Cake disasters – Recipe 69: Nigella’s fancy cake

September 13, 2011 at 10:56 am | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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Sometimes life, and even baking doesn’t turn out the way you want… and sometimes it can all go rather wrong… The question is – how do you react to the problem? And in the interests of full disclosure to the 3 people reading this blog I thought I would share a recent disaster (actually it worse than that – it’s a repeated disaster)

So as I have repeatedly mentioned, I know plenty of people who avoid gluten and wheat, so love trying out new cakes in the quest to find the best gluten-free version of most cakes, preferably ones that taste brilliant and no-one realises that they are “safety cakes” as a colleagues recently named them! In Nigella’s How to Eat  (If you don’t own this book – you really should buy it…. it’s a wonderful read!) she has a recipe for “fancy cake” – the fancy element coming from its shape as it is made in a brioche tin. The ingredients are just ground almonds, eggs, sugar and grated lemon zest – so I thought it would be good to try out – on the first occasion to have a pudding with some creme fraiche and strawberries.

Making it: Its pretty simple, although the eggs to have to be separated and whisked separately – the white on their own until they form stiff peaks, and the yolks are whisked with sugar until they are pale and thick.  Then the almonds and lemon zest are folded into the yolks and sugar, and finally the egg whites – trying to retain the precious air to keep it light. The batter is poured into a well-greased brioche tin and cooked for an hour. Once the cake came out, I left it to cool and then tried to remove it from the tin. DISASTER. Cake stuck to tin and came out in several chunks.

Eating it: Sunday lunch was with friends – so I decided that I would still serve this somewhat imperfect looking cake… and despite its unpromising appearance it was delicious. It was a robust texture and moist because of all the nuts. It provided a scrumptious backdrop to the fruit.

Next time: So given it tasted great, I though it was worth trying again. This time I greased the tin even more carefully and followed Nigella’s instructions to remove it from the tin after 10 minutes of cooling. But again it stuck… in fact it stuck even more – and came out in lots of pieces. I was in a quandary – I knew I had taken a risk in trying the cake again, but I had promised a new cake for the boss – and I didn’t want to renege on the promise. I also knew that the cake was delicious from its previous outing, so decided that despite looking dreadful, it was worth allowing substance to overrule style, and for my pride to be put aside… so I took it to work anyway! And happily, it was not rejected for looking a mess…. and it was all scoffed!

So before there is another next time…. I think I need a new brioche tin – as this one is seriously not as non-stick as it claims to be – its gorgeous pink exterior does not compensate for its failures! Or perhaps I need more patience and a new technique for removing cake from tin…

Recipe 68: Tiramisu cupcakes for a hen party

September 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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This weekend I threw a party!

It was a tea party in honour of my beautiful, lovely friend Audrey who is marrying Martin next weekend. Its been a short engagement as they are keen to start their new life together, and so the last couple of months have been hectic getting everything organised for the big day, and more importantly the life that comes after that. But there was time in the diary today to have a tea party as the hen do and I was delighted to be able to host the great event.

As it was a hen do – I decided to major on all things pink and hearts… so the full menu was:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese on soda bread
  • Ham and mustard sandwiches
  • Heart shaped biscuits (using Nigella’s cut out cookie recipe which is delicious and easy!) – crazily iced with red and white icing
  • Meringues with whipped cream and strawberries
  • Tiramisu cupcakes (the new recipe – more detail to follow)
  • Old fashioned chocolate cake decorated with a dusting of heart-shaped sprinkles

All served with lots of love and laughter, accompanied with plenty of sparkling wine. I’d also decorated the flat with lots of pink things, and had made a banner in honour of the event. I was delighted with how the banner turned out – more “Martha Stewart” than “Blue Peter” – a real achievement for someone like me who is not all that neat (exciting new discovery is spray mount – glue in an aerosol can!)

Following on from the success of the mojito cupcakes earlier in the summer and as Audrey loves coffee cake – I thought the tea party would be perfect for trying out the tiramisu cupcakes from the Love Bakery book (even more appropriate as Audrey gave me the book in the first place). If the cakes were  flop, there would be plenty of other cake, so it would all be fine!

Making them: the cakes were simple sponge fairy cakes. The instructions were for large cupcake sized cakes, but I thought that mini cakes would work better at a tea party so that everyone could feel able to have a small piece of everything! So instead of making 12 cupcakes, the recipe produced 48 mini cupcakes (in very sweet heart patterned cases). Once they came out of the oven, the magic began as they were then anointed with a syrup made from marsala wine, coffee and some sugar – transforming them into moist bites reminiscent of a tiramisu. The final touch was the icing – made from mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and double cream. I had decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to conquer my fear of the piping bag, so have been practising – and managed to produce some respectable swirls for the tops of the cake. The finishing touch was a dusting of cocoa powder.

Eating them: One guest said that they were the most delicious cupcakes they had ever eaten!  The icing was unbelievably lovely, and the syrup turned ordinary sponge cake into something scrumptious. The finished article definitely was as yummy as tiramisu, but even lighter!

Next time: there so will be a next time… and I’m not sure I’d change much!

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