Wednesday 20 February 2019

Cake Slice Bakers - February

Thank you for all the comments on my last post. I couldn't reply for a while for reasons unknown. Replies to comments just disappeared into the cloud, but today they are being published. It's a mystery! Anyway, it seem that Marie Kondo creates quite a difference of opinion, as does the whole subject of decluttering and moving house. I don't think it will be my last post on the subject. But today I'm writing about cake!

For a little while I stepped back from the Cake Slice Bakers, a worldwide group of bakers who each year bake from the same book once a month and blog about it on the 20th of the month. It was a combination of not finding the time to bake and write a blog post about it regularly and also I wasn't enjoying the the last couple of books we were baking from. The books were American baking books and as a general rule American cakes tend to be a lot stickier, sweeter and heavier on the frosting than British or European cakes  and not really to my taste. So when I spotted the book choice for 2019 was The European Cake Cookbook I was tempted back. The author Tatyana Nesteruk is Ukrainian, brought up in Italy and now resides in California. The book even claims that the cakes are less sweet than their American counterparts.

However, having seen the four choices for February I wasn't convinced! All consisted of several layers and were thick with frosting, a caramel honey cake, a lemon meringue cake (tempting!), Esterhazy cake, and a banoffee cake... definitely special occasion cakes rather than the sort of thing you would have in a tin to go with a cup of tea or coffee at anytime of day (I'm quoting from the back cover of the book). But as it happens we had a big family meal a couple of weeks ago and it was a good excuse to make one of the cakes for dessert so I chose the Caramel Honey Cake although I think all the choices would have made good desserts.

The cake itself was a fat free sponge baked in three tins and with the use of my trusty mixer it took no time to mix up and get in the oven.

The cake layers were soaked in a syrup of condensed milk and cream, which I thought would make it really sickly but in fact it just made the layers really moist and flavourful. Although I did opt to change the frosting slightly and used only half the amount specified. Instead of cutting each of the cakes in half creating six layers to be separated with frosting I just kept to the three layers, which automatically reduced the amount of frosting required. I think this was a good decision as it gave a good proportion of cake to sweet icing.  I like a butter cream as much as the next person I do think it needs a good proportion of cake to go with it... and this was just right. If I had gone with the recipe it would have been far too sweet for my taste. And it still made a very tall cake. The only other change I made was I toasted the pecans lightly before using them as I think it brings out the flavour.

And the verdict... everyone loved it and I would definitely make my version again, not too rich and full of flavour.

When our two year old grandson saw it he tipped his bowl containing a little malt loaf onto the floor and pushed his plate towards this towering cake instead!

My Version of the recipe:

Caramel Honey Cake

for the cake:
9 large eggs
150 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
118 ml of runny honey (1/2 cup)
250g plain flour
100g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
125 g toasted chopped pecans

for the syrup:
118 ml condensed milk (1/2 cup)
118 ml double cream (1/2 cup)

227g unsalted butter
250 g icing sugar
200g dulce de leche (caramel sauce)
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g chopped toasted pecans (reserve some whole ones for decoration)

  • Pre heat the oven to 350 F, 180 C (160 fan) and grease and line 3 20cm round cake tins
  • For the cake, place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl (preferably a stand mixer) and whisk on high speed until pale and almost doubled in volume (About five mins). Add the honey and whisk for another minute. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and fold gently into the egg mixture in small additions so not to get pockets of flour. Finally fold in the pecans.
  • Divide the cake batter between the three tins and bake for  25 - 30 minutes until completely set. Allow to cool in the tin briefly before turning out to cool completely.
  • Combine the condensed milk and syrup together and brush over the cake layers until it has soaked in thoroughly.
  • For the frosting, whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Add the caramel sauce and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the sugar and whisk again until well mixed and fluffy
  • To assemble, spread a layer of the frosting between each layer of cake and then cover the sides and top with the frosting. Use the remaining nuts to coat the side and decorate the top with some whole pecans

You can check out what everyone else has made hereby clicking on the link below... I think!

