20 November 2016

Chocolate Orange Blondies


2016 has been a year for the polarisation of a lot of people's political opinions. It can be difficult when a friend or partner, someone you respect, turns around and tells you that the things they believe in, and vote for, are so starkly different to your own. Dealing with those things can be difficult, and I'm not here to tell you how to do that. We British have a way of sweeping bad feeling under the carpet and getting on with it, but of course the emotions still linger.

However, I find that something that can bring people back together, and that there is rarely disagreement about, is cake. Everyone loves cake. Of course, there are those that say they don't like it, but I choose to believe that they are pretending not to like it so that they can enjoy their kale smoothies. (I test food products for a living, and juices containing kale always smell like grass. Why would you want to drink something that smells like grass?) So I suggest that you gather your people around a table with some hot drinks and serve them some cake, and break any tensions that might exist.


Even better, serve your loved ones these Chocolate Orange Blondies. For those of you who don't know, blondies are brownies made with white chocolate instead of dark chocolate. I used a concentrated orange flavouring (you could also use orange juice and zest) and sprinkled some chopped dark chocolate on top. These blondies were served at a Clandestine Cake Club event and many people commented that they tasted a bit like jaffa cakes. Perfectly dense and gooey, these Chocolate Orange brownies were definitely a crowd pleaser.

Side note: If you like the bowl in the top photo, head over to Dotcomgiftshop*. They sell a whole range of goods, but my favourites are their kitchenware. I love the designs on their bowls and plates. The bakeware section is also great; I got a great cookie cutter that will be used in a future post.

This recipe is based on these Double Chocolate Blondies. I used a concentrated orange flavouring, but using the zest and juice of one orange would also work.

Makes 24
Ingredients

  • 400g Caster Sugar
  • 375g Butter
  • 250g White Chocolate
  • 3 Eggs
  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 1Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 5-8 Drops Concentrated Orange Flavour (to taste)
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
Recipe



  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Line a brownie tin or roasting tin with baking parchment.
  • Break the white chocolate into chunks and melt in a medium saucepan with the butter over a medium heat.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, until well combined.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and stir well, making sure to scrape around the bottom edges of the pan, as flour tends to get trapped there.
  • Stir in the orange flavouring.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  • Chop the dark chocolate and sprinkle over the top (as you may be able to see from the photos, I was actually very lazy here and just broke it into chunks. This also works.)
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, then check for a crisp-looking top and no wobble in the middle. Remember that the batter will continue to cook once removed from the oven, so to keep the blondie gooey you mustn't wait until a skewer comes out clean. If there is still a wobble, return to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.


*I was provided with a gift card from Dotcomgiftshop, but was under no obligation to write any material regarding this, promotional or otherwise.

25 September 2016

Anniversary Cake: Blackberries & Cream Cheese


This post marks two milestones in my life:

1: At the end of August I celebrated one year in Birmingham. It's been full of new experiences, and I have been so much happier than in any living situation beforehand. I live alone, have made a bunch of new friends, run my own corner of Clandestine Cake Club and love the city I live in. The city is so vibrant and full of culture. I love that I can walk out of my flat and be in the city centre in a matter of minutes. One day I will dedicate a post to all the amazing independent food and drink around here.

Birmingham is such a sharp contrast to my previous home in rural Cambridgeshire. I struggled to break into the tight-knit groups of people living there; everyone knew everyone and, as an outsider, people were generally unwilling to let me in (though eventually I met my two best friends and everything then became easier). The landscape was so flat that you could see for miles, but after a while I realised that all there was to see was farmland, and that is not enough for me. I missed forest. I never thought a person could miss trees.

I really feel like I could settle here, which is why this anniversary is worth celebrating; I hope it is the first of many.


2: On 8th October, this blog will be five years old! I can't believe that I have continued this through a large chunk of my Chemistry MChem degree, moving house four times and relocating around the UK twice.

To you this might be a fun baking blog full of boozy and inventive recipes (or that's the general theme I've gone for), but to me it is both a recipe book and a place where I can look back and relive memories. I regularly refer to this site when baking a favourite cake, or when I make an icing I haven't made in a while, and I always enjoy reading through the post to see where I was in my life when I wrote it.

