Tag Archives: Cake

A Fine Farewell, or Chocolate Cake for Many Celebrations

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Don’t worry, today’s post is not one in the gourmet camping series! Although it is probably possible, cooking a light and airy cake over a barbecue is well beyond my ken!

I made this cake for a leaving party for a friend from work. Knowing that I would be away at Easter, I have kept this post for now to share. It was a fitting farewell cake, but you can easily dress this with buttercream and mini eggs to make a lovely cake for Easter, or any springtide celebration.

This cake also made the most of some extra buttermilk I had in the fridge, after making pancakes. I don’t use buttermilk much, so it would have gone to waste, but actually, this makes for a lovely moist cake, but that isn’t too sweet. Despite the amount of desserts and custards I have posted on ediblethings, I don’t have a sweet tooth. I prefer fruity desserts over chocolate ones, but there are times when only a chocolate cake will do. And if you are like me, then this is the chocolate cake for you.

I am also not the biggest fan of buttercream, so I used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to decorate the cake. In the Netherlands, they have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, or lunch on bread,  but they are just as good on a cake.

If you wanted to indulge a bit more, you could make a chocolate ganache, adorn the cake with jelly orange and lemon slices (the kind that always appear at Christmas), or even make your own chocolate truffles, and chocolate shavings to go over the ganache.

If you prefer fruit, make the ganache, or a chocolate buttercream and then cover the cake in raspberries or cherries. It’s your celebration, after all!

However you choose to decorate it, this is the perfect celebration cake. And what better way to celebrate anything at springtime than with chocolate? So, I am sending a very Happy Easter, and all other spring and rebirth festivals to you all!

Recipe: Chocolate Celebration Cake

This recipe is enough for two cakes to use as a sandwich. Of course, you can halve the recipe if you only want one tier, but that isn’t too celebratory, is it now?

Ingredients

For the cakes:
250 g butter
400 g plain flour
100 g cocoa
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g raw sugar or 420 g caster sugar
450 ml buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

To make the sandwich:
2 tbsp of fruit preserve – I used pink grapefruit curd, but a jam would work as well
250 ml double cream, whipped until stiff
Chocolate sprinkles to cover

Method

Grease two 20 cm cake tins. For some reason, my two allegedly 20 cm cake tins are 19 and 21 cm respectively, which goes to show you that you should buy your cake tins as pairs from the same place, but never mind. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper. If you only have shallow tins, line the sides, and allow the paper to extend a fair bit over the tin. These cakes rise quite a lot.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool.

The only time you will hear me extolling the virtues of sifting anything is when cocoa is involved. Obviously, this is one of those times. While you are at it, bung the flour and bicarb through the seive too. Make sure they ennd up in your largest mixing bowl.

Add the sugar to the mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Make a small well in the floury stuff in the bowl.

Combine the melted butter, buttermilk, beaten egg, and the vanilla in a measuring jug. Pour this into the well you just made, and whisk in with an electric hand whisk, until the batter is creamy and smooth.

Divide the batter between the two cake tins and put them in the oven for 45 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. You may need to swap the two cakes on their respective shelves with about 10 minutes cooking time left, to ensure even cooking.

Remove from the oven and leave aside in the tins until it won’t completely burn you when you handle it. Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cold, place one cake flat side up on a serving plate, and spread over the preserve evenly. Cover this with a third of the cream, the sandwich the two cakes together, flat side to flat side.

Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream, and then sprinkle over the sprinkles.

Best served to celebrate – even the fact that it is Saturday.

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Gluten Free Cake

Lemon Torte

A Vote of Thanks

Like many people, I am fortunate enough not to have food allergies, so my cooking can revolve around whatever I fancy, and usually does. So, it is not often that you will see foods for restricted diets on these pages. However, I am also very careful to ensure that I cater for friends who are restricted in what they eat either by choice or for health reasons, and that when I do make special food that it has as much flavour as possible. I want people to feel that they have feasted rather than been subjected to bland food made with little imagination.

This cake is great for people who cannot eat gluten, as it is made entirely from ground almonds and egg. I have a couple of friends for whom this cake, or a variation of it, gets made regularly.

I always use whole almonds, and grind them up myself in my food processor. That way, you can make the meal as fine or as rustic as you like. I usually leave the skins on the almonds, because it does add to the flavour, and I like it that way.

