Wednesday, 29 December 2010

It Twas the night before Christmas

And whilst the genoise bake and the chiboust cream chills, two hands find themselves without a little assistant or husband or Christmas related faff to distract them.

It is a very long time since I was around these parts.  Almost two three months.  I am surprised I haven't had a little note from Marie kicking me out of the HCB'ers.  I do have a couple of excuses. 

These are currently referred to as Twin A and Twin B.  And far out, have they been taking a lot of my excess everything.  I have just passed thirteen fourteen weeks, and whilst I thankfully haven't been sick, I have felt a tad tired.  Hence the break in blogging.  And baking for that matter.  That strictly isn't correct, I have been baking and that stretched to a few photos on occasion, but it has all been a bit lack lustre.  Too busy being tired and excited and nervously anxious and saying "Oh my, twins!" repeatedly.  I will keep the mention of pregnancy etc to a minimum - this is a baking blog, not a pregnancy blog.

Ha! It literally Twas the night before Christmas, however, now it is quite a few nights post Christmas.  First day back at work and I feel like I have somehow missed Christmas altogether.

Anyway, a brief round up of the cakes issuing forth from the oven...

Chocolate Genoise with Peanut Butter Ganache - the genoise was a blinding success even with the eleventy hundred flour bombs littering the base and insides of the cake.  I was kind of hoping that the heat from the oven would dissolve those flour balls, but once I tested the cake with a toothpick and it came out tipped in flour, I knew that no weird chemical reaction had occurred to dissolve that flour. 

I then spent about 15 minutes excavating flour balls from the bottom (top) of the cake.  Even after 15 minutes I didn't manage to get all of them!  The pile was substantial...

I wasn't overly enamored with the raspberry syrup - the cake didn't need it at all.  I also wasn't that keen on the peanut butter ganache, however I think that might be because my tastebuds are a bit weird.  Everyone who tried it raved about the ganache; the syrup; the cake - clearly it is just my tastebuds.  It was a breeze to make and it came together perfectly.  This will definitely be on my bake again list - spectacular and pretty easy.

Next out was the Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake.  Meh.  However, it was easy "meh".  I didn't really like this cake at all.  I found it a bit dry and pretty lacking given that it followed on directly after the spectacular genoise.  I won't be making this one again anytime soon, I would prefer to spend an extra five minutes on beating lukewarm eggs to triple their volume and turn out the genoise.  To my mind, this is the cake that needed the syrup and some ganache.  I do love that tin though!

For my free choice week I baked the Swedish Pear Almond Cake - the week after it was actually scheduled.  I was a bit nervous about this - the almond comes from almond paste, of which I am not a fan.  That almond essence taste gives me the heebies - pregnant or no.  Especially since the only almond paste I could find was the rolling almond paste that is traditionally layered under hard fondant on those heavy old style Christmas cakes.  I bravely soldiered on.  I do like to stick to Rose's recipes the first time round, and then tweak afterwards.  I figure that Rose and Woody have baked a few more cakes than I and may just know their way around a recipe... plus I am not allergic to anything.

The almond paste is blended with egg, butter, sugar and then channelled into the cake, with the pear slices layered on top of the almond mix.  Then through cake magic that works for almonds and pears (and also for undissolved flour balls) the top becomes the bottom which then becomes the top again. 


This cake was fabulous.  Great crumb, the almond taste was discernible but not heebie inducing.  And the pear developed and further moistened the cake over the next few days.  Definitely a bake again cake.  Fantastic for a morning tea or afternoon tea.  Or dinner (ahem).  I did mention how tired I have been.  Some days it is unreasonable to expect me to cook dinner when there is perfectly good cake sitting on the bench.

I didn't make the Candian Crown.  Christmas doesn't exactly bring me out the cheesecake lover in me.  I opted instead for the St Honore Trifle.   I actually did the Rose trick of diving my hands through the batter to make sure that the flour balls were dissolved.  This was my Christmas miracle.  Two perfect genoise, with only one flour ball between (amongst?) them.

