Monday, 13 May 2013

Rainbow Birthday Cake

May appears to be the month of birthdays at Lincoln College, Oxford! May day is a big deal here, so on my birthday (May 1st) we all arose (fairly hungover) at 6am to watch the choir sing on Magdalen Tower, before heading to a champagne breakfast, followed by lunch a lot later on!

 I was absolutely spoiled on my birthday, in a way that completely overwhelmed me. Last week it was my good friend Rose's birthday, followed my Boo's birthday on the 13th May, and I was determined to spoil these two wonderful people and make them feel as happy as I did.

And it just so happened.. that in the middle of all these birthdays.. I went home! How could I NOT have made a birthday cake?!

I was inspired to make this particular cake, inspired once again by The Boy Who Bakes, due to a particular Mean Girls quote..

"I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy..."

So that's precisely what I did.

225g unsalted butter
325g plain flour
50g cornflour
4 and a half tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
400g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium eggs
300ml whole milk
gel food colouring in red, yellow, orange, purple, blue and green
150g white chocolate
300g caster sugar
6 medium egg whites
540g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 fan), then grease and line three 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment, greasing the parchment too. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt together to combine, and set aside.

Put the butter in a large bowl and beat until smooth and light. Add the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, then add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until fully combined. Sift the flour in in three additions, alternating with the milk.

Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk until they hold soft peaks. Add the whites to the cake batter and gently fold together until just combined and there are no streaks of white.

Divide the batter between six bowls. Add a small amount of colouring to each bowl, enough to make it a vibrant colour. Add the first three colours to the three tins and bake for 15 minutes or until they spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining three colours.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate in heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Remove from the heat once melted and leave to cool.

Put 190ml of water and sugar into a pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and have a sugar thermometer ready. Meanwhile, put the egg whites into a free-standing electric mixer. Start whisking the egg whites on high speed when the syrup in the pan reaches about 115 degrees Celsius on the sugar thermometer. Cook until sugar reaches 121 degrees. With the mixer still running, pour the syrup in a slow stream down the side of the bowl containing the whites. Continue whisking on high speed until the meringue is room temperature.

With the mixture still running on medium-high speed, add the butter in small pieces at a time, beating until fully combined. When adding the butter it can sometimes look curdled, but don't worry - just keep mixing and it will eventually smooth out to form a light buttercream frosting. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix until fully combined.

To assemble the cake, put the purple layer on a cake board and top with a thin layer of frosting. Repeat the process with the other cake layer in the order of the rainbow - purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red and then spread the remaining frosting across the top and sides of the cake.

If you're making this for a birthday, you might also want to make these marshmallows as a cute homemade present!

I was darn pleased with the way this turned out, slicing into the middle and revealing the rainbow inside in the JCR with all my favorite people was pretty wonderful :) I hope they both enjoyed it!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Plum and Cardamon Cake

This weekend marks the end of 3rd week of Trinity term (that's summer term in Ox-lang). It also marks my single weekend home of term, which can only mean one thing - baking.

However, this weekend is also special, as some cousins are coming over to England from Germany for a family reunion in Herefordshire; my beautiful countryside home. We went to tea at a beautiful venue called The Priory, where my sister and her husband were married last June, and the following day I whipped up two cakes for a number of neighbourly guests who came to tweak and coo at my little baby nephew! 

The first of these is this plum and cardamon cake, and the recipe is from The Clandestine Cake Book - one of FIVE baking books I received for my birthday 

I've never baked with cardamon before, and the word only brings to mind the hard, spicy and quite unpleasant seeds that ruin a good curry mid-mouthful... however, I can guarantee that plum and cardamon are, as this book says, "a flavour marriage made in heaven", and this cake is absolutely exquisite: 

200g butter
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs 
200g self raising flour
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
6 plums
2tbsp soft light brown sugar
1tbsp water
80g butter
120g full fat cream cheese 
180g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (170 fan). Grease and line two 18cm round sandwich tins.

Start by making the plum sauce. Place the plums in a pan with the sugar, cardamon and water, and heat gently until tender and beginning to break down. Remove from the heat, taste, and add a little more sugar if needed. Strain the liquid through a sieve and set the plums and liquid to one side to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

 Add the beaten eggs a teaspoon at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour after each addition. Continue until all the egg and flour is incorporated. Mix in the ground cardamon.

