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This is Blackberry Cake 2.0 because I originally made another Blackberry Cake a few years ago.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.

23 January 2016

Hummingbird Cake [Low In Saturated Fat]


I turned 25 last week! Happy birthday to me. It was a fun day of shopping, watching The Hateful Eight and pizza with friends. In the UK and much of Europe, reaching quarter of a century in age means that I am officially no longer a Young Person, and therefore travel and other parts of life are about to get a bit more expensive. 24 was not such a bad age: I got a new job and moved to the city I had been hoping to live in, I went to Stockholm and I experienced my first hangover, to name but a few of the momentous events of the year. Here's to another good year, though I'd be happy if the hangovers could remain in the past ;)

This Hummingbird Cake is another example of baking with low levels of saturated fat and higher levels of unsaturated fats, which are widely believed to be better for you. This month I'm trying to bake healthier versions of my cakes; you can't stop me baking but I understand that the time of year calls for a little restraint on dessert. This cake is hence a compromise on that.

I used olive oil instead of butter, though to be fair Hummingbird cake traditionally uses oil anyway. The cake is packed with pecans, high in monounsaturated fat, and bananas and pineapple, which don't contain much fat at all and are generally pretty good for you! The icing is more of a cheesecake batter than traditional cream cheese icing. I find the icing sugar variety a bit too sweet, and this icing rounds the cake out nicely, though it's a little runny so I advise that you use it sparingly. I highly recommend it!


The cake recipe was copied directly from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, but I only used 1/3 the quantities because I wanted a smaller cake. I won't list their recipe for copyright reasons. The recipe below is for the icing, which can be used to decorate and fill a three layer cake, as in the the book, or you can use 1/3 the quantities below and make one layer like I did. If you don't have the cookbook mentioned above, here's a similar recipe from Jamie Oliver.

Cream Cheese Icing: Ingredients

  • 250g Philadelphia Cheese
  • 50g Butter
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Ground Cinnamon & Chopped Pecans to decorate


Cream Cheese Icing: Recipe
  • Cream the butter and philadelphia cheese together until smooth.
  • Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract until the sugar has dissolved.
  • The icing can be covered and refrigerated for several days until needed.
  • Drizzle over the cooled cake (use sparingly as it's quite runny), then pile the pecans into the middle of the cake and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

16 January 2016

Cherry & Pistachio Brownies [Low In Saturated Fat]


The media is full of conflicting arguments on what is and isn't good for us, and the facts behind them are not always black and white. For instance, I thought that all fats were bad until I started analysing foods for their fatty acid composition (saturates, monounsaturates or polyunsaturates) at work.

My boss had studied lipids for his masters degree, and could identify olive oil just by looking at the chromatogram we use to obtain results on its fat composition. From his imparted knowledge about what fats do in the body, I learned that not all fat is bad; saturates are essentially bad for you, whereas mono- and polyunsaturates are generally good for you. Of course it's possible to get too much of a good thing, but the latter two types of fat are the "good fats" you hear about in the media, for instance avocados are high in monounsaturates.

For more information about this topic, there's a great article all about fats over at Vox.


I am in no way professing to know all about the pros and cons of different types of fat, but the knowledge that I have gleaned has taught me that eating foods lower in saturates is no bad thing. Therefore, I thought that brownies low in saturates would be great for Cake Of The Week's Healthy(ish) January.

To achieve the "low in saturated fat" claim, I had to swap butter for olive oil. This was not the simple switch I thought it would be; it turns out that using the same quantity of oil left the original brownies swamped in excess oil, so much so that I had to dab them with paper towels! Appealing, I know. In my second attempt, I used this advice from Nigella.com and opted for 80% butter weight for the oil. As always, the recipe for the brownies is based on my Healthy Brownies. The end result was almost exactly like a normal brownie, but with a denser, less cakey, texture. The oil flavour was just detectable, but considering that oil gives baked goods different properties to butter, I am very pleased with this result. My colleagues were so impressed that they went back for seconds.


Ingredients

  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 250g Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 75g Cocoa Powder
  • 100g Pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 100g Glace Cherries, chopped
Recipe
  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line two 9" square cake tins (or one 18" tin) with baking parchment.
  • In a medium saucepan, break up the chocolate and add the oil. Melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then add the eggs. Use a spoon to break them up and ensure that they are well combined with the chocolate mixture.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the chocolate mixture and fold in. Stir until well combined.
  • Add the pistachios and glace cherries, stirring well to ensure they are evenly spread throughout the mixture.
  • Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check that the top of the mixture is firm, but a skewer should come out with a lot of semi-firm mixture on it still. The brownie will continue to firm up and cook as it cools. If the top is still wobbling, return to the oven for another few minutes before checking again, and so on.
  • Once the brownies are cool, slice up using a sharp knife (I got 18, but it really depends on how big or small you make them). Store in a cool, dry place.

1 January 2016

Introducing Healthy(ish) January


How was everybody's Christmas and New Year? I hope that you took a break, ate too much, and spent some quality time with friends and family. Don't even begin to feel guilty about all that indulgence; we had to stuff ourselves because it's (supposed to be) winter, and we need all that extra energy to stay warm. If I can convince myself, I can convince all of you.

I'm planning to take a step back from the brandy cream, wine and chocolate this month and share my healthy(ish) recipes with all of you. In 2015 Cake Of The Week ran a Low Fat January, so I plan to do something similar this year. The media seem a little confused with regards to which ingredient they should now be demonising, and I do not wish to be a part of the hype. A lot of the sensationalist headlines hold no merit, and could do with a little more background reading of reliable studies. In a nutshell, this January will be known as Healthy(ish) January here on the blog. "Ish" because, let's be honest, cake can never truly be classed as healthy, much as I would like it to be.

I spend a lot of weekends running between Birmingham and other parts of the country to socialise, and I do turn 25 this month, but I'm hoping to share at least a couple of healthy(ish) recipes with you before February!

For more on healthy(ish) baking, check out the corresponding tab above (or follow this link). There you'll find information on using low fat and other lower calorie ingredients, along with a list of recipes that I believe are healthier than your average bake.