These came together perfectly.  My chiboust cream was fantastic (modest aren't I - but I claim no credit - it is all Rose!).  The strawberries (from Egypt!) weren't exactly England's best, but they were good enough not to need sweetening.  I layered it all up, debating extensively with myself about the absence of jelly.  For me, the jelly in the trifle needs to hold the fruit.  I stuck to the "Rose knows best - the first time round anyways..." rule.  And four days after Christmas I am stuck with a trifle that is more like a genoise cake filled with chiboust cream and strawberries.  The next time I make this I will take a more traditional approach.  A single genoise sponge, spread with tart raspberry jam, a layer of raspberries or strawberries suspended in a homemade berry jelly spiked with some Chambord, then a big layer of chiboust cream topped with the sweetened cream.  There was too much cake in the Rose version.  I think I have learned that Trifle is a very personal thing!

That wraps up my exploits for the past several months.  I don't know if I can promise to be more frequent around these parts.  Truthfully, the tiredness does seem to be abating, so that is promising.  And I guess I will only have a relatively small window before I can't move and my life becomes incomprehensibly chaotic.   So perhaps I should just get baking and blogging while I still can.

Hoping that you enjoyed your festive season (if applicable) and wishing you a New Year of opportunity, happiness and well being.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Many-Splendored Quick Bread

What is it with Americans and the vowel "u" (amongst others)?  I do see the point, honestly.  I mean why use two letters, when one is enuf?  I do worry for a few seconds each week every blue moon when I post, that some of you may think I can't spell.  I can barely read stalkerbook anymore because some of the spelling irritates me so (or makes me laugh so hard - a dilemma that keeps me going back for more).  Don't get me started on SMS "language" - it is so very far from gr8.  It is s2pid.

What is it I do on this blog thing again?  Apart from open myself to criticism for any spelling mistakes I may make?   People in glass houses and all...

So, yes, it has been a while.  I am embarrassed to realise that it is over six weeks since I last posted.  I have slipped to the third bottom of Marie's HCB blogger update list.  Eeek.  And whilst I have been baking a fair amount, I haven't converted that baking into blogging.  Apologies.  I will further apologise, because this post will cover off all the baking I have done in the last six weeks.  

So in order of memory retention...

This weeks' Many Splendored Quick Bread.  (Can I just say that every element of that name - besides "quick" irks me).  But I can't come up with a better name than Rose, so it can remain Many Splendored Quick Bread ... for now.  As the English say, it does exactly what it says on the tin.   Quick it is.

The most time consuming part of this recipe was finding the loaf tin - owned for years, used precisely never. 

Oh, and there was one time wasting instruction which I duly ignored - mix flour, leavening and salt in one bowl, sift into another bowl and mix in the oats.  Um.  No.  How about I sift it all into one bowl, mix it and then mix the oats in and call that one less bowl to wash up.  Each time I ignore an OCD like instruction in Rose's recipe I have a giggle about how Raymond will react to it on his post.

The UK has a health marketing program "eat 5 a day" which is the recommended serves of fruit and veg in one day.  Given this bread has zucchini (courgettes in the UK), carrots (strangely, they call them carrots here too), banana (ditto) and walnuts (I subbed pecans because that was what I had), by my calculations if you ate the full loaf, then you probably would meet half of your "five" a day quota.  Because even though it contains all those things - it is literally three quarters of one ig carrot, half a big zucchini and one banana.  Well, actually, my one banana was 8 grams shy of the target, but hey ho.

I love these oil based cakes.  You are never instructed to have the oil at a set temperature and everything just kind of gets bunged together until it emulsifies.  The carrot and zucchini is grated, of course, because I am yet to hear of a cake that has them either diced or sliced or left whole.  Because there is a relatively small portion of zucchini and carrot, I opted for the old fashioned knuckle grater.  Happily, because it didn't use the full amount of either carrot or zucchini I avoided adding unnecessary protein to my mix.

 The end product was pretty and good.  My father in law ate it like bread.  As in with lashings of butter.  The rest of us ate it virtuously.  Given it was quick and easy and didn't end in grated knuckles, I would call it a success.  And it is quite a virtuous cake.  I could tell, because this didn't improve with age - it became drier.  Don't all virtues get a bit weary with the passage of time?

Instead of the Pineapple brioche puddings, we went to Kew Gardens on one of those Autumn days where you can momentarily fool yourself that perhaps winter isn't just waiting behind the next tree.  It was a tough one, but sunshine in mid October was a definite winner.

