Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Come to the Dark Side - Chocolate Chip Marble Cake


While I definitely hold the view that there can never be too many cupcakes in this world, this blog seems to be developing a cupcake habit (not that I'm particularly sorry for that). However, as the aim is to develop my baking, I thought I'd better turn my attention away from cupcakes, at least for a while.This Chocolate Chip Marble Cake fitted the bill perfectly. 

I found this gorgeous recipe on the lovely blog Piece of Cake by Shauna Once again, though, it marks the return of chocolate to my baking - sense another theme here? I've wanted to try marbling for a while, and the layer of fudgy, brownie-type chocolate running through the centre of this cake really got my mouth salivating. The recipe also marked me trying out a bundt - or ring - cake for the first time.

This cake is just lovely, and the smell generated in the house while it was baking was swoon-inducing. It even managed to get the boys out of their rooms and away from their X-boxes, so it must be good, right? Well, it is. Intensely chocolately in the dark layer, it tasted fantastic.

As this is an American recipe, I have played around with the quantities where I thought it was necessary  and tried to include measurements - for example on butter and flour etc. These are approximations based on the weight of the ingredients after I measured them out using cups.

The recipe includes the use of light corn syrup - this is becoming more widely available in the UK (I can buy it off the shelf at Wally's Deli or Howell's in Cardiff and you can get it on line). If you can't track any down, apparently you can substitute golden syrup.

2 1/2 cups caster sugar (1lb 4oz or 565g)
1/2 cup cocoa (2oz or 56g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 tspns vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups plain flour (10 1/2 oz or 390g)
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
1 cup unsalted softened butter (8oz or 225g)
4 large (US size) eggs
  • Note: US large size is between 57-64g, so is more equivalent to our medium sized eggs - I weighed mine, and used 4 eggs each around the 60g mark
1 cup milk at room temperature (8floz or 237ml)
1 cup chocolate chips (about 6oz or 180g)
  • Note: I used plain chocolate chips, Bouchard, which are about 55%

Preheat the oven to 155 fan / 175 conventional / Gas 4. Lightly grease and flour a 23cm (9") ringed cake tin.

Put 1/2 cup (4oz or 113g) of the sugar in a small saucepan with the cocoa, corn (or golden) syprup and 1/2 cup (4floz or 118ml) of hot water and whisk until mixed. Place over a low heat and bring to a simmer. Immediately remove from the heat, whisk in 1/2 tspn of the vanilla, and leave aside. You'll have a gorgeous chocolately syrup.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to mix and aerate.

Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Add the remaining vanilla.

Add in a third of the flour, and then half the milk. Continue like this until all added. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Place a third of the cake batter into a mixing bowl (I weighed mine to do this. I had 1648g of batter in total, so separated 550g into a bowl.) Add the cooled chocolate syrup to this third, and mix well. 

Pour a third of the vanilla batter into your cake tin.

Carefully pour the chocolate batter over this.

Finally, pour the remaining vanilla batter over the top. You can see that I did not have quite enough to cover the chocolate totally, but as it's going to be marbled, it's not a problem.

Carefully swirl a knife through the batter so that you end up with a marbled effect.

Bake until a skewer comes out clean (approx 75 minutes for me, but I started checking after 60 minutes).

Cool the cake in a pan on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. You can, as shown above, sprinkle with a little icing sugar.

If you can resist temptation, leave the texture and flavour to develop for a couple of hours before diving in. It's well worth the wait!


Thursday, 23 February 2012

How Do You Like Yours? Cupcakes for the Weekly Bake Off

There are occasional downsides to being the only female in the house. As much as I  probably am, by nature, a bit of a tomboy (alright, quite a lot), sometimes the testosterone is a bit much. There's the perennial toilet seat issue. The amount of sprinkling when tinkling that takes place. There's the fact I have resigned myself to never being the mother of the bride. And there is the absence of pink. Baby boys simply don't do pink. Teenage boys predominantly don't do pink either (unless it is a fairly bright shade in some super trendy t-shirt).

Now don't get me wrong. If I'm asked my favourite colour, it is unhesitatingly blue. But I must admit, whether it is mid-life crisis, or what, sometimes I find a bit of pink now creeping in. Whether it is the thinnest of thin pin stripe in an otherwise shades of blue and purple shirt, or some dusky rose lip tint, it is undeniably there.

So when Amy of Weekly Bake Off decided that this week's bake should be cupcakes, I knew where I was heading. Pink, swirly buttercream. And lots of it.

For those who don't know, Weekly Bake Off is Amy's challenge to bake her way through Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes. Each week she picks a different recipe. Having missed the last couple of weeks, I knew that I had to make time to do this week's cupcakes.

Now there are infinite varieties of cupcake flavours and even more ways to decorate them. I used loads of different glitters today, some natural violet sugar (made from violet petals) some silver dragrees, some funfetti, and some mini sugar coated chocolate sweets.

The recipe itself is super easy. Bung all the ingredients for the cakes into a bowl and mix. Similar with the frosting. I decided to add some pink colouring (one colour I have never used before). I used Wilton's Rose Paste Colour. Just a dab on a cocktail stick. Even then, the colour came out a bit more intense than I wanted. More of a Barbie pink than an elegant pale rose. Ah well. Learn by experience.  

