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.

Banana Ganache Tarts

Banana Ganache Tart

Wotchers!

Here’s a very indulgent treat, just in time for Mothers Day.

I’m really rather pleased with the star of the recipe, the banana ganache. Looking at other online recipes, people SAY it’s banana ganache, but when you click on it, you find they’ve mixed it with chocolate or fruit or caramel or rum. Not that any of those aren’t delicious combinations, but I wanted something that captured the pure flavour of fresh banana, and here it is. Of course, as can be seen from the picture, I then proceeded to pour it ONTO chocolate and then slather it IN chocolate, but the ganache itself is wonderfully unadulterated and fresh-tasting.

This is one of my, what I like to call, Lego™ recipes. I take a brick from this recipe, and a brick from that recipe and click them together with some new bits and bobs to make a new recipe. In this case I’ve taken the mirror glaze recipe from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake, and the chocolate pastry from the Midnight Meringue to make this very rich and delicious dessert. If you have some Crepes Dentelles biscuits, you could make the base out of the Feuilletine recipe (also from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake) for a quick, no-bake recipe, or go cheap and cheerful with either cornflakes or rice crispies mixed with melted chocolate.

I’ve used a nifty trick to make individual servings by making a thin tray-bake and then using a flower-shaped pastry/biscuit cutter to cut out the un-glazed-but-set ganache. The mirror glaze is then poured over the top and makes for a seamless and wonderfully glossy finish.

I’m hoping some of you might try this for Mothers Day, but you can just as easily keep everything simple as a tray-bake. Another alternative is to use just the ganache either dipped in tempered chocolate or rolled in either cocoa or dessicated coconut to make bite-sized truffles. You could  also use the ganache in/on a cake, but plan ahead, because it does need several hours in the fridge to firm up before it is spreadable.

Banana Ganache Tart

Chocolate Pastry
100g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C 180°C Fan.
  • Grease and line with parchment a rectangular baking tin. You want something quite large, so the pastry and ganache layers will be thin. I used a roasting tin of dimensions 20cm x 30cm. If you’re not going to cut individual portions, a 24cm loose-bottom, spring-form cake tin is another option.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add the tablespoon of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base of your tin. Keep the layer thin – no more than 5mm before baking – otherwise it becomes to clunky for a delicate dessert.
  • Prick the pastry thoroughly with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Check pastry for done-ness (always a little tricky with chocolate pastry, but it will be firm to the touch and have shrunk from the sides a little when filly baked). Return to the oven until fully baked if necessary.
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Banana Ganache
275g banana – about 3 ripe bananas
25ml syrup [1]
140ml double cream
400g white chocolate
45g unsalted butter

  • Mash the bananas to a smooth puree. I’ve found the best way is to break them into pieces and then use an immersion/stick blender to get rid of all lumps. Alternatively, mash them by hand then pass through a sieve.
  • Put the banana puree, syrup and cream into a small pan.
  • Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a bowl.
  • Bring the puree mixture to a boil, stirring continuously, then pour over the chocolate.
  • Leave for 5 minutes to melt.
  • Stir gently until thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool
  • When the banana mixture has cooled to 35°C add the cubed butter and use the immersion/stick blender again to whisk it in. The combination of the butter and the vigorous whisking will help to emulsify and thicken the ganache.
  • If making the tarts/tray-bake, pour the ganache over the chocolate base and set aside to cool. Cover lightly with a flat sheet of parchment only – using plastic film at this point will trap condensation which will then drip onto your ganache – ew.
  • When completely cold, cover with film and chill in the fridge.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze
4 leaves (8g) gelatine
175ml water
150ml double cream
225g granulated sugar
75g cocoa powder

NB If you’re making the tray-bake, halve these quantities. If glazing individual tartlet portions, you’ll need the full quantity.

