Thursday, 28 March 2013

Mocha Meringue Cake

I've been a late convert to the joys of coffee.

As a child raised in a tea-drinking household, there was a brute strength to the flavour that I just didn't get. And while as an adult I love my daily, frothy capuccino, even now I gingerly dip my toe in anything stronger.

But I do love a good coffee cake. And this is a great coffee cake.

It's a soft mocha sponge with coffee buttercream, and with a coffee meringue topping and a coffee icing drizzle.

Between the coffee and the sugar rush, it's a real pick-me-up.

I've adapted the recipe from one I found in the BBC Good Food magazine some years ago. Entered into a baking competition by a reader it came in third. Personally, I think that may have been a bit of an injustice. It looked gorgeous. You can find the original recipe here

I've thought about that cake for a long time, but never got around to making it. Today was the day, and I decided to mix it up a bit and temper the coffee with some chocolate.

Mocha Meringue Cake

Ingredients (makes one 20cm / 8 inch cake)

175g softened unsalted butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
175g self raising flour
1 tbspn cocoa powder
1 tspn baking powder
3 tspn instant coffee

For the Meringue
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

For the filling
100g softened unsalted butter
150g icing sugar

For the drizzle icing
3 tbspn icing sugar
Few drops water, if needed

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease and baseline two 20cm / 8 inch loose bottomed cake tins.

In a small jug, mix the coffe granules with 3 tbspns boiling water and allow to cool. You'll use this in all components of the cake.

Make the meringue topping first. Using an electric handwhisk, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Add half of the caster sugar and whisk in. Add the rest and whisk until you have stiff peaks. Gently fold in 1 tspn of the coffee mixture. Set aside while you make the sponge mix.

For the sponge, beat together the butter and sugar until they are pale and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add the eggs and mix in. Add  2 tspns of the coffee liquid. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the bowl, and mix in. Diivide the batter betwen the two tins, with slightly more in one tin than the other. Level the surface with a spatula.

For the tin with the lesser amount of batter, gently top with the meringue and spread roughly over the surface of the batter.

Place both tins in the center of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the sponge tin comes out clean. Remove the tin with only the sponge mix and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the tin with the meringue mix in the oven for a further 20 minutes. The meringue will be crispy. Remove from the oven and place the tin on the wire rack.

To make the buttercream filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together and add 2 tspns of the coffee liquid. Mix well.

To make the coffee drizzle, mix the icing sugar with 1 tspn of the coffee, adding a little water , if necessary, to get a thickish, but drizzly icing.

Carefully turn the cakes out of the pans. With the meringue layer,  as you can't turn it upside down, it's easiest to push the bottom of the pan gently, until you can push the cake out and peel off the greaseproof paper.  

To assemble the cake, place the sponge on your cake plate and spread the buttercream filling over. Smooth to the edge and level. Carefully place the meringue layer on top. Dizzle the icing over the top.

If you can wait, and allow it all to set a little bit, it'll be worth it.



Saturday, 23 March 2013

Lemon and Blueberry Crunch Muffins

There is something about a muffin.
That fluffy, soft interior with a slightly crunchy top.
They're a bit of rough ...
They don't need the spangly bling of a cupcake.
They stand on their own and say 'I am what I am' (cue Gloria Gaynor).

And these? 'Lemon again?' I hear you say.


And this time with Blueberries, too!

Definitely the ace.

 These muffins are a lovely little treat, full of lemony flavour and bursting berries. With a crunchy topping of demerara sugar. Easy to whip up, your taste buds will thank you for them.
They are best eaten on the day you make them though, or you'll still get the flavour but the crunch will have softened.

Lemon Blueberry Crunch Muffins

Ingredients (makes 12)

60g softened unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
1 lemon (washed if waxed)
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
275g self-raising flour
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
125ml buttermilk
200g fresh blueberries
a little demerera sugar to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 180 Fan / 200 conventional / 400 F / Gas 6. Line a muffin tray with paper liners.
Put the butter, caster sugar and grated zest from the lemon into the bowl of a stand mixer (try to avoid the white pith on the lemon). Using the paddle attachment, beat for a few minutes until the butter and sugar is pale and fluffy.

