Somewhere over the rainbow … there was a shedload of cake!

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Five layer rainbow cake

So, it was that time of year again. Birthday time.

You may not know this but I am incredibly organised – okay, you could say I’m a control freak – and both my children share the same birthday a year apart.

And when the new school year starts, I start frantically trying to plan a birthday party for them.

This year was no exception apart from Ruby’s request – quickly joined by Isabelle – that they couldn’t wait to see their cake and *I’ll have to whisper this because it’s like blasphemy* could they BUY a lovely one from Costco.

Yes, my children, ladies and gentlemen – the cake philistines!

Not one to disappoint I duly trotted off to said shop and went to order said cake. But its bakery was having a refurb that very week and no baking would be taking place. I was secretly seething at this point as I’d not planned a cake and didn’t know what to do.

But then the cake fairy appeared – in the form of The Pink Whisk – and the concept of a rainbow cake was born!

It was a lovely cake, really easy to make – apart from the fact I only had one tin, so had to bake the five sponges individually.

I doubled the quantities below as my tin was huge and I had at least 30 kids plus adults to feed. I would say the double mixture would happily feed 50 – and it was a big slice of cake too, incorporating one of each colour layer.

Ingredients

500g butter. Now I used Aldi’s baking butter at 49p for 250g and it was a steal and worked really well. I checked the fat content and it was in 70% range, so I would thoroughly recommend it.

500g sugar

10 eggs

500g flour. I used plain and then added salt and baking powder.  You will need 1/2tsp of salt and 1.5tsp of baking powder per 500g.

1tsp vanilla essence. Yes, essence, I always use it and never its more expensive cousin extract.

Gel paste colourings. These are a must. Buy them in five rainbow colours of your choice. I chose Christmas red, Tangerine orange, Egg yellow, Holly green and Ice blue – as I knew I would use these colours over and over again in other things. Gel pastes last for eons as you only need a small amount.

Method

Heat the oven to 160 (electric fan) and line a tin/ tins (if you happen to have five!) with greaseproof paper. I think this quantity will give you five decent sponges for an 8inch round or heart tin. As I said I had a 10inch square tin and doubled the quantities.

I also got out five bowls so that I could divide the mixture once it was made.

Make sure your butter is room temperature and softened. I use a freestanding mixer and would definitely recommend it if planning to make the double amount. There is no way a handheld could cope with it.

Place butter and sugar in the mixing bowl and beat with a paddle attachment for at least five minutes until it is light, fluffy and completely combined together.

While this is beating, put flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and mix together.

Once the butter and sugar mixture has been beaten, add in the vanilla. Scrape down and add in the eggs. One at a time and always follow each one with a tbsp of flour. It stops the mixture splitting.

Once all the eggs have been incorporated, add in the rest of the flour, a ladleful at a time and scrape down the bowl, giving it one final mix.

Mixture complete!

Next, get your weighing scales out and place in front of your five bowls.

To make the sponges the same thickness, you’ll have to weigh the batter. I made it around 400g per sponge, per bowl. Place the amounts in and then get your gel pastes out. Add in enough of the paste until you have your desired colour.

Place in the oven and bake. Around 20-25 minutes per cake. I even found that by doubling the quantities, the cooking time was roughly the same. Needless to say if you are doubling up, your weight per sponge will be around 800g.

If I could give you one tip that would be to cook the blue and the green sponges first. Basically your bottom sponges and bake upwards. As they cool you can then assemble from the base upwards and you won’t be wasting precious time waiting for them all to cool before the icing stage! I learnt the hard way!

Cooling sponges!

Once cooled, you’re ready to ice and assemble.

I decided on a plain vanilla buttercream, with pink fondant butterflies and some little pink buttercream icing stars piped around the bottom, where the cake meets the board to hide any blemishes) and around the top of the cake, just to break up the white buttercream.

I tried to use an icing scraper to create pattern around the side but -more practice needed, I think.

I needed 1.5x the mixture below for inside the sponges and the crumb coat. I then needed another quantity to cover the cake for the final layer.

Ingredients – Buttercream

160g softened butter – proper, unsalted butter this time please.

500g icing sugar

2tsp vanilla essence

Around 60ml of milk, a little more, a little less – depending on consistency, your room temperature that day.

Method

Put butter and vanilla in the mixer with the vanilla essence and beat to break up the butter. Add in the icing sugar a little at time – unless you want your kitchen covered in fine layer of dust! And once all in, beat until you get a sandy consistency.

