Friday, 21 June 2013

Salted Caramel and Banana Triple Layer Cake

Salted caramel has been a huge trend for a while now and doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon.  It's a love it or hate it taste, personally I am a huge fan of how the touch of salt brings out the buttery sweetness of the caramel whilst giving an edge that prevents any sickliness.  On a recent supermarket trip I spotted a new flavour of Ben and Jerry's ice cream with a yummy sounding salted caramel core that needs to be tried very soon!

I originally planned to make this a purely caramel  cake but then spotted a very sad looking banana lurking forgotten in the fruit bowl and thought the flavours would work well together for a banoffee-esqe vibe.  Those almost black, squidgy, no-good-for-eating bananas make the best cakes with a dense texture and rich taste.

I used vanilla buttercream to sandwich and top the sponge as I had some to use up from a previous bake but next time I would use plain whipped double cream to make the overall cake less sweet and give it a more authentic banoffee pie taste.  A little grated dark chocolate on top would also go really well!

The salted caramel recipe makes a lot so any leftovers can be stored in the fridge until you decide how to use them up.  The easiest (and best!) way is straight from the jar with a spoon or drizzled over ice cream.  If you're feeling more adventurous it would be amazing in an apple crumble or served with sliced bananas, crushed biscuits and whipped cream for an instant dessert.  I've had a recipe for dulce de leche brownies bookmarked for aaaaages now so I'm going to see if I can adapt it to use up my caramel.  I'll blog the results if it works!

(All the measurements for this cake are in cups as the batteries have run out on my digital scales!)

For the Salted Caramel :

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 cup double cream
salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp)

Heat the butter, sugars and syrup in a small pan for 3-4 minutes until smooth and well combined.
Take off the heat and slowly whisk in the cream, take care as it can splutter.
Return to a low heat and cook for 2-3 mins more until the sauce thickens and turns a deeper golden shade.  Add salt to taste.
Pour into a bowl and allow to cool before chilling.

For the Banana Cake:

1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1.5 tbsp oil
1 large mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.  Grease and line a 20cm round sandwich tin and wrap the outside in tin foil.
Whisk together the sugar, sour cream, egg, oil, banana and vanilla.
Fold in the flour, bicarb and baking powder.
Spoon into the tin, smooth out and bake for 30-35 mins.  This is a dense cake so needs a fairly long cooking time.
Cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Caramel Sponges:

3/4 cup light  brown sugar
3/4 cup soft unsalted butter / margarine
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.  Grease and line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and wrap in tin foil.
Beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy.  Add 1-2 tbsp milk if batter seems too thick.
Divide between the tins and bake for 20 - 25 mins until golden brown and well risen.
Cool in the tins for 10 mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To Assemble the cake :

1 cup vanilla buttercream / whipped double cream

Place the first caramel sponge onto your serving plate / stand.
Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.  Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the sponge (this will stop the salted caramel oozing out)
Spread a good layer of caramel over the sponge, keeping within the buttercream border.
Place the banana cake in top and repeat the buttercream / caramel process.
Pop the second caramel sponge on top.
Pipe small rosettes all over the surface and drizzle with more salted caramel.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pink and Sparkly Disney Princess Tiara Cake!

This cake was made for a little girls' 5th birthday party.  I was told she loved all things Disney Princess and then given free reign with the design so it was a great opportunity to do something creative and try out a few new techniques!!

I decided to do a tiered cake with a sugar tiara on top so it was nice and tall with lots of space for decoration.  The tiara was hand cut from flower paste (gumpaste) so I made it a week in advance to give it plenty of time to dry.  I dried it around a cake tin so it would be curved and sit nicely on the top tier.  I also made the roses and bows at the same time.

The bottom tier was a rich chocolate mudcake filled and covered with white chocolate ganache and white sugarpaste.  This gave a good sturdy base for the second tier to sit on aswell as being the birthday girl's favourite.  Once iced I glued the cake onto the board using a little buttercream to hold it in place.

The second tier was vanilla sponge filled and covered in vanilla buttercream and pink sugarpaste.  While the sugarpaste was still soft I used a ruler and blunt knife to create a quilted effect.  I then used a small ball tool to make little indents at each intersection.  To stack the cake I pushed 5 plastic straws  into the centre of the base cake and cut them to the height of the cake.  As this was only a small cake the straws gave enough support (larger, heavier cakes need plastic dowels).  I then stacked the second cake on top, ensuring it was level.

To finish the tiara I rolled thin pieces of sugarpaste and coiled them around to form a heart and decorative swirls.  These were attached with edible glue.  The whole tiara was painted with gold lustre except the heart which was covered in edible glue and pink glitter.  Small pink glittery hearts were also stuck around the bottom.  Once all the paint was dry I attached the tiara to the top of the cake using more edible glue.  This stuff is fantastic for cake decorating as it dries clear unlike royal icing, a little goes a long way though it's very sticky!

