Frozen Fruit Cake

Wotchers!

Mention fruit cake in conversation and many people’s eyes will glaze over at the image of dark, heavy, dried fruit cakes of wintertime, but with this recipe you can make a light, fresh, sponge cake with a burst of freshness in every bite.

Regular listeners will recall my long quest for the perfect Apple Cake, as detailed in (shameless plug) MY FIRST BOOK – and the proportional recipe I found proved not too wet or heavy, lightly cakey, and with a real flavour of the fruit shining through.

This is the soft fruit version of that cake and has the added versatility of being able to be used as a base recipe for lots of different kinds of soft fruit.

It is adapted from a recipe for Blackcurrant Cake in Mrs C.F.Leyel’s Cakes of England (1936)¹. The original recipe called for fresh blackcurrants, but in the 21st century, not as many people have their own fruit bushes, or even access to a PYO fruit farm.

What we DO have access to is frozen fruit, picked and preserved within hours to maintain their quality. As well as bags in supermarkets, many farm shops also have ‘scoop your own’ fruits and berries in their freezers, to which you can help yourself to as much or as little as you like.

Whilst the cake in the above photograph is, indeed, made with blackcurrants, my experiments have confirmed that this recipe can be used with a whole range of soft fruits, and those fruits can be fresh, frozen or even canned.

The fruit makes this cake lovely and moist, and the sweetness of the cake itself contrasts deliciously with the sharp bursts of flavour from the berries. Due to the high levels  of moisture, it is not a cake that should be baked in a deep tin, as this runs the risk of being undercooked and having soggyness in the middle. A relatively shallow square tin, or traybake is ideal.

A further insurance against a soggy cake is to toss the fruit being used in a little cornflour. During baking, the cornflour will thicken any fruit juices that are released and prevent them from flooding the rest of the cake, and the cunning division of the dough means that your fruit will be evenly distributed throughout the finished cake, no matter how plump and juicy it might be.

Bonus: This cake is delicious as is, but can also be served warm as a pudding with a little cream or custard.

Frozen Fruit Cake

Mrs Leyel’s instructions begin ″Take equal quantities of flour, sugar and fresh blackcurrants. Rub the butter into the flour″, thereby being both unhelpfully vague and omitting mention of butter in the ingredients altogether. Nevertheless, after some experimentation, these quantities make a reasonably-sized cake. If you decide to increase the quantities, then increase the cooking time appropriately.

150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
150g butter
150g caster sugar
150g fruit – fresh, frozen or if canned, drained
3tbs cornflour
2 large eggs, whisked
A little milk (maybe)
caster sugar for sprinkling

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 18-20cm square tin with parchment.
  • Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Tip into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  • Stir through the beaten eggs to form a dough. If the mixture seems a little dry, add enough milk to make a soft, scone-like dough.
  • Add HALF of this mixture to the tin and spread out.
  • Sprinkle the cornflour over the fruit and toss gently to coat.
  • Fold the fruit and any remaining cornflour into the remaining dough and transfer to the tin. Smooth over lightly. It should be about 4cm deep. NB This dividing of the dough wll help ensure the fruit is evenly distributed through the cooked cake. As demonstrated more familiarly with cherry cake, fruit has a tendency to ‘slide down’ through the cake mixture and congregate on the bottom of the tin. Adding a layer of fruitless mix in the bottom of the tin will not prevent this, merely slow the downeard progression of the fruit long enough for the cake around the fruit to cook and thus hold it in position.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes, turning the tin around after 30 minutes. NB Don’t be tempted to remove the cake too early. As already mentioned, the fruit lends quite a lot of moisture to the mix, so be sure that the cake is thoroughly cooked through before removing it from the oven by testing with a cocktail stick that the cake mixture is cooked and observing that the cake as a whole has shrunk away from the sides of the tin and is nicely browned on top.
  • Sprinkle with caster sugar and allow to cool in the tin. NB The moistness of the cake means that it is very fragile when first baked, and trying to remove it from the tin whilst warm runs the risk of it breaking apart.

¹ A fantastic collection of national and regional cakes. Recommended!

 

In case you missed it: Orange & Walnut Garland Cake on DejaFood.com


Molehill Cake

Molehill Cakes
Wotchers!

It’s been a while since I posted a cake recipe, so I thought I’d cheer up the chilly weather with a cakey treat.

And it’s fabulous!