Slowly add in the milk until you get the consistency you want. For spreading and covering, I like it a little less stiff than if I was piping onto a cupcake.

Beat for around 10 minutes until light and fluffy. You’ll also get more out of your buttercream this way as it does increase in volume.

Then layer up the sponges, buttercream and raspberry jam between in each layer and cover all the sponges in a crumb coat and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

Make up another batch of buttercream and cover the cake in its final layer. Decorate as you wish!

Happy eating!

Layered up ....

My green sponge went a little funny and I have no idea why. It didn’t seem to rise as much as the others and seemed a little dense. Just luck of the draw but less cakey people never even realised – phew!

Crumb coat on

And finally … the big reveal …

Inside of the rainbow cake

Chocolate Orange Cake – it’s all mine!

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Every year at Christmas, since I can remember, my mum has bought me a Chocolate Orange and put it in my stocking.

I love the taste of chocolate with orange, so when I saw a recipe for this and there wasn’t one of the Christmas treats included in the recipe I was sceptical that it would live up to its name.

But, boy, did this cake pack a punch! It was delicious and not something that should be kept in reserve for the festive season.

I doubled the recipe below to get enough sponge and frosting for a four-sponge chocolate cake. I used 20cm round tins and cooked the sponges for 20-25minutes.

You can also use this recipe for cupcakes – use the amount below and it should make around 20-21 muffin-size cakes.

Ingredients:

SPONGE

70g unsalted butter (softened)

210g caster sugar

105g soft light brown sugar (I used normal white sugar and didn’t feel it detracted from the final result.)

2 large eggs

1tsp vanilla essence

1tbsp finely grated orange zest

255g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2tsp baking powder

1/4tsp salt

240ml whole milk

FROSTING

600g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter softened

250g full fat cream cheese (only use Philadelphia)

60g cocoa powder

3tsp finely grated orange zest

Method:

FOR THE SPONGE

Preheat oven to 190ºc.

Using an electric hand held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment cream together the butter and both types of sugar until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time on a medium speed, followed by the vanilla essence and orange zest.

Sift together the remaining ingredients, then add to the creamed mixture in three batches with the milk alternating between each and mixing on a low speed.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition, and once everything has been incorporated, raise the speed to medium and continue beating until the batter is well mixed and smooth.

Divide the mixture between each tin. I also lined each tin first.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sponges spring back when you gently press them.

Allow to cool for a short while in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING

Whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed, using either an electric whisk or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until crumbley in texture and no large lumps of butter remain.

Add the cream cheese and cocoa powder and continue to mix, on a medium speed, until the frosting is smooth and light.

Add the orange zest and stir by hand.

Trim the sponges so that they are even and flat. I usually chill the cakes for 20 minutes beforehand to reduce the amount of crumbs.

Chill the sponges again after cutting and before frosting. After the chilling, put a reasonable layer of frosting between the sponges and layer up the cake.

Using a spatula put more frosting around the sides and on the top of the cake and smooth it. Do not use all the frosting at this stage – it is just a crumb coat. Chill the cake again for 20 minutes before final layer of frosting.

Finally slap on the last lots of frosting with a spatula smooth around and then decorate however you would like. I used my spatula blade to make lines up the side and swirl on the top.

Happy decorating!

This keeps for about three days in an airtight container in a cool place. But I defy anyone who has made this cake to have any left at the end of this time!

My lemon pie brings all the boys to yard …

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Wowsers!

That’s all I can say about this Lemon Meringue Pie. It was simply the hugest pie I’ve ever made in my life but one of the most satisfying to make.

Not only did I make my own lemon curd – I know, I know, life’s too short – but I made an Italian meringue topping and was impressed with the results – even if I do say so myself!

The recipe is below but if you’re planning this just for a family meal, halve the quantities and use a smaller pie dish. The meringue doesn’t keep that well and it’s best eaten as soon as it’s cool straight from the oven.

I wouldn’t recommend making the whole pie beforehand. By all means make the base, filling and pile up the meringue misture, leaving the final baking of the meringue until you want to eat it.

Also, I used a biscuit base instead of pastry.

