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Coffee and walnut cake with coffee buttercream

Coffee and walnut cakeThe coffee and walnut cake. What is there to say about it? It’s a classic cake. It’s also delicious. Fact. If you look up delicious in the dictionary there will be a photo of a coffee and walnut cake. If you disagree on how tasty it is then you are a fool! Bit harsh? Nope. Well, maybe, but I think it might actually be the law to like it. So because it is amazing I decided to bake one and eat it. I could have baked it in two cake tins to sandwich together, but I thought I would try it in two loaf tins so that it would be easier to slice (and look nice in a photo!). This cake is topped with light and fluffy coffee buttercream, A LOT of it, and lovely crunchy walnuts. Mm mm mmmm! You could swap it for decaff if you’re caffiene free. Here’s how to bake it:

Ingredients for the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 3 tbsp strong instant coffee
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 100g chopped walnuts

Ingredients for the buttercream

  • 150g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp strong instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • Chopped walnuts

Method for the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4 and grease and line the cake tin
  • Dissolve 3 tbsp coffee in 2 tbsp water and leave to cool
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and creamy
  • Add one egg at a time, beating well into the mixture after each addition
  • Add the cooled coffee into the cake mixture and beat until well combined
  • Add the flour, baking powder and walnuts and mix well together
  • Divide into the cake tins and smooth over the top with a palette knife or a wooden spoon
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean
  • Allow the cakes to cool (out of the cake tin) before icing

Method for the buttercream

  • Make up 2 tsp of instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water and leave it to cool down
  • Beat the butter and icing sugar together until pale and light
  • Add the coffee and mix together well
  • Spread the buttercream over the top of the cake (and in between the two sponges if making a layered cake)
  • Sprinkle over chopped walnuts

EAT!

Claire

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Bake sale cupcakes

photoJust a quick post to show you these rather bizarre cupcakes I made. I pretty much threw everything I had decoration wise at them. I was feeling pretty ill yesterday. I believe its what scientists call a ‘hangover’ and I was not really in a baking frame of mind. After a bit of dodgy piping and failed random creativity (I have no idea what I was trying to achieve with that green one) I pretty much filled small bowls with various decorations, covered the cakes with buttercream and literally dunked them in the bowls. Quick, efficient and super easy when feeling delicate. I’ve taken them to work where we hope to raise money for the Philippines crisis. Seems a lot of people have contributed their baking creations for this great cause so good show everyone.

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Disco Loaf

IMG_2529Is this cake bright enough? IS IT? Yes it really is isn’t it. Sometimes all I want is a simple sponge. But you have to admit, the insides lack a certain something. Panache. Snaz. Etc. The outside can easily be decorated but the inside? The inside alas, gets forgotten. But not by me. This actually harks back to when I was a kid. A simple sponge was my limit but I could go nuts with the colours. E numbers were my childhood drug of choice. Recently I bought a load of food colouring (the liquid kind) and made a sponge ring cake. The colours were so insipid. What a letdown. I checked the bottles and they were made with ‘natural’ food dyes. Bleugh. I don’t want natural! You think when I’m eating cake I’m thinking of my health? Who is for crying out loud? Give me those E numbers and give them to me now. So the next obvious step was to get some PROPER food colour. And that came in the form of paste. That stuff is the shizzle. I knew it wouldn’t let me down (because I already had it in red). There are soooo many colours available but I went for the classics. They come in small pots and are like intensely coloured goo.IMG_2625 You need such a small amount so start with a bit and work up. Also the baking process tends to make colours more intense I find. This happened with the purple. It didn’t look great raw but turned out lovely once it came out the oven. These are by Sugarflair but there are other brands around.

I made a normal sponge but divided the mixture between four bowls and added food dye to each. Next I shoved the batters into piping bags and sniped the ends off. Only about 1cm up. Then I proceeded to make strips in my pre-lined loaf tin, so it ended up looking like this:

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I  baked it in the oven for about 30-40 mins on about gas mark 4 until cooked.

IMG_2520I ate my first slice warm and was transported back to childhood. Thank you radioactive food colourings! You bring me joy.

 

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Chocolate Fudge cake

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Apologies for yet ANOTHER chocolate cake. However unlike the previous bakes this one was for ME and ME alone. (Sort of. I don’t really want to be obese). But the point is I’ve been making cakes for other people and quite frankly I’ve had a serious case of cake envy. I can’t eat other people’s cakes. It’s wrong. It’s also depressing. Chocolate cake is not my most favourite cake in the world, but those last two had left me craving it. The recipe came from the mighty Mary Berry (recipe below), and it did not disappoint. It’s basically two chocolate sponges sandwiched together with ganache. I considered making a chocolate buttercream icing but in the end went for ganache. Just because I wanted it all shiny and pretty like. But the shiny ganache only makes a thin layer of icing so I made the thick type of ganache, slathered that on, and then poured over the thin shiny stuff. Details of how below.