  • Soak the gelatine in plenty of cold water. I leave the sheets whole, as it is easier both to fish them out of the water and to shake off the excess water from them once hydrated.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.
  • Continue stirring and, once the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil.
  • Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture reaches a temperature of about 104°C.
  • Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for 5 minutes. Keep stirring as the base of the pan will still be very hot and might burn the mixture. If you’re glazing individual tartlets, pour the mixture into a jug and prepare your tartlets (see below).
  • Leave to cool until the mixture reaches 50°C, then drain the gelatine and stir into the mixture until it is fully dissolved.
  • Let the mixture cool further until just 35°C and is beginning to thicken and set.
  • If you’re making the tray bake, pour the glaze over the cooled and chilled ganache and leave to set. Chill in the fridge. Otherwise, see below:
    • Glazing individual tarts
    • Select an appropriately-sized cutter. I used a flower-shaped cutter of diameter 8cm. Other shapes might include hearts or stars. This might sound small, but as already stated, the ganache is very rich, and anything larger is going to push the portion size toward sickly.
    • Grease the cutter, inside and out, with a non-flavoured oil. Almond oil is very mild, personally I used grape-seed oil. The ganache is very sticky and the oil will help the cutter pass easily through and, more importantly, help it pass easily out again. NB: Be sure to clean and re-oil the cutter after each use.
    • Use the cutter to cut out shapes and move them to a wire rack. Make sure they are evenly spaced out on the rack as this is where they will be glazed. If the cut tartlets are reluctant to come out of the cutter, run the point of a sharp knife around the edge of the cutter from the underside.
    • If the glaze is still too warm, put the rack into the freezer to firm up the tartlets.
    • When the glaze has cooled enough to pour, put the wire rack with the tartlets over a bowl wide enough to catch all the drips.
    • Slowly pour the glaze over the tarts one at a time. Pour onto the centre of the tart and the glaze will spread smoothly across the surface and down the sides. Don’t rush this. If you have to go back and ‘patch’, then the glaze will not be smooth. It is better to glaze 3 or 4 tarts perfectly first time, than glaze them all in one go but have to go back and patch up the missed bits.
    • The glaze that drips through the rack into the bowl can be re-used, provided it is done at once, before it has cooled too much. Set the rack aside and scrape the glaze back into the jug. Replace the rack over the bowl and continue glazing.
    • Allow the glaze to cool, and chill thoroughly in the fridge until required.

[1] I used maple syrup because I had some, but any liquid sugar will do – honey, golden syrup, agave, etc.


Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Wotchers!

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get side-tracked a lot when browsing the internet, and the inspiration for this week’s recipe is the result of just such a wandering.

Apple and cheese is a classic combination, and together with some smoked ham is one of my favourite toasted sandwiches. But that’s another story. In Yorkshire, it is traditional for Wensleydale cheese to be served alongside slices of apple pie, and a saying dating back over 250 years tells us

‘An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.’

An alternative to serving cheese alongside, is to bake it into the pastry, where it rounds out the flavour of the apple deliciously, without being obvious.

The recipe today pushes this a little bit further by adding green chillies to the apple mixture, and is an adaptation of one served at Chile Pies and Ice Cream, in San Francisco.

Although I found several versions of the pie online, after baking it as per the original, I decided that it needed tinkering with (sorry Chile Pies and Ice Cream!) and the results are below. I was unable to find the roasted chillies specified in the original recipe (Confession: I didn’t even look), so I went with fresh chillies and de-seeded them, which I found gave a real freshness and just enough of a hint of heat without swamping everything. Adding the zest of the lemon as well as the juice really brings out the apple flavour and I’ve reduced the amount of spices, which I found too strong in the original. Even with almost double the original amount of cheese in the pastry, the flavour is not too much, so if you want to go really cheesy, maybe add some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, and as always, the dry mustard powder really rounds out the flavour. The walnuts in the crumble tended to burn very easily, so I swapped them for oats which I love for their nutty crunchiness.

Bramley Apples are fabulous for this recipe. For anyone who is unlucky enough not to be familiar with them, they are a specialist cooking apple grown in the UK. When cooked, they hold their shape until touched, whereupon the apple pieces dissolve into a froth of apple snow, literally melting in the mouth (if that is possible with hot food). If you’re unable to find any Bramley Apples, use a sharp dessert apple such as Braeburn, which will hold its shape and not release too much juice – which means you might want to reduce/omit the cornflour in the filling. Also, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan and cook a little longer.

