Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Golden Lemon Almond Cake

Clearly, this is not the German Chocolate Cake that I thought I was going to make.  And clearly I didn't beat Raymond into pole position for this weeks post.  Who am I kidding, I am more than likely to be last.

Given there is no bread in the house (and therefore no breakfast), the little assistant is still in the land of nod and my nanny is still thirty minutes away from arriving, I will do my best to churn out a post this early morning.  Yes, I got the job.  My second interview consisted of me accepting the position and then I was promptly given my security details, a huge pile of reading and an office in which to perch.  It was quite unexpected really - as in, I expected to start later, instead of "right then", but kind of fun to be back in the workplace.  Imagine my relieved surprise when I reached into the depths of my brain, pressed the "On" button and it actually worked.  I think my husband was also surprised because I have been pretty much unable to complete a full sentence for the past 19 months.

Look at me now.  Full sentences.  Spreadsheets start today when my laptop will hopefully arrive.  Bizarre to go from slippers/hiking boots and jeans to high heels, suits and makeup (though not nearly as glamorous as Vicki intimated in last weeks comments!).  My feet are definitely suffering.

This weeks free choice cake.  I must say it is quite exciting watching Marie's blog roll to see what people have made.  I have to admit to just reading the post headings at this stage and not the actual posts... later this week, I promise!

I was all set to make the German Chocolate cake, well, mentally at least.  And then Hanaa commented that she was thinking about making the Golden Lemon Almond Cake and my fickle mind was changed quickly.  It helped that the only exotic ingredient was a lemon, and just a syrup to prepare for a single bundt layer.  Simplicity itself.

Ha!   So here it is the evening of this very morning where I thought I would get this post finished.  I swear tonight is the night!

I won't bore you my tedious description of the method.  Just know that I logged my second successful two-step method, so I am pretty happy.  Actually, I will bore you a little, if only as a reminder to myself.  Toast nuts, mix dry ingredients, add most of the wet ingredients, add egg in two lots, bake, syrup, depan, done.  Now, for some details...

The toasting and grinding of the almonds that Rose now recommends?  Yep, I am over it.  I suck at toasting nuts - primarily because my timer is rubbish and blanks out completely halfway through countdown, somewhat like myself, now that I think about it.  V. annoying.  I just salvaged the less brown almonds and started the toasting again.  

This is a very lemony cake.  A hefty portion of this Pure Lemon Oil.  Which I am hoping doesn't go off - I bought it in NZ in November last year and discovered once I returned to the UK that it's best before date was May 2009.  Obviously not a big mover on the Dunedin shelves. 

And a lot of zest... two tablespoons or 12 grams to be exact.  My scales are weird and do not know how to measure the zest as it snows into the bowl.  I probably should grate elsewhere and weigh the finished amount into the mixing bowl.  But I don't have a dishwasher and that outweighs my desire to be super accurate with the lemon zest.

Anyways, you can see that I estimated the 12 grams of zest to be four big lemons and this made the bowl very yellow...


Another slight adjustment I made, was to mix 50:50 golden caster sugar with demerara sugar to come to an approximation of turbinado sugar.  I am not quite convinced about using such a chunky sugar in a relatively fine crumbed cake...


 Be sure to grease your bundt pan very very very well, otherwise you will be swearing when you extricate cake from pan.  Trust me.  I know.  But given that you do this maneuver whilst the cake is still warm, there is a small window of opportunity for you to bodge the cake back together with the super glue that is the lemon syrup. 

Looking at the cake now, you would barely know that it is a carefully reassembled jigsaw puzzle.  Let me tell you, I think I got more satisfaction out of piecing the cake back together than I would have assuming it came out perfectly.  I think I may be a "rescuer".

We cut this cake about four hours after I completed it and you could definitely taste where the syrup was and wasn't.  Now two days later, it is perfectly distributed in the cake and rather nice.  I much prefer the texture, flavour and colour (not to mention lack of faff factor) of commercially ground almonds to the home corrupted version.  I will surely be shot by someone for that admission.  The colour is sort of not golden and more kind of brown flecked.  It would be more golden with almond meal instead of the brown almond pebbles I used.

I think I will definitely make this cake again, although it does make me want to buy a lot of gorgeous Nordicware.  Ahh, the benefits of generating an income of one's own!  After new scales, a beater blade I will pencil in nordicware bundt pan(s).

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Double Chocolate Cake

So, I may have cheated a little bit in making this cake.  First off, I watched Rose's video with Dede Wilson.  I praise Rose's patience in having Dede as her helper!  I don't think I would be nearly so calm and collected with someone assertively helping me... yes, I know it is TV and it isn't real, but still.  So help me, I wanted to slap Dede's hand.  And then I never got around to making it in time for the big VD day.  Not sure what I was too busy doing, other than procrastinating.  By the time Monday morning rolled around, the usual suspects had posted, so I may have done a little spying search for inspiration.  Thanks to Mendy's first attempt, I made doubly sure that the cocoa and water weighed the full amount before mixing. I also opted out of cupcakes and for the standard 9 inch round. 