The Chocolate Tomato cake did get a run - it should be grateful, because, trust me, that will be the last time I bake that recipe.   I baked this one mid week and took it to a company I have been working on a project with for the past six months.   They were very pleased.  But then again, I think they may have just been polite, after all, how many of their clients pay the bills *and* bring them cake? 

The cake mix was so thick and the tomato soup was barely discernible.  I would maybe bake the cake again, but to me, it just felt a bit gimmicky, so, yeah, maybe not.

The ganache with the mystery ingredient.  How such a tiny amount of tomato soup results in such bitter ganache is definitely a mystery to me.  My tastebuds are still demanding a root cause analysis with corrective action to be submitted for review.  Never. Again.  If you can't tell from the cake photo, that ganache was so grainy it looked terrible.  Especially when I compare it to the lusciousness that was the caramel ganache.  Now I know why Rose encased her cake in those cigar biscuits.  First rule of cake decorating - if it is ugly - cover it!

Oh me, oh my.  The Apple Caramel Charlotte.  How I love thee.  How my entire family loves thee (except the little assistant - he didn't at all like the texture or the hint of calvados).  This was an incredibly long recipe in the book.  And truth be told, it did take me two weeks to complete it.  I poached the apples on a Sunday afternoon, thinking I could turn it out that night.  Ahem.  No you can't.  Especially if it takes four goes to poach the bloody apples. 

First ones turned to mush.  Second ones looked weird - kind of firm on the outside but floury (how a poached apple can be floury, I have no idea), the third batch I left with my husband while I ducked out to the hairdresser, only to a return to apple sauce.  The fourth batch were grand.  Ironically the fourth batch were a generic bag of apples from Tesco.  The first three were bought from farmers markets and various organic healthfood shops.

Anyway, assuming that you can poach apples, you could probably knock this out in a few hours.  The filling is a combination of a caramel made with the apple poaching liquid combined with an italian meringue.  Capital A amazing.  

The cakey bit is just a genoise.  See how I fooled you there with pretending that genoise are easy.  Far fricking out.  Genoise has become my nemesis.  Even with the faffing Wondra flour I ended up with chewy nuggets.  But that annoyance was nothing compared to what you see in the next photo.

Yep, that is correct.  Two inches short of a cake tin.  And no, I am not talking about my mental capacity.  Those pits in the base sponge were the wondra lumps.  I had to patch the gap with some frozen whipped cream cake I excavated from the freezer.  Somehow, I ended up eating that bit of the cake, and I can tell you that nine (!!) month old frozen whipped cream cake is not nearly as delectable as even my crappy genoise.

At one point, my husband questioned whether a cake that produced as many dishes as this one, could ever be worth it.  His concern was hilarious, given that he gets to eat the cake, but doesn't ever have to do the dishes!  

The final call was that this cake is definitely worth using every single pot (more than once over) and every bowl (I have four pots, and six bowls) and countless other implements.  Especially when your wife does the dishes (yeah, I am struggling with the logic of that one too!).  This is now the requested birthday cake, along with a tiramisu and 3 dozen cupcakes to take to his office.  So there will be plenty of dishes in my kitchen this weekend!

I didn't realise it was free choice week until after we had eaten the upside down apple cake.  Um.  So the only photo I had was from above.  Happily, it was a lot more successful than the first go round, where I smoked out the house.  I do learn from previous errors (sometimes)!  I retract all negative comments I had a year ago about this cake.  It is fantastic.  Perfection.

I made the Upside Down Plum & Blueberry cake which was nice enough.  Great with a cup of tea and a trashy mag.  Though equally good with a glass of champagne and (not trashy) friends.  I did research on both pairings.  Easy to make and not completely ruined by the fact that the caramel and plums sat overnight and completely turned to mush.  So feel free to prepare the night before and bake in the morning!  It is a great breakfast cake - and has to count as one of your "5 a day".

The Marionberry shortcakes were in there too, except my camera was shotless, so no photos.  I do recall that my genoise shortcakes were a little short.  The hit of those cakes was the lightly sweetened creme fraiche.  That is definitely going into the bag of tricks.  Creme Fraiche is lower in fat than cream, so you can feel all fabulous and healthy (but only in comparison to the cream eaters, because creme fraiche at 31% fat is no lettuce leaf.)