Going back to the bottom tier I cut 4 large hearts from pink sugarpaste and stuck a rice paper Disney Princess image onto each before attaching them to the cake, equally spaced apart.  These are easily available from ebay and come in lots of different designs.  The bows were then attached in between each heart with small swags to connect them.  The swags are just thin rectangles folded like a concertina and pinched at each end.  Smaller pink glittery hearts, roses and some piping using royal icing, painted gold completed the bottom tier.

For the second tier I piped tiny dots into each indent and painted them with edible pearl.  I also piped larger pearls onto the tiara.  The final touch was a pretty pink ribbon around the cake board and the cake was ready for the party!

I hope to do a few more cake tutorials but will take photos of the different stages this time.  I tend to get really into what I'm doing and forget to snap any pictures until it's too late!  Decorated novelty cakes are my favourite things to do, it can be fiddly and repetitive at times but so rewarding when its all finished.  The process is very relaxing, when things go to plan that is!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse Cake

For Fathers Day my little girl and I got in the kitchen  to whip up this fluffy mousse cake for her Daddy.  He absolutely loves Nutella, often sneaking spoonfuls straight from the jar when he thinks no-one's looking so we decided to use chocolate and hazelnut as the main flavours, incorporating some of his favourite sweets into the decoration.

She loves to use the electric hand mixer as she's now big enough to hold it on her own so this cake is made up of layers of whisked chocolate sponge, whipped hazelnut cream, Nutella and milk chocolate mousse, lots and lots of whisking!!!!  I definately wouldn't recommend attempting this by hand unless you want a serious arm workout!!

The whisked sponge doesn't contain any butter so its super light and fluffy.  It's a very mild chocolate flavour, nothing rich or fudgy as that could easily become sickly when combined with the sweet fillings.  It's sort of like eating a very decadant swiss roll!  The hazelnuts provide a nice crunch against the soft whipped cream and mousse.

The idea for the chocolate collar came from The Pink Whisk although I used milk chocolate rather than white.  Next time I think I would use dark as the bitterness would help to offset the sweetness of the mousse and Nutella.  It looks tricky but was actually quite straightforward, if a little messy!!

As this is a fatless sponge it will only keep for a day or two and any leftovers will need to be stored in the fridge because of the double cream.

For the Cake :

4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Grease and line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins
Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar.
Whisk using an electric hand whisk for 10 minutes until very pale, fluffy and tripled in volume.
Sift over the dry ingredients and gently fold in, being careful to mix thoroughly but not knock all the air out.
Divide equally between the tins and gently smooth out.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tins.  These cakes are very fragile so can fall apart if you try to move them while still warm.
Once cool, run a knife around the edge to loosen and turn out.  Use a large serrated knife to gently cut each cake in half horizontally using a sawing motion.

For the Hazelnut Cream:

1 cup double cream
2 tsp hazlenut syrup ( I used Monin sugarfree, if making this only for adults you could use Frangelico hazelnut liqueur instead)
1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Whisk the cream and syrup until it forms soft peaks and is spreadable.  Fold through the chopped nuts.
Chill until needed.

For the Mousse:

1 cup double cream
100g chocolate, chopped (I used milk but use whatever is your favourite)

Place the chocolate into a large bowl
Heat the cream until scalding then pour over the chocolate.  Leave to stand for 5 minutes then stir gently until melted and smooth.
Allow to cool to room temperature then whisk until thick and fluffy.

(To make the mousse lighter you could then fold through whisked egg whites but I left these out as I was making this for kids.)

To Assemble the Cake:

3 - 4 tbsp Nutella
1 Fudge bar, chopped
50g white sugarpaste
150g milk chocolate, melted and slighly cooled

Place the first layer of sponge onto a plate / stand.  Spread over 1/2 of your hazelnut cream.
Top with the second sponge layer.
Stir the Nutella to make it runnier then spread over evenly.
On goes the third sponge and the remaining hazelnut cream.
Pop the final sponge layer on top and cover the whole cake with chocolate mousse.  Don't worry about getting the sides too neat as they will be covered by the chocolate collar.
To decorate, my daughter rolled out some sugarpaste and cut out letters to write 'Best Daddy'.  She then wanted to use chopped Fudge bar as this is his favourite but more chopped hazelnuts would probably be more appropriate!!
The final step is the chocolate collar, step by step instructions for this can be found on

We really enjoyed making this cake together as my daughter was able to do so much of it herself. She felt really proud giving it to her Daddy, almost as much as he enjoyed eating it!!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Suitcase Leaving Party Cake

I recently made this cake for a friends' leaving party as she is off to travel around the world for the next year (jealous!!!) . I wanted to represent as many of the countries she is visiting as possible but didn't want the cake to be too big .  After doing a bit of Googling to see what other travelling / leaving party cakes people had come up with I settled on a suitcase cake with hand painted labels for New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and China plus a good luck heart and name tag.