I was initially a little conflicted about this cake: on the one hand it tastes amazing, but then it also falls into the category of my pet hate of ‘food looking like something that isn’t food’, even though it is achieved almost by accident. In the end the ease of baking/construction, coupled with the amazing flavours persuaded me to bend my own rules and I hope you’ll be as delighted with the result as I am.

It’s very straightforward, based on a chocolate sponge, and takes almost zero skill to put together. Huzzah!

I found it on a Romanian version of Pinterest, and it appears to be something Romanians can create from a Dr Oetker box cake mix.

However, there’s no need to resort to box cake mixes, no matter how convenient they might be. Hands up anyone who has eaten one and thought “Oh my! This tastes so convenient!”.

Quite.

So this is a hand-made version, which is only marginally less convenient but with added fresh, natural ingredients. I call it the very best kind of clean eating. I might start a food trend…..

ANYHOO….

Requiring just 2 bowls – one if you rinse it out after mixing the cake – it also requires practically zero washing up! Bonus!

The cake is my go-to, one-bowl chocolate yogurt cake, so easy you could mix it with just a spoon – although I recommend a balloon whisk. Once baked and cooled, the cake is hollowed out and the bottom filled with whole (or as whole as possible) bananas, then a creamy filling mounded on top. The cake that was hollowed out, plus any excess you cut off to level the top, are blitzed to crumbs and patted onto the mound of cream and voila! Something that resembles a molehill but with a much more appetising taste!

You can make one large cake, or, as I managed, one large and several small, individually-sized versions.

The filling can be as simple as sweetened, whipped cream, a custardy diplomat cream (crème patissière + gelatine + whipped cream) or, my favourite, a combination of cream cheese, crème fraiche and double cream, whipped to firmness with a little vanilla paste and icing sugar.

Also optional is whether or not to include some chocolate in your creamy filling. My daughter voted for chocolate chips in an earlier version (she also preferred diplomat cream), however I went for hand-chopped chocolate. Other options might be pure chocolate sprinkles or indeed none at all.

The comforting combination of the richness of the chocolate sponge, the freshness and sweetness of the banana, the creamy topping and the novelty of the overall appearance have immediately shot this cake into my top five list. In fact, the only downside of this cake is the time spent waiting for the cooked cake to cool down before you can fill it!

Mini Molehill Cakes

Molehill Cake

Chocolate Sponge Cake

150ml vegetable oil
150ml plain yoghurt
60ml golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
50g cocoa
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line the bottom and sides of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Put oil, yoghurt, syrup, caster sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until well mixed.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl. Mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  • Bake in the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the cake has shrunk away from the sides, no bubbling sounds can be heard and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Yes, it does seem a long time, but the low temperature means it really needs the full allowance. The result is a beautifully-textured cake that actually improves on keeping, if you want to make it ahead. Additionally, the low-and-slow cooking means it is invariably gently and perfectly rounded on top and without any cracks.
  • Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Filling

300g cream cheese at room temperature
300ml low-fat creme fraîche
1-2tsp vanilla paste
2-3tbs icing sugar
300ml double cream
100g good quality chocolate – white, milk or plain – chopped fine

  • Mix the cream cheese, vanilla paste and creme fraîche thoroughly.
  • Add icing sugar to taste.
  • Add the double cream and whisk until firm.
  • Stir through the chopped chocolate.
  • Cover with plastic and chill until required.

To Assemble

cooled cake
4-5 bananas
cream filling

  • Cut the cake horizontally at a height of 4cm. If the cake has risen a lot, you might be able to cut it in half and make 2 large molehill cakes. Alternatively, you can cut out circles of sponge from either one or both halves using a baking ring to make individual-sized portions.
  • Cut a circle 2cm deep around the edge of the cake, 2cm from the edge.
  • Hollow out the middle of the cake so that the remaining sponge resembles a tart case. Be careful not to cut through the bottom of the cake. Reserve the cake scraps.
  • Lay whole bananas in the hollow, making sure they cover the whole of the bottom of the cake.
  • Pile the cream filling on top, using a palette knife to shape it into a tall mound.
  • Blitz the cake scraps to crumb and press lightly onto the sides of the cream until completely covered.
  • You can serve the cake immediately, but it does benefit from being wrapped in foil and thoroughly chilled in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
  • Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Meringue Cake

Meringue Cake

Wotchers!