 I did eventually get around to the Lemon Meringue Cake.  This is one of those "if it looks crap, cover it up" cakes.  And wow, meringue and some oven time do wonders to bring this cake from spotted gangling teen to airbrushed supermodel.

 I seem to have a lot of photos labeled "cake x - crap genoise".  Sigh.  Thank goodness for meringue.  And these were made with the wondra flour.  And my eggs were whipped until the requisite tripling or whatever was required.  When we HCB'ers meet up, I need a one on many genoise intervention (as in I bake the genoise and you all tell me where I am going wrong).

I even made the lemon curd from scratch for this cake.  I was a bit ho hum about the cake.  A bit too much going on for me - I think the syrup pushed it over the top.  Not the four inches of meringue on the top.  Honestly.

So, that rounds out the multitude of posts that I have forsaken, because I have been too busy working, baking and enjoying the last remnants of summer.  That amazing tractor is at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground just outside Kensington Palace.  And whilst the Little Assistant is anywhere in that playground, you are all reminded that it is most definitely "HIS".  When he is not there, you may play with it.  Maybe.  And remember that parents are in the trailer, NOT on the tractor (unless they are required to bounce any other kid who hasn't realised whose tractor it is).

I think I may be back in the mix again.  My work project has now been delivered, so it is just normal crazy, instead of crazy crazy.  With winter setting in, and days feeling about four hours long, I guess that our park time will be restricted, so more time for blogging.  Ever the optimist.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

I have finally worked out why the we HCB'ers are meant to post on a Monday.  Just like all diets must start on a Monday, so too must the errant blogger re enter the fold on a Monday.  That Marie is one smart baker/blogger/re-commencer of stuff.

There has been a fair amount of baking going on, just not a lot of anything else.  Well, actually, loads of everything else except just no blogging.  Or even commenting.  Anyway, excuses are boring, unless they involve a car chase, police and a juicy piece of gossip about someone you don't actually know.  Needless to say, my excuses are very boring.

I guess I should talk about this cake.  It was quick.  I really do like the way that Rose's recipes are laid out.  The ingredients are ordered the same way as they are used in the recipe.  It has been so long since I have baked anything other than a Rose recipe that I can't actually remember if all cook books are like that?  I think not?  Anyway, this cake mixes up super quick with the ol' two step method.  I don't think I need to describe that do I?  It is my first week back after such a long time...

Rose is a big one for having her chocolate cakes based on cocoa dissolved in boiling water and then cooled.  But cocoa cake doesn't have quite the same ring to it as chocolate cake.  And really, the cocoa method does make for a very chocolaty chocolate cake.

This baked really quickly for me - it was done in 25 minutes, compared to the 30 - 40minutes.  I pulled it from the oven before the sides had shrunk in, and it looked good.  A little domed, but good, none the less.  And Rose's domes usually drop away anyway.  Right?  Technically, the dome did drop away.  It dropped away into seismic cracks.  The like I have never ever had happen ever before.  (Unless I have repressed that memory  - you know how psychiatrists say that the brain has a canny knack for protecting itself.)

That's why you should always blog your cakes - no hiding the terrible truth.  I wasn't holding out great hope for the cake at this point.  I was thinking dry.  As dry as an Australian lake.  Except without the feet.  (Not my feet, by the way.  Mine aren't nearly that tanned.)

Photo via aloshbennett
I contemplated making trifle.  The chocolate raspberry number.  But then I read that the creme anglaise would consume twelve egg yolks.  And I really really really hate throwing good eggs after bad.  Plus I thought that trifling it would be departing from the recipe a tad too much.  The final clincher was when Raymond and Mendy posted how amazing the ganache was.  A trifle with ganache and chocolate cake?  Isn't that just a messed up chocolate cake?  It was starting to do my head in, so I just went the cake route.  Figuring that if the cake looked too bad, I could just mix in some whipped cream and call it chocolate caramel mess.

Onto the caramel then.  Actually, a bit beyond caramel.  More into the "meet your local fire brigade" territory.  So, yes, maybe I did get a bit distracted - but it was a funny bit of Wallace and Grommit.  He did have a bomb in his pants.

