Sunday 28 April 2013

Nigella's Buttermilk Birthday Cake - A Sunrise

I've seen quite a few brightly coloured cakes around recently, on the Pink Whisk and then BBC Good Food published their recipe for a Rainbow Cake too. Dan Lepard has been in on the act with his Rainbow Cupcakes too. I decided that I didn't want to go the whole hog and do a six or seven layered cake and decided instead to stick to three layers. I decided to go for red, orange and yellow - a sunrise. I know this isn't the best set of photos ever but I really had to mess around with the white balance to even get this far!

I wanted a reliable cake recipe and I've made Nigella's buttermilk birthday cake recipe quite a few times (the original recipe has three eggs and I can see from the scribbles in my book that I've scaled it to two and four egg versions) and it's a good recipe for adapting to different tin sizes.

Batter divided with food colouring added

I made the recipe just as stated (there's a copy from the Guardian as a PDF here, which I assume is reproduced with permission so I will link to it) and then divided the mixture into three (I handily remembered to weigh my mixing bowl before adding the ingredients so it was easy to divide the mixture exactly). I added the food colouring and mixed well before dividing between tins and baking for around 20-25 minutes (although I can't remember exactly how long). Although I have far too many 8"(20cm) round tins, I have two sets of two which are the same within the set but annoyingly don't match each other. So I baked two whilst one set of batter waited and then baked the final cake.

The cakes were quite thin, but this was perfect because three full thickness cakes wouldn't have given a very good cake: buttercream ratio. 

After letting them cool I made a white chocolate buttercream, sandwiched the cakes together with some of it and then spread the rest over the top and sides of the cake so as to hide the interior colour. A scattering of pearlescent hundreds and thousands (very pretty, stocked by Waitrose) finished the cake in style.

Pearlescent hundreds and thousands

All round very successful - it was very well received at work and this is a great cake mixture to work with. I was pleased with how it turned out but next time will be braver with the food colouring because my colours were a little on the subtle side.

I'm entering this into the Forever Nigella challenge, founded by Maison Cupcake. The theme this month is 'Colourful' and is being hosted by Elizabeth of A Girl in her Kitchen. I think this fulfils the brief!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Apple and Banana Muscovado Cakes

These little cakes are a Cake, Crumbs and Cooking original, inspired by the random selection of ingredients that I found myself with a few days ago....

I had an over-ripe banana (a common occurence in my house), some eggs that needed using up quickly, and some apples that were not particularly great for eating. It's the end of apple season (by a considerable margin...) and at the moment the quality is a bit mixed. These ones were ok, but some of them had been bruised and I thought baking with them would allow me to lose any soft bits when I chopped them up.

There isn't as much butter in this recipe as I would normally use for this quantity of eggs and flour, but that's because I took one 250g pack out of the fridge to soften, used 175g for a different recipe and the remaining 75g for these cakes. They didn't suffer for the lack of butter, there were plenty of other flavours going on and the banana added moisture too.

A simple glace icing topping was required to let the cakes shine, but then I thought it looked too plain so I scattered across some butterscotch chips I had, guessing that both banana, apple and muscovado would go with butterscotch. I'm pleased to say I wasn't wrong!

These were lovely and received very positive feedback at work too, which is always nice. Soft cake with a good muscovado and spice flavour, the banana adding moisture and the apples added a good crunch to the cakes as they were quite a crisp eating apple and didn't soften all that much during the cooking. A successful experiment.

Apple and Banana Muscovado Cakes
75g unsalted butter, softened
150g light muscovado sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed (about 100g mashed)
225g self raising flour
2 apples, chopped (unpeeled) mine weighed 240g before coring
3 medium eggs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
generous 1/2 tsp mixed spice

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Line a muffin tin with 14 cases (I have a 12 and 6 hole tin combination that will fit onto one layer in my oven)
- Cream the butter and sugar. It won't really go light and fluffy because there's not that much butter in there.
- Add the mashed banana, self raising flour, bicarb, mixed spice and eggs and beat well to combine.
- Fold in the chopped apple and divide between your cases.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

For the icing: a simple glace icing made with about 200g icing sugar and water

I'm entering these into a number of blogging challenges:

Alphabakes, hosted this month by Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker (cohosted by Caroline of Caroline Makes) where the letter is A for Apple.

Kate of What Kate Baked is hosting Tea Time Treats this month (cohosted by Karen of Lavendar and Lovage) with a theme of cupcakes and muffins.

I'm entering them into the no-waste food challenge at Turquoise Lemons where this months theme is fruit (I was relieved to be rid of my apples and banana!) hosted by Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Kitchen.