I admit, I have pared back on the recipes this year - a big drop, considering once I actually posted something at least once a week - but I still enjoy blogging when the mood strikes me. When a cake is blog worthy, you will still hear about it! Altogether, in my time running Cake Of The Week I have written 260 posts. My very first post, Flapjacks, even included a segment called "Don't Make My Mistakes!" - I still make mistakes. I am not a perfectionist; I would class my technique as more "slap-dash", so yes, mistakes happen. Learning how to cover them up, or avoid them in the future, is all part of the fun of baking. For me, baking has always been about doing my own thing and following only the basic rules to ensure that I still make what I am trying to make.


This Anniversary Cake was as much a scientific investigation as it was a celebration. I've noticed that the sour cream in my Chocolate Fudge Cake creates this delightfully fluffy sponge, and milk has never come close to producing the same texture. So, when I had the time and will to make a three layer cake, I did a bit of an experiment. I used the same base recipe for all three layers, but I used a different ingredient to wet each cake: whole milk, sour cream and Greek yoghurt. The results were incredible!


As you can see, the milk cake rose much less than the others. The Greek yoghurt cake rose well, but then collapsed into a more dense version of itself upon cooling. The stand out winner was the sour cream cake, which both rose well and held its shape as it cooled. This marks my conversion to using sour cream in every cake recipe from this point onwards, though I will stress that every cake was still delicious.

The cake is filled and decorated with fresh blackberries and French Cream Cheese Buttercream. Delicious, but oh so rich. Also, from a practical point of view, the cake layers were too tall and the cake may have fallen over when I walked out of the room. That's definitely not how I made the mess pictured below, I promise...


The take away point here is that this is a cake worth baking. I used 7" springform tins to make a standard cake batter stretch into three layers, but a standard two layer cake made from 9" tins will look just as sensational. Get yourself some edible glitter! It makes everything better! Adding 50mL tequila to the batter wouldn't go amiss either.

Ingredients

Cake
  • 200g Butter
  • 275g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 150mL Sour Cream
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 200g Blackberries
French Cream Cheese Buttercream
  • 250g Unsalted Butter (must be at room temperature)
  • 5 Egg Yolks
  • 90g Caster Sugar
  • 250g Cream Cheese

Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Line three 7" springform tins with baking parchment.
  • First, make the cake. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
  • Beat in the sour cream until well combined.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and fold in until well combined. The batter should have a soft dropping consistency. If not, add a little more sour cream at a time and stir well before checking again.
  • Bake in the oven for 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cakes to cool completely, then remove from their tins and discard the baking parchment.
  • Meanwhile, make the French Cream Cheese Buttercream. Put the egg yolks and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of boiling water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
  • Use a whisk to stir the yolks and sugar together until the sugar has almost completely dissolved into the yolk. 
  • Immediately transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk until the mixture is pale and has doubled in size.
  • Chop up the butter into small cubes, and whisk these cubes into the yolk mixture one at a time. Ensure that each cube has completely blended into the mixture before adding the next.
  • When all the butter has been added you should have a rich buttercream. Now whisk in the cream cheese until fully combined.
  • Decorate the cake by spreading a couple of spoonfuls of the buttercream over the top of a cake layer, then covering it with blackberries. Cover with the next layer and repeat. When the third layer is on top, cover the whole cake with the remaining buttercream and then decorate with the remaining blackberries.

3 July 2016

Raspberries & Cream Layer Cake

 

I love living in a city. Having lived in Birmingham for nearly 10 months, the novelty of having conveniences like a supermarket, clothes shops and a very cheap greengrocer less than a 5 minute walk from my house has not worn off. Don't get me started on the choice of bars and restaurants that are a short walk from New Street Station. If you've lived in a city for your whole life you might think this wide-eyed enthusiasm is close to insanity, but I spent my first 18 years living in the middle of nowhere, and later another two years in a dozy market town. Birmingham is awesome.

The raspberries for this cake were bought from the aforementioned greengrocer - 375g for £1 is a very good deal, in my opinion! I made the cake for a 'Summer' themed event at my local Clandestine Cake Club (which I also happen to run). I joined the club so I could meet new people, and though it has been hard to attract more than a handful of people to these events, I've made at least one friend through it so far. I would encourage anyone looking to meet new people to sign up to this club, as there are groups worldwide and it's a good excuse to bake and eat cake, not forgetting that it's completely free.

I know I haven't been around a lot this year... I have my reasons, but this does not mean that I'm giving up on Cake Of The Week; you might just hear a little less from me. If you miss me, you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook, where I am much more vocal. (I have over 1000 followers on Facebook now! Wow!! I am flabbergasted.)


