Monday, 25 January 2010

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food (cup)Cake(s)

I had decided not to make this cake, after all, I didn't have an angel food cake pan, and angel food cake is akin to fairy floss.  Sweet nothingness.  And after reaching the caked out heights depths of last week, I thought I could do with some actual nothingness, rather than sweet nothingness. 

But then Jenn mentioned in my comments that she was going to make it as cupcakes.  I was still undecided, but my devotion to actual nothingness was eroding.  My husband sounded a bit bereft when I told him that there would be no cake this weekend.  More erosion.  And then Marie's comment on Last Cake, Next Cake eroded my decision even more.  An ominous "bad things can happen", how could I skip out on danger cake?  And then I googled Angel Food Cup Cake recipe and hit on no less than 119,000 results.  Clearly lack of Angel Food pan was not a legitimate excuse to miss making this cake.  So actual nothingness gave way to sweet nothingness.

Plus, I needed to clean out the freezer.  Sixteen egg whites in five containers does take up a surprising amount of room.  And, yes, I do have freezer shame - how could I not?

The making of the cake was pretty therapeutic, especially because I didn't have the stress of separating 16 egg whites from their yolks.  Yes, that is correct, 16 eggwhites - or 480 grams of eggwhites.  Except on defrosting all those dinky containers, I discovered only 397 grams of eggwhites, so modified the recipe accordingly.  Silent prayers of thanks to Rose for always providing metric measurements and also unrivaled joy in using Excel to work out the new ratios.  I so miss my 12 hour days in Excel spreadsheeting land.  My little assistant has very little requirement for a good spreadsheet!

Those eggwhites (13.23 if you must know) whipped up right to the top of my beater attachment, so I had no idea if they were stiff, soft or otherwise.  I did the upside down trick - I think you are meant to do this with the bowl, but a spatula sufficed.

There was one bizarre instruction.  Rose had me sifting superfine sugar (I always use golden caster sugar) to beat into the meringue.  Then weirdly the Wondra flour (specially imported by a friend returning from the US), salt and remaining sugar is not sifted, unless I missed that instruction.  Not sifted, just dusted in a quarter cup at a time, which was really quite pretty...

Beware the grating of cold chocolate - they are like fleas on a dog and those little flakes jump everywhere.  I used a 90% Lindt Cacao Chocolate because that was what I had in the cupboard.

The chocolate fines are then folded into the mixture.  I was surprised at how easily the dry ingredients folded evenly through the meringue without losing too much volume, my guess is that the cream of tartar helps maintain a bit of robustness.  And, of course, also my delicate folding method, ha!  Can you tell I am dreaming of warmer climes with rolling surf, rather than the grey leaden skies of London?

These little cupcakes baked amazingly fast - less than fifteen minutes.  I opted to use the muffin case rather than the tiny cupcake cases I had for the overflowing streusel cupcakes...  Here is the difference in size.

In the end they baked up really well, like tiny little souffle's.  And I love how the cake pulled the sides of the case in to almost vertical.  Very neat and tidy.  Ahem, no, I didn't smooth the tops.  I kind of like the topsy turvy look...

I tipped some of my cupcakes upside down to cool, but I think this was a mad irrelevant step which didn't impact on the finished height.  What did impact on the finished height was baking one tray of cupcakes at a time.  Which I discovered on my last tray.  They need a pretty even temperature to rise fully.

The whipped cream topping was easy to make.  Lightly whipped cream with a smidge of sugar and vanilla.  Into which you then fold a touch of ground almonds and quite a bit of grated chocolate.  The finished effect is that the colour of the cake exactly matches the colour of the topping.  Don't underestimate how amazing that is.  To bite into something that looks like it should all taste the same, but doesn't.  Quite incredible.  That was a bit of a taste sensation, but then maybe I am a bit weird.

13.23 eggwhites made up 32 muffin sized cupcakes.  Thankfully, my husband took two dozen to work today.  There is absolutely no way that I could be trusted around these divine little cakes.  The ratio of cream to cake was perfect.  These are definitely not sweet nothingness'.  The actual cake is light and delicate, but the finely grated chocolate delivers depth and substance to the taste.   That fine chocolate just instantly dissolves in your mouth, and the contrasting subtle graininess of the whipped cream is really something.  An absolute perfect match.  So, thank you to Jenn for gently encouraging me to bake these little gems.  Better still, I didn't have to mess with fundamental laws of physics involved in Angel Food Pans.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Torta de las Tres Leches

Here it is Tuesday Wednesday, nearly exactly a week after I made this Torta de las Tres Leches and I am still struggling with my post!  I think I am a bit caked out.  Also, I watched an interview of Bob Geldof talking about the African famines and, well, all my baking seems to be so very indulgent and so excessive.  Starving children in Africa and all.  Sigh.  Must remember to not watch anything about the real world and stick to kids TV and rom-coms.