Lemon Meringue Pie – Recipe

Makes 10-12 massive slices

Ingredients

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 x 397g tins condensed milk
  • Freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 8 unwaxed lemons
  • 1 Basic Pie Crust, partially blind baked (ingredients and method below)

Simple meringue topping

  • 6 egg whites
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Or Italian Meringue Topping

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 7 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Basic Pie Crust

  • 260g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 110g unsalted butter

Equipment

  • a 23cm pie dish, greased
  • baking beans

Method

o Make the Pie Crust

  1. Put the flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Add 1 tablespoon water and beat until well mixed.
  2. Add a second tablespoon of water and beat until you have a smooth, even dough. If the dough is still a little dry, add another tablespoon of water, but be careful not to add too much water – it is safer to beat the dough at high speed to try to bring the ingredients together.
  3. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
  5. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Line the prepared pie dish with the dough and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper over the dough crust and pour in the baking beans.
  6. Partially bake the pie crust in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes. The dough should still be pale and slightly raw in the centre.

To Make the Lemon Meringue Pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2.
  2. Put the egg yolks, condensed milk and lemon juice and zest in a glass bowl and mix gently with a balloon whisk until all the ingredients are very well incorporated. The mixture will thicken naturally.
  3. Pour into the partially blind-baked pie crust and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. The filling should be firm to the touch but still very slightly soft in the centre (not wobbly!). Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

To Make the Simpler Meringue Topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2.
  2. Put the egg whites in a freestanding electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until frothy. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of the sugar at a time, whisking well after each addition. Once you have whisked in all the sugar, add the vanilla extract and whisk again until stiff peaks form.
  3. Spoon the meringue on top of the cold pie, making sure you completely cover the pie filling. Create peaks and swirls in the top of the meringue with the back of a tablespoon.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and crisp to the touch. (Note: With this method, the egg whites are not cooked through, so should not be served to the very young, the very old, those with compromised immune systems or to pregnant women.)
  5. Leave to cool completely before serving.

To Make the Italian Meringue Topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2.
  2. Put the sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil.
  3. While the sugar is on the hob, put the egg whites in a freestanding electric mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed. Whisk until the egg whites are light and foamy.
  4. When the sugar has been boiling for a short while, it should reach soft ball stage. (This is when the bubbles go more syrupy. To check, dip a spoon into the sugar, then drop it directly into a glass of cold water. The sugar will firm up on contact with the water. You should be able to form a soft ball out of the sugar. If it sets to hard to be able to form a ball, it has been boiled too long and has reached hard ball stage. Be careful, as the sugar goes from soft ball to hard ball stage very quickly. Don’t touch the hot syrup with your bare hand until you have dipped the spoon into the glass of cold water, otherwise you will burn your fingers.)
  5. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is incorporated, turn the mixer up to maximum speed and whisk for about 10-15 minutes, or until the meringue has tripled in size and is very white and fluffy.
  6. Turn the mixer back down to medium speed and continue to whisk for a couple more minutes until the meringue has cooled down slightly.
  7. Spoon the meringue on top of the cold pie, making sure you completely cover the pie filling. Create peaks and swirls in the top of the meringue with the back of a tablespoon.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and crisp to the touch. Leave to cool completely before serving.

It’s all rhubarb!

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Wow!

That’s all I can say about this recipe.

I’ve never really had a sweet souffle before but this one has whetted my appetite for some more. It was light, delicious and not overly rhubarb-y.

Very easy to make. Husband is a novice and managed these perfectly. One thing I would say though is that the mixture would have made 6-8 pots worth. We had to chuck quite a lot of mixture away.

Recipe

Prep: 20 min
Cook: 15 min

Serves 4

For the rhubarb purée
Cook 200g chopped rhubarb with 2tbsp caster sugar and a dash of water for 5 min or until soft.
1tsp butter and 1tbsp caster sugar for moulds
3 free-range eggs, separated plus 2 extra egg whites
100g caster sugar
200g rhubarb purée
100g blueberries
Icing sugar to dust

METHOD

Heat the oven to 190 C/Gas 5. Butter the insides of four 150ml soufflé dishes (eg 10cm wide, 6cm high) and lightly dust with caster sugar. Combine the three egg yolks and 60g of the caster sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and smooth. Add the cooked rhubarb, beating well.

Whisk the five egg whites and half the remaining 40g sugar in a large clean bowl until the whites start to thicken.

Add the remaining sugar and keep whisking until soft peaks form. Gently fold one third of the egg whites into the yolks, then the rest. Fold in the blueberries, fill the soufflé dishes to the brim and smooth the tops. Bake for 12 to 15 min, until puffed and golden.

Dust the soufflés with icing sugar and serve immediately with small bowls of cream or ice-cream.

 

Earl Grey and Chocolate Torte

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First things, first. Please forgive me!

I forgot to take a lovely picture of a slice of torte – and just when I’d remembered, Charlie had literally just hoovered the last crumb into his mouth.