Most recently, I made this cake for a friend of my Mum’s. They met in a maternity ward when they were having their eldest offspring (me, in Mum’s case), so I guess that you could say that I have known her for my whole life. She recently did me a huge favour, by taking up a bridesmaid’s dress that I am to wear at my Sister’s forthcoming wedding, and I wanted a way to thank her.

She has a restricted diet, and cannot eat flour, sugar, chocolate, or too much fibre. I know that she loves sweet things, however, and I thought that this would be the ideal cake for her needs. And what better way to say thank you than to show someone that you have thought of them?

In some ways this is a tried and tested recipe, but I needed to use a sweetener, and reduce the amount I used. I also removed the almond skins, by soaking them in boiling water, and popping them out of their skins once the water had cooled enough for me to put a hand in.

I was pleased with the result, and I thought that I would share this recipe with you, in case you want to bake something thoughtful for a friend with similar restrictions. After all dietary restrictions should not mean repetitive and restrictive diets.

Mum even liked this cake, despite not liking almonds. Mum’s friend was delighted with both the thought and the flavour.

Update: My friend tried this cake with ground almonds, and has pointed out that the amount needs adjusting for the much finer variety. I have reflected this in the ingredients list. Thanks to Julie for giving me some valuable feedback on my recipe, and for testing a new amount.

Recipe: Lemon Torte

Ingredients

300 g whole almonds (or 100 g ground almonds, if using them)

4 eggs, separated

100 g sugar substitute. I used Half Spoon by Tate and Lyle, which does contain some glucose, you may need a different one.

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp sugar substitute

Method:

Heat the oven to 160°C.

Line a 20 cm spring form cake tin with baking paper. You don’t need to line the sides if you don’t want to, but make sure you grease them if you don’t choose to line them. You should line the base, or you will have to serve it on the metal tin base, which isn’t a good look

Remove the almond skins, by soaking them in boiling water. Once the water is cool enough to get your hand in, they should pop out of their skins easily if you apply a little squeeze. Or you can buy blanched almonds, and skip this step altogether.

I personally prefer the cake to have a bit of texture, so I grind up the almonds myself by pulsing them in a food processor, until they are a coarse meal. You can also buy ground almonds, which are much finer. Use these if you like.

Beat together the egg yolks, lemon zest and the sugar substitute until pale and creamy. Add the ground up almonds, cinnamon and ginger and mix in well.

In a clean bowl, whisk up the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Add a couple of tablespoons of the egg white to the almond and egg mix, and stir in well. This will loosen the nut mix slightly, so that you can add the egg white next, fold it gently in with a metal spoon, and not lose all of the air that you have painstakingly just whipped into it.

As soon as there are no streaks of egg white left, pour the cake batter into the tin, and bake it in the centre of the warm oven for about an hour.

The cake is done when a skewer poked into its centre comes out clean. Leave it to cool in the tin.

While the torte is still warm, make a sugar syrup by dissolving a tablespoon of sugar substitute into the zest and juice of a lemon, over a low heat. Pierce the cake in several places with the same skewer you used to test it, and then pour the syrup over the whole cake. The holes you have just made will help it to soak in.

Serve on its own, or with a little natural yoghurt. And always with a lot of thanks.

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Birthday Brownies

Choc and Orange Brownie

A Birthday Treat

The other day was the Big Guy’s birthday. He loves chocolate, and I had some extraordinarily good chocolate with orange pieces that was given to me by my Foodie Penpal. I had been saving that chocolate for a special occasion, and what better than to make a birthday cake?

JD Gross Premium Equador Chocolate

Fit for a Birthday Brownie

I decided that a Brownie would be right up the Big Guy’s street. And that I would use the extraordinarily good chocolate as the chocolate chips inside. I used JD Gross Finest Chocolate Ecuador. It has very good candied orange in it, the pieces are still chewy, and spike the chocolate throughout. I boosted the orangey hit with a tablespoon of marmalade, but you can just use the marmalade if you can’t find the chocolate. Or you could use some chopped candied peel, if you prefer.

The first and last recipe for making brownies that I learned came originally from Nigel Slater. I just adjust the things I add, but always use this method and it has never let me down. If you make this you will understand why I go back to it time after time.

