Tag Archives: cake

Beatty’s chocolate cake

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine

It’s been one of those weeks where things go a little crazy and your body brings something akin to OOS to the party. And all there is to do is say NO to eating toast one night, and instead roast a free range chook with lemon, herbs and potatoes till golden, crisp and juicy.

And bake a cake, even if your hands cry and tingle while you whisk on… and on… and even if you tip the cake out of the tin before it’s completely cooled and ruin its otherwise flawless bottom.

Luckily, frosting provides excellent coverage for facial imperfections of the cakey sort.

Happily, the cake has been reasonably well-received by visitors and flatmates :-) If you make it, expect a moist, easy-to-eat cake and frosting which provides an immediate sense of luxury… and don’t expect the cake to last long if you have people in your house!

    Ingredients:
    Butter for greasing the pans
    1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    Chocolate frosting:
    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
    Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
    Chocolate frosting:
    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
    Modifications: I used a mixture of demerara sugar and caster sugar – and just over a cup of sugar all up (and it was sweet enough for me). Skipped the parchment paper. Substituted vanilla essence with kahlua. Made it without an electric mixer – possible, but I’d go with an electric whisk if I had one!

I’m also taking the chance to enter this for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by the lovely Sue of Couscous & Consciousness.

Advertisements

If ever a routine is to claim my morning

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
~ Faith Whittlesey

Some people have morning routines. I am not one of those people, except that I am loathe to begin any day without brushing my teeth/washing my face. But I don’t do morning runs, or yoga; I don’t stumble to the coffee pot or walk out the door at precisely 7.45 every morning.

If ever (however unlikely this “ever” is) I am to adopt a morning routine, I hope it’ll have something to do with sunrise and cooking. Honestly, cooking is one of the very few things I have ever felt wonderful waking up for at 6am. Not even catching an early bus to go to the airport makes me feel that way (and that is saying something, because I really like going to the airport to catch a plane).

This morning at 6.15, I skipped down the stairs two at a time, and headed into the kitchen. My corner of the world was still quiet and half hidden by shadows.

I baked, half feeling like I was in a trance, half feeling like dancing. Three eggs, propelled by my handheld mixer, whirled swiftly and became like custard. With a sharp knife, three peeled Bosc pears became quarters, then strips, then smooth white dice. I relaxed into the sweet, nutty scent of browned butter.

I dressed for work while my oven worked. Just after 7.40, the cake proclaimed that it was ready to pop out of the oven. I walked out the door while my kitchen waved goodbye, with the scent of chocolate, cake and the promise of a good day lingering at the doorway.

Recipe here.

P.S. I am very excited that my dear friend Tabitha arrives today!! (She has been hiding in Canada).

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but you can now find me on Facebook, if that is your sort of thing!

Return of the (now rather pretty) ugly apple cake

The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.
~ Frederick Buechner

Right now, my head throbs like a wall has just slammed itself against me 50 times. It hurts. Both literally, and figuratively. I am angry with and thoroughly tired of pretense, pride, and people with a shaky set of principles/values. I want to say to Life, “oh why bother?” and storm off.

But I refrain (barely), because that isn’t a party I want to crash. There are moments like now at which my resolve to remain optimistic and true weakens, but I really want it to stay intact. Somehow.

Maybe I have a naïve sense of optimism, maybe the world says “grow up kid, and start joining in if you want to go somewhere”… but I can’t. I don’t know how. If being real means losing, then I suppose I’ll have to learn how to contend with loss. And I get tired of people with ugly hearts but I keep trying again for some bizarre reason that even I don’t understand. I remember I am far from perfect too. I remember that everyone carries their own pain. I try. I fail. I try to try again.

I find myself journeying sometimes repeatedly to the centre of disaster in a completely mad quest for truth, and from a belief that deep down people are still good before they are bad.

But can I just be honest about how I feel right this moment. I am exhausted. I doubt my own sanity. I wonder if maybe honesty just “doesn’t work” in some places, if people are actually really happier if they can sweep things under the carpet and leave them there to rot. I am tired of feeling empathy. I want to not care. I have temporarily lost the sense of optimism I woke up with today (6.30am, I was making caramel for the cake topping in my kitchen, and I was feeling happier than Maria singing on the hills).

Tomorrow will be better.

Hmm. This post is not conducive to a food blog, you are saying…… and yes of course you are right. I’m sorry. Will you accept cake as an apology?

It’s not my cake, it’s Tessa Kiros’s. And it’s got apples below and caramel on top :-)

Last night, I made the cake bit of Tessa Kiros’s apple cake with toffee topping (made the topping this morning). I was excited whilst making it because I thought it was a new recipe… and I am glad I didn’t realise I had made it before until I looked through my blog archives. If I had, I would have recalled the disaster it was last time and not discovered the recipe for what it’s meant to be (a lovely cake).

