19. Coffee and Walnut Cake

Well well well, where does the time go?! It’s been nearly 5 weeks since my last post – must try harder! This week I decided to do a request – coffee and walnut cake. Suprisingly I’ve never made this classic before, probably because I don’t like coffee or walnuts, but decided not to be selfish, it’s not always my cake time! I started my making the cake mix. The coffee flavouring comes from instant coffee mixed with water and when it came to tipping this in it made a cool arty pattern, like some sort of macabre waterfall, so I took a picture!

Coffee going into the cake mix

Coffee going into the cake mix

After adding the rest of the ingredients it looked like this…

Cake mix

Cake mix

Now the mixture was for 8″ tins which I don’t have (don’t fret, thay are on order!), I only have 7″ sandwich tins. Incidentally I had a look at what they had in Sainsburys and they have a few different options but in the standard range the 7″ and 8″ were the same size so I borrowed a ruler form the stationary aisle to check and loads of the tins were miles off the labelled size – it seemed the more you spent the more accurate the size. I’d like to think accurate sizes are pretty fundamental whether it’s Basics or Taste the Difference! I’m planning a stongly worded letter with my photographic evidence any day now.

Anyway… as I have learnt from experience trying to fit an 8″ sandwich recipe in my shallow 7″ tins just ends in a messy oven and a lot of smoke alarm action. I therefore decided to use my other 7″ standard tin to make a third layer and once the mixture was distributed between the tins I popped them in the oven.

In the oven

In the oven

Once done, I turned them out the tins and left to cool.

Just out the oven

Just out the oven

While cooling I made coffee buttercream (again with instant coffee) and onced cooled I decorated with the buttercream and walnut halves.

Finished cake

Finished cake

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As I’m not a fan I haven’t tried any but it looked pretty good and have been assured by my willing victims, um, tasters, that it tasted pretty good too! I quite like the traditional look of this cake, nothing fancy, nothing modern, no speciality tools or equipment needed, just a proper old fashioned cake you’d expect to get round your gran’s.

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18. Rainbow Whoopie Pies

This week I decided to do something a bit different, rainbow whoopie pies! There’s no particular reason they’re rainbow, they are all the same flavour, it’s just to make them look pretty I guess. I had a stab at the traditional chocolate with marshmallow filling a while back but I wanted to make another attempt for the blog. For those of you who don’t know what a whoopie pie is, they are an American invention and you can read up on them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whoopie_pie

I started by making a large quantity of ‘batter’ that’s kind of like a sponge cake mix but has buttermilk in it and is a bit runnier.

Batter

Batter

I split the mixture into six equal batches and coloured each a different colour of the rainbow!

First set of colours

First set of colours

Second set of colours

Second set of colours

I used a speciality whoopee pie tin to bake my pies (from Amazon) that are easily available. You can pipe them into circles and bake them that way but I had neither the time nor the patience to do that! As I only had one tin I had to bake in two batches, each pie has two halves so I did four of each colour, enough for two pies.

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They only take 10-12 minutes to bake. They came out of the oven all lovely and risen and rounded and then promptly sunk! I then left them to cool.

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I then made a batch of standard vanilla buttercream for the filling. This was then piped on the flat side of a half then sandwiched together with another half. All done!

Sandwiched together

Sandwiched together

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They are described by the Americans as a cross between a cookie (biscuit) and a cake, but I’d say they are definitely more on the side of cake. They are soft and very moist. The best way I think to describe them, but not in a negative way, is claggy. Kind of sticky and stick to the roof of your mouth and a bit dense, but nice all the same! They’re not too sweet (the filling, in this case buttercream, adds most of the sweetness) and I don’t think I could manage more than one at a time! As always, lovely with a cuppa. 😉

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17. Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Thank goodness for autocorrect – what a random word meringue is?! Shouldn’t it be pronounced mer-ing-oo? Anyway, I digress…

This recipe I spotted in a magazine and thought I just had to try it. I went to see the parents again this weekend for Father’s Day and they always appreciate the arrival of me with baked goods (more the baked goods I think).