I wasn’t sure whether to put this up as a recipe as it seems a little ordinary, but then again, not everything in life has to be complicated. Especially if it is delicious. As this undoubtedly is.

This actually started out as a cake of a much different pedigree, and I’m going to show you the recipe that initially caught my eye: A version of the famous Kiev Cake. I’m not going to steal the author’s content, so you will have to click on the link to see all the stunning photographs. And they really are spectacular. AND the author has included step-by-step photos. I even made the cake as described. I just didn’t like it.

My reasons, which I freely admit are entirely subject to my own fickle tastes, were that it was too sweet, I found the nuts unnecessary and the sponge cake itself was too dry, even with the soaking syrup. If you have a sweet tooth and a love of nuts, you will adore the Kiev cake and the linked recipe is certainly a stunner, it was just not for me.

However, I thought the general idea had merit and so went through the creation of several versions, trying to refine the flavours and textures. In the end, the simplest idea was the best: sponge, cream, fruit, meringue.

Essentially, this is a Victoria Sponge filled with Eton Mess, but it is also extremely versatile in that this basic idea can be used and re-used in a multitude of ways, by simply varying the flavours of the cake and the fruit. In the summer months, it can take advantage of the range of fresh soft fruits and berries available either in the shops or to pick yourself. In the colder months, it can be whipped up using fruit tinned in either light syrup or fruit juice. In fact, a store-cupboard with a tin of fruit and a pack of meringue nests and a pot of cream in the fridge renders this cake a treat that can be enjoyed in about an hour from start to finish.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say – an hour? To make and cook a whole cake? Why yes – because it doesn’t HAVE to be a large cake – see below.

Mini Meringue Cakes

Vwa – as they say – la!

The perfect combination of soft sponge, crunchy meringue, sweet-sharp fruit and fresh, billowy cream.

NB If you’re using fresh fruit, then you will need a little preparation in order to bring out their best flavour and also avoid the tricksy problem of juice. See recipe instructions below.

Meringue Cake

Much of this recipe depends on the size of cake you want to make. Choose quantities accordingly. The amounts given are for a medium-sized single cake.

Victoria Sponge

170g unsalted butter, softened
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
milk

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line your tin with parchment paper.
  • Beat the butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the sugar and beat for 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one by one, whisking thoroughly before adding the next.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together, then add to the other ingredients, mixing only enough to combine.
  • Stir through milk until the mixture achieves a dropping consistency.
  • Pour mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and golden, and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10m minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fruit

You can choose almost any fruit that takes your fancy, in whatever quantities you like, because any extra can be served alongside your cake as an added bonus.

Tinned fruit can be found in both juice and syrup. Both are fine and have the advantage of no juice problem, once drained. If your meringue/cream/fruit mixture needs a little sweetening, or it’s a bit stiff, you can add a little juice/syrup rather than raw sugar.

Fresh fruit is equally delicious, but requires you to address the problem of juice. This isn’t such a problem for small berries that you can tumble into your filling whole (blueberries, raspberries, etc), but for fruit which requires slicing (strawberries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, mango, etc.) the juice problem will become apparent as soon as it is cut. If you add chopped fruit directly into the meringue/cream mix, the juice will start to seep into the cream and will eventually turn your filling runny and unstable. Aside from the natural ooziness, the sugar in the meringue will actively draw more juice from the fruit, so in order to prevent this, you need to draw out the juice before mixing it into your filling. This is easily done by first preparing the fruit in small, bite-sized pieces, then sprinkling over 3-4 tablespoons of sugar and gently mixing. Set the fruit aside for 1-2 hours, and you will find that the drawn juice has created a delicious syrup and the fruit has softened and sweetened indulgently. Drain the fruit thoroughly from the syrup before adding to the meringue and cream. Use the syrup to sweeten the mixture, or soak the cake, or not at all.

Meringue

If you have egg-whites to spare, then you can always whip up a batch of meringues yourself, but I’ve found that the extended shelf-life of ready-made meringues make for a great store-cupboard stand-by. I’ve used both meringue nests and tub of meringue ‘kisses’ and, provided you don’t assemble the cake too far in advance, they both provide the sweet, textured crunch the filling requires. In terms of quantities, it is very much to your own personal tastes, but as a rough guide I would suggest 4 meringue nests or 1/2 a tub of meringue kisses for a cake serving 6-8 people.