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Pastry
50g lard
50g unsalted butter
80g strong, tasty cheddar
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
ice water to mix

Filling
35g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
30g cornflour
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
zest & juice of ½ a lemon
2 Bramley Apples
2 green chillis

Crumble
20g butter
20g lard
20g light Muscovado sugar
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
40g steel rolled oats

  • Cheese Pastry
    • Put the lard, butter and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Roughly chop the cheese and add to the mixture.
    • Pulse 3 or 4 times to break up the cheese.
    • Slowly add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip out the pastry and knead a few times until smooth.
    • Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
    • After 30 minutes, remove from the fridge and roll out to about 5mm.
    • Grease two 20cm loose-bottomed tart tins and line with the pastry. Alternatively, make individual tarts.
  • Filling
    • Mix the sugars, cornflour and spices in a bowl and set aside.
    • Grate in the lemon zest and stir.
    • Peel and de-seed the chillis and chop finely.
    • Peel, core and chop the apples into small slices.
    • Put the chopped apples into a bowl and toss in the lemon juice.
    • Scatter over the chillis.
    • Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the apples and chillis and stir gently to combine.
    • Divide the filling between the tarts.
  • Crumble
    • Put the butter, lard, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats.
    • Sprinkle over the apple fillings.
  • To Bake
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
    • Put the tart tins onto a baking sheet, preferably one with a raised edge, as there might be some overflowing of juices.
    • Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around 180 degrees and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. For individual tarts, begin baking the same way, but cook for just 10 minutes after turning the baking sheet.
    • Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm with pouring cream

Magic Porridge

Blackcurrant Magic Porridge and Strawberry/Rhubarb Magic Porridge

Wotchers!

A couple of weeks ago when I was overcome with indecision over what my next blog post might be, I turned to Twitter for suggestions, and this ultimately led to the post about Japanese Cotton-soft Cheesecake, as it seemed to satisfy a number of requests. However there were a couple of requests that weren’t helped by that post, and they were for something to help with rhubarb glut, and one from a Mum who wanted to make something with her son who was unable to eat eggs. I felt bad about disappointing these two people, but hopefully this post will go some way to set things to rights.

At various times recently, I’ve made a decision to try and rehabilitate some dish from my past which the mere thought of induces shudders of horror e.g. Ratatouille, and this week it’s the turn of semolina pudding. Still to be tackled is traditional porridge *shudder* <— see?

Semolina pudding was a staple of school lunches in the ’70s, usually served hot with a blob of sweet red (unidentifiable flavour-wise beyond colour) jelly-jam. The method of consumption was usually either to swirl the jam into the hot semolina for a ripple of pink sweetness throughout the bowl, or to save it for one decadent rewarding mouthful after having eaten all of the surrounding hot pudding. Semolina was comfort food. Stick-to-your-ribs filling. Quickly prepared and fantastically economical. And, to me at least, incredibly dull.

Traditionally in the UK, semolina pudding is made by heating milk in a saucepan, sprinkling over dry semolina and stirring it in until thickened (about 10 minutes) then adding sugar and cinnamon. A richer form might have eggs and/or butter whisked in, then be baked in a buttered dish in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes. Still very dull, though.

Until, that is, I spotted this recipe. It’s definitely a Baltic recipe, being most popular in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, and there are also versions scattered through Europe and Russia. It can be eaten hot or cold, in winter or summer, for breakfast or for pudding. Traditionally made with any tart fruit juice, it is known as klappgröt (folded porridge), vispgröt (whipped porridge) or trollgröt (magic porridge) in Swedish, also vispipuuro (Finnish name) or mannavaht (Estonian name). So of course of all of these names, I chose Magic Porridge – who wouldn’t want to eat something with the word ‘Magic’ in its name? Think of the delicious summer breakfasts, packed with fresh berries, that can be snuck (yes of course it’s a word!) into children under such a tempting title!

In a nutshell, cook 30g of semolina in about 400ml of tart fruit puree/juice with a little sugar, then when it is cold, whip it to a froth with electric beaters or a stand mixer. As the air is beaten into the mixture, the colour will lighten and the texture become, whilst not exactly mousse-like, then certainly like a thick fruit fool – but with no dairy! The rhubarb and strawberry was delicious, but I thought the blackcurrant version sublime. It would seem that the tart-er the fruit, the better it contrasts and cuts through the semolina’s more dense texture.

Left overnight, in the fridge, the mixture will settle and thicken up, but can quickly and easily be re-whipped into a lighter texture when required

 I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to successfully rehabilitate traditional porridge (*more shuddering in horror*), but in terms of semolina pudding, Magic Porridge has certainly done the trick!