The cakes themselves tasted great. The sponge was quite dense but moist. The buttercream seemed a little thick (piping showed this as it was difficult to get a nice peak to the swirls), but it tasted lovely. I didn't find it overly sweet as some recipes can be. Another Mary Berry winner.

However ... (prepare for mini rant here). I love cookbooks. I really do. They are staple bed-time (any time) reading for me. I'm lucky enough to own lots. And I mean lots (I get embarressed every time we have a visitor as it seems almost compulsory for them to comment on the wall of books that threatens to topple down on them. They tend to leave fairly quickly thereafter. Whether that's because they fear the obviously crazy, obsessed lady, or the fact that the wall might just detach from the house and crush them, I'm not sure).

Anywho, the point that I am slowly getting to is that having shelled out for these weighty tomes, and the not so weighty, and lovingly read them and looked after them, I hate it when I find something that leads me to question the author/editor/proof reader. I mean recipe wise. Whether it is clearly a typographical error which calls for 1500ml instead of 150ml, or a photo to accompany a recipe which shows a dish clearly made with different ingredients (I know you can argue that one, perhaps, as artistic license, but I like to see what the recipe that is included will look like. At least as a starter.) I start to worry about a lack of care. Or of more concern, have they actually tested this recipe?

On this occasion, I couldn't help notice the contrast between the measurements given for ingredients in metric and imperial. For example, Mary cites 100g/4oz of butter, but then 150g/5oz of self raising flour, and 150g/5oz of sugar. 50g does not equal one ounce. 100g does not even equal 4 ounces. (Commonly held that 1oz is equivalent to 28g). I appreciate metric conversion of imperial measures can give you odd amounts but I worry that, particularly in baking, the correct proportion of your ingredients is important.  Accuracy is important, so I've been told.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's a lack of experience on my part - after all, I'd love to be able to whip up the perfect batch of cupcakes by instinct alone, but at least at the moment I need a recipe as a starting point. I used the metric measurements on this occasion. I wonder if, if you use the imperial, you get the same results? It's probably just me worrying over nothing as, after all, the cupcakes as already noted tasted great. And the proof is in the pudding.

In this case, Mary's book costs a fantastically reasonable £4 (I got mine from my local Asda, but you can follow the link above to Amazon if you'd like to check it out). So I'm probably way over-reacting and so rant over. It's well worth it and I'd really recommend that you get a copy. :-)

I used the quantities given in the recipe. I found that I only got 10 cupcakes. I used the buttercream measurements, but as I have - clearly from the pics - been pretty generous with the frosting, only managed to fully cover seven cupcakes. I'd therefore adjust this accordingly next time. 

100g softened unsalted butter
150g self-raising flour
150g caster sugar
3 tbspn milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tspn vanilla extract

For the Buttercream
100g softened unsalted butter
225g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tspn vanilla extract

Mixing the mix ...
Scooping the batter ...
Naked cupcakes ...
Good to go.
E=MCsquared. Relativity of Cake to Buttercream.
Sorry, D'arcy. Guess you know what Mike's bringing in to work tomorrow. Cupcakes. Again. That's if there are any left ...



Monday, 20 February 2012

Perl Las Blue Cheese, Bacon and Spring Onion Buttermilk Scones

Perl Las is an award winning Welsh Blue Cheese produced by Caws Cenarth Cheese from organic cows milk. It's a beautiful creamy cheese, with its origins as a Caerphilly cheese, and which has delicate blue overtones which, while strong, are not overpowering. With St David's Day in mind, I fancied trying the Perl Las out in some savoury scone recipes.  After doing some research, nothing I found was quite right, so I decided to try and amalgamate some ideas to produce my own version.

Although I used Perl Las, you could use any blue cheese, but you will get a slightly different flavour. I decided I wanted to add some bacon, after all blue cheese and bacon hold a natural affinity. To freshen the taste, I also decided to use some chopped spring onion. The resulting scone tastes gorgeous; lovely and cheesy with the bacon giving a salty bite and a background hint of sweetness from the sugar. If there was anything I'd consider adding, it might be to add in some ground black pepper. However, Mike thought they were fab as is (although he did take a sample of four scones before he made up his mind ;-) ). We also tried them spread with a little cranberry and red onion marmalade - all I can say is wow! Well worth it.

 Ingredients (makes 10)

225g plain flour
80g sugar
1 tbspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
85g cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
120ml buttermilk
175g Perl Las cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions, chopped
4 rashers good streaky bacon, cooked till crisp then drained and crumbled

a beaten egg to glaze the scones before cooking

Preheat the oven to 180 fan / 200 conventional.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Rub in the cold butter until the butter resembles lumps no bigger than small peas and is well distributed throughout the flour. (I used my KitchenAid to do this, using the flat beater for about 3-4 minutes).

Add the sugar, cheese, bacon and spring onions. Mix through.

Add the egg and the buttermilk and mix to form a soft and sticky dough - do not overwork.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly to bring together. Pat out to a depth of 1/2 inch. Cut out scones and place on a baking sheet (I use one with a silicone liner). Brush with a little beaten egg,

Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 - 15 minutes till risen and golden.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.

