Blueberry and pistachio cake with coffee cardamom cream

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I’ve decided I really needed to get blogging again. I took this decision a few months ago and now spent quite some time figuring out where to schedule it in. Not that it takes much time, but one of my agenda points highlighted as a main priority these days is “twin boy management” (boss sometimes seems to differ). As with most things, I handle this quite well if I do say so myself so I manage to find some spare time as well, but lying on the couch has recently become a new hobby of mine… it’s a bit like what some people get at the gym (so I’m told), it really becomes addictive!

Anyway, today I found the solution: blogging from my mobile while lying on the couch! The boys are doing fine by the way, taking a nap as we speak (either that or doing something they are not supposed to – in any case, it’s quiet).

Ever since having them nearly a year ago, I haven’t stopped baking, I just stopped writing about it. I already used to go for the quick-and-dirty-chuck-it-all-in-a-bowl recipes a lot in the past and even more so now. Also, baking became a multi-step (and sometimes even multi-day) process, where I add an ingredient to the bowl, hand back a toy (that is immediately thrown back on the floor), add some more ingredients, prepare a bottle, preheat the oven… you get the point.

Anyway, back to food: I baked this cake for our family easter lunch. It’s not our traditional easter bake. That’s made of layers of milk-soaked cookies and coffee buttercream and an absolute favourite of my parents and grandparents. But I don’t like it and neither do my siblings and as I was in charge of dessert we didn’t see it this year. However, easter without buttercream is just no real easter according to my mum, so I came up with this solution: a light and fruity cake with the all important buttercream! Luckily I took a picture before everyone arrived as not a single crumb remained after the meal! Here’s how to make it:

Melt 175g butter and leave to cool. Heat oven to 160C and lightly grease and line the base of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment. Grease the tins again, dust with a little caster sugar and a little flour, then tap out any excess.

Put 4 eggs and 225 g golden caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and, using an electric whisk, mix briefly to combine. Place the bowl over a pan of steaming water and continue to whisk until the mixture is pale and thick – when the whisk is lifted, the mixture should leave a trail on the surface lasting about 5 secs. This will take about 5 to 10 mins. Remove the bowl from the pan and continue beating for 2 mins.

Continue to whisk the mixture while trickling the melted butter around the edge of the bowl. Sift in 200g self-raising flour and 85g ground pistachios, very gently give the mixture 2-3 folds, then add 100g blueberries and fold again, being careful not to knock out all the air. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat 250g softened butter and 200g icing sugar together with 2 egg yolks. Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee, diluted in 3 tablespoons water, and the crushed seeds of 6 cardamom pods and beat until combined.

Cool cakes in their tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove lining paper when completely cooled. Sandwich the cakes together with the coffee cardamom cream, and spread some more on the top and around the sides. You can also decorate it with pistachios and blueberries.

Enjoy!

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fabulous and heavenly: chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercream

Chocolate chiffon cake with salted caramel buttercreamAs always, we divided the preparation of the courses for the family Easter lunch under the family member (I have a small family, so we don’t end up with a ten course meal). It’s a little predictable, but I’m usually in charge of dessert. Of course, I have to do better than last year to wow the judges, and this totally did the trick. Chocolate is always a winner and I’m totally addicted to salted caramel, so this just couldn’t go wrong! You need a bit of time (I prepared both the cake and buttercream a day in advance and assembled in the morning) but it’s well worth it and not hard at all. The recipe is for my recent GoodFood issue and is by John Whaite, winner of the Great British Bake Off. Here’s how to do it:

First, bake the cake:
Heat the oven to 140 C and grease and line a 25 cm round deep cake tin with baking parchment. In a large bowl, mix 125 ml sunflower oil, 7 egg yolks (you need 7 eggs in total, separate them and set the whites aside for later), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 375 g sugar and 200 ml water until well combined. Sift in 50 g cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Sift in 300 g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (if you don’t have it, replace by 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder) and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter and mix until everything is well combined. Gently pour the mixture into your cake tin, then bang it on the work surface twice to expel any large air pockets. Bake for 1 hr 10 mins or until the cake springs back when gently prodded and an inserted skewer comes out clean. (Cover with foil after 1 hr if the cake starts to get too dark.) Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a large wire rack and peel off the parchment. Leave until the cake is completely cool.

For the salted caramel buttercream:
Make the salted caramel icing while the cake bakes. Heat 250 g soft brown sugar, ½ tsp salt and 150 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bubble for a few mins, then leave to cool completely (stir every now and then so it cools evenly. Of course a taste test is an excellent way to determine wether it’s cool enough – I tested constantly :-). Beat 140 g softened butter until smooth, pour in the cooled cream mixture and continue mixing until softly whipped. Chill until needed (this will allow it to firm up a little – if you leave it overnight, it will be too solid to spread, so take it out of the fridge half an hour before using or pop it in the microwave for 15-20 sec).

