Gong Xi Fatt Cake

Among other things, Chinese New Year means that people come over and there needs to be food around. Lots of food. 

*takes a bow*

At some point, you or whoever else is ordering the the food will forget exactly how much food they ordered – this happens, it’s normal, and you shouldn’t panic. You definitely ordered enough food.

Despite this, you will still end up making an extra dessert. Extra dessert is always welcome. Especially when it’s the first year you have to give out angpau, and you need a little consolation in the form of cream cheese.

Cream cheese heals all wounds

Yes, that’s two pictures of the orange flower. I’m just a little bit proud of myself 🙂 (context: I’m the least artistic person on the planet)

I have omitted the process pictures, in which I dropped the baking tin on the cake. My baking tin is metal = heavy. This resulted in a really really big dent in the middle of the cake. Like I said, there is nothing that cream cheese icing can’t solve.

Vanilla Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing and Orange “Flower”

Vanilla Cake

Adapted from Hummingbird Cupcakes’ vanilla cupcake recipe, and quadrupled. 

I like this particular vanilla cake recipe a lot, because it’s one bowl with very few steps, and results in a really light and springy cake (and I don’t even like vanilla cake much, it’s boring!)

480g all purpose flour – I have used gluten free with this recipe before
400g caster sugar
160g butter, softened
480ml milk
4 eggs
3 teasp vanilla essence
6 teasp baking powder
1 teasp of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C
Yield: a two layer square monster, 9″

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until the mixture looks sandy. Or, you can use the rub-in method.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Drop in the milk, egg, and vanilla essence. Mix until just smooth, try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Split into two square tins. Fill only 1/2 to 1/3 full, this cake rises a lot!
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. I’d start checking at 35 minutes for done-ness.

Cream Cheese Orange Icing

Adapted from BraveTart’s SMB though it isn’t really SMB anymore given that I used whole eggs. The yolk / white wastage makes me sad, so I only do SMB or Faux French if I have leftover egg parts.

I know it’s a pain, but weigh everything really well okay? Even the egg. I ended up creating an excel sheet to calculate weights based on the weight of the egg parts…super nerd with bad mental maths. Let me know if you want it.

300g whole eggs – this was 3 eggs for me
300g castor sugar
490g butter, softened + cubed
490g cream cheese, softened + cubed
1/2 teasp salt
Zest of 4 oranges – the ones used below for decor

  1. Beat eggs into sugar and salt, until the egg whips up.
  2. Heat over a water bath until it steams, approx 150 degrees C. I just look for steam, I don’t have a thermometer. Whisk continuously!
  3. Once it steams quite regularly, remove and beat until the mixture doubles in volume. Another test for this is to put some between your fingers, and see whether you can feel sugar crystals.
  4. Keep beating until it gets cool, otherwise stick it in the fridge for some time until it gets back to room temperature.
  5.  Once it hits room temperature, dump in the butter and whisk until smooth.
  6. Now you can add your flavourings – namely cream cheese and orange zest. Beat all of them in until smooth, but don’t over mix or the cream cheese will go runny.

Note: my icing didn’t hold well up in the heat after a while, so I might try adding some white chocolate next time to attempt to stabilise it a bit. Suggestions welcome.

Build the beast

About 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented. Be careful not to break the sacs!

  1. Peel and set aside mandarin oranges, after breaking into segments. Leave them on a sheet of kitchen paper, so that all the juices get soaked up and the segments don’t drip all over your icing.
  2. Slather icing between, and on top of all sides of the two stacked cakes. Cool in the fridge in between coats if like me, your icing is a bit drippy.
  3. Arrange the oranges in a pretty flower pattern, and place this (piece by piece, unfortunately) on top of the cake.
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The Prince of Battenberg

The Prince of Battenberg was a rather illustrious man. A lover, a singer, a fighter. He protected the Earth from dragons and giant spiders and aliens from outer space. Yes, he did, why do you think we can’t find any of these things nowadays?

How did he do it, you might ask?