Cream

You can use double or whipping cream, however I find that double cream whips up firmer and adds just the right amount of stability to get a good,clean slice when serving. 300ml is probably sufficient, but whisk up more if you think it might be required.

To assemble the cake

  • Drain the (tinned or fresh) fruit from the syrup.
  • Slice the cake horizontally.
  • Soak the cut surfaces with syrup from the fruit (optional).
  • Whip the cream.
  • Add the fruit and crumbled meringues to the cream and fold in.
  • Taste and add more fruit syrup if required.
  • Spread over the bottom half of the cake and add the top layer of cake.
  • Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.

Rainbow Cake

Wotchers!

Regular listeners might remember, back in October (2016), my oven died a week before my daughter’s birthday, which ended up resulting in a six-month wait for an entirely new kitchen. I promised to make her a birthday cake when the new kitchen was  installed, and the request was put in for a rainbow cake. A few glitches here and there, meant that I only got around to it a couple of weeks ago.

This is not that cake. That cake I didn’t photograph. That cake was just for her, and consumed at all times of the day and night, including breakfast, until she waved the white flag in defeat. The idea for this cake came out of that cake.

It also gives me an opportunity to have a bit of a rant over a pet peeve of mine, namely food colouring. Yes, in a post about rainbow cake, I’m going to complain about food colouring.

Regular viewers might remember previous rants including making-stuff-look-like-stuff-it-isn’t, featuring the infamous Come Dine With Me chocolate shoe incident. A few weeks ago, I revealed my dislike of over-the-top recipes. Rainbow cakes are now part of the Things-Which-Induce-Much-Gnashing-And-Grinding-Of-Teeth.

ANYHOO…

The usual way to make a rainbow cake involves seven layers of luridly-coloured sponge cake, interspersed with dollops of unnaturally-white buttercream. Then the whole is smothered with more highly-coloured sweets or fondant or buttercream, etc, etc. Sometimes the brightly-coloured sponge is mixed together in blobs, but in general the format is pretty standard, and it all involves So. Much. Food. Colouring.

But none of this is a patch on the über villain when it comes to coloured cakes, the Red Velvet Cake.

What originally started out as a reddish hue from a reaction between the cocoa and the vinegar/buttermilk has, in the 21st century, turned into a virulent-red chocolate cake dyed with food colouring. Bottles of the stuff. Modern, concentrated gel colours mean that not as much, by volume, is required, but still. It’s a chocolate cake, people. And it’s red. Bright red. Think about that. Enough colouring to turn a chocolate cake red.

And with both red velvet and rainbow cakes, the cake itself doesn’t strike me as being particularly nice, quite apart from the American penchant for making them up using *Matilda Response*[1] box mixes.

 

Moving on…

I wanted to see if it was possible to make a rainbow cake using the bare minimum of food colouring, that actually tasted nice, and so here we are.

The answer lies in the classic Joconde Imprime, which you may well remember from the Great British Bake Off Season 2 and my  Chocolate & Orange Mousse Cake and the miniature Strawberry & Rhubarb cheesecakes from my Finale showstopper: A coloured, pound-cake paste is used to draw a design onto baking parchment, then frozen. A light, almond sponge mixture is then poured over and smoothed out, before baking in a hot oven for 5-7 minutes. When the cake is turned out, the pattern is visible on the underside of the sheets, which can then be used to make entremet-style desserts. ‘Course, back then, an orange squiggle or a red stripe was considered pretty cutting edge. Nowadays it looks tame.

Usually, the Joconde paste is piped into the desired pattern, but once cooked it can make for a rather clunky contrast with the sponge (pound cake mix vs light, airy Joconde). One solution would be to use a teeny, tiny piping tip but then it takes sooooooo looooooong to fill the parchment with a design.

I mixed a small batch of the joconde paste and divided it into seven, colouring each portion with food-gel colouring and white powder colour. I painted rainbow stripes on one parchment sheet, and two designs for the top of the cake on the other sheet. You could pipe the paste, but the thickness of the colour paste when painted on was extremely thin, leaving most of the vanilla sponge uncoloured and delicious as can be seen below. All the colour, with none of the bulk.

Cake Profile with rainbow colours

The inside of the cake can be whatever you like. This one is filled with two layers of strawberries in a cream-cheese cream, with the offcuts from the sponge being fitted together, jigsaw-style, to make a middle layer. Alternatively, you could make it a mousse or cheesecake or Eton Mess  or buttercream – the possibilities are endless – although something that will ‘set’ will help the stability of the cake once it is removed from the mould.