I can truthfully say that this is the first time ever that a two step method cake has actually worked for me.  Previously I ended up with depressed circles of rubberised meh masquerading as cake.  I may actually be converted to this 2 step method.  So quick and easy.  The only issue I had was the final mix in of egg resulted in the batter separating a little.  See how it is a little grainy?  I read somewhere (TCB maybe) that this doesn't impact on the final cake taste... wiser palates may know better.


This cake domed a little in the middle as it baked, but then settled to pretty much flat after cooling.  As I stabbed the top with holes I noticed that it looked a little dry and a bit delicate.  Perhaps it could have done with about two fewer minutes in the oven?  At any rate, it smelled amazing.

Once the top was stabbed, I brushed over the thin ganache.  My only tip here is that the ganache should be relatively warm and that you shouldn't be too eager in your application - it is cake after all and not concrete.  I may have been a bit eager, but as a veteran HCB'er, I have learned how to cover my tracks.

At this stage I was racing the clock.  I had a telephone interview for a job at 2.00pm and I think I took this photo at about 1.50pm.  Fortunately there was no video link in, so a couple of smears of chocolate on my face were fine!  I didn't use this cake as an example of my ability to work to deadline and multitask - somehow I didn't think it that appropriate.


And this photo was at 1.57pm just as I was perusing my preparatory notes and trying not be distracted by how amazing this cake smells.  No cracks.  It held together and sucked up that ganache without any issue.  In fact, I think I probably could have got another four tablespoons at least into that cake.

The interview went well and it would appear that I am more than likely to be re-entering the workforce.  A little bit exciting really!  I am now in a frantic search to find a nanny for the Little Assistant.  So my days of spending hours at the park, playing with my little boy, and reading loads of blogs are very numbered.


As amazing as all those fresh raspberries looked atop the many versions of this cake, I opted for a raspberry mascarpone topping with a raspberry drizzle/splodge.  And it worked.  I think this cake definitely needs some creamy topping/side.  This cake was a little strange.  It was quite dry to cut and I expected it to be quite dry in the mouth also, but the plugs of ganache lend it a subtle fudginess, that offsets that dryness.  The chocolate flavour is really balanced and it is not overwhelmingly rich (you can definitely eat more than one slice per sitting and not feel like throwing up).  As with most of Rose's cakes, the sweetness is just right, and would have been even more "right" with the tartness of the fresh raspberries.  This is not a moist wet chocolate cake, but I think that its fudginess (how do you spell that made up word - with an i or with a y?) and chocolate flavour make it a chocolate cake that I will frequent more than those moist, cloyingly rich versions.

Next week is free bake week, I am going to attempt the German Chocolate Cake or maybe the tiramisu or maybe the... you get the drift.  I may be a little undecided at this stage and with no real chance to spy and prepare prior next weeks post.  Also, I have a second interview on Monday in the City, where I have to get properly dressed and talk about things other than cake and my little assistant and give them reason to throw wads of cash at me.  So I will have to be organised and post on Sunday night.  Maybe, just maybe beating Raymond out of pole position.  I will keep baking and posting regardless of my employment status!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

True Orange Genoise

Am I the only one who feels as though they have been baking this cake for a month?  I managed to juice my Seville oranges about four weeks ago.  It was amazing waking up and finding another one had bit the green dust.  Some time over the last few weeks, my brain has processed that oranges that mould overnight are probably normal.  Oranges that stay in the fruit bowl for four weeks without turning to green dust are surely a little bit wrong? 

This cake had a few steps.

Seville Orange Curd - in summary, eggs, butter, sugar and seville orange juice stirred and stirred and stirred and stirred.  Really a test of patience, attention and mettle.  As I stirred away, my internal dialogue was "is it ready yet?  how about now?  what about now?  just a little longer?" ad infinitum.   This is why I should cook with music instead of the voices in my head.   The curd was tart, with a great balance of sweetness.  I am not sure about the zest added into the finished curd.  Yes, it adds flavour, but it also adds texture.

Orange Chocolate Ganache - Chocolate ganache with some orange liqueur for a bit more orange zing.  I used Cointreau, because that is what I was able to sponge off a friend (not literally, she gave it to me in a bottle).  Rose's method for ganache is great - whiz chocolate in a food processor and add scalded cream.  Easy.

Seville Orange Syrup - used to moisten the genoise.  This was made with the seville orange juice, sugar and more of the Cointreau.