Add a little beaten egg and then mix well. Continue, a little at a time, until all the egg is incorporated. Sift the flour and bicarb into the bowl and mix in.

Stir one tablespoon of juice from the lemon into the buttermilk. Gently fold into the mixture, then gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, and then sprinkle with a little demerara sugar (in hindsight I was a bit stingy with mine, so I'd use a little more than is shown in the photo).

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. To test them, insert a skewer into a muffin in the centre of the tray and see if it comes out clean (if it does, they're done).



* Recipe adapted from GBBO's 'Learn to Bake'

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Ruby Orange Syrup Cake

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I absolutely love lemon cakes. They've featured in quite a few of my posts in some way. I love lime and orange in baking, too, but tend to go back to similar recipes again and again ie lemon. So I'm always quite taken when I see something that speaks to this lesser used citrussy corner of my baking mojo, and in a new way.  

A little while ago, I saw a post that caught my eye due to the use of blood oranges and the method used for making the cake. In an unashamed 'nod' to one of my favourite baking blogs, the cake in this post was inspired by the Caked Crusader's Middle Eastern Blood Orange Cake. CC based her version on a Claudia Roden recipe, and it included simmering the oranges before making a puree out of them. I've heard of that method before, but didn't get adventurous enough to try it on this occasion.  

But I have been thinking recently a lot of lemon drizzle cakes, too. Thoughts of voluptuous sponge with that sharp crackling of lemon infused sugar topping had me swooning. I even got as far as looking for a new recipe to try, and ventured into the Primrose Bakery Book to try their lemon drizzle loaf. Sadly, and feeling almost as deflated as my finished cake (which had sunk in the middle) it didn't work for me. I don't know why. I've seen other blogs where it's been a triumph of lemony goodness. So maybe it was me.
But then I saw these Ruby Oranges in my local supermarket, with their cheery, rosy hue.

Remembering CC's post, and never having tried blood oranges before, I found myself putting a bag in my trolley. They languished in my fridge for a few days though, before I managed to get some time to indulge in some baking. Then, thumbing through some books, including GBBO's Learn to Bake, I found a recipe for a sticky lemon syrup cake that looked really easy. I started pondering though, whether it would work with the oranges. So took the plunge, and with a few other tweaks to the recipe, voila!
The result is this simple yet gorgeous, light cake, that is moist from the syrup. The cake batter is speckled with orange zest, and the juice from the oranges made the most amazingly coloured ruby syrup. It's not too sweet,and is beautifully fragrant from the oranges. This cake got the thumbs up from Mike, who is sometimes so caked out these days after my experimenting that his enthusiasm is difficult to muster. 

So that means it's very good.
Ruby Orange Syrup Cake
200g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 ruby oranges (washed to remove the wax)
250g self-raising flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
100ml milk at room temperature
For the syrup
100g caster sugar
juice from the two oranges
Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350F / Gas 4. Lightly grease an 8 inch (20.5cm) loose based cake tin (don't use a sandwich pan - you need something a little deeper at about 4 inches). Cut out a circle from some baking parchment that is about 13 inches (32cm) in diameter. Push it into the cake tin to line it. You'll need to make little pleats in the side every so often to ensure it fits - just try and do this as neatly as you can. I think it's important that you use one sheet of paper, so that when you pour the syrup in later, it won't leak out of the bottom.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together for a few minutes so that the mix is pale and fluffy and all the sugar has dissolved. Finely grate the zest from the two oranges carefully (so you don't get the white pith), and add this to the butter and sugar. Blend a moment just to mix in.
Beat the eggs lightly in a small jug, and then, bit by bit, add them to the bowl mixing well after each addition to incorporate. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl, add the milk, and mix in until just incorporated and smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and level the top. 
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes, until it is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove and place the tin on a wire rack.
Juice the two oranges, then make up the syrup by stirring the caster sugar into the orange juice until it has just started to dissolve. Using your skewer, and while the cake is still warm, carefully prick the cake all over all the way through to the base. Pour all the syrup over the cake. Leave to cool completely.