Before we dive into the recipe, I'm going to level with you. To make the ombre finish on the side of the cake, I used freeze dried sour cherry powder instead of freeze dried raspberry powder. I know. But, the cherry powder is pretty old and the flavour was faded enough for it not to be obvious what I'd done when we sat down to eat the cake. And I didn't have any freeze dried raspberry powder. Though guys, I'm sure this cake could only be enhanced by matching the flavour profiles in the decoration. Do what feels right to you.

Ingredients

  • 200g Butter
  • 275g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 50mL Milk
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 600g Double Cream
  • 300g Raspberries
  • 2 Tbsp Freeze Dried Raspberry Powder
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a 8in springform tin with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and 200g of the sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
  • Beat in the milk until well combined.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and fold in until well combined. The batter should have a soft dropping consistency. If not, add a little more milk at a time and stir well before checking again.
  • Transfer the batter into the springform tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin before removing it. The next part is easiest if you first wrap the cake in cling film and freeze for four hours minimum; if you don't have time you'll be fine, but prepare for cake crumbs everywhere.
  • Next, divide the cake into three layers. This is easiest if you use a pallette knife and a cake turntable.
  • Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
  • Wash the raspberries and dry thoroughly before stirring into the remaining sugar, 
  • Use half the cream and all but a handful of the raspberries between the cake layers. Spread a dollop of cream over a cake layer, then cover with raspberries. Lay a cake layer on top and repeat.
  • Cover the entire cake in a thin layer of cake, filling gaps between the cake layers, in order to get rid of any loose crumbs that might ruin the presentation of the cake.
  • Take 1/3 the remaining cream and place in a separate bowl. Add the freeze dried raspberries and stir well. The cream should take on a pink hue. Feel free to add more.
  • Spread the pink cream around the bottom of the cake. Don't smooth it out yet.
  • Spread the remaining white cream over the top and top sides of the cake. Now smooth the cake over using a pallette knife, removing any excess. As you move the knife over the cream, the pink and white cream should naturally blend. 
  • Decorate with the remaining raspberries.

13 March 2016

Blackberry Cake 2.0


I always try to keep this blog as something that I do for fun, and not work. It's been quiet around here for about a month, basically because I haven't felt like sitting down to write. I want to keep this site for quality, not quantity of publications. However, when I start to worry about leaving Cake Of The Week alone for a month, I remember that when I read other baking blogs I don't necessarily notice an absence of posts (apart from those that go on for many months) until it's pointed out to me in a post like this...

Yesterday I had a completely empty diary, so I decided to check out Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It's set in this beautiful building from the 19th Century, right in the city centre. Coincidentally, the museum is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year, so there was a display about how the museum came to be. More surprising was the discovery that it was not just an art gallery, as I had assumed, but it has a whole section about the origins of Birmingham and life in the city from the 1700s. Did you know that Birmingham was once famous for its production of buttons and coins? It was fascinating, and there was so much to see that I couldn't even finish the display, let alone the rest of the museum. For the record, it looks like the museum also contains some historical artifacts. I look forward to seeing what those are!


This is Blackberry Cake 2.0 because I originally made another Blackberry Cake a few years ago. The difference is that here I used whole blackberries and French buttercream, whereas before I blended the blackberries into the batter and decorated the cake with Swiss meringue buttercream. Subtle differences that led to a noticeable difference in flavour and taste. I prefer to use French buttercream because it uses half as much fat, but either type is perfect for slathering onto cakes. They are also much less sweet than traditional buttercream, which is made with icing sugar and butter. Whole blackberries vs blended blackberries is just an aesthetic thing, really, so you can really do whatever you prefer here. Blackberry Cake 2.0 was a success at work, though maybe it's best eaten with a fork because the buttercream can get a bit messy if you use your hands!

A note on the blackberries: I used frozen blackberries, but fresh would work just as well, or perhaps even better. I tend to pick as many as I can when the fruit is in season and then freeze the majority for later use (mostly Blackberry & Apple Crumble, I won't lie). Frozen blackberries can now be found pretty commonly in larger supermarkets.