Funny, even as I conclude this post I realise that this cake is apt for today. It’s “try again” cake. If it turns out ugly the first time (and it may, if you have a funny oven and no electric beaters), try, try again.

And that’s all folks. I’ve got a very busy day tomorrow, so time to hit the sack. Have a beautiful Saturday filled with hope and perfect caramel!

Au revoir janvier, bonjour février!

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.
~ Frederick Buechner

If you’ve read my blog for a long, long time, you may recall (vaguely) that I once made a project of cooking through Tessa Kiros’s “Falling Cloudberries”. As it is, I reached #62 with her champagne risotto… and mysteriously fell off the cookbookwagon after that.

I still feel a little bad about that.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll get around to completing that project. I’m considering the amount of $ that will go into this if I do it (and the resultant smaller budget for other things). I’m hesitant about the sound of a few recipes. I do not think I can afford to pour the necessary time into it if I am to live the rest of my life, love humans, see the light of day, work full time, and sleep too.

But if I find a friend who’ll force me to make stuffed fried herrings and then eat them with me, or a friend who will dry my tears as I burn my lingonberry jam crazy, perhaps I will pick up the project again. (Chances aren’t high though, if you must know).

In the meantime, I’m happy to share that I made something from her book, the first new Tessa-recipe I’ve attempted since… October 2010! Ding ding ding!
#63 Nut Meringue Cake with Whipped Cream – Page 268

I almost didn’t make it. When my eyes first fell on the phrase “you will need two springform tins that will fit in the oven at the same time”, I got ready to turn the page… you see, I’m a little afraid of sandwich cakes. Somehow I always imagine them turning into catastrophes… being too thin, looking stupid, getting uncomfortably “smooshy”, collapsing, etc.

But something about the recipe title caught my attention, too. “Nut meringue cake with whipped cream”… it definitely sounded like something different, something light and floaty and fun. Something challenging… I like challenging. Lastly, a two-tiered cake felt strangely apt for the day: saying bye to January and saying hello to February.

I followed Tessa’s recipe as best as I could (without kitchen scales) and modified a few things to use what I had (blueberries for raspberries, kahlua for vanilla essence, and 9″ cake tins in the absence of 8.5″ ones).

The two cakes came together pretty easily, especially with a handheld electric whisk that I still feel grateful for each time I see it! (Gone are the days of beating egg whites till my hand cries). The finished product was light-tasting, nutty and fragrant – and I like the cream and berries in the middle. I took it as a lovely compliment that most everyone ate and finished their slice even though we’d all already shared a marvellous carrot cake just before! (Yes, we ate two cakes in an evening).

The last picture in this post is courtesy a boy who made my cake blush with the number of pictures he took [so we could “tag” a girl on Facebook, who left early, and let her know that she missed cake]. (Thank you Daniel M).

Banana and chocolate chip upside down cake

How did it get so late so soon?
~ Dr. Seuss

I’m dedicating tonight’s cake to my friend Kath.

She’s the girl who reminds me to keep my head on, who has a stylist’s fingers and a clever mind, who is creative and organised, who plans ahead but is open to spontaneity too. She’s strong (anyone who is close to me has to be especially so ;-)…) – on all fronts. I really respect her for the way she ‘walks her talk’ and speaks her mind, and I like it that hours whiz by delightfully whenever we hang out. This last phenomenon only happens with a precious handful of people for me, so I think of them as human gold nuggets!

Kath… is an excellent human.

And this… is a fun recipe to follow. If you run out of bananas halfway, like I did, just make an outer ring of banana slices (at step #2 in the recipe). Best to be prepared and have more bananas on hand, though, so you get to coat your cake with a pretty blanket of banana slices. If you’re lucky enough to have WAY too many bananas, why not make a few of these cakes and freeze some?

It’s the perfect cake to have around and eat with your favourite people; preferably with good yoghurt, a glass of red wine and, if you’re in the mood for music – perhaps some Brooke Waggoner?

Tonight Kath was trying to get me out of the kitchen and on to eating some cake, as usual she was the brain and I was the flyaway woman taking photos of her arty hands and the glossy cake and muttering “yes yes, I’m COMING!”…

She could be a hand model, don’t you think? I think so.

See, this ringlet of banana slices wasn’t too bad given my banana shortage today, but this cake would look pretty cool if it were ablaze with bananas, don’t you think? Please buy lots of bananas (i.e. more than five) before you make it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of this cake, it won’t hurt to put in a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon in it and substitute kahlua for the vanilla essence. Just sayin’.