I did wonder if I could get away with this as being deep amber.  I think it was the smoke that made me decide otherwise.  In an attempt to see if it could work, I mixed in a bit of butter, to convert it into burnt caramel.  I have eaten burnt caramel ice cream, which is amazing.  Burnt caramel with a bit of butter mixed in, is not.  It is inedible.  Fit only for the bin.

So back to the pan.  See how determined I can be?  Peer group pressure is an amazing thing.  Otherwise I would have a bowl of trifle on my bench instead of cake.  I was much more diligent with the next lot of caramel and took it to the amber stage, mixed in the cream and ended up with this.

Not sure it looks much better than the burnt stuff, but I can tell you it tasted exponentially better.  This was sugar and water mixed into scalded cream. Or in my case, scaled cream with a dash of creme fraiche (because I didn't have quite enough cream and dairy products are dairy products, right?).  It seemed to come together okay.  But I did need the Nigella whisk to get it there.  I find that scaled creme fraiche turns a bit clumpy and needs to be broken up.  I didn't bother with the food processor.  After all caramel at 188 degrees Celsius with scalded cream on top of 85% Lindt chocolate isn't going to need a whole lot of mixing before it looks like this...

It hung out in the bowl (can I say, that if you are looking for mixing bowls these are the business - indestructible) for a few hours whilst we went to the London Wetlands to interact with the bird life.

I think these ducks were from China - an amazing migratory path, all the more so given they don't have wings.

Once we got home, I composed the cake.  Far out.  Half way through the massacre, I was wondering if perhaps I should invest in a Fat Daddio.  Before I realised what was going on, I had about six pieces of cake instead of two.  Somehow I managed to cut through the cake in a weird wave like manner.  It did make for easy reassembly as there was only one way those parts could go back together.  I failed to take a shot of that.  But you know what?  That ganache is incredible.  If they made face cream like that, plastic surgeons would be out of business. 

The ganache is the business.  It is so glossy and easy to apply.  It probably helps that London has thrown itself wholeheartedly into Autumn.  62 Fahrenheit here today (17 Celsius) - clearly they weren't outside catching the "breeze".  As many of my HCB'ers have informed, this ganache doesn't hold together so well as it approaches 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).  That said, I don't hold together that well at 38 celsius, so I think it is expecting a bit much for chocolate, cream and caramel to do much better.

My in laws were over for dinner this evening, so this cake got sampled and reviewed.  I served it with clotted cream ice cream and cream.  Because, as we have already established, dairy products are interchangeable (except for skim milk and low fat yoghurt - but I don't technically classify those as dairy products).  I was really surprised that the cake wasn't dry.  Not sure if that was because the ganache to cake ratio was just shy of 1:1.  And I was surprised that I didn't want to throw up after a slice.  Not sure if that was because the cake to cream/ice cream ratio was also just shy of 1:1.   Marie wrote an amazing paragraph on the taste of this ganache : "Nicely integrated aroma of vanilla and dark chocolate. Flavors develop nicely and finish with lingering tastes of caramel and creme brulee. Rich mouth feel.".  Clearly she had quite a few glasses of wine with hers.  I still can't taste the caramel.  Nor can any of the tasting panel.  All agreed that the cake was definitely not dry.  All thought it was superb.  Or they were all being polite.  And none threw up.  Or went hypoglycemic.  Something about that caramel nicely balances the chocolate and makes the ganache a whole lot less dense than traditional ganache. 

I will definitely make the ganache again.  The cake I am not so sure about.  Yes, it was fine.  Seismic cracks and shoddy cake splitting not withstanding.  I definitely would hold to the ratio as per Rose's recipe.  The cake/ganache was perfect.  More cake and I think it would have been a bit dry in the mouth. 

Right, that is me back in the ring.  You never, know, some Monday soon, I may actually tidy up this blog, and post some of my backlog.  (I am beginning to think that blog is short for backlog).   Now given that I have posted, perhaps I should also start a diet?

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Not Lemon Meringue Cake

This is the reason why there is no Lemon Meringue Cake sitting at the top of your page.  I am all caked out.  Bloody hell.  Wedding cakes are hard work.  Thankfully I now have this blog which will remind me of that fact next time someone is getting married and I think "I should make their wedding cake!".

I made the three layers, plus an extra kitchen cake, last weekend and stuck them in the freezer.  That just left the icing(s) and fillings for Friday and then assembly at the venue on Friday.  Easy.