Recipe: Chocolate Orange Brownies

Ingredients

200 g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces

300 g golden, unrefined sugar

250 g butter

3 large eggs, beaten

1 tbsp marmalade

60 g plain Flour

60 g cocoa powder

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

100 g JD Gross Finest chocolate, very roughly chopped

100 g almonds, roughly chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a tin with baking paper. I use my roasting tray for this, and it is the perfect size. A largish square cake tin will also be fine.

Make a bain marie from a saucepan, with a little boiling water in the base (not more than 3 cm deep) and a bowl over the top. Don’t let the water touch the bowl. On a low heat, melt the chocolate in the bain marie. Don’t stir it too much, just let it sit, or you risk it going grainy. If there are floaty lumps of chocolate , just push them under the molten bits, and they’ll soon melt.

While the chocolate melts, start beating the butter and sugar together. I have a hand-held electric whisk. The butter & sugar must be softer than a gentle whisper, so I’d recommend this as a minimum, unless you are Geoff Capes.

What the butter & Sugar should look like for the birthday brownie

Pale and interesting

Keep going until the butter and sugar is almost as pale as consumptive Victorian. Please don’t skimp, because you are incorporating air, and it will help produce the most amazing consistency when you eat it later.

As soon as the chocolate has melted, add the marmalade. Once this has just melted, remove the bowl from the bain marie and leave it aside to cool a little.

If your butter and sugar is not quite ready, go back and whisk it some more. You need it to be almost runny, but not actually runny, there won’t be a lot of air in that, but trust me, you’ll know because it gets very creamy.

Sieve together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. This is also supposed to incorporate air, but I often don’t bother with just flour. I have never tested this, by baking one with and one without sifting, but I also don’t get flat cakes, either. However, when cocoa is involved, I always sift it, because cocoa can get a bit lumpy, and it will make your cake feel gritty, until you bit through a lump and get raw cocoa in your mouth.

Incorporate the beaten egg into the butter and sugar, a little at a time. Make sure that it is well mixed before adding more. You can also increase the speed at which you beat each time you add some egg.

Fold in the melted chocolate, chopped chocolate and nuts, using a metal spoon. You don’t want to knock all the air you took ages adding, so only mix until the moment there is no more pale butter streaks.

Fold in the flour and cocoa, and again, only mix until you see no more flour. Be gentle, this is time spent with your cake batter, not a sprint race.

Pour your batter into the prepared cake tin, and use a spatula to get the sticky bits from the bowl. Or if it is your Big Guy’s birthday, you can also let him take the rest of it with a spoon, or his finger.

Smooth the top of the batter in the tin, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. The cake will sink slightly in the middle, this is perfectly acceptable (I’m not Mary Berry), and is because of the rich, gooey consistency.

Pierce the centre of the brownies with a skewer. In this recipe, unlike many cakes, you want the skewer to be a bit sticky. It should not have any raw cake mixture on it though. Again, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the difference is obvious. If it is not quite done, bung it back in the oven, but beware that the difference between raw cake mix and sticky is small, so it should take less than 5 minutes, check it after 3.

If you are going to eat this warm, and it really is tempting, leave at least an hour after it comes out of the oven, or it will be too liquid. These brownies solidify a bit as they cool. Divide them into 12 brownies after the hour.

Rich Choc & Orange Brownies

Everything a Good Brownie Should Be

The brownies are gooey and rich as a warm dessert, for sure. But they really are very, very good served cold, because they have that perfect combination of the crisp shell and rich, soft centre, studded with the nuts and chunks of that extraordinary chocolate.

Eat them on their own, if you must, but they are better with cream or a good vanilla ice cream.

These brownies also keep well in an airtight container, and remain moist and fudgey.

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Cold Comfort Cake

Coffee & Walnut Cake

Comfort and Cure

I used to eschew sponge cakes. I have never been particularly interested in making a classic Victoria sponge; the iced party versions take too much time and artistic talent; and I don’t have a lot of patience for the imbalance of cupcakes. If I am to offer a dessert, I prefer to go for a nice tart, or something that requires custard.

I know a lot of my friends would disagree with me. And I recognise that the popularity of the cake is on the rise, judging by the plethora of baking shows, those about outlandishly decorated 6 feet tall cakes, and cupcakes there seems to be on the TV, these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Great British Bake Off almost as much as Mel Geidroyc, but there is an awful lot of baking going on our screens, of varying quality and value.