Ingredients

  • 50 g (2 oz) sifted cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons boiling water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) milk
  • 175 g (6 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 g (4 oz) softened butter
  • 275 g (10 oz) caster sugar

FOR THE ICING AND FILLING

  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 150 g (5 oz) plain chocolate*
  • 150 ml (¼ pint) double cream*

*I made double the amount of icing as I wanted shed loads. But it’s not that necessary. Unless you are a pig. Like me.

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Grease two 20 cm (8 in) deep sandwich tins then line the base of each tin with baking parchment.
  • Blend the cocoa and boiling water in a large bowl then add the remaining cake ingredients and beat until the mixture has become a smooth, thickish batter. Divide the cake mix equally between the prepared tins and level the surface.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25–30 minutes or until well risen and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
  • To make the icing, warm the apricot jam in a very small pan, then spread a little over the base of one cake and the top of the other. Break the chocolate into pieces and gently heat with the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has melted, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and stir the chocolate mixture to make sure it has completely melted. Leave to cool until it is on the point of setting then spread on top of the apricot on both cakes. Sandwich the cakes together and use a small palette knife to smooth the icing on the top.

So the ganache at this thickened stage is not particularly shiny. I had some left (ok maybe doubling the amount was a bit ambitious) so decided to get my shine on. Word of warning: what I am about to tell you is a semi-failure, so don’t try this at home. I reheated the ganache. It went all smooth and shiny and gloopy. I poured it on the cake. I watched with wonder as it cascaded in a chocolatey waterfall. And continued to watch it as it separated. Oops. The fat and chocolate were friends no more. It’s no great tragedy when it’s just for a cake for yourself as from a distance it still looks great and tastes great too. But close up, well it looked like tiny brown iron fillings under a layer of oil. Sounds gross but it wasn’t that bad. I guess you can’t reheat ganache? I’m sure I read that you can but somewhere along the line I went wrong. No matter. And also the fact I’d poured it over a not perfectly smooth icing meant it looked rather bumpy, especially down the sides which you can see in the pic below. So to disguise this cock-up I melted some milk chocolate and piped random lines in a sort of kind of artistic way. It did the trick though. I thought it looked great! And the taste? YUM. It’s not a particularly sweet cake as ganache is very bitter. But I really loved it. And no I didn’t eat it all myself. My family had a hunk and the rest I dished out at work too much appreciation. I will most definitely make it again.

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Digger cake

I was recently asked to make a birthday cake for a three year old. I could hardly refuse. ‘Because you don’t want to let a little boy down?’ you might ask. Not so. Because it was asked of me by my boss. How could I refuse? Seriously, the man pays my wages. So we scheduled in a board meeting (or something less formal) to discuss a theme. What does your boy like? Seems diggers and trucks is his thing. Riiiiight… Okaaaay… I have no idea about such things but I’m guessing no glitter. Shame. So I typed ‘digger cake’ into the oracle (google), got some inspiration and set to work. This is what I ended up with:

IMG_2391As you can see its a chocolate cake and is covered in chocolate buttercream icing. (Recipe below). The diggers and trucks were the birthday boys own (stolen right from under his unsuspecting nose by his own father. With good intentions of course). I managed to buy the little workmen candles from a cake shop and, as I’m sure you can tell, I made the traffic cones by hand with Sugarpaste (Rollout Icing). They were quite tricky, at one point they looked like wizards hats. But I think they turned out ok in the end. They look like traffic cones don’t they? DON’T THEY?!?!?!?!?

Ingredients:

  • 50g dark chocolate, melted and allowed to cool slightly
  • 250g butter, at room temperature
  • 250g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 50g chocolate chips

For the buttercream:

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

Method:

  1. Grease and line the bases of 2 x 20cm springform cake tins with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F / gas 4. Cream together the butter and sugar with ½ tsp salt until light and fluffy.
  2. Sift together the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time and beat until well combined, then fold in half the dry ingredients followed by the melted chocolate. Fold in the rest, followed by enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency, and then the chocolate chips. Divide between the two tins and bake for about 25–30 minutes until firm in the centre.
  3. Allow to cool completely on a rack, then make the buttercream. Beat the butter until fluffy, then add the cocoa, icing sugar and, if necessary, a little milk to loosen the mixture. Put one of the cakes on a serving plate and spread a third of the icing on top. Place the second on top, then spread the rest of the icing over it.
  4. To decorate get a spoon and simply gauge out a hole to suggest the diggers have been doing their job… digging! Not too deep though as you don’t want to hit the buttercream centre. Keep the crumbs but remove the iced bits. Work out where you want to arrange the diggers, candles etc and then sprinkle the cake crumbs in a small area like a pile of dug up soil. Easy!
  5. To make the cones take a small piece of the sugarpaste and roll and shape with your fingers until desired shape it achieved. Mine aren’t perfect but I think that adds to the charm. That’s what I tell myself anyway… The base of the cone was created by simply rolling the paste flat with a rolling pin and cutting a square shape with a knife. Assemble and the job is done.

