Getting funky: crouching tiger, hidden zebra cake

Crouching tiger, hidden zebra cakeThe cake for those who don’t know what to choose: plain vanilla or chocolate? Simple cake or glam bake? This is a bit of everything! I found the recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food cookbook, one of my favourites lately. Needless to say our guests were very impressed and it went down a treat! It contains some orange zest as well for a fresh touch and because Lorraine uses oil instead of butter, it stays very moist. I’m sure you can easily keep this cake for up to a week, but it all got eaten before I could put that to the test… Here’s how to bake it:

Preheat the oven to 160 C and line the bottom of a 23 cm springform (or 24, whatever you have is fine) with baking parchment. Oil the parchment and the sides with vegetable oil.

Put 250 ml sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil – not olive oil as it has too much flavour and you will taste it in the end result) in a large bowl with 100 ml semi-skimmed milk, 250 g sugar, 4 eggs and a few drops of vanilla extract and beat everything together well. It’s best not to use an electric whisk as it will introduce too many bubbles. Pour 400 ml (or 400 g, that’s the same) in another bowl.

Sift 175 g self-raising flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder in bowl 1, mix well and set aside. This is your vanilla mix. Sift 125 g self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 25 g cocoa powder in bowl 2, add the zest of 1 orange and mix together well. This is your chocolate mix.

Now for the zebra effect: put a tablespoon or dollop of the vanilla mix in the middle of the tin. Then, using a clean tablespoon, put a blog of the chocolate mix  in the middle of the vanilla one. Keep doing this, alternating between vanilla and chocolate, until you used up both of the cake mixes (if you prefer, you can also use 2 piping bags instead). Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (my cake needed a little longer, but I can’t say how much as I completely forgot the cake in the oven and rescued it just on time).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy while listening to the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack.

Use up left-over cocoa powder in a sachertorte or brownie. Use up left-over orange juice in an OJ and raspberry ice lolly,  an orange, blueberry and polenta loaf or a raspberry and orange tiramisu.

The ultimate dessert: crème brûlée

crème brûlée

A good crème brûlée always looks and tastes delicious, so when I saw this recipe by Michel Roux Jr. in a recent GoodFood magazine, I knew it had to be a winner! I always find it a bit daunting to make, but the recipe contained a lot of pictures and seemed reasonably foolproof, and it was. It turned out to be the perfect ending to a lovely New Year’s eve dinner judging by my guests who kept trying to get every last bit scraped from the ramekin! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 120 C. Put 250 ml full-fat cream or double cream, 75 ml milk (the recipe says full-fat, but I only have semi-skimmed at home and that worked equally well) and the seeds and pod of 1 vanilla pod into a pan and heat to boiling point. Cover and leave to infuse for 10 mins.

Whisk 4 egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites to make meringues later) and 3 tbsp sugar together until pale and thick. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and pour the boiling cream onto the mixture. Stir well, then pour into two ramekins. Place the ramekins in a deep ovenproof dish and fill the dish with water until it comes up to halfway the ramekins (au bain marie) and cook in the oven for about 20 mins or until just set. Don’t worry if it looks a bit bubbly or scrambled on the top at this point. Leave to cool.

Heat the grill. Sprinkle the cold brûlée with a thin, even layer of sugar, and caramelise under the very hot grill (or use a blowtorch). Repeat several times until you have a golden crackling topping. A blowtorch is a fantastic thing (and a great gift idea too), for dramatic effect, do this right before serving. You have the added bonus of a hot top layer on the cool pudding, a great combination! Enjoy while listening to Happy New Year by Abba (for that extra surreal touch).