What I didn't plan for was this man; my grandfather - Dad Maxwell, here surrounded by some of his grandchildren and all of his great grandchildren, passing away on Tuesday this week.  To say it was a shock, was an understatement.  He and my Mum were due to be visiting here in England in just over two weeks.  He was, as the saying goes, fit as a fiddle.  Except for his heart.  Which apparently wasn't playing that same tune, unbeknown to us all.  That photo hanging on the wall, in the top left hand corner, is of my grandfather in Paris.  Three years ago, when he traveled to Europe for the World Cup.  

Sadly, events conspired to prevent me from making the journey back to Invercargill for his funeral.  Instead, I penned some words and my sister read them at his funeral.  I am awed that over 800 people attended his funeral.  Now I will have to relive my memories of an amazing man, rather than creating new ones with him. 

So, it was with a heavy heart that I finished and delivered this wedding cake.  I was up until 2.00am on Saturday morning finishing the icing and attaching the chocolate pencils.  Although I have to say that chocolate pencils are a lot more forgiving than buttercream, or fondant or anything really.

I really should have looked at these photos as I went, because clearly, they have a bit of a lean on.  I like to think that it adds to the rustic finish.

The cake went thus - 12 inch carrot cake (HCB) with dreamy creamy white chocolate icing, 9 inch Mrs Whatsits' whitechocolate with strawberry mousseline (HCB) , 6 inch german chocolate cake with choc almond ganache and the kitchen cake was the 12 inch version of the same (Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake - and filling from the dreaded Holiday Pinecone).  The icing encasing all three layers was the white chocolate vanilla buttercream.  Then around it all, white chocolate pencils.

None of it was particularly complex, just time consuming.

The wedding cake toppers were a kangaroo (the Australian groom) and a peacock (the English bride).  Strawberries and cream reflecting their attachment to Wimbledon.

I was putting the final touches on the cake as the guests ate canapes outside on the lawn.  So, yes, cutting it fine.  However, I wasn't the only one cutting it fine - the caterers were still preparing the hall.

This was the first time I had ever had a glimpse of an Indian wedding.  Amazing.  The food looked sensational, and the "Bollywood style" DJ sounded incredible as he completed the sound check.  Certainly more fun than a four piece string ensemble!  And so many of the guests were decked out in gorgeous saris.  Simply stunning.

It was strange making a cake and not sampling it - hopefully it was well received.

I have read Raymond's post on the Lemon Meringue and I have to say, as caked out as I am, this looks so tempting.  It may yet be part of my week.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands


I am back.  And very grateful that this week was easy cupcakes.   I was desperate to get back into baking and blogging, but I really couldn't have faced anything more complicated than this recipe this week.  Thank goodness the Lemon Meringue Cake is next week.  Things have been pretty busy. 

Drinking loads of G&T's whilst watching the sunset was pretty hard work.  I think the little assistant bounced his way up and down that paddling pool about eleventy thousand times a day.  He is an absolute fish.

And then we returned from holiday, just in time for me to get on another plane for Philly (where it tipped with rain - but happily I scored the much coveted Williams & Sonoma Sydney Opera House pan).  Then back home to whip up an approximation of a tractor cake for the Little Assistant's second birthday (under all that toxic coloured icing is Rose's HCB Carrot cake).  He was a bit disappointed that the wheels didn't turn and that he couldn't race it with his other tractors.  I am just glad that he recognised that it was actually a tractor!  I am no Faithy, that is for sure.  And I am pretty sure that no one will be approaching me to take on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

So to this weekend.  I baked the tiers of this coming weekends wedding cake.  A 6 inch and 12 inch of the German Chocolate Cake (definitely well practiced for when it came time to make these cupcakes), a 9 inch of the chocolate covered strawberry cake and then a 12 inch of the carrot cake.  I think the 12 inch chocolate cake will be relegated to the kitchen for slicing and dicing.

I think this will be the last wedding cake I make for a while... my husband felt like a widower and I felt like I spent far too much time washing out the Kenwood bowl.