On to brighter, fluffier (if slightly soggy) things.

The cake of the three milks - truly, a bizarre cake.  Take a six egg sponge and soak in nearly five cups of milk, cream and condensed milk.   Refrigerate eight hours and then top with more whipped cream, because you can never have enough dairy right?

This cake was simple to make.  The warming of the eggs and sugar is truly inspired and creates such lightness in the final cake.  Loads of airy bubbles for all that milky syrup to ooze through.  The syrup consisted of reduced skim milk and full fat milk with a touch of sugar, cream and condensed milk.  That syrup had alot of questions amongst HCB.  Why not just use evaporated milk?  Personally, I much preferred the homemade evaporated milk to the canned stuff.  I find the canned evap milk a bit starchy and more sweet. 

I have read most of the HCB posts on this cake, and I am amazed at how differently everyone's cakes turned out.  My cake was pretty much dead flat - no dome in the middle, no crack on the top.  Some HCB'ers were the same, others were as per Rose, some had a dip in the middle.  

I scraped the top back and then poured on all that syrup, I did wonder how well the cake would retain the syrup and how much would end up pooled in the bottom of my fridge...

I am happy to report that the majority of the syrup stayed within the confines of the sponge.  Yes, some oozed out, but not enough to require me to scrub congealed, hardened sticky condensed milk from the fridge floor.  Also, in my indepth research, I discovered that this cake, once soaked is incredibly robust.  The Tupperware cake container flipped out of the fridge and landed upside down.  The cake was completely undamaged.  Seriously, you need to get one of those cake containers, they are impervious to husband's tread and suicidal flips from the fridge.

The cake was probably further protected by the overwhipped cream gracing the top.  English cream is weird.   I beat this cream to what I thought looked like perfection in the bowl.  Nice firm peaks, but in the time from removing the beaters to spreading it on the cake, it seems to become  bit too much like butter!  Forgive the detritus from dinner - it was our last meal with our fabulous neighbours who were moving back to Australia.  Sob!  My poor little (32 inches x 6ft - not including counter space obviously) kitchen works very hard when we entertain.

And in the shot below, you can see just how overwhipped that cream is.  The lesson learned this week is to underbeat (to my eye anyway) the cream and it will be fine once it makes it to the cake.  I am very envious of the gorgeously tricked out cakes that have made their way through this week's HCB line up.  Some very starry piping and even caramel panna cotta. 

I think I like this cake.  Even with the buttery whipped cream on top.  I can imagine eating this, straight from the fridge on a hot (but not humid) day.  There is something icecreamy and akin to trifle about this cake.  I love Vicki's idea of adding alcohol and even cardamon and turning it into a trifle.  I love trifle, which means that I do actually like soggy sponge, even if I gag at the thought of soggy tomato sandwiches.  So, my trepidation from last week was unduly founded.

Happy Birthday Mr Hanaa - with a cake as fabulous as the one your wife made, I can only imagine you  had a great day.

I am sitting out next week, plenty of egg whites but no Angel food pan in this house!  Look forward to reading all about it though.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Chocolate Streusel Cake

Each week, as I type up my post, I eat cake and drink tea and ponder.  Idyllic, no?  And why, yes, I am a very skilled multi-tasker - thanks for noticing.  Sometimes it takes me one slice, sometimes two.  Today I am on my second Chocolate Streusel cupcake and still only on the first paragraph.  Does this mean that this cake is unbelievable?  Hmm, I'm not sure about that.  What I am sure about is the following.
  1. I miss my camera so much.
  2. I wish I put more streusel in my chocolate streusel cupcakes.
  3. I should have made 18 perfectly sized cupcakes rather than 12 overflowing cupcakes.
  4. I wish I didn't also have a banana refrigerator cake sitting on the bench, in direct competition to these cupcakes.
  5. I wish I didn't like cake quite so much and exercise quite so little. 
  6. And about fifty other things I am not sure of.
I got the quote back to fix my camera lens - it will cost £9 more to buy a brand new one.  So, looks like I will be getting a brand new lens, which will hopefully arrive this week.  I am sure it would be much better for the British economy to repair it but somehow a bright shiny new one direct from Honkers sounds so much more appealing.  Something about that 12 month warranty is sooo worth the extra £9! 