Overdid it a little with the food colouring

Apart from his mighty constitution, he subsisted solely on Battenberg cake. And he had a shield with a battenberg design on it. When he was ready for battle, he would close his eyes and crouch behind his shield. The sign of the battenberg would then shoot out of his shield like a laser (think Captain Planet with only 2 colours), and it became a giant multicoloured light sabre. He was then able to yield it like a mega-sword.

As Battenberg cake was the source of his special powers, I thought it was prudent to learn to make one.

They don't need to be super even. Ready to roll This is how we crimp itIf you want the real story of the Prince of Battenberg, you can find it on Wikipedia here. I think mine is more interesting. Though even without his super batten-sabre, Prince Louis was apparently a pretty successful fellow.

Seriously, don’t let other websites fool you into thinking this cake is rocket science. If you can roll out pastry (like make cookie-cutter biscuits and apple pie) then you can totally do this. It’s a cut and paste job, and the marzipan is pretty easy to roll out with a rolling pin.

Psychedelic yet sophisticated

Battenberg Cake

Almond Cake

I used the almond sponge recipe off BBC (tweaked to suit what I had in the kitchen), though any almond sponge will do.
Note that the cake gets better after a few days as the flavours meld. I don’t like almond cake, but I have it on good authority.

140g self raising flour – or normal flour with an extra 2 teasp of baking powder
150g brown sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
1/2 teasp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Baking paper

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C for around half an hour.
Yield: 1 20cm square cake tin, split into two for the 2 colours.

  1. Dump all the ingredients in a food processer and mix until smooth. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. Divide into 2 bowls. Colour one bowl pink and the other yellow. As you can see, I added a bit too much food colouring. This affects cooking time, if you add very little then check whether it’s done at about 25 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking tin. Cut 2 sheets of baking paper to the size of the tin. Fold them in such a way that you get 2 “pockets” for your batter in the cake tin. Make sure you score the corners with the back of a spoon, else your cake won’t have sharp edges and you’ll end up wasting *even more* cake. Fit these 2 pockets into the cake tin (see the picture above if you think I sound crazy).
  4. Pour each colour of cake mix into one of the pockets. Don’t worry, they won’t mix – the batter is pretty thick.
  5. Bake, and leave to cook thoroughly.

I like to build it build it

A pink bar cake – you just made these cakes, you clever fellow
A yellow bar cake
About 500g of marzipan
A few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
Icing sugar

  1. Stack your bar cakes one on top of the other. Using a sharp knife, cut off the edges so they stack together nicely. Then, cut them in half and switch the top and bottom layers on one side so you get a chequerboard pattern of pink and yellow (see pics above if you’re confused).
  2. Heat up some jam in the microwave so it goes a bit runny. Use the runny jam to stick your 4 strips of cake together. You can be pretty generous with the jam.
  3. Powder a surface with a little icing sugar (I did this on a chopping board to minimise mess). Roll out your marzipan, to a size large enough such that you can wrap the 4 strips of cake in it. You don’t want the marzipan to thin or it won’t be able to hold the cake together.
  4. Paint runny jam all over the marzipan.
  5. Roll the cake into the marzipan, trying to keep the marzipan as tight as possible. Once the edges meet, trim the marzipan with a knife so it sits flush with the corner of the cake.
  6. Pinch all the way along the bottom two corners of the cake with your fingers, no one will see this because it’s at the bottom of the cake. Try not to be too violent though.
  7. Roll the cake back right-side up again. Slice off the two ends of the cake so it becomes a nice even cuboid, covered with marzipan on all sides except the ends.
  8. Decorate as you will, sir.

If you leave it to sit, the marzipan hardens and tightens up

Carrots in a Blender

So, to make this you need a blender large enough to hold a whole tub of cake mix. This isn’t a serious problem for me and Mr Chopper, who has a rather large belly. If your blender isn’t big enough then you can remove everything after a bit and continue with a hand mixer. or you can grate the carrots and chop up the pineapple and crush the walnuts separately, like in a normal recipe. Or you can do your chopping in shifts, and mix everything up in a big bowl with a spoon at the end. I think that’d be how I would do it without my faithful friend.