I started by making half a dozen lemon cupcakes. These were very similar to vanilla cupcakes juts with the addition of some lemon zest.

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Once they had cooled I piped a blob of lemon curd on the top of each.

Cakes

Cakes with curd

I then whisked up some nice glossy meringue (see, I just tried to spell that myself and got ‘mirangie’) from egg whites and caster sugar and piped a spiral of meringue with a wide star nozzle on the top of each cake.

Cakes with curd

Cakes with curd

Meringue

Meringue

I then put under a hot grill for a couple of minutes to colour the meringue and voila!

Finished cakes

Finished cakes

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These were super yum (even if I say so myself) and were light as a feather. And as always, lovely with a cuppa! Thought they would be more difficult than this but were actually very easy but with impressive results.

Cross section

Cross section

 

16. Vanilla Swiss Roll

This week I was visiting my parents and they mentioned that they had some spare jam and cream and that scones would be nice. Scones however, having made them dozens of times before, are against the rules of the blog. I therefore looked into other recipes that use jam and cream and stumbled across several swiss roll recipes and so decided to make one of those. I’ve made chocolate swiss rolls several times before (usually in a Yule log capacity) and the odd roulade but never a traditional vanilla.

I started by making a swiss roll sponge mix (similar to a Victoria sponge but with no butter and more egg whisking) and poured into a lined and greased baking tray.

Before the oven

Before the oven

I then cooked for 10 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

After the oven

After the oven

I then left it at that until I had arrived at my parents. By ‘cream’ I though they meant double cream or whipping cream that could be whipped up for the filling. They didn’t. They did however have a fridge full of various other dairy products so me and my mum concocted a filling made up of mascarpone, creme fraiche, clotted cream and icing sugar! Don’t ask me the quantities or how to repeat it because I have no idea but it tasted good. We then spread this on with a layer of jam.

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We then simply rolled up and added a dusting of icing sugar.

Rolled roll

Rolled roll

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I was pleased because the sponge didn’t crack too much. It looked good, tasted pretty good (maybe a little dry but I think that was because there were 12 hours left between cooking and filling and it was only covered with a tea towel) and it didn’t last very long!

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15. Multiseed Crackers

Hi readers, sorry I missed a week – too much going on!

This week I was feeling a bit over-sugared and unhealthy so I decided to cook something healthyish – shock horror! I went with multiseed crackers from the GBBO book that I’ve been meaning to try for a while but put it off a bit because I thought they might be a bit difficult. They were actually a lot easier that expected.

I started by adding wholemeal flour, semolina and a mix of seeds (some whole and some crushed). The recipe called for flax seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds but I couldn’t get hold of any pumpkin seeds so went for sunflower seeds instead. Seeds a pretty much all the same to me anyway!

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

I then added a mix of water, oil and honey to the dry ingredients. I then mixed this together with my hands to make a dough and kneaded in the bowl for five minutes until the sides of the bowl were clean. I then left to rest for 20 minutes.

Oil, water and honey

Oil, water and honey

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Dough

Dough

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I then split the dough into three batches and rolled them out on an oiled surface. The recipe said to roll it as this as a credit card – I’m not sure I quite managed that but I went as this as I could. Then came the complicated bit of cutting them into crackers! After some impressive (if I say so myself) manoeuvring of a ruler, a pizza cutter and a palette knife I managed to shop all the dough into crackers and place onto lined baking trays.

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I then sprayed the crackers with water, sprinkled with spare seeds and put in a medium oven for 20 minutes et voila!

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I think they came out really well, a few at the back of the oven may have been a little too dark. They have much more depth of flavour than crackers you buy and were very crunchy. I thought that would be the hard part getting the ‘snap’.

I bagged a few up to fob off on friends and sampled them later with butter and cheese which worked very well. I also felt less guilty about scoffing five in a row. Seeds are good for you right?!