Once cooled, kept in an airtight container it should keep for 4 days or so. That's if it lasts that long.

There is more than a hint of sunshine in this cake, so with Spring nearly here and Easter just around the corner, I think it's the perfect little bit of sunshine with your morning cuppa.



Saturday, 16 March 2013

Irish Cream Brownies

In case you didn't know, it's St Patrick's Day tomorrow. As Mike's parents are both Irish (as were some of my antecedents), I'm hardly going to forget it.  

But it also struck me as good a reason as any to crack out the Baileys Irish Cream.

I tried a new recipe for these, and although they're not as gooey as my usual recipe (see Ultimate Chocolate Brownies), they are still pretty good. These are soft, moist brownies with a flaky crust. Just what you want, really.

With a hefty dose of Baileys and a generous smattering of dark chocolate chips, they seem pretty darn appropriate for St Patrick's Day. They are based on a recipe from Fat Witch Brownies, one of my collection of US bakery books.

Go on. Try one.

Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on. (Thank you, Mrs Doyle).

Irish Cream Brownies

Ingredients (makes 16)

100g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
3 eggs (US large size so each weighing 57-64g in the shell)
180g caster sugar
80ml Irish Cream Liquer
135g plain flour
1/4 tspn salt
100g dark chocolate chips - to add to the mixed brownie batter

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease and base line a 9 inch (23cm) square brownie pan.

Gently melt the butter and 150g chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Stir occasionally, until it is smooth and remove from the heat, allowing to cool.

Beat the eggs and sugar together using a handheld electric mixer until pale and fluffy and doubled in size. When you lift the mixer out of the mixture, there should be a trail left for a few seconds by the mix dripping back into the bowl.

Gently fold in the Irish Cream.

Sift the flour and salt over the mixture and then gently fold it in until well combined. Fold in the second batch of chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture in the pan and use a spatula to gently level the surface. Bake for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting. You can dust with icing sugar, if you like.

These would also make a lovely dessert, served while still warm with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

As this month's Alphabakes letter is 'I', and a vital ingedient in these is Irish Cream, I'm submitting them to Ros of the More Than Occasional Baker and this month's host, Caroline of Caroline Makes.



Thursday, 14 March 2013

Vanilla Celebration Cake

The day I made this cake, I had started out by trying to imagine a birthday cake for my niece, who's going to be 11 this year. I wanted something that would appeal to a young girl, but was not too girly. Elegant, maybe, rather than in your face, but with a sense of fun. I had a number of different ideas in my mind, and although there are some I didn't use, the base was going to be inspired by the American-style 'Funfetti' cakes I have seen on a lot of the US blogs I follow.

I think they stem from a particular Pillsbury cake mix that a lot of Americans seem to remember fondly from their childhood; the vanilla sponge cake is loaded with multicoloured sugar chips which give it a peppering of colours when baked. The cakes usually seem to be  iced with a plain frosting to maximise the impact of the speckled layers. There are some great examples here, on Sweetapolita and here, on The Kitchn. I thought this was brilliant, and I wanted that element of surprise, and playfulness, as you cut into it.

I also wanted to make it suitably impressive as a three layer cake, but in a small-ish version, so tried out some 6" (15cm) cake pans I recently bought. I wanted to find a way of making this from scratch though, so looked for a recipe to base it on. The one I decided to use is from Delia Smith's 'Delia's Cakes' book, and it's actually the sponge from the Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake. I thought it looked a lovely moist sponge - and it's an all in one method - and so decided to tweak it to make it into a vanilla sponge. I added about half a cupful of multicoloured sprinkles to the batter at the last moment, folding them through carefully, as I didn't want the colours to run.