So by the time Sunday night rolled around, I was definitely in the baking groove, albeit a groove sans cake flour.  I made these with the All Purpose and cornflour mix as per Rose's note.  The result was that these cupcakes weren't as tender as with the cake flour.  This recipe is quick and easy... so much so, that Rose brings in some faff factor with paper lined silver cupcake cakes, greased and floured.  As you can probably guess, I didn't grease and flour my cupcakes, nor did I bother with the silver lined fancy. 

This is a cocoa and hot water based cake - no actual chocolate in the cake.  To this egg yolks and oil are beaten in until it looks like amazing butter cream (but tastes pants aka awful).  Then the AP/Cake flour is mixed in, in two batches, then the egg whites.  And then as you are scraping down the sides of the bowl because you couldn't find a beater blade during your 48 hour sojourn in Phily, you get some cake mix on your hand.  And instead of wiping it off, you *accidentally* lick your hand.  Which is actually fortuitous, because then you discover it still tastes pants, because the sugar was missed out.  Hmmm, mise en place anyone? 
Once baked, you have to stab the cupcakes with a skewer (or the stem of your Thermapen) then brush them with ganache.  I didn't brush my ganache.  As soon as I saw it pooling all glossy like, I called these done and dispensed with the additional faff of the chocolate glaze.  Plus there was no room in my cupcake cases to take any glaze.  That might have had something to do with my inability to count.  Rose instructed that this recipe should make fourteen.  I got twelve.  I am happy with twelve.  One pan to wash instead of two.  No glaze to make.  Result.

In the end, I think the glaze would have been one step too far.  For the cupcake.  For the baker.  And probably also for my marriage. 

These chocolate cupcakes were okay, but for me, I prefer the Chocolate Butter Cupcakes.  Which I see, annoyingly, I did not blog about.  But I did actually make them.  And they were amazing.  These were just okay.  Too much chocolate for these tastebuds.  Or maybe I just baked too many cakes this weekend.

Next week - Lemon Meringue Cake.  Oh, and a three tier wedding cake with white chocolate buttercream encased in white chocolate cigarillos with fresh strawberries, plus a chocolate cake on the side.  I had better organise things so that my husband gets out for a ride on his motorbike this weekend.  It is much easier to be a baking widower if you aren't chasing a two year old around a park.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Not Dead, but this might be Heaven

The break in transmission is being interrupted by some photos of why I have been too "busy" to bake.

I am holed up, just trying to make it to the end of every day.  It is a real hardship, let me tell you.  Not everyone could cope with this kind of pace.

In all honesty, I haven't read anything on the internet for weeks - but I will be back very soon. 

I have managed to finagle a trip to the US through work - Philadelphia in fact.  It is literally a flying visit,  arrive on a Monday evening, out again on the Wednesday evening.  Now, I just need to work out the closest Williams & Sonoma store to Loews Hotel, and somehow get there during opening hours.  I can see beater blades and a bundt tin or two making it in my homeward bound luggage.  That definitely beats two weeks of washing from this current holiday.

Philadelphia recommendations welcomed...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

So much baking, so little blogging.  I did bake the chocolate butter cupcakes last week.  And the German Chocolate Cake.  But nary a word nor photo hit this blog.  I have some catching up to do.  Like a poor inventory manager, I will adopt the LIFO approach to blogging.  In all honesty, I can barely remember the finer details of making this cake, let alone cupcakes and chocolate cake from over a week ago.

First off - mis en place.   Actually, this was the mis en place photo I took for the Chocolate Butter Cupcakes - strangely, the mis en place is exactly the same for this cake also.

I know, I embarrass my self constantly on this blog.  I am hoping that the sharp intake of breath around the world will give me the impetus to sort out my "pantry".  Yes, that is the extent of my food pantry.  Massive isn't it?  For scale, that is a 5lb bag of flour and the smallest jar ever of skippy peanut butter.  It can barely contain the eight varieties of chocolate, six different grades of sugar and countless experimental purchases of flours of differing proteins and packaging.  I must confess that I have a separate cupboard for oils and spices.

Enough shame, onto cake.  I was a bit dubious about this cake.  Back when I was less of a juggler, I watched three professionals tear apart amateur cooks in a show called Britains Best Dish.   Can I tell you how annoyed I am that the link doesn't explain the concept of the show - just gives you recipes!?!  In a nutshell the show pits amateur chefs against each other, course by course.  To cut an extremely long story short (even I am bored by this paragraph), they rabbited on and on about how the pairing of strawberry and dark chocolate is akin to crimes against human taste buds.   But you know what?  I might just go on that show and teach them a thing or two about strawberries and dark chocolate.  I am here to say that they can work.  And here is how.