This weeks recipe called for a six cup bundt + two cupcakes.  Not having a six cup bundt to hand, I took the option of increasing two cupcakes to twelve cupcakes.  I am not sure if English cupcakes are smaller than US cupcakes, but this mix definitely could have made at least 16 cupcakes and perhaps even 18.  As I type that, I marvel at my own dogged adherence to the recipe.  Actually, maybe it was less dogged adherence and more laziness about getting out the other cupcake pan...  As you can see these cupcakes overflowed alot, yet they finished off quite flat.  The crumb was fine - not spectacular, but pretty good, and as Mendy's little ones said, they smile at you!  Who can resist a smiling cake?

Based on Rose's post about her success great mistake in using unbleached flour in a bundt pan, I decided to use unbleached flour in my cupcakes.  Am I mad?  A bundt pan is clearly not a cupcake liner.  But whilst reading Rose's post, one of the few remaining synapses in my brain fired, and I recalled making about 120 cupcakes from Rose's TCB white velvet buttercake recipe with unbleached flour and they were soft and gorgeous and perfect.  So, I reasoned, small pan size + ambivalence to bleachedness of flour = success. 

The method of this recipe is just like my maternal grandmother taught me - cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, add dry and wet in batches, spoon into pan and bake, cool and place in a cake tin right at the back of the cupboard, far from the greedy boys (isn't that a metaphor for life!!).  My paternal grandmother taught me to open a packet and put them on a nice plate!

I was a bit too timid with my streusel filling.  A teaspoon *seemed* like such a lot in those teeny tiny cupcakes, so I had a fair bit left over, which unlike other wise HCB's, I threw in the bin.  Those cupcakes sure could do with a bit more streusel filling.  When and if you come to make them, make sure you use all of that teaspoon of filling - don't be shy!  I really liked the contrast of the not too sweet chocolate cinnamony whisper against the soft vanilla crumb.  It elevated this from just plain cake, but not into the same league as the Whipped Cream Cake. 

Unfairly, these cupcakes had to compete with Rose's Banana Refrigerator Cake.  I know!  Two cakes in one week and only one cake eating person in the house.  See point five above.  The banana cake outshines the chocolate streusel cupcakes in the taste stakes, and given that both were equally easy to make, the banana cake wins.  I don't plan on having a Rose HCB cake off every week, it was just that I didn't want to throw the black bananas to the bin.  Let me assure you, it will be no hardship to make this banana cake again when it comes up on rotation or the next time I have black bananas...

Next week, Torta de las Tres Leches for Hanaa's husband.  I am trying to keep an open mind about a cake soaked in nearly five cups of full cream and skim milk, cream and condensed milk.  I just keep thinking of those soggy tomato sandwiches from my school lunch box.   Gag.  I am sure it will be grand, maybe not so much for the lactose intolerant!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Whipped Cream Cake

I made (I promise not to use the phrase "whipped up" in this post!) this cake on New Years Eve to take to our New Year's Eve destination.  I would like to say that since the arrival of my wee assistant, New Years Eve has become exceedingly tame.  But that would be a lie.  This year we spent New Years Eve drinking Dom and eating fabulous food all whilst in our slippers.  Just like we did four years ago - well before the little assistant came onto the scene.  There is alot to be said for the comfort of your slippers on a frosty New Years Eve... and a glass of champagne!

I also made this cake again today.  This is the first time, I think ever, that I have made the same cake twice for two separate eating occasions just days apart.  Sure, today, it had an audience of one, since my husband is now sadly in Australia for his Grandmother's funeral.  I pretended to myself that I just wanted to test out Kate Flour with the Xanthan gum added in, but really?  I just wanted to eat more of this cake.  So good.

Tasty in a not too sweet, dense but light and fine crumb, deeply vanilla way - comfort itself.  Easy - whip cream, slowly beat in the eggs and then the sugar and finally fold in the flour.  You definitely don't need a stand mixer.  I made it with a hand held beater both times.  Quick - it bakes in about 35 minutes.  End to end, dishes done, less than an hour.  It needs no icing, just a cup of tea, a knife and some serious will power.

The first time I made it with the US bleached flour and today's cake I baked with Kate Flour.  I was equally happy with both versions.  The Kate Flour version had a slightly more dense crumb and it probably didn't rise quite so much, but nothing that detracted from the glorious simplicity of this cake.

My photos are few and not so great since my camera lens has weirdly gone off track.  So the photos are from our video camera.  The massive divot in the cake was delivered by the foot of my husband.  I had left the cake in its Tupperware container on the stairs so I wouldn't forget it and my husband trod on it - lightly...

This cake is also a test of how evenly your oven heats - my cakes were browner on one side, so I should probably turn the cake at more regular intervals.

I will definitely be adding this cake to my quick, easy and spectacular list.  Although, for the sake of my girth, I shan't be baking it again this week!  Not unless temptation gets the better of me and I buy the Heritage Bundt pan a la Raymond.  Swoon.  And maybe I need to test the recipe with just normal old UK plain flour...