2009

B Cubed - Barcelona Brownie Bars

Oh - how exciting!  My signed copy of Rose's book arrived.  Fabulous.  It is now safely stored on my cookbook shelf, nestled next to the Cake Bible and the Pastry Bible.  

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, then you really should try to find this bar.  Shoulder to shoulder with a strange mix of locals and tourists.  Definitely not for the shy - you have to be pushy to get served, and you really really really need to try the great cava served in those 1950's bowl like champagne glasses accompanied by a sandwich.  It sounds weird, but oh so good.

We spent our first Christmas away from family and friends in Barcelona - which was a fantastic way to allay any feelings of homesickness.  How can you be homesick with all that great food and cava?  That little bar was one of the highlights.  The other highlight was this fantastic wine bar outside Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar.   Obviously, we did this trip when we were DINKY.  My vegetarian husband cast aside his principles for that trip and ate his way through the equivalent of a piglet.  Do non pork eating people do the same when offered a tapas of Jamón Serrano or Ibérico?

Apparently this isn't a travel blog, so, enough of Barcelona - what about the Brownies?  Mine weren't exactly bars - my silicone mold (in the correct size) didn't arrive in time, so I made do with my oval shaped friand tins.  Which, funnily enough are an Australian/NZ interpretation of the financier.  Lord knows why we called them friands and didn't stick with financier?

These were pretty simple to make.  Toast nuts, make ganache, melt butter and chocolate, beat in eggs, cocoa, sugar and vanilla, beat in diced cream cheese (I miss the old packaging), fold in sprinkling of flour and the cooled toasted nuts, bake, stab, fill wounds holes with ganache.   Job done.

The glossy, oh so glossy mix.  I made it in the stand mix up until the point of adding the flour and pecans - I did the last steps by hand.

I made these on Friday night.  Which probably wasn't the best time.  Given that the takeaway needed to be collected NOW, not in another two minutes when the cakes might bounce back when pressed on top.  So, throwing all caution to the wind (duly influenced by a very agitated small person who wanted to be outside NOW, NOW, NOW), I wedged the oven door open and hoped that the reducing temperature and fifteen minute round trip would not completely ruin the brownies.  You see, I have never made brownies before.  However, I have read alot of recipes, and all of them warn, under pain of death, DO NOT OVERCOOK.

I despaired when we returned home.  Surely they were overcooked, I mean, they bounced back, but they didn't feel bouncy enough?  And I thought they had to still be mushy on top?  My thermapen is on route via Royal Mail, which is in the grip of an extended strike - so I couldn't test the internal temperature.  Meh - they would have to do.  So I duly stabbed them and filled the punctures with the ganache.  They looked like little shiny black oval bricks.  So shiny.  Rose's picture wasn't shiny.  I must have overcooked them.

We sampled them post dinner once they had cooled.  I think my palate was so clouded by overcooked disappointment, that I couldn't really taste them.  They were fudgy, which is how a brownie should be, right?  Given I am not Amercian and my brownie consumption history can be counted on one finger, I am hardly a connoisseur.  They were very chocolaty, (I used 72% chocolate), not too sweet, but quite heavy.  So heavy I felt like I was still eating it as I lay in bed.  Most definitely not cake like.   Which is apparently what happens when you overcook them.  So perhaps I hadn't overcooked them?  But them given the ingredients, so little flour was unlikely to make them cake like.  Overcooking might, however, make them quite heavy?

I have eaten two this morning - for the purposes of research, of course.  They are still, fudgy, deeply chocolaty, and heavy.  And you know what else?  I didn't like the nuts last night, and I still don't like the nuts this morning - though for some reason they are slightly less noticeable.  I will be baking these again.  As soon as my mold arrives.  And as soon as my thermapen arrives.  And not just before having to depart the house NOW, NOW, NOW.  And not with nuts.  Or cherries for that matter.  But definitely with the ganache.  Which was a nice contrast in the bar - but next time I think I will be more forceful and get more into those holes.

And here it is Monday morning and I still haven't posted this entry... I will update to add that by Sunday evening, the nuts had mellowed alot (or perhaps I had?) and I quite liked the texture.   And weirdly now, I am craving just one more of those Barcelona Brownie Bars, even with the pecans.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Hungarian Jancsi Torta

Don't believe everything you read on the internet - like you needed me to tell you that?  Amazon declared that I would not receive Rose's Heavenly Cakes until 5th October, but there was the delivery guy, at my door on Saturday morning.  Which then meant that I could hit the first deadline.  Result.

I admit to doing a bit of google research on the Jancsi Torta prior to the book arriving.  I scared myself into thinking it was a 12 layer cake with four different fillings and artfully spun sugar gracing the top of a perfectly glazed cake.  Ha!  It was a blessed relief when I opened to page 279 and quickly realised that five ingredients would not result in death by 12 layers.  And the picture was also a bit of a giveaway.  I stopped cooking by pictures many years ago, but it is kind of nice to see a bit of cake porn next to the recipe.   I was also mightily relieved not to have to make my own bleached flour!

Friday, 2 October 2009

How hard can it be?

I've read Julie and Julia- how hard can it be to cook your way through a recipe book?  Except, that was quite difficult, if I recall.  And then I looked through the archives of HeavenlyCakePlace and realised that maybe this would be a bit more challenging than baking a batch of cup cakes every week.  Not least sourcing and then caramelising cacao nibs. Eeek.

And then blog about it... ideally every week or at least twice a month, after you bake.  This goal from the person who has never kept an annual diary past the middle of January; who seldom comments on the myriad of blogs I lurk; who has never blogged.  And I assume it would be better with some photos, artfully shot, without a backdrop of cooking detritus (must remember to clean as I go, rather than just chant it.)

Except, all this brilliant realisation was after I had enrolled to be one of the Heavenly Cake Bakers.  

Given that I am not keen on failure, I have given myself a stern talking to.  I have baked loads of Rose's other cakes; I have made numerous multi tiered wedding cakes; countless birthday cakes.  I live in London - I can source cacao nibs (maybe not bleached cake flour - but then there is always Kate Flour).  I just have to juggle my 14 month son and husband with cake baking - neither of whom will complain about cake for dinner ... again.  And finally, the internet is a fantastic thing: I can figure out how to work a blog; Rose's videos are there for techniques; I can source obscure (to me anyway) kitchen kit; there are at least fourteen other Heavenly Cake Bakers doing the very same thing.  Peer pressure is a powerful motivator!

How hard can it be?

THE GOAL: To bake through "Rose's Heavenly Cakes"


  1. You must have access to a copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
  2. You must have a blog.
  3. At the beginning of each month Marie of HeavenlyCakePlace - will post the recipes that will be featured for the month. Marie will bake one per week, but you only have to agree to bake at least two a month.
  4. Blog posts should be posted within 24 hours of the date detailed next to the recipes list.
  5. If you lose the will, let Marie know so she can remove you from the list - that way, only active bakers are on the list of bloggers.
  6. Recipes will not be posted on the blogs since everyone will have a copy of the book.  (Our photos and tales should be a well of inspiration to you to purchase Rose's book.)
Now I just need Amazon and the Royal Mail to get on board and deliver my copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  Now.