29 Nov 2011

Courgette, walnut and cinnamon layer cake

This cake is again from one of my new cook books the hummingbird bakery’s cake days. I made it for Eid. Having so many new cook books I was a bit spoilt for choice as to which cake to make as there were so many I wanted to try. I settled on this one as not everyone likes chocolate in the crowd that I was making it for (otherwise I would have gone for the Devil’s food cake from Nigellas kitchen which I have made loads of times-such a great cake-must manage to take pictures next time so can blog about it), um, anyway I digress, and also because it was quite straightforward to make but still quite celebratory. It’s quite a heavy rich cake so you definitely want to make it for a celebration when you have plenty of people to eat it. 

Some of you non-bakers probably made a face when you read courgette, but it’s similar to using carrots in carrot cake. The courgettes make the cake really soft and moist and you can’t taste them in the cooked cake (no one need know that it has courgettes in it at all). I found the recipe had far too much cinnamon and the icing was a bit too heavy despite having some Greek yoghurt in it. So I would add less cinnamon and loosen the icing with some milk. I give my recommendation in brackets below. I also found there was too much icing so would make ¾ the recommended amount next time. 

 The caramelised walnuts don’t really add much taste-wise but they do look pretty.

They have a short video of this cake on Amazon. It is quite straightforward to make and ice and looks very pretty. I did really like it but it’s not quite in the league of the above mentioned Devils food cake.

You will need three 20cm diameter loose-bottomed sandwich tins.
Serves 10-12 
3 large eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon (reduce to ½ or 1)
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
300g peeled and grated courgettes
100g walnuts, roughly chopped, plus 10-12 extra halves (caramelised if you wish) to decorate
For the frosting 
240g unsalted butter, softened
1½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting (reduce to ½)
750g icing sugar
75g plain Greek yoghurt (taste and add milk as needed)

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas mark 3, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the eggs, sunflower oil, sugar and vanilla essence until they are all combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the ground spices. With the mixer or electric whisk running on a low speed, add these to the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil in two batches, beating well after each addition until all the ingredients are incorporated. Lastly, add the courgettes and chopped walnuts to the batter, mixing them in thoroughly.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the three prepared cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top and springy to the touch.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes before carefully turning them out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Mix together the butter, cinnamon and icing sugar using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep mixing until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is sandy in consistency.
Add the yoghurt and mix on a low speed until the ingredients are combined, then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Once the cake layers have fully cooled, place the first layer of sponge on a plate or cake card and top with three to four tablespoons of the frosting, smoothing it out using a palette knife and adding a little more if needed.
Sandwich the second layer of cake on top and add another three to four tablespoons of the frosting, then add the final layer and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
To finish, you can make a swirled pattern in the frosting using the tip of your palette knife. Dust with a little ground cinnamon and decorate with walnut halves, caramelised if you wish.

24 Nov 2011

Chocolate Roulade

This delicious roulade is Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Bake Off that I have mentioned before. The chocolate roulade had been a technical challenge for the contestants in the series. At the end of the series they showed Mary Berry making it. I was watapping a friend as I watched and she was watching too and suggested I make this the next time they were over and the next weekend I had the opportunity to make it for her and a few other friends…..

Now mine looks nothing like Mary’s neatly rolled one. I was in a rush and didn’t follow the instructions as closely as I should have and forgot to use the paper when I was rolling it up-so I used just my hands and it promptly broke. I also forgot to add the cocoa powder (I know! I am still blaming any forgetfulness on having baby brain-I’m not sure how long I’m allowed to carry on using that excuse!) BUT it still tasted it great and I thought even the cracked appearance looked charming in a cracked homespun kind-of-way. I really liked it as it was but some smooth chocolate sauce made from a bit of cream and chocolate and sugar would be great and/or some berries or cooked cherries. The rush I made it in means there’s only a few pics taken with my iphone and none at the cooking stages.

12 Nov 2011

Blueberry yoghurt cake

This one is again adapted from the Hummingbird bakery cookbook. You can find the recipe here. I have added yoghurt instead of sour cream just because I always have Greek yoghurt in the fridge.

 It’s a dense rich plain cake studded with blueberries at the top and covered in a sweet tangy cream cheese icing. Make two thirds of the batter if you have a 23 cm ring tin as I do. I made the full amount and it overflowed.  It’s a moist but firm cake, more tea time than pudding, really good with a cup of tea….

I loved the icing but for those of you without a very sweet tooth or just if you want a slightly less rich cake you could  leave the icing out,  it’s still quite sweet. And make sure as with most cakes that you have serve it at room temperature, I tend to store cakes with cream cheese icing in the fridge and will only leave cakes with buttercream icing out overnight once. The cake is far too firm straight out of the fridge. 

3 Nov 2011

Books, books and more books.

I had a Birthday recently which has resulted in some new books. Hurrah. When it comes to cookbooks, that is usually a cause for celebration, rarely do they disappoint. Unlike Fiction, my other love, which is far more precarious and unreliable. Partly I suppose because you can more readily know what you’r going to get before you purchase it. So the ones I got were Cake Days by the Hummingbird Bakery –a very nice continuation of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Right up my street, a lot of the recipes are very rich so I will have to wait for the right occasion before I try something from it (the dreaded post-baby waist watching is still ongoing). It is very cheerful reading material, the cover and actual book is gorgeous with lovely photographs. 

 The second one as I have already mentioned in my last post was The Great British Bake Off cookbook which I haven’t yet had a chance to read properly through from cover to cover, though I have made the chocolate roulade from it. More about that in another post.

And the third is Gwyneth Paltrows’ cookbook, Notes From My Kitchen Table. It’s good healthy inspiration even if it does have some whacky ingredients that need to be sourced from the health food shop. Not bad, I’m looking forward to trying the brownies from there. I have been reading her blog GOOP recently.  You will see the results of baking from the books soon-ish.

Some other books I have been reading (in addition to the fiction which is always on the go) are on writing, as there are some other writing projects I am working on in addition to this blog. One of these is Anne Lamotts Bird by bird and another is Natalie Golbergs Writing down the bones. It is refreshing to read some contemporary writing on writing by authors that are alive! Particularly good after months of reading and rereading Dorothea Brande and EM Forster, as good and trusty as they are, the language is very dated.  I am getting lots and lots of inspiration from all of them though. The Guardians recent book season was also great.

And finally another little foodie titbit, as I was writing this I had a mug of hot chocolate going on the side. I love my hot chocolate and have tried quite a few in my time, I had settled on Green and Blacks as my favourite but recently I found this dark chocolate powder which tastes great and has 70% cocoa solids (from Waitrose). I'm hoping to try it in some brownies soon.

Have a good weekend peeps. Eid Mubarak to all those that are celebrating!