I made the labels first by cutting shapes from flower paste (gumpaste) and letting them dry overnight.  I then drew on my designs using a black edible marker pen and painted them using gel food colours diluted with vodka.  It's important to use vodka rather than water as the alcohol evaporates quickly so the flower paste doesn't become soggy.  I also used the flowerpaste to shape buckles.

The cake itself was dark chocolate mudcake filled and covered with milk chocolate ganache that was spiked with Cointreau to give a boozy Terry's Chocolate Orange taste.  The ganache covered cake was left to firm up in the fridge overnight before being covered in chocolate sugarpaste (fondant).

To give it a leathery look I allowed the sugarpaste to dry for 15 minutes once rolled out before applying it to the cake and rubbed it with a small amount of cornflour. This causes tiny cracks all over the surface and gives it a dull appearance, usually the exact opposite of how you want sugarpaste to look!!

I moulded a handle and cut straps from the leftover sugarpaste, running a stitching wheel along the edges for a bit of added detail.  You can get the same effect using a cocktail stick to make tiny dots but it takes a lot longer!

The final touches were to paint the buckles using gold lustre powder mixed with vodka and thread the straps through them.  I also used the gold lustre to add a few highlights to the labels and handle.  I attached the labels using edible glue and the cake was finished!!

It looks a lot more complicated to make than it actually is as the cake is just a simple rectangle with rounded off corners.  It's also great if you're new to covering cakes as the sugarpaste is meant to looked cracked and uneven to add to the aged, leathery suitcase effect!  If you're not confidant about painting the labels yourself there are lots of companies online that print edible images too.

I was really pleased with how this cake turned out in the end and it seemed to go down well at the party too!  I hadn't used chocolate sugarpaste before and was worried it would taste artificial but it was actually really tasty, much nicer than regular sugarpaste which I usually peel off and give to my other half who loves the stuff!  I got mine from a local cake decorating shop but I've seen it in larger supermarkets recently too.


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Blueberry Rose Layer Cake

One of the best things about summer in my opinion is the abundance of fresh berries.  They taste fantastic at this time of year; sweet, juicy and the beautiful colours look so inviting.  Blueberries were on offer at my local supermarket when I did the weekly shop so I decided to incorporate some into a layer cake this weekend.  Rather than baking them into the sponge as I've done before I wanted to try something a bit different.

The blueberries were cooked down in a little water, pureed until smooth then made into a smooth tangy curd to fill the layers of vanilla sponge.  This recipe makes quite a lot so you'll have leftovers to spread on toast or stir into yoghurt (or just eat with a spoon!)  It's not as sweet as blueberry jam so provides a nice sharpness and keeps the cake tasting zingy and fresh, perfect for summer!  It's also the most incredible deep violet colour which looks great against the golden sponge.

For the sponge :
225g soft unsalted butter or margarine
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.  Grease and line 2x20cm round tins then wrap tin foil around the sides.  (the lower oven temp and foil ensure you get nice even sponges rather than those annoying domes in the middle that have to be sliced off!)

Cream the butter and sugar for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time adding 1 tbsp flour after each addition to prevent any curdling.
Sift together the remaining flour, cornflour and baking powder then gently fold in.
Mix the vanilla extract and milk together then fold in to get a smooth batter.
Divide between the tins, smooth with a spatula and bake for 25 - 30 mins until risen, pale golden and springy.
Cool in the tins for 10 mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the blueberry curd:

150g blueberries
2 tbsp water (omit if using frozen berries)
75g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp cornflour
2 tsp lemon juice

Heat the berries and water in a saucepan until they break down.  Take off the heat and puree using a hand blender or food processor.  You can sieve the puree if you want to remove the skins but I didn't bother.
Return to the pan and add the sugar and butter.  Heat gently until melted.
Crack the 2 eggs into a large bowl and whisk together well.
Mix the cornflour and lemon juice to a smooth paste.
Pour the blueberry mixture over the eggs, whisking all the time then quickly pour back into the pan.
Heat very gently, whisking all the time until it begins to thicken.  Whisk in the cornflour paste and continue to cook for 3 - 4 minutes.  
The curd should be fairly thick by now but will also firm up as it cools to a spreadable texture.  Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover the surface directly with clingfilm and leave to cool.  Store in the fridge once completely cold.

For the buttercream:
150g soft unsalted butter
300g sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp blueberry curd
purple gel food colour

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir through the curd and continue to mix for 5 - 10 mins until the buttercream becomes mousse like.
Fit a Wilton 1M nozzle into a piping bag and paint a stripe of purple gel down one side.  Fill with blueberry buttercream.