Ingredients

Sponge:
  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 500g Frozen Blackberries
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 50mL Milk

French Buttercream:
  • 250g Unsalted Butter
  • 5 Egg Yolks
  • 90g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • Purple Gel Food Colouring

Recipe

Sponge:
  • Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan and line two 9in cake tins with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
  • Stir in the milk, followed by the frozen blackberries.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and fold in until well combined.
  • Bake in the oven for 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
French Buttercream:
  • Heat a pan filled 2/3 with water until the water starts to simmer.
  • Place the sugar and egg yolks in a heat proof bowl over the pan, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  • Stir the mixture constantly with a fork/whisk until the sugar has fully dissolved in the yolks (use clean fingers to test; it won't be as hot as you think).
  • Immediately transfer the yolk mixture into a mixing bowl and whisk until it has doubled in size and is very pale.
  • Ensure that the butter is room temperature, then take a knob at a time and whisk it into the yolk mixture, ensuring it is fully incorporated before adding more. When all of the butter has been added, the buttercream should be smooth, pale and glossy.
  • Beat in the gel food colouring until you reach your desired shade of purple. Add a little at a time, because it can be hard to judge the intensity that the colouring will produce.
  • Sandwich the cakes together with 1/3 buttercream, then spread the remainder over the top and sides of the cake. To get the swirled pattern on top, I dotted some more gel food colouring onto a spatula and gently touched it on the centre of the top of the cake whilst rotating the cake with my other hand. It helps to have an icing turntable!
I apologise for the contrast in quality between the first photo and the others. One was taken in daylight, the other at night time. If you've ever taken pictures of food, you'll understand what a difference this makes!

7 February 2016

Banoffee Brownies


Sometimes I don't really know what I'm going to make until I turn the oven on. This time around, I'd had an idea for using a banana curd with dulce de leche, but wasn't really sure what the vessel would be. As I often do, I rolled the concept around in my head, temporarily landing on roulade, then Swiss roll, before eventually landing on brownies. Sometimes I just don't feel like making cake, or icing, or whatever. Today, brownies seemed like the best way to present these flavours.


The banana curd was something new for me. I asked around on Twitter for recipes and someone referred me to this one on Food.com. I tinkered with the recipe a bit (~ 400g sugar seems like way too much to add to four bananas), and was extremely happy with the result. If jam on toast is your thing, I highly recommend that you try this curd in it. It's better than mashed bananas because it's smoother, and you can store it for a time without it going brown.

These brownies are a definite winner. I topped them with a handful of pecans, but you can leave them out or use walnuts instead if you prefer. They add a nice crunch, contrasting nicely with the sweet and gooey brownies. Added bonus: they take very little time to prepare (after making the curd...) so they can absolutely be made on impulse as soon as you finish reading this post ;)


Before Christmas, the lovely people at Dotcomgiftshop listed Cake Of The Week as one of their 25 Brilliant Baking Blogs. Naturally, I was thrilled to about this! Not only was it flattering to read such a good summary of my blog, but also to be listed alongside some of the much more successful baking blogs in the UK. Dotcomgiftshop were also kind enough to send some vouchers to use on their products. My small flat has more than enough baking equipment, but I love their tableware selection. The bowl and plate in the photos in this post were purchased from Dotcomgiftshop using this voucher. I'll definitely be using this site in the future to find more stunning kitchenware.

Makes 18
Ingredients
Banana Curd (adapted from Food.com; N.B. makes about twice as much as needed):

  • 2 Very Ripe Bananas
  • 75g Butter
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks
Banoffee Brownies
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 375g Mayonnaise (switch for butter if you prefer)
  • 500g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Medium Eggs
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 375g Tin Caramel/Dulche De Leche
  • 20g Halved Pecans
Recipe

Banana Curd
  • Mash the bananas until there are no lumps, then transfer to a small saucepan.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, except for the egg yolks, and heat at a medium temperature for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring the egg yolks into the banana mixture.
  • Return to the heat and stir continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 
  • Pour into sterilised jars. The Banana Curd can now be stored at room temperature for at least two months. Store in the fridge once opened.
Banoffee Brownies
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line a 9"x18" tin (or 2 x 9"x9" tins, like me) with baking parchment. 
  • In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the chocolate over a low heat, then remove from the heat and stir into the mayonnaise.
  • Add the caster sugar, and stir until well combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until well mixed.
  • Stir in the flour until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the baking tin.
  • Dot teaspoonfuls of half of the banana curd and caramel/dulche de leche on top of the brownie mixture, then use a spatula or knife to swirl them through the mixture a bit.
  • Sprinkle the pecans over the top.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then for an additional five minutes at a time until the top of the brownie mixture doesn't wobble when you shake the tin. Don't cook it until a skewer comes out clean, as you would a cake, because then the desired gooey texture is lost. Remember that the brownies will continue to cook a bit after they are removed from the oven.


Disclaimer: I was given a gift voucher from Dotcomgiftshop with no obligation to feature their products on Cake Of The Week, nor to give a review of any kind. All opinions expressed on this blog are my own.