Obligatory prep photo

I just really liked how everything was originally done in a single bowl. You know that one bowl recipes are my favourite.

Icing prep

Also, this cake is so vege-packed that it’s almost a salad. Coleslaw, to be exact, what with all the shredded carrots. Healthy cake.

My dog likes (to play with) carrots

You would eat a salad as a meal. Hence, if this cake = salad, and salad potentially = lunch or dinner, therefore cake = lunch or dinner.

I haven’t included breakfast because I feel absolutely no guilt about eating cake for breakfast.

Here is my pretty, in her lumpy glory

I do dread the day when the thunderthighs come to claim me. In the mean time, let us, with this cake, toast to the strength of the gates of Tartarus.

Sorry bad photo, will upload a nicer one next time

Healthy-as-Coleslaw Carrot Cake

Adapted, barely, from Quirky Cooking. Awesome idea, I love cakes that you can just mix and pour.

200g carrots – peeled and quartered
300g pineapple chunks – if canned, drain well
2 large eggs
40g oil
1 teasp vanilla essence
90g honey
190g flour
1 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp baking soda
Âľ teasp salt
75g walnuts, whole OR equivalent weight shredded coconut
40g raisins

Oven temperature: 165 degrees C, for an hour to an hour and a half. Cupcakes only take about 30 to 40 minutes.
Yield: 1 bundt cake, or 12 cupcakes.  Or a large loaf. Don’t use a regular cake tin, or the middle of the cake won’t cook properly. Instead, flour a small glass or ramkin and place it in the middle of the tin.

  1. Grease / flour bundt tin.
  2. Dump the following in a blender for about 5 seconds, and chop until it reaches the texture of grated carrot – carrot, pineapple (if using fresh), eggs, oil, honey, vanilla. Remove and set aside if your blender has a small capacity, otherwise just leave it in the blender.
  3. Blend the following on high for about 5 seconds – flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, walnuts / coconut, pineapple (if using canned).
  4. If you have set aside your carrot mixture, now is the time to mix in the flour et al, pretty thoroughly. Then mix in the raisins.
  5. Bake! Then set aside until it cools / chill it.

Eating suggestion: wait for the cake to cool fully before eating, or put it in the fridge for a bit. This is a super moist cake, so if you don’t do this it will be a little wobbly on the inside.

Orange Cream Cheese Honey Icing 

Adapted from Janie Turner and Sam Joffe in “Fast and Easy Cooking”.

1 tablesp granulated sugar
Rind of 1 large unwaxed orange, thin peelings of skin only – or any other citrus fruit
300g cream cheese, softened
15 – 30g runny honey

Yield: the top of one 8” cake.

  1. Blend granulated sugar with  the orange peelings to get them to squish together.
  2. Add cream cheese and honey, keep blending for about 20 seconds.
  3. If you like, after this you can whisk at medium speed for about 30 seconds to get a fluffier icing. The blender has taken most of the work out of this so you don’t need to do it for long.

A Little Pudd, Luv?

I like Christmas pudding. But my mum is wheat intolerant, and I generally don’t like the taste of anything with brandy / alcohol in it. So suffice to say the dramatic flaming of the pudding is not my favourite part, I prefer the part in which I steal a slice of hot pudding prior to the flaming, then drown it in clotted cream and stuff my face until I feel sick. Then I repeat this 2 hours later (with the second slice I preemptively pinched). And then again, after dinner.

Lumpy plumpy

I haven’t had Christmas pudding for a good many years, because it’s rather difficult to find a pudding that is both brandy-less and wheat free. Even if it was an either-or situation, it would be a pushing it a little.

I was also under the mistaken impression that Christmas pudding was an extremely involved process. I was happy to be proven wrong on that score.

The only part I was (very) apprehensive of was the steaming. Then the pudding looked scary, so I gave up and zapped the thing in the microwave for 5 minutes to finish it.