First make a white chocolate egg white & butter cake.  Which is actually pretty simple.  The tricky bit is baking them for exactly the right amount of time.  I got one right.  One just the far side of right.  There has to be some law of physics driving the last three minutes of cake baking.  From toothpick pulling out wet to toothpick coming out dry from a rapidly shrinking cake is about three minutes - less than 10% of the entire baking time.  Will have to get the husband onto that calculation.  I followed Vicki's tip and depanned the cakes immediately - I think this helped alot actually.

I am very short in photos this week.  The other HCB'ers have fab photos, so if you want to see the entire process click around.

Like Marie, I was astounded by the mousseline.  Before the HCB group, I hardly ever iced my cakes - primarily because I don't like super sweet, grainy icing, and secondly because I am at my core, a lazy person with a morbid dislike of sifting icing sugar.  But now?  Now I didn't even think twice about making this mousseline.  Whipped egg whites, beaten butter, a candied sugar syrup, strawberry jam (no I didn't sieve it and I lived to tell the tale) all at just the right temperature and mixed in just so?  Not even phased.  I think that cavalier attitude worked in my favour, because this mousseline was amazing.  A doddle in fact.  Assuming you have a thermometer, some scales, two mixers, a perfectly temperate room and said cavalier attitude.  Just look at it - doesn't it look amazing?  Not bubbly or split or anything.  Just creamy pink tinged perfection.

The next step is to split the cakes and fill them.  Rose instructs a cake, mousseline then jam on the top.  That sounded tricky, so I decided on cake, then spread on the jam then the mousseline on top of that.  Much easier to spread jam on a dry surface than a soft creamy fluffy surface.  But then I guess a pike dive is much easier than a triple somersault with double pike - so I guess I lose points for complexity?

I definitely also lose points for misplaced mis en place.  I was retrieving something (vanilla extract I think?) from my oil/spice cupboard and something happened to topple out midst cake composition.

I can tell you that this cake is very robust.  You can drop a bottle of balsamic vinegar from height and it will do no damage.  I like to think that the strawberries were calling to the balsamic, like a siren.  Then you just keep layering until you run out of cake.  You don't have to drop the bottle of balsamic on each layer - but whatever works for you.

The biggest tip I have for this cake is do not, under any circumstances be tempted to smooth that leftover stunning mousseline around the outside of your cake.  If you do, you may end up with less than attractive sides to your cake...  The glaze of dark chocolate (and in my case) golden syrup and vanilla essence is relatively warm when it goes on the cake.  Relatively warm chocolate glaze onto light as air mousseline means that things end up looking a bit smeared.

The next biggest tip I have is to have Rose or Woody come around to your place to put this top dressing on your cake.  What a flipping palaver.  Cavalier attitude be buggered.  I am not sure what you need to do to get the gorgeous swirls a la Rose.  That glaze is sticky (as my grandmother used to say).  Touch it at your peril.  I swear it could trap stray animals.  I could barely extract the cake from beneath its foil cage.  I poured mine on (without protective wax strips in place) and then just had to cut the cake from its chocolate feet.

This cake was a hit.  The cake was light and fluffy and perfect, the mousseline perfect, the chocolate glaze (sticky as it was) rounded out a fantastic trifecta.  This is the perfect way to eat strawberries, cream and chocolate.

My little assistant was particularly keen on this cake.  Even before it was dressed, he was reaching into the cutlery drawer to find forks which were then used in attempt at self service.  I will definitely be making this again.  I can imagine finely sliced strawberries replacing the jam.  Maybe even strawberries sprinkled with balsamic?

I have also signed up to make a three tier wedding cake for a woman at my work.  Am I insane?  So far three different flavors to be finalised amongst the contenders in their Strawberries and Cream themed wedding cake (they are getting married in Wimbledon at the end of July) are this cake, the chocolate wedding cake in HCB, banana cake, carrot cake.  All with the dreamy creamy white chocolate icing.   Then encased in white chocolate cigarillos.  At the end of July.  Yes, clearly I am insane.