I did, however, manage to get one of it in its tin but it doesn’t do it any real justice.

You may have noticed my little penchant for Earl Grey these last few days. I love a cup of the stuff – and, ssssshhhh, prefer it to the super-strong builders’ blend that hubby has a passion for.

Since buying a box of the flowery tea at the weekend, I’ve made this torte, Earl Grey cupcakes (see earlier post) and drunk countless cups. No doubt by next weekend, I’ll be sick of the stuff and the smell of bergamot will have me running for the hills – but, until then ……

So, what did I think of this recipe?

It was relatively easy to make. There were quite a few processes and you did need to keep re-reading the recipe to make sure you’d achieved every step. I’d say the preparation time here would be around 40-45minutes.

For me, the chocolate was too rich and overpowered the subtle flavours of Earl Grey. I’d recommend lowering the cocoa content in the chocolate used – maybe down to 60 per cent and using another tea bag full of leaves.

That said, it was a lovely pudding and I was rather impressed with it. It kept well, at least three days and it didn’t dry out.

Have a go and see what you think.

Recipe

  • leaves from 2 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 100ml hot milk
  • 250g good dark chocolate (we used a 78% bar)
  • 200g butter , diced
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 200g caster sugar
  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep, 22cm loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment, so the paper comes about 2.5cm above the sides. Stir the Earl Grey tea into the hot milk.
  2. Melt the chocolate, butter and a pinch of salt together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
  3. Then stir in the ground almonds, followed by the egg yolks and milky tea, including the leaves.
  4. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the caster sugar until stiff-ish again.
  5. Fold the whites through the chocolate mix and scrape into the tin.
  6. Bake for 30-35 mins – it should still have a slight wobble. Then cool completely in the tin.
  7. Carefully remove from the tin and lift onto a serving plate. Dust all over with cocoa and icing sugar, then serve in slices with crème fraîche or cream.

 

 

Blueberry cake – it’s practically one of your five-a-day!

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Simply must share this cake with you. I’ve made it with blueberries but I’m pretty sure blackberries, raspberries and even some stewed rhubarb would be fabulous with this. In fact, I’m going to try the rhubarb version just as soon as my mum’s rhubarb plant has enough fruit!

I’ve used a ring mould for this cake, just to be a little different but it would work in a square or round tin. I think you’ll be better off using a 25cm round tin, but don’t quote me on that!

You can also use the cream cheese frosting recipe from the carrot cake to ice this. I haven’t as I was trying to be slightly healthy but I could imagine that would turn this from an ordinary ‘cup of tea’ piece of cake into something rather more glamourous and filling.

The following recipe will make between 14 and 16 ‘fat boy’ slices and around 18-20 normal size pieces.

Don’t be put off by the amount of cake – I made this on Friday and in it’s fourth day it’s still deliciously moist and hasn’t dried out at all.

Perfect to make on a Sunday for lunch boxes and it’ll still be as fresh as a daisy on Friday. Plus, it’s got fruit in it so it’s practically one of your five-a-day!

Recipe

  • 350g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 450g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp baking powder
  • 280ml soured cream
  • 250g fresh blueberries, plus extra to decorate
  • 2 quantities cream cheese frosting (optional and I didn’t use it)
  • a 25-cm ring mould, greased and dusted with flour. I used a 23cm one and just had it in the oven for a little while longer.
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed. Add the soured cream and mix well until everything is combined and the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Gently stir in the blueberries by hand until evenly dispersed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared ring mould and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the mould before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. When the cake is cold, put it on a serving plate. You could cover the top and sides with the cream cheese frosting and decorate with more blueberries – it’s up to you but I didn’t.

Three-tier Red Velvet Cake

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Fresh on the success of my Welcome Home cake, I decided to make a Red Velvet one for my friend Erin.

One of the downsides of Army life is leaving behind good friends when your husband gets a new job – and this was one such friend.

At the weekend, I went back to Suffolk to see her and took this along with me.

It’s the same recipe as in an earlier post – except you double it the amount and split it between three 8cm pans and cook for 20-25mins.

The frosting is the cream cheese recipe, doubled again. This time I made sure the butter was at room temperature and reduced the beating time in my KitchenAid a little – perfect frosting!

I trimmed the tops of the cakes to make them sit together better and placed the cakes in my garage for a while to chill and try and reduce the amount of crumbs.

The Hummingbird Bakery use the cake tops crumbled up as decoration on their cupcakes and Red Velvet cakes but I decided to go for some icing writing – it went a little better than last time!

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