I’m also submitting this entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Bron Marshall whose photos place my laptop in danger of being coated with my drool. Want to join in the Sweet NZ fun? Click here!

Walking on a cake dream

Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.
~ Audrey Hepburn

The cake aliens have arrived with one mission: to turn me into Planet Cake. Will I retaliate, escape my fate, and live to tell the tale? We shall see…

Right now, I have three kinds of cake in my kitchen – (1) fountain mini no-bake cheesecakes in the fridge, (2) Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry summer cake, and (3) Ottolenghi’s chocolate fudge cake (currently at stage two in the oven).

This is the fountain cheesecake, so named due to its consistency. I made it without a recipe, just for fun, from due-to-expire cream cheese, sour cream and cream in the fridge. I added honey and an egg to the cheese mix, poured it on an impromptu base of biscuits and melted butter, and topped it all with Hakanoa ginger syrup and a slice of green kiwifruit. Not bad taste-wise, according to my sweet flatmate, but the texture needs some work!

We’re having a bake off at work tomorrow, and from serving as Guest Judge at previous bake offs, I know I’ll be up against formidable competition. So I turned to a blog that has often inspired me – Smitten Kitchen.

I haven’t tried this cake, but I can tell you that it is a minimum-fuss, sweet-smelling cake involving pretty fruit… also, when it is a Smitten Kitchen recipe – you don’t have much to worry about :-)

I did use less sugar than what the recipe stated though. One cup looked like a bit much!

And now, chocolate fudge cake. This is a birthday gift for E, a person whom I am so grateful exists. E is truly herself, bold, bearer of truth and love… I respect her as much as I love her.

Among my favourite memories is the one where we dressed up as cows and went to a party when we were in uni… you know, even if you find a person who is willing to do this with you (and I promise you I haven’t met many such courageous folk) – not everyone makes the experience gigglingly fun.

Now she is wife to a great man and mother to a baby who actually, miraculously, awakens my mostly dormant maternal instincts… I use the word “miraculously” because most babies do not manage to do this.

This cake is a twice baked, dark chocolate cake (I used both 50% and 72% cocoa content Whittaker’s chocolate) which is decadent in every way – rich, deep, extravagant and sweet, the way E has been to me.

And of course the recipe is from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook (page 196). I made two modifications to the recipe: (1) having no light muscovado sugar, I mixed dark muscovado and caster sugar, and (2) I had to set up an impromptu bain-marie to melt the butter/choc which I should have cut into “small pieces” as listed in the recipe.

I don’t have a picture of the final cake as it’s still baking in the oven… but it will be dusted with cocoa tomorrow, and I will try to take a picture then. Just for you.

P.S. Beware of the cake aliens. They don’t like being told to go away.

In other (non-cake) news:

    NZ bloggers who are attending the inaugural NZ Food Bloggers’ Conference this weekend – I hope you have a SUPER time and wish I could join you! I’ll look forward to reading all about it.
    Auckland readers – eat well and do good this Saturday – see Garden to Table. A portion of the $ will go towards supporting programmes in NZ primary schools to teach children to grow, harvest, prepare and share food through gardening and cooking.
    “It’s more expensive but your budget is tight, you believe in supporting sustainable products but what does that ‘Go Green’ sticker actually mean?” – from ‘Greenwashing’: consumers beware. Interesting read, and one that begs more thought… does sustainability matter to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts/point of view.

Ottolenghi – The Cookbook: page 199

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche
~ Supposedly spoken by “a great princess”

Midnight baking and conversation. Burnt caramel. Singing oven. Cheeeeesseee. Golden goodness. Icing sugar (fairy dust). Ottolenghi’s caramel and macadamia cheesecake. There were a few laughs, a few disasters – but all was fine in the end and we all had cake complete with caramelised macadamias and even a caramel sauce. I attribute this strongly to my friend Rahul who is visiting from Wellington… when you are baking at midnight and SCORCH the bottom of both of your only saucepans with rock-solid brown caramel sauce, I recommend that you place yourself in the company of someone who can make you laugh and who thinks fast to solve problems. With Rahul’s help, the cake and saucepans both survived. Much to my delight, of course.

So at the moment John, Brad and I are sitting in my lounge, we are drinking wine, and I am rudely blogging… just wanted to submit my entry on time for Sweet New Zealand (see note below!)

I have so much from recent days to blog about – but I really have to go (multi-tasking is not my strength at all)… so here’re some photos for you, and I will post again soon. Ciao!


This post is my entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand – the lovely Sue from Couscous & Consciousness is hosting it this time. Click here to join in the fun!