I'm also entering them into Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Fab Food 4 All (and Fuss Free Flavours) as I was using up eggs, apples and a banana that would otherwise have been wasted and this recipe is mercifully light on the expensive butter.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Crystallised Ginger Pear Cake

I'm never quite sure about pears. I do really like them, but it depends on my mood as to whether I want a lusciously ripe and dripping Williams pear or a hard crunchy Conference, preferably cold from the fridge. So I bought pears and then decided that I didn't really want them at all. And we all know that pears usually go from rock-hard to soft-and-squishy in the blink of an eye so I decided that I ought to use these ones up. One found a home in this rather good cake.

Pear and ginger are a good combination of flavours and I love the fudgy toffee-ish depth of flavour that light muscovado sugar brings. Pear has a fairly subtle flavour sometimes and I didn't want to overwhelm it in the actual cake, so I left my ginger just for the top of the cake rather than the batter itself.

Crystallised Ginger Pear Cake
120g butter, softened
120g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
160g self raising flour
1 medium sized ripe but firm pear, chopped (mine was a green Williams)
35g crystallised stem ginger, chopped very small

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and base line a 7"/18cm round cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, eggs and flour and beat until combined. The mixture will be very stiff.
- Add the chopped pear (my pieces were about 1cm cubes, or slightly smaller) and mix to combine.
- Spoon into the cake tin and level as best you can (again, the mixture is stiff).
- Scatter over the finely chopped ginger.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes (I can't quite remember how long this took now) until risen and golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack

This was really successful. The cake was soft and moist and because the pear was still relatively underripe when I used it, it hadn't turned to mush whilst baking and retained a bite in the cake, making for a nice contrast of taste and texture. The ginger on the top worked well too, providing a crunch and a little hit of heat. A success.

Sunday 7 April 2013

A bready update

50% wholemeal spelt soured cream rolls

There haven't been very many bready posts recently at all (aside from the not-cross buns!). This is not because I'm not eating much bread, far from it. However I am often a creature of habit and when I find a recipe that works for me I tend to stick with it. Recently this has been Dan Lepard's Sour Cream Loaf. Not as a loaf though - as bread rolls. I've blogged about the recipe before and the original can be found on the Guardian website here.

Of recent times I have made 12 rolls from the recipe amounts, which suits me well as a lunchtime sized roll. I've also played with the flour a little too. At the top of the post you can see a batch I made using half wholemeal spelt flour, half standard strong white flour. These were good, and it's sometimes good to have a change from all white too.

Unbleached white soured cream rolls

Above you can see a batch made with organic, unbleached strong white flour. I bought this from a supermarket, but the producer is Gilchester Organics. Their website has areas for learning about their products and also recipes. (This is not a sponsored post - I'm just talking about the flour I bought). The flour is a creamy colour and produces bread that it neither white nor wholemeal. I think in terms of comparison the nutrient profile is probably similar to white flour but the flavour is different. The photo above is not the best - I thought I had a better one from one of the more recent batches I have baked, but it seems not - my recent batches look more like the top picture.  The crumb is close and even textured and very soft - delicious. And of course, using the soured cream bread recipe means that the whole house smells of warm cream while you are baking, which just cannot be a bad thing!

Small unbleached white soured cream loaf

So, what have you been baking recently? Anything I should try to lift me out of this (rather pleasant ) bread baking rut?

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Fruity Chocolate Squares

Yep, another brown square.... tasty though

I knew I wanted chocolate cake and nothing too fancy but didn't really know what else beyond that. As I hunted in the cupboards and fridge for inspiration, a carton of soured cream that needed to be used (having been bought with no particular recipe in mind) and some dried fruit caught my attention. The dried fruit in question was some that I had bought reduced-to-clear a while ago. It's dried fruit though - I'm not sure why they were so desperate to sell it off but they clearly were, it had been reduced from £1.50 to 29p with about 6 months still until the best before date. I can only think the manufacturers wanted to launch new packaging. Anyway, a bargain is a bargain. Unless you don't use it so I thought I'd better incorporate my dried blueberries into a cake. 

Double yolker, I promise this isn't just two eggs. Marginally more interesting than a brown square...

Fruity Chocolate Squares
60g 72% cocoa chocolate, melted (I used the microwave - carefully!)
120g butter, softened
175g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten (mine turned out to be a double yolker!)
225g self raising flour
20g cocoa powder
150ml soured cream
70g dark chocolate, chopped
55g dried fruit (I used 30g dried cherries, chopped in half and 25g dried blueberries)

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line an 8" square tin with baking parchment.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - this might take 5 minutes or so even with an electric mixer.
- Add the vanilla, egg, flour, cocoa powder and soured cream and beat well until combined.
- Stir in the chopped chocolate and dried fruit and transfer to the baking tin (this is a stiff mixture - don't worry)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and a cake tester comes out clean.

Brown square from a slightly different angle...

I had been worried that this cake would be rather dry and crumbly, but actually I needn't have worried at all. It was moist and tasty and the combination of dried blueberries, dried cherries and chopped chocolate meant that each bite had an extra, interesting taste and texture. 


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