Divide the mixture between the tins and spread evenly. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tins, then cover one of the sponges with three quarters of the cooled plum liquid, allowing it to sink in. Leave in the tins to cool completely. 

Make the filling by beating the butter in a bowl until smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix until combined, then sift in the icing sugar at intervals until all is combined. Add a tablespoon of the remaining plum liquid and mix well. Place in the fridge to firm up.

When the sponges are completely cool, turn the plum soaked sponge out on to a plate and cover it with the cream cheese filling, then the reserved plums. Place the other sponge on top of the filling.

To make the glace icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add about 2 tablespoons of warm water to produce a runny mixture. Drizzle over the cake. Decorate as you please.

The best cakes LOOK homemade. 
You could even replace the plums with another fruit, like rhubarb. (As you know, i'm a huge rhubarb fan, those of you who have seen my rhubarb and custard muffins will know!)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Best Ever Triple Chocolate Brownies

There's a story behind every brownie.

Well, not really, but there is behind these ones. One of my sister's flatmates Beth was also a passionate baker, and whenever we went to visit she whipped us up a batch of gooey chocolate brownies. It took me a while to persuade the recipe out of her, but one day I received a letter in the post containing THE secret recipe.

That was over a year ago, and since i've tweaked and changed the recipe endlessly, and now feel confident enough in it to share on this blog (without persecution by Beth!) They are really something else, with huge chunks of sweet white chocolate buried in a decadent mixture of milk and dark chocolate; definitely a rainy-day treat.

150g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
225g butter
4 eggs
325g golden caster sugar
10ml vanilla extract
150g plain '00' pasta flour
200g white choc, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 fan) and grease and line a rectangular baking tray. Melt the butter, milk chocolate and dark chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until it is light, frothy and has doubled in volume.

 Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mix and beat well.  Fold in the flour. Coat the chopped white chocolate with flour and stir half of it into the mixture.

Pour half of the mixture into the mixed baking tray and spread evenly. Scatter over the remaining white chocolate, poking it in slightly with a spoon, ensuring the white chocolate is evenly distributed.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes if you prefer your brownie gooey, and 40 minutes if you would like it firmer and more chewy. I usually aim for about 35 minutes.

Eat entire batch in one go. If you're a chocolate fiend, like me, you might also like to check out this recipe for Chocolate Marble Cake, and as an alternative to your average brownie, these Salted Caramel Brownies.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Passionfruit Cake

I arrived home from university the other evening and was immediately faced with a baking urge. I simply cannot sit in our kitchen without eyeing up my baking books on the shelf.. I swear they tease me.

Luckily however, I had an excuse! My Nan currently has relatives over, and despite the fact that she is the wonderful lady I got my baking genes from, she sadly has "lost her magic touch." (Her words, not mine!) So the whisk has been officially passed down to me, and I whipped up this fruity treat from the Clandestine Cake Club Book:

225g butter
225g caster sugar
2 heaped tbsp passionfruit curd (See below)
4 eggs
225g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

For the filling:
150g butter
350g icing sugar
3 heaped tbsp passionfruit curd

Passionfruit Curd:
3 passionfruit
1 large egg
40g caster sugar
25g butter

First you will need to make the passionfruit curd. Cut the passionfruit in half and strain the pulp through a sieve, to get rid of the seeds. Place the passionfruit juice, sugar and egg in a heatproof bowl and whisk together. Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk often for about 20 minutes. The curd will slowly thicken until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to cool while you make the cake.

Lemon curd cooking
For the cake, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (170 fan) and grease/line two 20cm cake tins. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the curd. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix until well incorporated. Combine the milk and the lemon juice and stir into the mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and spread evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the butter and sugar and beat well to form a thick buttercream. Stir in the passionfruit curd. Spread evenly over one sponge and place the other one on top, and then spread over the top of the cake.

Do not eat all the icing out of the bowl. DO NOT DO IT.
Finally, put the kettle on, make a cuppa, and devour :) If you enjoy the light, refreshing taste of this cake you'll probably also like my delicious Lemon and Poppyseed Cake or this Orange and Sultana traybake!