Make the ganache for the topping
To make the ganache, heat 250 ml double cream (or full-fat cream) until just boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over 250 g dark chocolate (chopped). Leave to stand for a few mins until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth sauce consistency. Leave to cool at room temperature until the ganache is a pipeable thickness, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle (I added the chocolate to hot cream instead of vice-versa, meaning it tool a little more to cool as the saucepan was still hot – I found it took about 2 hours to cool down to pipeable thickness – once you’re there, you’ll have to work rather fast or it will become too solid).

You’re ready to assemble
To finish the cake, slice in half and fill with the salted caramel buttercream. If, like mine, your cake has risen to unbelievable new heights, you may want to slice it in 3 and divide the buttercream. Pipe tall spikes of chocolate ganache on top and decorate with the sea salt crystals. Will keep for up to 2 days in a cool place (not that it stands a chance of being around for that long). I usually end my blog post by suggesting you how to use up left-over ingredients but really, will you have left-overs?! Enjoy!

 

Definite show stopper: Malteser chocolate cake

Malteser chocolate cakeOn a recent trip to London, the Waterstones near Piccadilly Circus was one of our first stops, as usual. Of course I cannot go past the cooking books and I spotted one I didn’t have yet. So this recipe comes from my new cookbook as it seemed perfect for a birthday celebration: Fast, Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale. You can of course opt for something else than Maltesers: M&Ms, crushed Oreo’s…

Here’s how to make it: preheat the oven to 160 C, grease 2 20 cm round tins with butter and line the bottoms with baking parchment. Mix 150 g softened butter with 250 g caster sugar, 150 g self-raising flour, 125 g sour cream (if you don’t have any, use regular cream or double cream and add a squeeze of lemon), 4 eggs, 50 g cacao powder, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod (or a couple of drops of vanilla extract) and mix again to give a smooth, soft mixture.

Divide evenly between the cake tins, smooth the tops and place in the oven for 30 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely (this will take about 25 min).

When the cakes are almost cool, start making the buttercream: melt 100 g dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In a bowl, mix 550 g icing sugar with 250 g softened butter and 2 tbsp milk until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and mix again.

Put a small dollop of buttercream on a plate or cake stand and add the first cake (the buttercream will make it stick to the plate so it doesn’t slide off during transport). Spread about a third of the buttercream on the cake and sandwich the second cake on top. Spread the remaining buttercream on the top and sides of the cakes. Once you have covered the cake, take 540 g brown or white Maltesers (or any other topping of your choice) and stick them all over the cake. Enjoy while listening to Summer in the city by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Use up left-over Maltesers by crushing them and sprinkling over ice cream or use them in your cookies any style.

My boyfriend’s favourite: coffee & walnut cake

coffee and walnut cakeWhen we were in England so I couldn’t pass on any opportunity for an afternoon tea. I will always go for the carrot cake, such a favourite of mine, but my boyfriend will never miss a good coffee and walnut cake. On his birthday we were in Amsterdam, so I couldn’t bake anything, but I made up for it now with this delicious surprise! No need to tell you it didn’t last very long! I got the recipe from one of my new purchases: Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food.

Here’s how you make it: preheat the oven to 160 C. Line the bottom of 2 20 cm round tins with baking parchment. Boil some water in the kettle (to dissolve some instant coffee later on).

First, make the sponge: put 2 tbsp instant coffee in a mug and add 2 tbsp hot water to dissolve it (you can use 1 tbsp coffee for a lighter taste or 3 for a good kick, adjust the water accordingly). Finely chop 50 g walnuts and set aside. Put 150 g self-raising flour in a large bowl with 50 g wholemeal flour (if you don’t have wholemeal, just add another 50 g self-raising flour instead), 200 g soft light brown sugar and 1 tsp baking powder and mix a bit to combine. Add 175 g softened butter, 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract the prepared coffee and chopped walnuts and beat it hard until smooth and well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and put them in the oven for 25 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

About 5 min before the cake is ready, mix 1 tsp instant coffee powder with 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water and stir to dissolve. Remove the cakes from the oven and brush liberally with the coffee mixture. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning them onto a wire rack to cool completely (this should take about 10 min).

Next, make the buttercream: mix 400 g icing sugar in a large bowl with 200 g very soft butter and beat until light and fluffy. Mix 2 tbsp instant coffee powder with 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved and add to the buttercream. Mix again. To assemble the cake, put one on a serving plate and slather the top liberally with half of the buttercream. Place the other sponge on top and slather with the remaining buttercream. You can cover the sides too if you prefer, I do! Arrange some more walnuts on top for decoration. Enjoy while listening to Rule Brittania (I do like this Night of the Proms version!).

Use up leftover walnuts in carrot cake or apricot & marzipan twist.