To Assemble :

Place one layer of cake onto a stand / plate.
Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge.  Fill with a good layer of blueberry curd.
Place the second sponge on top.

Pipe buttercream roses over the top and fill in any gaps with little swirls.

I'm entering this cake into Tea Time Treats as I'm a big fan of the hosts What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage and the theme this month is layer cakes.  As I'm fairly new to blogging this is my first ever entry but I hope join in each month now!
Blueberry Rose Layer Cake

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Double Chocolate and Vanilla Trifle

One of my biggest pet hates is throwing away food but I often find myself with off-cuts of sponge and leftover ganache from making novelty shaped celebration cakes.  I recently made a sports car shaped birthday cake which involved baking a huge slab of dark chocolate mudcake, much of which was carved away to create the right silhouette.

Instead of just leaving the cake scraps to be picked at by various members of my household I decided to make a dessert out of them along with the leftover white chocolate ganache and vanilla creme patissiere.  You don't need leftovers to make this dessert though, its tasty enough to be worth making from scratch!!!

For the Trifle

Approx 200g chocolate cake
1 bag Galaxy Bites, roughly chopped

For the Vanilla Creme Patissiere

200ml milk
100ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split open
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
75g caster sugar
40g cornflour
50g unsalted butter, cubed

Heat the milk, cream and vanilla pod til just simmering, stirring to ensure it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.
Take off the heat, fish out the softened vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.  Stir them back into the milk and discard the pod.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar and cornflour til very smooth.  Quickly pour over the hot milk, whisking all the time to prevent the eggs scrambling.
Pour back into the pan and heat til thick, whisking all the time.  Whisk in the butter ensuring it is all melted and well combined.
Take off the heat and directly cover the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.  Leave to cool.
Stir well before using.

For the White Chocolate Ganache

50ml double cream
100g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

Pour the cream into a large heatproof bowl and microwave on high in 20 second bursts until almost boiling.
Add the chocolate and stir until melted.  The heat from the cream should be enough but you can microwave for another 20 seconds if any stubborn bits wont melt,
Whisk the mixture using an electric hand mixer until thickened and fluffy.

To Assemble:

Roughly crumble the cake into large chunks and place a handful into the bottom of a sundae glass.
Spoon over a thick layer of creme patissiere and sprinkle with a few chopped sweets.
Add a layer of ganache then repeat to fill up the glass.
Decorate with cake crumbs and any remaining sweets.
(I made 3 individual trifles from this amount but it depends on the size of dish you use)

You could always use ready made fresh custard and whipped double cream if you don't have any leftovers or fancy making the creme pat and ganache from scratch.

Raspberry + Vanilla Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast can be a tricky meal to keep interesting in our house thanks to always being in a rush and a fussy daughter who rejects my attempts at homemade porridge or scrambled eggs.  The usual options of buttered toast, plain bagels or Rice Krispies have been deemed 'boring' but I still want her to have a healthy start to the day (NOT chocolate croissants or Nutella toast as per her suggestions!)

These muffins are super healthy and filling with a secret protein rich ingredient, oats and only a small amount of sugar.  The recipe doesn't include eggs so can easily be made suitable for vegans.  I was expecting them to be a little dense as eggs are usually what give that fluffy muffiny texture but these were lovely and light thanks to that secret ingredient again......gram flour otherwise known as chickpea flour.  You wont find it in the baking aisle but it is stocked in the ethnic or special ingredients aisle in most large supermarkets.

Chickpeas in muffins sounds a bit gross but you honestly don't get any 'beany' taste from it at all.  It just gives a great lift to the batter, a lovely fluffy texture and also provides the protein hit that is often missing from breakfast muffins.  No 11am hunger pangs with these babies, the combination of gram flour and oats will keep you full right through til lunch!

1 cup oats
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup gram flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk / non dairy milk
1/2 cup melted butter (use margarine or oil for vegan option)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp vanilla extract (the kind with vanilla seeds if you can find it)
1 cup frozen raspberries

Makes 12 decent sized muffins

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Line a 12 hole muffin tin with large paper baking cases.

Mix together the oats, flours, sugar, baking powder and bicarb in a large bowl.
Whisk together the milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together lightly using a spatula.
Add the frozen raspberries and fold in very gently.  Don't over mix, the batter should be lumpy and slightly scary looking if you are used to beautiful smooth cake batter like I am!  Just trust it will all be okay once baked!
Scoop the batter into the cases and bake for 20 - 30 minutes until a skewer poked into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

These muffins freeze beautifully, I popped all 12 into a large freezer bag and have been taking one out each night so it's defrosted by the morning.  They are also great to add to packed lunches!