Now to document the other baking I’ve done this week – one cake for the G man’s mum’s birthday and one batch of tiny loaves which I just had to make. I mentioned in my last post that I was considering taking cake with me tonight to share out with my fellow unbirthday revellers, but I decided that was altogether impractical. Still, though, I wanted to make something, and really fancied that tea based cupcake recipe I had seen. To prevent me having a batch of cakes in the house, then, I reduced the amounts down to enough to make four little loaves – this also allowed me to use the mini loaf tins I bought recently, so it was a double bonus. I messed around with the recipe, to suit the ingredients I had on hand, and here it is:
- 1/4 oz spiced tea, removed from two tea bags
- 1 1/2 oz ground almonds
- 1 3/4 oz light brown sugar
- 4 1/2 oz rice flour
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 oz sultanas
- 1 1/2 oz light margarine, melted
- 1 egg
- 142 ml soya milk
And the method:
- Put the tea, almonds and sugar in a food processor and whiz until combined. This also helps to break up the brown sugar.
- Tip into a bowl and add the flour, xanthan gum and baking powder
- In a separate bowl, mix the sultanas, melted butter, egg and soya milk, then add to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
- Divide into greased loaf tins, or into cupcake cases, and bake at 220C for 15 minutes.
Done! The end result is basically a fruit loaf with a dark, speckled look to it,and is lovely served with just a scrape of butter. There is a hint of tea and a warm tingle of pepper in the aftertaste, and the texture is dense and moist. The result of using the light margarine is that the crust of the loaves is more chewy than crisp, which I think might be changed by using butter, but it’s not an unpleasant texture. All in all I’m very pleased with them – here is a picture of one on a pretty plate:
The black forest gateau was a far more complicated procedure and took a lot more time – and consequently looked much more decorative and fancy. The only thing is that I didn’t get to try any, as it was a present. The G man had a slice, and says it was nice, so I can only trust that he was being honest and not simply kind.
I used this recipe for the sponge, and halved the amounts to make one six-inch sponge, which I then made into a sandwich. I substituted normal instant coffee for the espresso powder, since that’s what I had in the house. I then began a bit of a journey of invention, since I hadn’t made a list of ingredients when I went shopping and so had guessed at what I’d need. I had a jar of cherry jam, about a tablespoon and a half of cherry liqueur, butter and icing sugar to make buttercream and a couple of bars of plain chocolate. Having read through a few different recipes, I decided that I’d make a mix of some jam, the liqueur and a touch of water to drizzle over the sponge halves once baked, to make the sponge cherry flavoured and keep it moist. I then decided to fill the sandwich with plain chocolate buttercream and more jam, then top with chocolate shavings and buttercream ‘roses’. So far, so good. However, in my usual style, I proceeded to make an enormous mess. My kitchen and living room are open plan, and pretty small. With the oven on, the room heats up to a terrific degree, which makes working with butter tricky, unless you want it to be one step away from liquid at any given time. This meant that when it came to making the buttercream, I found myself in trouble as the butter had bene out of the fridge, and was therefore too moist. Add this to just-melted chocolate and you’re on to a loser in terms of forming anything but lumps of butter, chocolate and icing sugar… I put the bowl of lumps that I’d made into the freezer to cool, and put the butter back into the fridge. As I did that, I spotted some cream cheese that I already had, and it occurred to me that I could add this to the buttercream to help smooth it out, and also to make it a creamy texture without making it more buttery. I have no proper idea of amounts, I was freestyling it all the way – I think I had about 50g each of butter and melted chocolate, and then enough icing sugar to bring this together, and then a tablespoon or so of cream cheese for flavour and texture. It came together nicely in the end, I’m glad to report.
Here is a picture that gives an idea of the extent of the mess I was getting into in the heat of the kitchen, with chocolate and jam on the go. It is not for the faint hearted.
Not pretty in the slightest. This was taken after the cake halves had been soaking in the jam, liqueur and water mix for about half an hour – I had used a metal skewer to make holes in the sponge to allow maximum absorption of the moisture and flavours. The half on the left is the top of the cake as it came out of the oven, but levelled off somewhat with a serrated knife and turned upside down, so that the curved side would be in the middle of the cake, and the flat side would form the top. I decided to pipe the buttercream in concentric rings and then fill the gaps with jam, in the hope that, when sliced, you would be able to see the alternate fillings. I’m also not sure if this worked out, forgot to ask, but it’s a nice theory if nothing else, and provided this highly entertaining picture. Another time I would pipe the last circle of buttercream further in from the edge, as there were a few spillage issues when I put the top half of the cake on. A cooler environment would also have helped as the buttercream would have been more solid – perhaps putting the cake half into the fridge for a while before sandwiching it up would also have been a plan. At any rate, once I’d put the top of the cake on and sort of prodded any escaping buttercream back in, I spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top of the cake and filled the centre with chocolate curls. You can buy these, but I made them by taking short curls off a bar of plain chocolate, using a vegetable peeler. Really easy, and they look nice too. The chocolate being warm (as was everything else, I practically had steam coming out of my ears) helped with the shape of the curls, I think. I then piped the remaining buttercream into little roses round the edges. Here is how the top then looked.
This one *is* pretty, which makes me glad. Looking at the first picture above, the gory one, you might have an idea of the panic that was tapping me on the shoulder. ‘GORY CAKE!’ it shouted. ‘GORY CAKE!’. But, you know, that stuff is all on the inside of the cake, hidden like a terrible, terrible secret. Here is the finished result, looking altogether very beautiful, if I do say so myself.
I chose not to put buttercream round the edges, as it was very sweet and I didn’t want the cake to end up being sickly, what with it containing a reasonable amount of sweet jam and chocolate already. It looks OK round the outside regardless, but my concern is that it might have been dry. Also, the buttercream flowers seem ready to jump off the top of the cake any given moment. They set to a nice firm consistency though, as did the middle of the cake – I kept it in the fridge overnight, in my new cake carrier, ready to be carted off the next day. I really do think that my cake skills have come on so far this year, and it makes me happy to look at these pictures and think ‘I made this’.