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IMG_2393Honesty corner: the main oven isn’t working (which I discovered after baking the cakes for an hour and them still being barely cooked) so I used the smaller top one. This tends to burn cakes. I knew this. And yet I still burnt them. The shame… So I got a serrated knife and cut away the offending crust. I would have done that anyway to get a flat cake so no harm done. The cake texture was super crumbly. I can’t help but wonder if that’s because of its oven switching/delayed time adventure, or if it’s some other reason I can’t think of. But it tasted nice. Very rich, possibly because of the chocolate chips? I’m not sure. I’m no Mary Berry. One day though… one day.

 

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The Beast

My brothers girlfriend Lorna likes chocolate. No scrap that, she LOVES chocolate. Its obsessional. Bordering on psychotic addiction. Admit it people, we can all relate. So with her birthday looming on the horizon I knew the time had come to create the most over the top, chocolatey disgustingness of a cake. This, I knew, would be fun. So after much beard scratching and even diagrams, I came up with this:

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It’s actually not as outrageous as I thought it would be. But still nuts none the less. Inside its a layer of white chocolate sponge sandwiched between two layers of red velvet. All smothered with cream cheese frosting. Edge lined with chocolate fingers. Top sprinkled with white and milk chocolate Buttons, Maltersers, mini Twirls and some kind of chocolate eggs things. Then I (artfully) shoved in a Toblerone, Fudge, Twix and Curly Wurly. All finished off with a shed load of pink, gold and purple glitter. Oh yes, and then the obligatory candles (not edible, sadly). Feel sick just reading this? You should.

This cake wasn’t particularly hard to do but it was time consuming. But I like that. If I dedicate myself to a day of baking, I’m happy. Dedication. It’s what you need.

The reaction to this cake? It went something like this:

Gasping/‘OMG’ing/Squealing/Hand clapping/Hop, skip, jumping/HUGE grin that didn’t waver for about four hours.

May I just say, this is not a child. Lorna is 30 years old people. THIRTY.

Best reaction I’ve ever had to a bake and totally made it all worthwhile.

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There isn’t much to say on how I made it really. I took the recipes from here:

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/red-velvet-cupcakes
http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/white-chocolate-mud-cake-3436

The red velvet recipe is for cupcakes but also fits into two 20cm cake tins. The white choccy cake is for one deep 20cm cake tin but I split it into two shallow tins. I only used one in the end. It would have been just too tall.

I stacked the layers with buttercream in between and then covered firstly with a crumb coating, and then a thick layer of icing. It didn’t need to look even slightly perfect as it was going to be completely covered with chocolate.

Next thing was simply to go to town with the decorating. Firstly I covered the sides with the fingers. Which annoyingly were too short! So I stuck on the giant chocolate buttons. Then i arranged all the small chocolate pieces. Then simply shoved in the longer chocolate bars. Lastly I sprinkled on the icing. Oh yes and I dipped the ends of the bars in buttercream and then glitter, just for extra glitz.

And thus the Beast was created. And t’was a Beast that the people thought she’d be eating for the rest of time… even when dry… even when mouldy… even when crawling away on the tendrils of its remaining chocolate fingers. Yet lo, Lorna was good and true and she did turn all her efforts to defeating the Beast, and the Beast did fall. And the people did gather to rejoice… and make merry, yet Lorna could not, for she was in a diabetic coma.

The end.

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Let us all stop for one moment, and give praise, to the Lemon tart.

Zedel lemon tartAs you can probably tell, this is not my creation, but that of the French restaurant Brasserie Zédel. It was pure perfection. So I just had a take a photo and share. It’s not just the classic French desserts that stand out in this restaurant. Oh no. Everything is fantastic. Not one person at my table was disappointed. No grumbles. No food envy. Just happy faces and full bellies.

It’s a huge underground place with classic Art Deco style. The great service, atmosphere and excellent value for money makes this place one of my fave’s. OK I’ve only been there once, but I plan on going there again. And soon. *message to fellow blogger Claire: you must go. You will love it. And take me with you*

Have a look for yo’selves:

http://www.brasseriezedel.com/

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