However, last weekend, the weather took a real turn for the colder. This is the time of year when I long to curl up in the living room with a cup of tea, and a nice slice of cake. The fact that I had a little bit of a hangover after catching up with a few friends on Friday had nothing at all to do with it…

So, after a little indecision, and a rootle around the cupboard to see what I could make without actually having to go to the shops (and a little discussion with the Big Guy to see if he would be prepared to go, which ended in a compromise – not a massive shop, but he would go out for some mascarpone!), I came up trumps with a bag of walnuts. That pretty much settled it – coffee and walnut cake it was then. With a mascarpone glaze; given that I am not too keen on buttercream, and felt it would have been too much for me that day (which had everything to do with my Friday night).

The cake that I made (as pictured) was a little bigger than I had anticipated, because I totally forgot that the amount of cake mixture that I give in the recipe is supposed to be split between two cake tins, and I didn’t want to cut it in half when it came out of the oven, fearing that my hand was not the steadiest. So I made another cake of the same size. I have 25 cm cake tins, this baby was huge! It also meant that the mascarpone glaze was not as generous as it should have been, so don’t do this. The base also got a little bit more coffee in it than the top, so they are sightly different shades.

Don’t worry though, the amount given below is for one normal-sized cake, not a giant one like this one.

Despite all this, what you get is a lovely moist cake, but with all the lightness of a sponge. Brilliant comfort when the weather draws in, and also a great hangover cure. Take one slice in the evening with a big mug of tea.

Recipe: Coffee and Walnut Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

175 g caster sugar – I used raw cane sugar, to give it a depth of colour and flavour

175 g softened butter (i.e. not from straight out of the fridge, bring it up to room temperature

175 g self raising flour

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp coffee granules  in 1 tbsp warm water  (or 1 tbsp warm, strong espresso if you don’t have instant)

2 x 20 cm cake tins – you’ll need a removable base on each. I have spring-form tins, which is better, but use what you have

60 g chopped walnuts

For the glaze:

250 g Mascarpone

70 g icing sugar

1 tsp coffee granules in 1 tbsp warm water (or another tbsp warm, strong espresso)

Some more chopped walnuts. Or you can keep them whole and decorate the cake with them, but I am not hugely keen on big lumps of walnuts. I had about 8 walnuts left, so I used them, but the amount is up to your individual taste

Method

Firstly, line the base of your cake tins with some greaseproof paper. Cut it to size, unless you like the wrinkled cake look. I also then greased and floured the sides of my tins. I do this because my mum always did, and it is ingrained in my psyche, although I think that it is probably unnecessary in this non-stick age. You will be really glad of the greaseproof when it comes time to turn the cake out, however.

Heat your oven to 180°C

Beat the sugar and butter together until it has gone a very pale colour. Don’t scrimp on this stage, it helps with the final lightness of the cake. It is best done  with a food mixer, or an electric hand blender if you have one. It is possible with a wooden spoon, but you will end up looking like Brian Shaw, which is a good look if you like very muscular men. It will also take you ages. I had neither the time nor the patience for this on Saturday.

Once you have a nice pale butter and sugar mixture, add the eggs. I usually add a little of the flour with each egg and make sure that I have mixed it in well before adding the next egg. Don’t add all the eggs at once, or the batter may split. They always say this in cookbooks and on the TV. I am not sure what you should do if the batter does split, because it has never happened to me, but I assume that it will affect the rise and texture. I also have no idea if you can salvage it.

Once all of the egg is added, fold in the rest of the flour, and the baking powder. Be careful not to overwork it, or the cake won’t rise as much, but also make sure that there are no seams of flour that haven’t been mixed in.

Add the coffee solution and continue to fold until the batter has an even coffee colour, then stir in the walnuts. This should take about 15 minutes in total, unless you are going for the bodybuilder look. Divide the cake between the two tins, and put them into the oven for about 25 minutes, but check them after 20. If a thin item like a small-bladed knife comes out of the centre clean, then they are done. If it looks sticky, they need a few more minutes.

Tip them out of their tins, remove the greaseproof paper, and leave them to cool on a cooling rack, flat side down.

Make up the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients together until they are all thoroughly combined. You will need to chop the walnuts fairly fine before you add them. Don’t refrigerate this, because it will be too hard to spread later.