You can make the rainbow pattern any design you like, however the stripes are very easy to match up, which helps to hide the join – see below. This 19cm diameter cake needed a strip of sponge almost 70cm long to form the sides – impossible to bake in a single strip.

A few more tips:

  • You can make the sponge any flavour, but I got by far the best results (in terms of colour) from vanilla.
  • Chocolate joconde makes the colours very muted and the blue/indigo/violet were almost indistinguishable. Avoid.
  • Mixing in some white food colouring (powder) to the Joconde paste made the colours much stronger once cooked. Before baking, they are pale and more pastel in hue. Have faith!
  • Make sure the decor paste covers the parchment entirely. Early experiments piping the colours and leaving gaps between resulted in large air pockets forming and spoiling the finished pattern.
  • You can get an almost invisible join between the sides and the disc of sponge used for the top if you make sure your filling is almost to the rim and you mitre the edges of the sponges.
  • The vanilla cream decoration was piped through a piping bag striped with neat gel colouring.
  • Depending on the complexity of your design, you might want to spend time on it a day or two before you need your cake – once complete, it can stay in the freezer until needed.

Rainbow Cake Top

Rainbow Cake

Joconde décor paste
50g unsalted butter, softened
50g icing sugar
50g egg whites
60g plain flour
rainbow food colours
white food colouring powder
2tbs melted, clarified butter

  • Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush thoroughly with the melted butter. Clarified butter contains no milk solids that might scorch and spoil the colours of the design. Alternatives are cocoa butter or coconut butter.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
  • Fold in the sifted flour.
  • Divide into seven small bowls, 30g in each bowl.
  • Mix in the food colouring to each bowl until the desired shade is achieved. I also added about half a teaspoon of white colouring.
  • Paint your designs for the sides and top of the cake onto the two sheets of buttered parchment.
  • When finished, put into the freezer until required.

Joconde sponge
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
80g plain flour
85g clarified butter, melted

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
  • Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  • Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.
  • Scrape the meringue mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the meringue collapsing, or if you have two mixer bowls, just swap over a clean one.
  • Beat the almonds, icing sugar, vanilla and eggs in the bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Turn the speed down to low and mix in the flour.
  • Gently fold in the meringue mixture using a large spatula.
  • Put the melted butter in a small bowl and mix in a cupful of the sponge batter. Pour this back into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the rest of batter.
  • Retrieve your Joconde paste designs from the freezer and lay them into your baking trays.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and smooth over. Pay special attention to the corners, where it is easy to accidentally leave the batter a little on the thin side.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch and have shrunk away from the edges of the pan.
  • Turn out by laying a tea towel onto a sheet of parchment, then flip the baking tray over onto the cloth. Peel off the paper to reveal the pattern, and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.
  • When cooled, cut strips of sponge to line the sides of the cake tin, ensuring the pattern is facing outwards against the sides of the tin. Cut a circle of sponge to line the base and lay it patterned-side down, in the bottom of the tin. Cut a second circle to make the top of the cake and set aside.
  • Fill with the filling of your choice. Use the sponge cake offcuts to make a middle layer of cake if liked.
  • Trim the edges of the sponge ‘lid’ and the sponge sides and join together.
  • Lay a chopping board on the top of the cake to press it lightly and chill for an hour or two to firm up.
  • Remove from the tin and transfer to your serving plate.
  • Garnish as liked.

 

 

[1] No not that one. The one from the Hillaire Belloc poem: (Matilda told such Dreadful Lies) It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes!


Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes

Dacquoise Sponge Sandwich

Wotchers!

The recipe I have for you this week is more a set of guidelines that can be adapted to whatever takes your fancy or whatever you have to hand in the cupboards.

These individual cakes were inspired by a picture I saw of a Swiss cake, the Zuger Kirchetorte, which looked delightfully neat and elegant, as one might expect of the Swiss. I tried several recipes, but became increasingly frustrated by my own ham-fistedness in reproducing the elegance: the sponge was too thick, or the meringue too thin, or too soft or too fragile. In addition, it had a LOT of alcohol in it, which is nice for a special occasion but a bit much during daylight hours.

So I abandoned that idea for something smaller, which owes its composition to the Zuger Kirchetorte, but is also much more adaptable: you can dress it up or down, depending on whatever is to hand, even improvise with ready-made components if time or patience is short.

