29 October 2014

Baking With Spirit: The Autumnal Round Up


Autumn is now in full swing: there are few green leaves left on the deciduous trees, the clocks have gone back (here in the UK) and the night skies will shortly be filled with fireworks for bonfire night.

To celebrate this, I set this month's Baking With Spirit as autumnal. There were some great entries this month, so let's jump into the round up:

Laura is miles ahead of my thought process and has already made suet free Whisky Christmas Mincemeat at I'd Much Rather Bake Than.... I'd happily eat a mince pie made with this, and I bet the whisky imparts great flavour. Laura reasons that this is autumnal because it's what she makes in the autumn, and that logic works for me!



If you were hoping for something a little more Halloween-centric, fear not: Choclette has just the thing. She has long avoided this type of thing because it's an Americanised version of All Hallow's Eve, but this year she's embracing tradition with this Chocolate Pecan Pumpkin Cake at Chocolate Log Blog. Whatever the theme, that flavour combination sounds A-Ok to me, especially since it's combined with a rum icing.


I made this Rioja Chocolate Cake because I thought wine and chocolate would make a good flavour combination. I was right! I reasoned that this was autumnal because it epitomises the darkness of this time of year (hey, I said I was flexible on logic here) with its moist and dark crumb.



Finally, I'd like to welcome Bake It With Booze back to the challenge after some time away. Ellen made this Caramel Pumpkin Bourbon Cake for cold days such as those in autumn. The cake sounds incredibly moist, and I love the look of the pecans in the top of the cake. I also love the whisky label in one of the pictures on the post - almost (but not quite) as exciting as the cake.


Special mention goes to Craig at The Usual Saucepans for his valiant effort to enter the challenge. His peanut butter fudge sounds like it was worth the pain of the failed half of his batch, however.

If you're interested in hosting the challenge some time, get in touch and we'll sort something out! I'll post the next instalment of the Baking With Spirit challenge on Saturday.

26 October 2014

Rioja Chocolate Cake



I sort of forgot to mention, but earlier this month Cake Of The Week had its third birthday. I stop and think every now and then about whether I really want to carry on blogging. I love to bake, but sometimes writing about it and internally pressuring myself to hit deadlines (e.g. entering my own blogging challenge) can sometimes make this hobby feel more like a chore.

This blog has evolved into more than just a platform for sharing my recipes: I network with other bloggers, I run my own blogging challenge, and entering other blogging challenges encourages the experimentation with flavours and ingredients that I enjoy so much. It's true that there is no longer a cake or bake every week, but I think it's better to only present my creations a) when they go well and b) when I have wanted to make something, rather than do it only out of a sense of obligation to readers.

The long and short of it is, I'm not finished here yet. There is a lot more to come from this little blog.


Fortunately for me, the host of Baking With Spirit (yours truly) is very flexible when it comes to entries. This month the challenge is to bake something autumnal, as long as it contains alcohol. Though it doesn't look it, to me this Rioja Chocolate Cake is a grown-up way to celebrate all things autumn: the evenings getting darker (hello, autumn equinox); the days getting colder; Halloween; bonfire night. It epitomises darkness with its moist dark crumb and chocolate cream cheese icing. The wine in the cake batter adds a lovely fruity depth that marries incredibly well with the chocolate. Think "dark, cold evening spent cosied up in front of the fire" in cake form.


Sure, you could jazz it up with some fondant creepy crawlies or pipe a spider web on it, but my (2+ year old) fondant was rock hard when I pulled it out of my baking box and I thought the cake looked good without.