Magic Porridge

250g sharp-tasting fruit, fresh or frozen [1]
sugar to taste
30g dry semolina
water

  • Put the fruit and four tablespoons of water into a saucepan over a very low heat.
  • Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes until the juice is flowing and the fruit is soft.
  • Mash to a puree or use a stick blender.
  • Sweeten to taste. It’s best left on the sharp side. For children, a little extra can be added when it’s served for both sweetness and crunch.
  • Measure the puree. Add water to make a total of 400ml.
  • Return to the pan and heat through.
  • Sprinkle in the dry semolina and stir.
  • Continue cooking over a low heat, stirring to prevent it catching on the pan bottom, for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the semolina grains have softened.
  • Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming.
  • When cold, whip the mixture into a light froth using either a stand mixture or an electric whisk.
  • Serve with extra puree, sugar, milk or cream if liked.

[1] I used blackcurrants for one batch and then a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries in the other.


The Midnight Meringue

Midnight Meringue Pie

Wotchers!

Cor! It’s been a while since I made a post – apologies for that, but it’s been a bit hectic since the final of The Great British Bake Off aired.

Now I know this is still a Bake Off recipe, but I wanted to make it a blog post just to fill in some background on how I put the recipe together. I did actually go through the reasoning behind the recipe on camera, but obviously it never made it into the edit. To me, at least, it therefore seemed like I’d just given a pie a bit of a poncy name for no real reason. So for those interested, here is the background and how I put this dessert together. Feel free to skip down to the recipe.

Still here? Awesome! Ok, so the recipe request for the Week 5 Showstopper Challenger was for: A Unique Meringue Pie. The guidelines were very specific in two respects:

  1. It had to be something much more than a regular Lemon Meringue Pie, and
  2. It had to be big. Huge, even. At least 30cm diameter across the base.

Obviously the size was going to test our skill in baking such a large pie, and the filling stipulation was going to test our creativity. So all this got me pondering how I could do something that was original, unique and achievable within the time limit of 3 hours.

Now when I think of a meringue pie, I naturally think of lemon meringue pie – and it just reminds me of a bright, sunny day: the circle of yellow like the sun, the mounds of fluffy white meringue clouds. So I thought it would be fun to make something that was a contrast – involving dark and light, very Ying/Yang. Then I thought about it a bit more and decided it wasn’t going to work – Ying Yang Meringue? Please.

So I crossed over to the Dark Side (Luke I am your father) and The Midnight Meringue was born!

Dark chocolate pastry, rich mocha filling and a dark meringue made with…..well, it went through several revisions, including (as some of you might remember) right down to the wire on the day itself! Treacle meringue, molasses meringue, coffee meringue – but on the day, brown sugar meringue won out.

I also decided to ‘assemble’ rather than bake the meringue, reasoning that less could go wrong that way – I could concentrate on each component individually and not have to worry about something over-cooking. The final dish consisted of a cooked Italian meringue made with brown sugar, a thick and rich custard filling flavoured with coffee and dark chocolate and a blind baked chocolate pastry case.

The meringue was piped in a huge swirl and finished off with a few blasts of the blowtorch to toast the edges.

The meringue was a little softer than the standard meringue topping because of the brown sugar, but I still think it was the right choice and really made the pie stand out.

This recipe is for a single large pie, but you could just as easily bake mini pastry shells and create individually-sized pies for a special occasion – and would probably be less stressful than worrying about one big pie. The fact that at least 2 of the components can be made in advance just makes it that much easier.

The Midnight Meringue

Chocolate Pastry
300g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan.
  • Grease a deep, loose-bottomed, 30cm tart tin.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base and sides of your pie tin. Alternatively, press mixture together and roll out using a rolling pin. It’s quite crumbly, so this is rather tricky and best done between sheets of cling film. Depends how critical your guests are going to be 😉
  • Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking bead and bake blind, 200°C 180°C Fan, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove beans, cover edge of rim with foil to prevent burning and return to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack

The mocha filling
250g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
6 large egg yolks
225g caster sugar
65g cornflour
1 litre milk
2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

  • Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
  • In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornflour.
  • Add the coffee powder to the milk and heat, stirring until the coffee has dissolved.
  • Whisk hot milk mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
  • Return the custard to the pan and continue to heat, stirring, until it has thickened.
  • Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.
  • Check flavour. Depending on the strength of your chocolate, you may need to add more coffee powder.
  • Cover with cling film to stop a skin from forming and chill until required.