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14. Chocolate and Orange Cupcakes

I went with something a bit more technical this week, filled chocolate and orange cupcakes, or to give them their official title ‘Dark chocolate cupcakes with orange cream filling and burnt orange buttercream’. Catchy.

I started by making a batch of dark chocolate cupcakes that were pretty standard. Although the recipe did call for (optional) chocolate essence which I have seen for sale before but never seen in a recipe so as I didn’t have any I missed it out on this occassion, but I did wonder what other recipes it might be used in.

The cupcakes came out ok (pretty dense but the mixture was a batter rather than a cake mix) but the cases fell off as they cooled and I’m not sure why – tres annoying!

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I then made the cream filling which was a mixture of double cream, mascarpone and orange zest. I was very careful not to overbeat the cream like I did for the eclairs!

Cream filling

Cream filling

While that was in the fridge and the cupcakes were cooling I made the burnt orange buttercream. This started with making a sort of orange caramel from butter, orange zest, orange juice and caster sugar, heated in a pan until it started to caramelise.

Orange 'caramel'

Orange ‘caramel’

Whilst leaving this to cool I mixed icing sugar butter and cream and added the orange mix in last.

Burnt orange buttercream

Burnt orange buttercream

Once that was mixed I put it inside and started the fiddly bit! I cut a circle out of the top of each cake, trimmed it to make a lid and carved out the rest of the centre of the cake. Was quite tricky to do without it all falling apart! On the plus side, the insides were surplus and could be nibbled on!

Carved out cakes and lids

Carved out cakes and lids

Then using a piping bag I piped the orange cream into the cakes and put the lids back on. This was really oddly satisfying… I think there may be something wrong with me.

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Then I piped on the orange buttercream in a spiral with a round nozzle and voila, all done!

 

All boxed up and ready to go

All boxed up and ready to go

 

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I thought these were very good! Rather sickly but as the cream in the centre wasn’t sweet (more tangy), it balanced them out quite well. I ate them straight from the fridge because of the cream which I wouldn’t usually do but it seemed to work. The burnt orange buttercream was lovely especially and even more so with a cuppa!

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13. Brown(ie) Owls

This week I was in a bit of a childish mood and didn’t fancy doing anything technical so I decided to make brownies! Nom noms! These technically still qualify for this blog as I had never made chocolate brownies this way before (but I must try harder next week!).

I started with a basic chocolate brownie mix (nothing unusual) and in case there wasn’t enough chocolate in it I added some chocolate chips.

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I then put in in my brownie pan and baked until it came out like so:

Cooked brownie

Cooked brownie

As these were going to be brown(ie) owls I need some feathers (chcolate button halves), eyes (giant white chocolate buttons, milk chocolate buttons and milk chocolate chips) and beaks (fudge bar triangles) which looked like this (spending my Saturday cutting chocolate buttons in half – crazy):

Preparing my decorations

Preparing my decorations

I then made the icing with a method I had not come across before: I put a mixture of dark and milk chcocolate in a bowl and then boiled up double cream and golden syrup. I then poured this over the chocolate and mixed until it melted together, no additional heat required. I was a bit dubious to start with as it looked like the picture below but I got there!

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Once the brownie had completely cooled in the tin, I cut out 12 rounds with a cutter and trimmed off the tops to make them level.

Cutting out brownie rounds

Cutting out brownie rounds

Then it was time to decorate!

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I covered the top and sides in icing…

Covered in icing

Covered in icing

…and then added the prepared eyes, beaks and feathers until they looked like this:

Iced and decorated

Iced and decorated

So cute! I think even Mr Hollywood wouldn’t be able to resist their little faces!

Twit twoo!

Twit twoo!

They were very sickly but very nice! Probably at bit too big but I couldn’t have made them any smaller otherwise they eyes wouldn’t have fit on. Obviously.

The icing was good, I’d like to experiement with that method more as my icing was still a bit lumpy (I think maybe the chocolate was a tad too cold when I started). These went down a treat with friends and colleagues – definitely a crowd pleaser if nothing else!