Finally, the genoise.  Ah, the genoise.  That "ah" is not an "ah" of pleasure or even of satisfaction.  That is an "ah" akin to "meet my latest nemesis".  I warmed my eggs and sugar.  But answer me this.  In this cake, the eggs are to be warmed to lukewarm.  In the Torta de las tres leches, the eggs are heated until quite warm to the touch.  What is the difference in temperature?  I heated the eggs until they were warm, my guess is just above body temperature - say about 40 degrees Celsius.   And then the eggs are beaten until they quadruple in volume.  I think that happened - forgot to take a photo of the before!  Then fold in the Wondra (which pretty much instantly disappears like a magic trick).  Then in with the browned butter (incidentally, I would probably skip this step next time, because I couldn't taste it over all that orange).  

Once in the tin, Rose says that it should come to about an inch from the top of a 2 inch pan.  Mine actually sat a bit higher than that, and I was feeling a little full of myself imagining the astounding height that would result at the end of 20 minutes...  I think there is a saying that pride goes before a fall.   How apt.  My cake may not have fallen, but it sure didn't rise to meet all that pride.  An inch and a half.  Far off Rose's two inches.  I wonder if my oven was too hot, because I beat those eggs for about seven minutes, rather than "at least five" of Rose's instruction.  And looking at these photos, I think I definitely overcooked it by about 2 minutes.  The pan below is after I have loosened the sides.

I was so stoic in my defeated pride and deflated cake, that I was not moved to make another.  Unlike the more plucky of our group.  I gritted my teeth, chiseled the top off, sliced it in half(ish) and proceeded to compose the cake.  I love that expression - it sounds so lovely, especially in a very proper English accent.  And compose the cake I did.  My only recommendation is to take charge.  I didn't have a problem, but I presume this was because my cake was rather sturdy.  I suspect if you have a lighter than air genoise, doused in all that syrup, it could become very particular about the angle of your mouth and the colour of your underwear as you try to reassemble it all.

I won't talk about the ganache application because, frankly, my embarrassing technique was indicative of the time of night that I finally finished.  It was all a bit slap dash given the ganache had firmed up a bit too much and I was totally over the whole "compose the cake" thing - english accent and all.  But looking at the photo below, it doesn't look too bad at all.  Nice and thin.  Hmm, quite impressed with myself actually!  Lets not talk about the uneven layers shall we...

The following evening, with much anticipation, I sliced and served the cake to my husband and a visiting house guest.  My husband declared it as not great.  The house guest ate two slices and loved it, but he never gets home made cake, ever.  I agreed with my husband.  The dark chocolate ganache really clashed with the liqueur soaked genoise.  I think that my ganache was too bitter for the tartness of the orange.   Or is there too much alcohol in the ganache? 

I am still eating this cake (as usual) three days later, and the raw alcohol taste has mellowed, and it doesn't clash as much with the ganache... but still jarring enough for me to eat this cake from the bottom up rather than top down.  Maybe my palate isn't sophisticated enough?  I really liked the genoise with the orange curd, but I will be looking for another icing if I make it again.  Perhaps an seville orange swiss meringue buttercream (oh shoot me now for even mentioning that).  Ganache may not be the perfect match, but it is very very very easy.

Next weeks cake is a raspberry topped chocolate extravaganza.  I haven't decided if I am going to shell out £10 on fresh-from-the-airplane raspberries, or just convert it to cupcakes and dress them with Valentines Day landfill (aka junk).  I am thinking the latter, and maybe even without the junk.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes


I grew up in Australia.  Land of the big.  Weekend drives to "big" destinations, featured heavily in my youth.  My Dad loved nothing better than to pile my sister and I into the back of our panel van and drive long distances with my Mum.   Our panel van, was pretty much like the one below, except it had orange net curtains, definitely no seatbelts or child booster seats.  Just a mattress, loads of cushions and blankets, toys and of course the ubiquitous esky, because this was also the time when you could still drink (one or two beers, I am sure) whilst driving.  I think I was six or so, and my sister three.  Surprisingly, we survived, relatively unscathed!

I remember being so ridiculously excited going to the Big Pineapple because it would then be followed by a trip to the Big Cow!  I mean, really, how much better could life get!  But it did get sooo much better, because sometimes, if I didn't fight with my sister too much during the drive, we might get to share an ice cream sundae that came in the cut half of a pineapple.  Actually, now that I recall, I don't think we ever did get that sundae - maybe because we fought incessantly.   Or maybe a trip on the little train through the pineapple plantation to the baby farm yard.  Or better yet, a jumbo sized Big Pineapple pencil.  I tell you, growing up in the late 70's early 80's in Queensland was something else.  Sure, you couldn't march on the streets, nor was there freedom of speech, and the state premier was an avid support of apartheid and oversaw a corrupt government.  But what did all that matter, when you could visit big things?  Bliss, I tell you, bliss.