The finished cake was lovely, but I have to admit that the sprinkles  I added to the cake batter (which were 100s and 1000s) had dissolved away into nothing, so there was no multicoloured effect to the sponge. I want to try this again at some point, and I think I'll follow the advice on the Kitchn post (link above) which suggests using the longer sugar strands, or 'jimmies', that have a slightly waxy texture. Hopefully, they would hold up a bit better. The layers baked beautifully evenly though, and this was the first time I have ever baked a cake that did not 'dome', or which needed to be trimmed. The amount of batter (which in the original recipe is used in two 7" (18cm) pans) was absolutely perfect in my three 6" ones. It was quite a moist, dense sponge, and really tasty.

The icing is my favourite Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, which has a slight tang from the cream cheese, and helps to offset the sweetness of the sponge. I crumb coated the cake first, let it chill for 10 minutes, and then put the final layer of icing on it. I just used an angled palette knife to smooth the lines into the side of the cake, and then used a Wilton 2D piping tip, to pipe stars on the top. I used more of the sprinkles to fill in the centre of the cake - but I put these on after I had chilled the cake again for a couple of hours and the icing had firmed up. That meant that when I cut the cake, some of them rolled off. So next time, I'd put the sprinkles on immediately after icing, when it's still soft, and press them into the icing a little. That might help them stay in place a little longer.

Vanilla Celebration Cake


175g self-raising flour
1 level tspn baking powder
175g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbspn milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cupful (110g) of multicoloured sugar strands (optional)

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
225g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
113g softened unsalted butter
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
400g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150 Fan / 170 Conventional / Gas 3. Grease and baseline three 6" (15cm) cake pans (or use two 7" (18cm) pans at least 4cm deep). If you use the 7" pans, you can cut the layers in half horizontally to give a four layer cake.

Measure out all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a hand-held mixer (or a stand mixer) until well incorporated (this will only take a minute - be careful not to overwork it). You're looking for a smooth, creamy consistency. Fold the sprinkles, if using, gently into the mix so they are evenly distributed.

Measure the batter into the prepared tins. I wanted to try and ensure mine were as even as possible. As I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, I weighed the bowl before I added anything to it, then weighed it again after I had mixed the batter. Taking the weight of the bowl away from the total weight at the end, gave me a weight for the mixture of 825g, so I measured 275g into each pan.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until risen and golden, and springy to the touch. I managed to get the three tins onto the same oven shelf and I think that helped them bake evenly. When done, a wooden skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes, until turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. When completely cooled, you can decorate them.

To make the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix for a few seconds to a smooth consistency. Add the cream cheese, and mix again, so that they are both mixed well and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (if necessary, bit by bit). Mix well until you have a smooth icing of the consistency you want. Let the mixer run a little longer, so that you ensure that the icing is really smooth and creamy.

Crumb coated
To assemble the cake, I used a blob of frosting to fix the bottom layer to the cake plate. I then generously layered the sponges together. I used a thin layer of frosting to do a crumb coat and chilled the cake for 10 minutes in the fridge (this, literally, catches any crumbs from the cake in a layer of icing, so that the final layer of icing will go on smoothly, and you don't get pesky bits of sponge spoiling the appearance). To keep the cake plate clean, I put some strips of greaseproof paper under the edges of the bottom layer of sponge, so that I could slide them out later when the cake was fully iced, leaving a clean plate.

I did the final layer, and added a bit of piping and some more sprinkles. I was really pleased with the result, and the only disappointment was that I didn't get the multicoloured effect to the sponge I was after.

This really didn't take me long to do (about 2 hours from start to finished cake), so if you're looking for a quick, simple idea for a special cake, this could work for you.



Sunday, 10 March 2013

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake for my Mum

Dear Mum,

Today is the first Mother's Day I've spent without seeing you.