These are lovely still warm from the oven with a bit of relish or chutney.

The flavour develops as they cool, but as with all scones, they are best eaten on the day they are made. I hope you like them.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

St David's Day Welsh Honey Cupcakes with Lemon Mascarpone Buttercream - Tiesen Mel

For those who don't know, St David's Day, on 1 March, is the national day of Wales. I've wanted to explore some traditional Welsh recipes for some time, but wanted to avoid the usual Welshcakes and Bara Brith ('speckled bread' - a fruit tea loaf). Traditionally, Tiesen Mel (honey cake) is made with cinnamon but as Mike doesn't like this, and my first batch therefore didn't get approval, I decided to play around and instead used vanilla. As I love making cupcakes, I also decided to make small versions and frost them, so in order to counteract what I anticipated would possibly be an overly sweet cake, I decided to use a lemon mascarpone buttercream (which in itself turned out perhaps a little sweeter than ideal). The result - Welsh Honey Cupcakes with Lemon Mascarpone Buttercream.

The cakes turned out fairly moist, almost fudgy, with a slightly toffee note where the sugar (I used soft light brown) and honey caramelised on the top. I really liked this contrast in textures, but Mike wasn't sure. We still thought they tasted nice.

Anyway, the inspiration for these was taken from a number of different recipes. I played around with the ingredients and measurements, so as much as anything, I think they probably are the first recipe I've developed myself. I hope you like them.

Ingredients (makes 12)

125g soft light brown sugar
125g softened unsalted butter
1 large egg
250g flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
90ml buttermilk
80g clear honey
1 tspn vanilla bean paste (or extract)

For the frosting
100g softened unsalted butter
100g mascarpone
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tspn lemon extract (I used Sainsbury's Sicilian Lemon extract)

Preheat the oven to 160 fan / 180 conventional. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well.

Place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk gently to mix and aerate.

Add in thirds to the butter and sugar mix, and alternate with the buttermilk in thirds. You will get a fairly loose batter.

Add the honey and vanilla and mix till incorporated.

Scoop into the cupcake cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then place on a wire rack to continue cooling.

Make the frosting by creaming together the butter and mascarpone, then add the sifted icing sugar to get the consistency you like. Add the lemon extract (you could simply use lemon juice). Use the frosting and decorate how you like.

These Welsh Honey Cupcakes are just perfect with an afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentine's Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know I posted a few Valentine's recipes a few weeks ago, but there was one more I wanted to try. These Red Velvet Cupcakes were inspired by the success of my Blue Velvet version a few weeks back, and by a decorating idea for 'sweetheart' cutouts I found on the wonderful blog by Audra, the Baker Chick. 

I used the recipe from the Blue Velvet version, although obviously changed the food colouring used.  I first tried Wilton's Red Red (1 1/2 tspns) but this seemed a bit orangy, so I added some Sugarflair Poppy Red (1 tspn) and a small dab of Wilton Violet to deepen the colour. I think it worked really well.This means that my US Cake Flour  also made another appearance. I can't tell you how pleased I am at how they have turned out. They are incredibly tender and the cream cheese frosting is fast becoming my favourite of the moment.

Using a Wilton 1M icing tip, I couldn't believe how easy it was to create this lovely rose swirl effect (piping is a fairly new area to me). I then left some plain, and decorated the others three different ways.

The simplest was just adding some sparkle by way of edible glitter.

Then I tried slicing off the top of the cupcake and using a heart cutter to make a cutout, then piping a rose swirl and reaffiixing the top so that the rose effect peeks through:

For the final one, I then took some of the heart cutouts and used them as toppers:

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 11 - 12 depending on if you can eke out the filling)

1 cup caster sugar
4oz/113g softened unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 tbspn cocoa
1/2 tbspn Wilton Red Red food colouring
1/2 tspn Sugarflair Poppy Red food colouring
dab Wilton Violet food colouring
1 1/4 cup US Cake Flour
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tspn white vinegar

For the frosting:
4oz/113g cream cheese at room temperature
2oz/56g softened unsalted butter
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 155 fan / 175 conventional. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix.

Mix the cocoa and food colourings to form a paste and add this to the bowl.

Mix well.

Sift the flour and salt together, and add this to the mix in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the vanilla.

In a small bowl, mix the bicarbonate of soda with the vinegar and then add that to the mixture.

Scoop into the prepared pan, so that each cupcake case is no more than two thirds full.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Make the frosting by beating the butter and cream cheese together, then add the vanilla and icing sugar. Beat well until smooth and creamy.

To make the cut out hearts, slice off the top of a cupcake, using a serrated knife and the top of the cupcake case as a guide. Place the top, top side down on a cutting board, and using a heart shaped cutter, stamp out the middle.

Pipe a swirl of frosting (or spread on the cupcake), then replace the top.

You can of course decorate any way you like:

As I said, I'm really pleased with them. At least they will make for a less dramatic Valentine's for Mike than last year, when I gave him the news that our third son was on the way.

Happy Valentine's Day 2012,