I relived all those memories whilst making this weeks cake.  I had an epiphany about why my Dad so loved those weekend drives... could it have had something to do with the peace that comes from two sleeping girls as the miles unfurl beneath the car?  

I had such high hopes for this cake, because I managed to secure a packet of Swans Down cake flour from a US inspired bakery, right where I used to live - The Outsider Tart.  I was imagining how light and fluffy that cake layer would be under the golden halo of pineapple.  Bah.  Ha. Ha. Ha.  The folly.

A poor workman blames his tools, and so too, I had always thought it was the UK flour that lead to my leaden cakes.  Ahem.  Apparently it might have something to do with me.  Surprising?  Not really.  This is one of those two step method cakes... with a few added extra steps.  First, slice up your fresh pineapple - was I the only one who thought this instruction was weird?  6-8 slices of pineapple - cut 3 slices by under 1/4 inch thick.  I couldn't work out why I would need 3 slices cut to specification, and then 3 slices cut however.  I elected to cut all six slices to the same 1/4 inch thickness.  


Pineapple in winter is quite surreal - so much like summer.  What about the carbon footprint of that little pineapple?  I figured the carbon footpoint would be the same no matter which season I made this cake... afterall, last time I checked, pineapple wasn't exactly growing in seasonal abundance in the UK.  Actually, there is no "season" for pineapples, more like a pregnancy, it happens a certain duration after planting.  That detail aside, still no pineapples in the UK.

The additional steps were all about caramel.  Swoon.  The caramel that is made to go in the bottom of the pan is amazing.  Just the tiniest hint of pineapple, turbinado sugar (I used demerara), and butter, all brought up to 150 degrees c.

This caramel then gets divided between each of the cake pans.  I used texas muffin pans which seemed a good size to me.  Let me tell you, that caramel was good enough to wrap in wax paper and save for later or eat immediately.  Instead, I daydreamed about how great it would taste on the top of my finished cakes.  Instant gratification delayed...

Next additional step was to lay in the pineapple and cherry.  Not exactly brain surgery, but the pineapple did need to be cut to size.  And looking at the less than perfect cutting, lets be grateful that it wasn't brain surgery.


On to the infamous two step mixing method.  This means that you beat the butter and some of the yogurt into the dry ingredients.  This effectively coats the flour and prevents the forming of gluten in the later beating.  The wet ingredients are then added in two batches.  The resulting, quite thick batter is spooned onto the pineapple and cherry and off to be baked.

I undertook some amateur electrics during my cake mixing... my second hand Kenwood mixer has the original, well worn plug.  When I switched it to on, nothing happened.  Rinse, repeat.  Out with the screwdriver and I discovered that one of the wires had worked loose, so I screwed it back into position.  Except, in the UK we work with 240V and have three points on our plugs.  One of those points goes to earth.  And the eagle eyed electricians amongst you will spot that I wired the electrical current to the earth point.  I managed to trip the power to the house not once, but three times, before I figured that I might need to check on my electrical prowess!   I know, isn't it amazing that I am still here typing this never ending post.  And yes, that is a corkscrew on the operating table... I trimmed the wire with it.  Resourceful, if not inept.

The cake mix looked okay to me.  Thick, vanilla-ey.  I was imagining a golden open crumb, laced with caramel.  Hmmm. 
I think my disappointment started to build once I tipped them out of their pan.  Where had my gorgeous caramel gone?  Why didn't I wrap those caramels in waxed paper instead of losing them into the ether?  Plus, the pineapple had shrunk and the rim of cake around the outside was not appealing to my aesthetic.

I had no apricot jam, and no inspiration for an alternative solution, so my cakes remained deeply unglazed and unglossy.  So completely not like the picture in Rose's book.  I made the pineapple caramel sauce to serve these with these cakes.  I found the instruction a bit weird.  The first bit was fine.  Bring all the sugar and a portion of the pineapple juice to 150 degrees c.  Fine.  Then add in the remaining hot pineapple juice.  Fine.  Then boil for 5-10 minutes until the caramel reaches 60 degrees c.  Um, not fine.  This did not compute with me.  The boiling point of this caramel was far above 60 degrees c.  So I ignored that point and just boiled it until it was reduced enough.  Not sure if anyone else had a different interpretation?

Boy, this is a marathon post.  Apologies, I am nearly finished.  I took these cakes along to a friend's place, and whilst they all said they liked the cake, I was disappointed.  I couldn't taste the caramel, the crumb was dense and the pineapple caramel sauce was just too sweet for my tongue.  All in all, I was a bit bored by this cake.  Maybe I had built it up too much whilst I was delaying my caramel gratification?  

Fortunately, the other upside down things in my life were far more exciting, definitely not dense and perfectly sweet.  Who needs cake?

Until next week's perfect orange genoise, or "how to make butt clenchingly sour seville orange juice taste great (hopefully!)".