My mom’s Easter classic: cookie pie with coffee buttercream

Easter cookie pieThis is my mom’s famous Easter pie. She loves it, my dad loves it even more, my grandparents love it, basically everybody is crazy about it but me… I’ve never been a big buttercream fan and I’m not a coffee drinker either, so maybe that’s why. But nobody really minds, it just means there is more pie left for them! So even though it’s not a personal favourite, I’m sure a lot of people will be interested in the recipe! So I kindly asked my mom to send me the family secret and here it is! Also a big thumps up for her Easter decorations, don’t you just love them?

First make the buttercream: mix 250 g softened butter with 150 g icing sugar  and 2 egg yolks. Dissolve 1 tbsp instant coffee (my mom uses Nescafé) in 3 tbsp hot water, add to the buttercream and mix again. You are now ready to assemble your pie: you will need about 2 packets of digestive biscuits (try to find LU’s petit-beurre, they really make all the difference) and enough milk to soak them in.

Cookie by cookie, soak them in the mil and put them next to each other (this obviously works best with square or rectangular cookies) to create an even layer. My mom puts them 3 by 3. Now cover with a tin layer of buttercream. Put another layer of soaked cookies, followed by more buttercream and repeat until you have 5 layers. Cover the sides in buttercream as well.

Put 3 cookies in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Use the crumbles to cover the sides of the pie. If you prefer, you can use chocolate shavings or nuts as well. Decorate to your liking and store in a cool place until ready to serve. This cake will easily keep for up to a week, if you can resist that long that is! Enjoy while listening to Does your mother know by Abba. Happy Easter!

Simply delicious: almond praline cake

Almond praline cakeThis is a real show stopper and it’s absolutely delicious too! If you’re not baking for a crowd, you can easily half the recipe as well. And if you’re planning on making this more than once, I have some time saving tips along the way. This is not your everyday cake, as it does take some time to make it, but it’s totally worth it! And there is a lot of licking the pot along the way, so there are some cook’s perks too! I found it in Rachel Allen‘s Bake, a book full of delicious recipes.

The recipe consists of 3 parts: making the praline, baking the cake and making the praline buttercream icing.

Part 1: make the praline (you can easily do this a day or more in advance)
Place 150 g caster sugar in a non-stick pan and set over a high heat until the sugar turns a caramel colour. Do not stir, but you may carefully swirl the pan to allow the sugar to caramalise evenly (a bit daunted? Check out this video on how to make caramel). Scatter 150 g unskinned almonds over the top and swirl the pan again to coat the nuts. Pour the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to cool. When the praline is cool and hard, place in a food processor and whiz to a gritty powder. Alternatively, place the praline in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Step 2: bake the cake
Preheat the oven to 180 C and butter and flour a 20 cm diameter cake tin (the recipe suggests 2 tins, so you can bake 2 cakes, which you each slice in half to add a layer of buttercream. Being lazy, I stick to one tin and slice the cake in 2 or 3 depending on how well it has risen).
Mix 225 g softened butter  with 225 g caster sugar until fluffy and soft. Add 4 eggs one by one, beating well between each addition. Gradually stir in 225 g self-raising flour (or use regular four and add 1 tsp baking powder). Add 6 tbsp of the crushed praline and mix lightly, adding 1 tbsp milk to moisten. Put in the prepared tin(s) and bake in the oven for 30 min (or 10-15 min longer if in 1 tin), or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Step 3: make the buttercream icing
You can do this when the cake is in the oven, or you can make it upfront too. If you’re only making half a cake, you can still make all the icing and freeze half for next time. This is quite a big batch of icing anyway, so I usually freeze half and only use half to assemble my cake.
In a saucepan, bring 125 ml water and 350 g caster sugar to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up high and let the syrup boil for 4-5 min to the ‘thread’ stage, when the last few drops that fall from the back of a metal spoon dipped into the syrup come off in one long, quite thick and syrupy thread.
While the sugar is boiling, beat 7 egg yolks (you don’t need the egg whites, but you can freeze them for later use. just defrost and you can use them again) for 1 min, then very gradually add the hot syrup. Continue beating until all the syrup is added and the mixture has cooled. The consistency should be stiff, mousse-like and able to hold a figure of eight pattern made by the beater (this should take about 10-15 min).
Place 350 g softened butter in another bowl and beat until very soft. Continuing to beat, gradually add the mousse, a spoonful at a time. Then stir in 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 12 tbsp of the crushed praline.

If you still feel your arm after all that beating (or if you have a food mixer that does the work for you) you are now ready to assemble (if not, take a break, wrap the cake in foil so it doesn’t dry out and come back tomorrow). To assemble, slice each cake in half horizontally (or if you made 1 cake and it has risen well, slice it in 3. If you only made half of the recipe, you can cut the cake in half vertically and your cake in the shape of half a circle). Spread the inside of each cake sparingly with butter icing and and sandwich together, stacking each layer above the other as evenly as possible. Ice the top and sides with the remaining icing. Sprinkle the remaining crushed praline all over, including the sides. Serve while loudly saying “ta-da!”, after all that work, you deserve all the oohs and aahs. Enjoy!