Wednesday 13 February 2019

The clock is ticking

Time is of the essence at the moment. Our house sale and purchase are going through and it looks as though we may well be moving house by the end of next month. I know there is so much to do yet I'm finding the thought of all the sorting out and decluttering all rather daunting. Bit by bit I'm deciding what we will bring with us and what needs to go but there is still an awful lot to do.

So at the moment reading is pared down to ten minutes or so before I fall asleep. If I wake up in time I also get twenty minutes in bed with a cup of tea before I walk the dog... when I frequently end up re-reading what I read the night before! So the fact that the last two books I've read have been slim volumes has been a real bonus. I thought Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss was a perfect little gem of a book and I loved it. It tells the story of 17 year old Sylvie who is away in Northumberland during the summer with her down trodden mother and bus driver father who is an obsessive amateur historian. Together with a university professor and three of his anthropology students they are re-enacting life in an Iron Age settlement. Despite being a very short read it manages to cover themes of abuse, violence, class and gender inequality as well as history yet the narrative never falters

My second quick read was Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Published by Virago Classics it was a beautiful book - the cover is delightful - but I wasn't really convinced by the claim that it was a brilliantly witty book about the breakup of a marriage. Being a 'classic' I wanted to like it but mostly I found the self obsessed stream of consciousness just a little tedious and irritating rather than witty. I didn't dislike it enough to give up on it though and was glad as it grew on me a little by the end.

I'm not sure what I will read next as I have a pile of four or five books by the bed, as yet unread, but for now I'm flicking through Marie Kondo in the hope it will inspire me to get on with the tidying and clearing up. This morning I went through my t shirt drawer folding and rolling and found at least four or five that are destined for the charity shop. It's not much but it's a start. I couldn't quite face the KonMarie method of getting all my clothes in one big pile before sorting them out. If I had done that we wouldn't have got in the bed this evening! One drawer at a time will have to do.

I'm not looking forward to going through my books though... definitely won't be putting all of them together in one big pile before sorting them out. One shelf at a time I think.

Sunday 3 February 2019

Sweet stuff!

So given my last post* was a bit deep and thoughtful, tonight I decided I would just bring you cake or dessert... which is much more my style. I don't often do deep and thoughtful! 

Remember I said I was exhausted? Well when this photo below was taken I was at peak exhaustion. I had done an eight hour shift at the cafe ( I may actually have had a five minute break that day.) When I got home I really just wanted to get into pyjamas and curl up on the sofa. But instead I had a bath, put on my favourite leopard skin print dress and headed out to my book club supper... that is the alternative book club where books are rarely mentioned but we do eat supper. I had brought dessert, a chocolate caramel cheesecake which fortunately had been prepared the previous evening. I think I may have actually been lying with my head on the table five seconds before the photo was taken I was so tired. Don't even ask about the koala!

Two days later we were celebrating a Burns supper with friends and again I had offered to bring a dessert. I made a pavlova, partially with brown sugar which gave a lovely caramel flavour. The topping was roasted spiced pineapple in a caramel sauce (adapted from an Ottolenghi cheesecake recipe from his book Sweet) with added pomegranate seeds... I do love pomegranate seeds glistening like little ruby jewels. I love them on salads and puddings.

My final cakey offering this week was a birthday cake for Free Cakes for Kids. It has been a while since I last baked a cake for this charity but I was reminded once again what a difference a birthday cake can make. It may not seem like much but they are always appreciated. I find it quite humbling to bring a cake to someone who for whatever reason might not be able to provide their own cake. Little Albie and his mum were all smiles and it made it so worthwhile.

There might be quite a bit more cake here in weeks to come because I have decided to join in with the Cake Slice Bakers again... so there will be a big reveal and a recipe here on 20th of the month if I manage to get my act together. Although I hope to be back before then!

*Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my last post. I think I managed to reply to most in the comments but I am struggling to leave comments on blogs lately, including my own.... sometimes I type out a long reply, hit publish and it disappears, over and over again. Other times it works. I certainly don't know why!