The last few weeks have been incredibly hard, in many ways.

And I guess that somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought that we'd have more time.

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to one extremely simple fact.

I miss you.

I miss the way your eyes would light up whenever you saw me, especially if I had Sam with me. I miss the way you would gaze in wonder and admiration at how big Josh and Ben have got. I miss how you would tell me how very lucky I am. 

I miss the way that you would blow me kisses with that cheeky grin, and how we would swap 'luvs ya's'. I miss the tender stroke of my cheek as we said hello and goodbye.
I miss the way you had of making me feel so special and loved when I least expected it.

I miss the way that you would surreptitiously pat my pocket to see if I had brought you sweeties. If you found a Malteser or two or three, it made your day.

I miss your bravery and your strength. Your intelligence and your humour.

I miss your support and your love.

I miss you.

But I will never forget you.

With love, always, my angel,

Susie xx

If you've read my last post, you'll understand the context in which this one is written. I wanted to say thank you for your words of kindness and support. Although we've never met, I feel I do know many of you from this blog, from visiting many of your own, and through Twitter. I really have appreciated every comment and kind thought.

For a while now, I had planned on making this cake for my mum for Mother's Day, but it wasn't to be. She really loved chocolate, and unfortunately, her absolute favourite sweets - Cadbury's Chocolate Eclairs which have a chocolate centre wrapped in a hard toffee exterior - she could no longer eat due to a swallowing problem. I've used these as the inspiration for the chocolate sponge with the salted caramel buttercream. I think she would've liked it.

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

Ingredients (makes one 6 inch / 15 cm cake)

200g self raising flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
4 tbspns cocoa powder
4 medium eggs
225g softened unsalted butter
225g soft light brown sugar
1 tbspn milk

Salted Caramel
125g caster sugar
60ml water
80ml double cream
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn vanilla extract

For the Buttercream
salted caramel sauce
160g softened unsalted butter
350g icing sugar
a little milk to slacken if necessary

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease and baseline three 6 inch (15cm) cake pans.

First make the salted caramel. Put the sugar into a saucepan along with the sugar and place over a medium heat. Be very careful during this process, as boiling sugar is extremely hot. Swirl the pan to mix if necessary rather than stir, as stirring may make the sugar clump together in crystals again and ruin the caramel. Bring to a boil, and then allow to bubble until the caramel turns a lovely amber colour. Remove from the heat and carefully add the cream, stirring it into the caramel. The mixture will bubble up and spit, so again, be careful. When you have a smooth sauce, add in the salt and the vanilla. Continue to stir until smooth, then leave to cool.

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. This will take a good few minutes as you are looking for the sugar to have completely mixed in so it's not grainy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add the milk and mix in. Add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix until just combined. Divide equally between the three tins, smooth the top of the mix so it's as level as possible, and then bake in the centre of the oven. They should take 20-25 minutes (mine took 23), so check them towards the end of the cooking time. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. 

Place the tins on a wire rack to cool. Once they are just warm to the touch, run a palette knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, and then turn out onto the rack to finish cooling.

Once the caramel is cool, you can make the buttercream. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer and using the paddle attachment give it a little whizz so that it smooths out. Add about half the icing sugar and blend in. You may need to scrape the bowl at this point to ensure the butter is fully mixed in. Add the caramel and mix in. See what the consistency is like, but you should be able to add some more icing sugar at this point. Beat for a few minutes so that it is really smooth.

Once the buttercream is ready, and the cakes are completely cool, you can decorate your cake. I wanted to try and achieve the effect that is on the cover of the Miette bakery book, but didn't quite pull it off (it's more difficult than it looks to get that smooth top without going down the sides of the cake and releasing crumbs everywhere!). So I ended up piping some stars and a rose.

I know it looks a bit retro, but my mum was, so actually, I think it's probably appropriate. :)

Happy Mother's Day.