Ingredients
For the sponge
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 100g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  • 200g Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 250mL Rioja (or your favourite red wine)
For the chocolate cream cheese icing
  • 300g Philadelphia Cheese
  • 70g Caster Sugar
  • 25g Cocoa Powder
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line an 8-10" springform tin with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and sugars together until soft and fluffy. 
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter and fold in until well combined.
  • Fold in the wine.
  • Pour the batter into the springform tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when pressed and a skewer comes out clean.
  • While the cake cools completely, make the icing.
  • Beat the Philadelphia cheese in a bowl until soft and smooth.
  • Add the caster sugar, and beat until it has dissolved in the cheese (there won't be any visible grains left)
  • Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl and stir into the cream cheese mixture until well combined.
  • When the cake is completely cool, spread the icing over the top and decorate as desired.

21 October 2014

White Chocolate Chip Biscuits


It feels like I lost my baking mojo for a while. Posts became less frequent and I stopped baking every week. This was partly because I was busy doing other things, and partly because I just didn't feel like cultivating my baking hobby.

Baking the Happy Cake has reignited my love of baking, and has reminded me that the time consuming bakes are often the most enjoyable (see my Eight Layer Kahlua Cake). Baking also feels quite therapeutic (as long as everything is going to plan...); recently it has helped me get back into my groove after feeling adrift - in several areas of my life - for some months now.



I chose to make these biscuits because cutting shapes out of dough is fun. I have a dinosaur cutter from some PiƱata Biscuits I made a few years back, so I made a few dinosaurs as well as some more traditional circles. I adapted my recipe for Cinnamon Biscuits, and aside from the obvious I substituted some whisky as the liquid because I wanted the subtle background flavour that it passes on so well in baking.

Makes 20 Circles/Approx. 10 Dinosaurs
Ingredients

  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 80g Butter
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 100g White Chocolate
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 3 Tbsp Whisky
Recipe

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/165C fan and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
  • Dump the flour, butter and caster sugar in a bowl.
  • Rub the ingredients together with the tips of your fingers until all the ingredients have combined to produce a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Finely chop the chocolate and stir it into the mixture.
  • Stir in the egg yolk and whisky, then push the mixture together to form a dough.
  • Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1cm thickness, or as thin as the chocolate will allow.
  • Cut out pieces of dough using cookie cutters (I used a 1.5in diameter shot glass to cut the circles), rolling out the waste cuttings until all of the dough has been shaped. 
  • Place the pieces of dough onto the baking trays, placed evenly apart.
  • Cover with cling film and refrigerate for another 30 mins (this ensures that the biscuits keep their shape).
  • Remove the cling film and bake the biscuits for 12-15 minutes, or until they start to turn gold. They won't harden until they have cooled outside the oven!
  • Cool on a wire rack.
                              

Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... holds the monthly Biscuit Barrel Challenge. This month the challenge is to bake some comfort food, as long as it fits into a biscuit barrel. I'm entering these biscuits as they are comforting to me for the reasons mentioned above, and because who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies?!

11 October 2014

Caramel Apple Crumble


Long-time readers of Cake Of The Week may remember my quest to recreate a Caramel Apple pie that used to be served in a childhood local cafe. Of course the flavours may have been romanticised over time, but I'm pretty sure I've finally got it right.

This post was going to be where I showed it to you, but I ate the original without photographing it and, when I came to making it again, I decided I was more in the mood for crumble than for pie.


Apples are briefly cooked with dark muscovado sugar, then tossed in flour and covered with crumble mix. The dish is baked before being smothered in caramel. Simple, but very effective; it certainly hits the spot on cold autumn evenings.

If you're nervous about making caramel, check out this comprehensive guide from Completely Delicious, complete with step-by-step photos.

Ingredients

For the apple crumble
  • 1kg Apples
  • 150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 100g Butter
  • 200g + 2 Tbsp Plain Flour
For the caramel
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 50g Butter
  • 100mL Double Cream
Recipe

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Core and slice the apples (peel if desired).
  • Place the apple slices in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat, and stir in the dark muscovado sugar. Cover with a lid.
  • Stir occasionally until the apples are soft, then remove from the heat and transfer to an oven proof dish.
  • Meanwhile, make the crumble mix by placing all of the remaining crumble ingredients into a mixing bowl and rubbing them together with the tips of the fingers until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  • Cover the apples with the crumble mix, then bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the crumble has browned slightly.
  • While the crumble bakes, make the caramel. Place the caster sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with water.
  • Heat the sugar on a low heat until the water has evaporated and the sugar is golden brown.
  • Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately beat in the butter, followed by the cream.
  • Allow to cool slightly before pouring over the crumble.
  • When the crumble has cooled completely, it is best stored in the fridge. 
  • Serve with custard or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.