Essentially, these individually-sized cakes are sandwiches, with a dacquoise (hazelnut meringue) as the ‘bread’ and sponge cake as the ‘filling’, all stuck together and decorated with the sandwich ‘glue’ of your choice. The look substantial, but are very light to eat.

The possibilities for variation are endless:

  • Meringue: I’ve used a hazelnut dacquoise but you could swap those out for pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts. You could even use plain meringue, or meringue shells from the supermarket. Alongside this, you can choose to flavour the meringues by adding in freeze-dried fruit powder to complement your other ingredients.
  • Sponge: literally any sponge will do, plain vanilla, rich madeira, moist almond, fatless, genoise, joconde, flavoured however you like.
  • Syrup: to make your sponge luscious and tender, you can soak it in a syrup of some kind. If you don’t want to have too many flavours, then a simple sugar syrup of half sugar, half water is fine.  Or you can add flavouring to the syrup such as coffee, tea infusions, fruit juices, spirits such as Kirch, Maraschino, Disaronno, mead, madeira, rum, brandy, etc.
  • Filling: I’ve used a dark chocolate ganache, to be honest, because I had some in the fridge left over from something else, but milk, white and caramelised are all good choices too, as are all flavours of buttercream. For simplicity, you can also use chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), spekuloos spread, even thick, smooth jams or fruit spreads.
  • Garnish: for the outsides of the cake, something that will stick on easily and match your other flavour choices. I chose nibbed and toasted hazelnuts, because I used them in the dacquoise, but you could use flaked or slivered nuts, feuilletine, crumbled biscuits, freeze-dried fruit, chocolate sprinkles, meringue crumbs, chocolate shards.

I used baking rings made from small tinned food tins (5cm diameter tins from mushy peas, in case you’re wondering) opened at both ends, but these quantities will also make one large, 24cm cake if you prefer.

Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes

Makes 8 individual sandwiches or 1 large 24cm cake.

For the Sponge

You can choose your own favourite sponge recipe if preferred. This fatless sponge recipe also happens to be gluten-free.

2 large eggs
60 g of caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp hot water
50 g Green & Black’s cocoa
30 g of cornflour

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line your tin(s) with baking parchment. Butter the parchment.
  • Sift the cocoa and cornflour together.
  • Whisk the eggs, sugar, water and salt together over a saucepan of hot water for 3-4 minutes, until light and frothy.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk until billowy and increased in volume (about 5 minutes).
  • Gradually fold in half the cocoa and cornflour, then add the remainder and fold in.
  • Transfer to your tin(s), filling each about half-way.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes (20-25 minutes for a large cake) until firm and springy and slightly shrunk from the sides.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

For the Dacquoise

You can grind the hazelnuts finer, but I like the texture the slightly larger pieces give.

2 large eggwhites (80ml)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbs cornflour
60 g chopped, toasted hazelnuts

  • Turn the oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Draw 16 circles using your baking rings as a guide onto a sheet of parchment, 2 for each sandwich.
  • Turn the paper over and lay onto a baking sheet.
  • Whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks, then sprinkle in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is firm and glossy.
  • Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together and fold into the meringue.
  • Sprinkle in the nuts and briefly mix.
  • Spoon the dacquoise onto the prepared baking parchment and spread into the marked circles. Make sure it at least reaches the edges of the circles. It doesn’t have to be too accurate, as they can be trimmed after baking. Smooth over.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • Switch off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 15 minutes, then prop the oven door open and allow to cool completely.
  • When cold, remove from the parchment and store in a ziplock bag until required.

For the Ganache

300g plain dark chocolate
150ml double cream

  • Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  • Pour the cream into a small pan and bring to a boil.
  • Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • Stir gently with a whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the ganache smooth and glossy.

For the syrup

50g caster sugar
50ml water
flavouring to suit

  • Put the sugar and water into a small pan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add any flavouring to taste.