When the cake has cooled down completely, you can ice it. If you do it while the cake is still warm, it will melt, and will be difficult to work with.

If you are using a flat surface to serve the cake, you will need to cut the arc of one of the cakes off, to allow it to lie flat on the board, and for the other cake to lie flat on it. I was being lazy, and I have plates that have roughly the same curve as one of my cakes in any case. I just flipped it over, laid the arc side down on the plate, and worked with the flat side for my icing. If the bottom cake wobbles, cut it flat anyway.

Use about a third of the glaze to spread over your bottom cake. Get it in as even a layer as you can. Place the second cake on top of this, flat side down. Then glaze the top and as much of the sides of the cake as you can with the rest of the mascarpone mixture.You can decorate it with walnuts if you are that way inclined.

Then you will need to get the kettle on for that tea!

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Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

Sticky Gingerbread

Old fashioned gingerbread – sticky, not crunchy

On Friday, we had our annual mince pie and mulled wine party. I have been so busy baking for this that I have not had much time to write these recipes up, nor to publish the older posts. I managed to wipe out all of the photos, and have not taken good records, so it is a little time-consuming to go back through all my archives and find the right pictures. I also had an international Christmas dinner for other friends yesterday. I have a lot to write up.   They will all be up soon, I’m  sure!

This year, I decided to try to make some other nibbles from English and Dutch traditions, most of which will appear here in the next few days.

I wanted to make gingerbread, the old-fashioned kind that is dense and soft – not biscuity, like the sort that you make gingerbread men with.

The basic idea is that you make a syrupy sponge, and then let it sit for a couple of days, so that it acquires the dense, sticky texture that I desired.

Of course, you can’t decorate them like you can with gingerbread men, but since this was an adult party, then I don’t suppose any of my guests minded.

I have been making this recipe for years, but there are many very similar ones that I have seen in cook books.

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread

Ingredients

280 g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

170 g softened unsalted butter. I use the pat of butter that I keep in a butter dish out of the fridge

90 g lichte basterdsuiker, or soft brown sugar

220 g golden syrup. I get this from home, but if you are in the Netherlands, and cannot get golden syrup, then I am pretty sure the stroop that you can buy to eat with pancakes will be fine instead.

1 egg

200 ml milk

4 balls of preserved stem ginger

2-3 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger jar)

Method

Set your oven to 180°C

Mix the dry ingredients together. I don’t often bother to sieve ingredients when baking, although many recipes will call for it. It has never really affected anything that I bake. If you are in the sieving camp, then do so by all means.

In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together. I used an electric hand whisk, but if you have Popeye arms (or would like them) then a wooden spoon will do just as well. The mixture needs to be fluffy and several shades lighter than when you started.

Beat in the golden syrup, and the ginger syrup until it is thoroughly combined. When trying to get the golden syrup out of the tin, use a hot spoon (just hold it in hot water for a few seconds), if you don’t want to spend way too long waiting as the syrup drips sloooooowly from your spoon to the mixture below. If you are using stroop, then this is a little runnier than golden syrup, and comes in a handy squeezy bottle, so you shouldn’t have this problem.

Add the egg, and a tablespoonful of the flour mix (which should stop the batter from separating) and beat until it is all well combined.

Mix the flour in really well, then beat in the milk. You should get a really thick batter.

Finely chop the ginger, and stir it through the batter.

Pour into a square cake tin, about 20cm across. the bottom must be lined with greaseproof paper, and the sides well buttered (or brushed with oil). If you only have a round one, this is also fine, but I like to serve flat slices, for aesthetic purposes.

Because I hate waste, and don’t have children, I use a spatula to ensure that I get all of the batter into the tin, and scrape the bowl and the remains off the whisk. I did allow myself a tiny bit from the spatula after I had as much in the tin as I could physically get. It was a good job I waited too, the golden syrup makes this batter as moreish as crack.

Bake it in the oven for about 40 mins, or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Leave it in the tin until it is cool enough to handle, then put it on a wire cooling rack.

You can eat it like this, when it is spongy and cakey. Better still, wrap it in greasproof paper and store it in an airtight container for 4-5 days, whereupon it will be sticky and dark and lovely. This is really good with a nice, proper cup of tea. People who enjoy Pickwick need not apply!

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