I'm linking this up to Mila's Big Autumn Bash link party - all things autumn are welcome!

5 October 2014

Happy Cake


As long-time readers may remember, I only moved to Cambridgeshire just over a year ago. I didn't know anyone in my local area and had to make friends from scratch. Luckily, my workplace was full of friendly people in my age group, so I quickly built up a circle of friends.

[Sidebar: how does one make new friends as an adult, apart from at work? In a world that is increasingly unsociable unless communication involves an app, where can I find the group of kooky friends that countless sitcoms have led me to believe I will have as an adult? I live in a hopeless area where, for example, fitness classes for the under-65s/non-pregnant don't exist, so I can't even use those as social avenues. All responses to be written on a postcard.]


Lately, however, there has been a mass exodus at work: people moving on to new jobs, new locations or just taking time out to travel. Though I'm very happy for everyone who has left, this means my local friendship circle has taken a bit of a hit. A lot of the people I knew and hung out with outside of work have moved on, and I'm feeling a bit lonely.

I don't like to sulk or mope around, so to cheer myself up I have made this cake to brighten my day. With a whisky scented funfetti (sprinkle-filled) sponge that has been soaked in strawberry jelly and topped with White Chocolate Cloud Icing (plus more sprinkles), I dare you to not be made happy when you look at this cake. If looking it doesn't make you happy, eating it certainly will.


I reckon this would not only make a good "cheer up" cake, but also a good celebration cake. Anything with sprinkles instantly spells out "celebration" to me. You could also change the jelly flavour as you please, and the whisky can either be swapped for your favourite spirit or left out entirely.

I will advise that sprinkles can be hit and miss in cake, dependent on brand. From experience I can tell you that the colour in Tesco and Morrisons own brand sprinkles degrades in the oven (i.e. disappears); Dr Oetker is normally a safe option. For any other brand, your guess is as good as mine. Try using sprinkles from two different brands in the cake just in case. Maybe use different shapes so you can see which ones work? 


We're now verging on getting too technical, so I'll hurry up and give you the recipe:

Ingredients
For the cake (inspired by Cakeyboi)
  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • Excessive Amount Of Sprinkles [see note above]
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 50mL Whisky
  • 100mL Milk
  • Strawberry Jelly (Jello) Packet
For the White Chocolate Cloud Icing (adapted from Sweetapolita)
  • 230g Butter
  • 190g Icing Sugar
  • 125g White Chocolate
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan; line two cake tins with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.
  • Stir the sprinkles into the batter.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder into the batter, then fold in until well combined.
  • Fold in the whisky and milk, ensuring that the batter has a soft dropping consistency.
  • Divide the mixture between the cake tins, then bake in the oven for 22 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Make up the jelly according to the manufacturer's instructions and allow to cool. Note that you might not need all of the jelly - I had about 250mL left over so made myself a cup of jelly.
  • When the cake has had about 20 mins to cool, use the handle end of a spoon (or other piece of cutlery) to poke holes in the cake.
  • Pour the jelly mixture over the cake a little at a time until as much as possible has been absorbed.
  • Cover the cakes with cling film and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  • Make the icing by first melting the white chocolate in the microwave, using 30 second bursts until smooth.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter and icing sugar together until well incorporated, then whisk for a further 2 mins.
  • Add the melted chocolate, then whisk the buttercream for another 2 minutes.
  • Decorate the cake as desired.
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