To Assemble

  • Select the eight meringues with the smoothest bases and set aside. These will be used for the top of the sandwiches, for a neat finish.
  • Put the remaining meringues on a tray and spoon over a layer of ganache.
  • Trim the cakes level and set onto the ganache.
  • Soak with the sugar syrup. It’s almost impossible to use too little. You can see from the photograph the syrup I used only soaked a little way into the sponge, so more is better.
  • Add a second layer of ganache.
  • Add the remaining meringues, turning them upside down, so that the smooth bases are uppermost.
  • Sprinkle your decor into a tray.
  • Spread the remaining ganache in a smooth layer around the sides of the sandwiches then roll in your chosen decoration. Set aside. If you’ve made one large cake, then hold your cake on one hand and lift up handfuls of your decoration and press into the sides.
  • When all the sandwiches are coated, transfer to a dish and cover with clingfilm. This will keep the meringues from absorbing too much moisture.
  • Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to firm up.
  • When ready to serve, dust the tops liberally with icing sugar and use a hot skewer to caramelise the sugar in an abstract design.

My Christmas Cakey Bakey

My Christmas Cakey Bakey Showstopper

Wotchers!

Happy 2017!

I’ve had several requests for the recipe for my showstopper from the Christmas Bake Off episode shown on Christmas Day.

Whilst I could just copy/paste from the document I submitted to the production company, it would make this post enormous and you’d be scrolling for days. In addition, it would take a full four hours of constant making/baking and multitasking in order to replicate the cake in its entirety. I suggest cherry-picking your favourite and having something a lot less stressful in a pleasingly short amount of time.

Instead, I’ll reveal the full extent of my CREATIVITY and CUNNING by pointing out – that the majority of the showstopper can be assembled from recipes already on the blog. Much in the same way as <insert trademarked brand of interlocking toy bricks here>, I took bits from here and there and used them to create the various components of the finished recipe.

The reasons were numerous:

  • requirements of the brief (numerous)
  • limited planning time (3 weeks)
  • strictness of guidelines (extreme)
  • decoration exclusions (numerous)
  • time limit (4 hours)

But mostly to demonstrate that it is possible to rearrange favourite recipes that you already know how to make into something new and exciting and delicious. So I made a whole bunch of things and then put them together into one cake.

Below is the running order of things I had to make and where I got the original idea.

My Christmas Cakey-Bakey Make Order

  • Chocolate Joconde – used a double quantity of this recipe, but with 80g cocoa and no flour, making it both really chocolate-y and gluten-free
  • Spice Joconde – a double quantity of the same joconde recipe, but with 225g dark muscovado sugar instead of the icing sugar and just 70g plain flour plus 2tsp each of ginger, allspice, mixed spice.
  • Spekulaas crumb – made using this recipe not formed into biscuits. Bake the crumb for 8-10 minutes until crisp.
  • Lemon curd & Seville Orange curd – 2 batches using the Honey Curd recipe, the lemon batch made with lemon-blossom honey, orange batch made with orange-blossom honey and the zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges.
  • Vanilla Cream x 2 & Spekulaas cream – using the cream filling from this recipe, scaling up each batch by multiplying the recipe by 1.5 (so 300ml of creams, etc) and swapping the extract for 2 vanilla beans. For the spekulaas cream I omitted the vanilla/sugar and added 300g of spekulaas biscuit crumbs.
  • Fill cakes, cover with cling film & chill until required. So few words describing such a major part of the process! OK, here we go:
    • For the chocolate cake
      • Cut three evenly-sized pieces from the two joconde sponges.
      • Place one piece on a board and spread with a thin layer of vanilla cream. This will both keep the sponge moist and prevent the curd from soaking into the cake.
      • Spread a second piece of sponge with a thin layer of vanilla cream.
      • Put the rest of the vanilla cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1 or 2cm tip and pipe dots of cream around the outside edge of the cake both to give a neat appearance and to prevent the curd from leaking out.
      • Pour half the Seville orange honey curd onto the middle of the cake and spread evenly.
      • To prevent the next layer from ‘sagging’ in the middle, pipe a line of vanilla cream from left to right and from top to bottom, dividing the layer into quarters.
      • Add the next layer of sponge using the piece of cake spread with vanilla cream. Repeat the piping around the edge and spread the remaining curd.
      • Lay the remaining piece of cake on top and press gently.
      • Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge (although I used the freezer due to the time limit) until required.
    • For the spice cake
      • As above, using the spice joconde cake, vanilla cream and lemon honey curd.
    • For the spekulaas cake
      • I’ve had a lot of enquiries asking for the recipe for the spekulaas cake. But here’s the thing. I didn’t make a spekulaas cake. I used 2 layers of chocolate joconde and 2 layers of spice cake, sandwiched with spekulaas crumb cream and crunchy Lotus Biscoff spread. The flavours go well together individually (chocolate/spekulaas/Biscoff, spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff) as well as all together (chocolate/spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff). So you could use any of these combinations to make your own version.
      • Spread one piece of cake with the spekulaas cream and as with the other tiers, pipe dots of the cream around the edges.
      • Zap some of the Biscoff spread briefly in the microwave, until it softens enough to pour, and use as per the fruit curd in the other tiers. Use as little or as much as you like.
      • Repeat the layering as required.