The brown sugar Italian meringue [1]
150g egg whites (5 large)
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon juice
45g granulated sugar
15g powdered egg white
150ml water
300g dark muscovado sugar

  • Put whites, salt and lemon juice in a mixer bowl.
  • Whip whites slowly until frothy, then fast until stiff peaks.
  • Gradually add granulated sugar and egg white powder (mixed together). Allow each spoonful to dissolve before adding the next.
  • Whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Heat sugar and water to 115°C
  • Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
  • With the beaters running, pour the sugar syrup into the whipped whites in a thin stream, then continue whisking until bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.

To assemble

  • Place the chocolate pastry case on the serving dish.
  • Whisk chilled custard filling and pour into the pastry case.
  • Spoon (or pipe) over the brown sugar meringue. Make sure there are no gaps between the meringue and the pastry shell, and that the filling is completely covered.
  • Use a blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve.

[1] This quantity makes enough meringue to cover a single large meringue pie. If you want an awe-inducing mountain of meringue like the picture (although I feel obliged to point out that the picture is actually of a mini, 8cm pie), you might want to make double the quantity. If so, then I would suggest making two batches, because a single batch fills a standard mixing bowl.


Chocolate and Orange Mousse Cake

Chocolate & Orange Mousse Cake

Wotchers!

Semi-final week on The Great British Bake Off, and the Signature Bake for Round 1 is a layered sponge and mousse cake.

My original recipe is listed on the BBC Food website, which was the version from the show and which was completed within 2 hours.

This version varies slightly in that, without the time-pressures of competition, I have suggested a gelatine-set orange gelee for the top. This can look especially impressive as it means that the gelee stands proud of the surface of the cake, as if by magic.

The instructions below are for a single, large mousse cake. The same quantity will also make 12 mini versions like the one pictured above, which stands about 6cm high. Instead of teeny tiny springform pans (I’m not even sure they make them that small), I used the ‘improvised baking rings’ (made from tinned peas tins) mentioned earlier in the Muffins post.

Joconde décor paste
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
100g egg whites
110g plain flour
orange food colouring
2tbs melted butter

Joconde sponge
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
40g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
85g clarified butter, melted

Chocolate and orange mousse
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tsp powdered gelatine
175g plain (60%+) chocolate, broken into pieces
2 large eggs, separated
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks

Orange gelée
300ml orange juice
3 sheets gelatine

To decorate
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
3 oranges
cocoa powder

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
  • Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter.
  • Line the base and sides of a 25cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Make the joconde paste:
    • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
    • Fold in the sifted flour then add the food colouring.
    • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
    • Pipe the mixture onto the buttered parchment in a swirl pattern and place in the freezer to harden.
  • Make the joconde sponge:
    • 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.
    • Beat the almonds, icing sugar 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 and cocoa powder.
    • 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.
  • Remove the baking trays with the decor paste from the freezer.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two baking trays, spreading it smoothly over the decorations and into the corners ensuring it is level. An offset spatula is useful for this.
  • 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 covering the sponge with a sheet of parchment then flip the baking tray over onto the work surface. 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.
  • Make the mousse:
    • Pour the juice from the orange through a fine sieve into a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set the mixture aside for three minutes then place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, taking care the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and stir gently until the gelatine has dissolved.
    • Place the chocolate in a large bowl and melt it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds.
    • Mix the orange zest and egg yolks into the melted chocolate, then stir in the gelatine mixture and fold in the whipped cream.
    • Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into the tin, level the surface and place the remaining sponge circle on top, pattern uppermost and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  • Make the orange gelée:
    • Cut the gelatine sheets into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add 60ml of orange juice from the 300ml and leave for 10 minutes while the gelatine swells.
    • Heat very gently in a saucepan until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir in the rest of the orange juice.
    • Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Don’t skip the cooling. If you try and pour the orange gelee over the cake before it has cooled and thickened slightly, it will just soak into the sponge.
    • When the orange mix has cooled and is beginning to thicken, remove the tin from the fridge and slide a strip of food-grade acetate (or silicon sheeting) between the side of the springform tin and the sponge.
    • Carefully pour the orange mixture over the top of the cake and return to the fridge to set (2 hours)
  • To decorate:
    • Release the sides of the springform tin and peel off the acetate/silicon. Transfer to a serving plate .
    • Whip the double cream to stiff peaks (be careful not to over-beat) and pipe swirls around the edge of the mousse cake.
    • Cut thin strips of peel from the oranges and curl them around a straw.
    • Decorate mousse cake with orange zest curls and dust with cocoa powder.

Cost: £9.50 (September 2011)