Decorations

My decoration requests were vetoed so many times, I ended up opting for a variation of something I’d seen on-line. I used strips of lace of different patterns – one was even of Christmas puddings! – and laid them over the top of the cakes, then dusted liberally with icing sugar. Due to the long interval between the end of the challenge and the judging, the icing sugar was starting to dissolve, as you can see on the photo. If you leave this until just before serving, your decoration will be crisp and clear and will wow your guests.

I’ll keep the details of the other decorations (chocolate Christmas trees & chocolate choux Christmas puddings) for another time, because there’s more than enough here to keep you out of mischief for the moment.

Have fun! 😀


Fruitbowl Tea Bread

Fruitbowl Tea Loaf

Wotchers!

I’m back from holidays  and summer is over. Two completely unrelated events, I hasten to add – I am NOT responsible for the damp, muggy, drizzly weather mumbling around lately.

But the weather might have something to do with my choice of recipe this week.

As always, I return from France inspired and enthused by the food and produce and having snapped up a few books on patisserie and regional food, I was all prepared for a mammoth, cream-filled bake-a-thon. I even brought back some glorious Normandy butter to use in artery-hardening quantities.

But instead of all the frills and froth of French patisserie, it turned out that what I actually wanted was a teatime treat in the form of this fruity loaf, faithfully retrieved from a yellowing farmhouse baking book of Yore™. Mostly.

Because when I decamped to the kitchen I found that I was the proud possessor of just a single egg and the recipe called for two. I didn’t feel incined to make a trip out just for eggs, so I turned to the web to refresh my memory on apples and egg substitutes.Sure enough, about 60ml of apple puree works a treat, and one eating apple makes almost exactly 60ml of puree.

This recipe has dates and walnuts, which make for a delicious tea loaf, but can also make it a little dry, almost dusty, especially if the walnuts arent in their first flush of youth. Deliciously, the inclusion of mashed bananas helps with the moistness and the apple sauce really brightens the flavour with its freshness. Neither flavour dominates, making the loaf wonderfully flavoursome. Finally, it is brought to a rich, batter consistency by a splash-ette of lager – and indeed, Lager Loaf was the original recipe title – but that sounds too much like Lager Lout to my ears – which is far from tasty – so I feel justified in renaming it.

And it is a distinct improvement to eat spread with butter, with a cup of something hot.

Fruitbowl Tea Bread

You don’t HAVE to make this with the apple – if you have the eggs, just use two and no apple.

85g unsalted butter
1tbs golden syrup
85g soft brown or light muscovado sugar
1 sharp eating apple, e.g. Jazz or Braeburn
1 large egg
280g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
150ml lager
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
125g chopped dates
50g walnuts, roughly chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin with parchment paper. Tear off a second piece of parchment and make a fold down the middle. This piece will be used during the baking.
  • Peel and core the apple, then grate finely into a small saucepan. Cover with a lid and heat gently until the apple has broken down into a puree. Sieve to remove any lumps. If you’re impatient, whizz it in a small food processor.
  • Gently warm the butter, syrup and sugar either in a pan or using the microwave, until melted.
  • Add the lager and apple puree, then whisk in the egg.
  • Mash the bananas. Make sure your dates and walnuts are also chopped and ready.
  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl.
  • Add the liquid mixture and stir thoroughly.
  • Quickly fold through the bananas, dates and nuts and pour into the prepared tin.
  • Place into the oven and prop the second piece of parchment over the tin with the fold at the top, rather like a tent. This will prevent the top of the loaf from becoming too dark during baking.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the ‘tent’ and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Be sure to test the cake for done-ness using a cocktail stick/skewer/cake tester before removing from the oven – the moisture in the bananas and apple will make it very moist, so be sure it’s baked all the way through, especially towards the bottom.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Serve sliced and buttered, and store in an airtight container.