At this point I got scared and started microwavin'

In line with *cough my own new* tradition, I added a pudding star. What is a pudding star? Well, I made it up. Out of necessity. I grew up listening to stories about how the little boy found a 6-pence in his slice of pudding, and how that was supposed to be lucky. I was not amused to find out that it isn’t a good idea to put coins in puddings anymore, because of all the weird alloys in them that might leach chemicals into the pudd. Hence, the pudding star – a beautiful shining star made of tinfoil. Origami, no less. Perhaps one year I shall make a little tinfoil crane.

The Pudding Star!!

I hope I don’t choke anyone with it.

Anyway, now Mr Pudd has been wrapped up and stuffed in the freezer until Christmas day. Upon which, I shall microwave him briefly, and serve him hot. With cream.

Mr Pudd

Rich Christmas Pudding 

Adapted from Be-Ro  Flour, 37th Edition

100g self raising flour – I used gluten free
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currents
50g mixed peel
100g brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 teasp nutmeg powder
1 teasp mixed spice powder
75g grated frozen butter – originally suet..which sounded a little too hard to get hold of

2 eggs
2 tablesp milk

Pudding star, or some other similarly cute inert metallic object

  1. Mix everything on the ingredients list from the flour down to the butter in a bowl.
  2. Drop in the milk and eggs, and mix well until everything is combined into a gloopy mess.
  3. Grease a bowl, and put a little square of baking paper in the bottom to prevent stickage.
  4. Pour everything into the bowl. Hide the pudding star in the batter somewhere.
  5. Cover with a square of baking paper, then seal with tinfoil.
  6. Steam for 2 and a half hours. You probably need more like 3 hours, and the original recipe says 10 hours. I got fed up after 2 and a half, so I removed the tinfoil and zapped the baking-paper-covered-pudding bowl in the microwave for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Let it cool a bit, then flip it upside down to get the pudding out. Wrap in cling film and freeze, or eat if you are the clever type that makes such a time consuming monstrosity on Christmas day itself.

Reheating instructions: you can either put it back in the bowl, cover again with baking paper + tinfoil and steam for half an hour to an hour, OR, you can stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes.

A note on raisins and other dried fruity bits – I couldn’t get all of these separately (and also it would have cost a bomb!). So I used a bag of mixed raisins and peel. The proportions were roughly similar to those in the recipe.  Perhaps not the most traditional, but it turned out alright.

Cake Addiction Centre: Patient “Gingerbread”

Welcome to the Cake Addiction Centre (CAC). My name is Lea and my weakness is gingerbread.

As you roam these halls you will see many victims of Cake Addiction. CAC takes care of them all – chocolate fudge, orange, berry, banana choc chip, double chocolate, peanut butter, red velvet, coconut cream, apple, custard, dark chocolate, coffee, pineapple upside down, even carrot cake addicts.

Chocolate cake takes a good many of our people. Good people. Our biggest threats are dark chocolate ganache, and cream cheese icing.

Gingerbread? No, gingerbread isn’t one of our most common addictions here at CAC. I may well be the only gingerbread inmate here at the moment. They usually allow us to conduct the guided tours because we are the most peaceful addicts. Some of them like to fight, especially those addicted to peanut butter or pineapple upside down cake.

What am I doing here, you might ask?

I ate a quarter of a sheet cake in one afternoon. Another sixth after dinner. And another quarter at breakfast the next day. After less than 24 hours, this is what was left of the cake. Suffice to say this cake did not see a second sunrise.

Oops..

I don’t have a picture of the whole cake. I could not control myself. I feel so ashamed.

Gingerbread

Adapted from the Be-Ro Flour Cookbook, 37th edition. Spicy spicy gingerbread and gingerbread people are some of my favourite things about Christmas (apart from mince pies, and crab. Yes, crab). You know how I feel about chilli. Don’t say you haven’t been warned about the possible level of spiciness. I might try adding fresh ginger, if so I’ll update the recipe.

300g flour
6 teasp ginger powder
3 teasp mixed spice powder
1 teasp cinnamon
1 1/2 teasp bicarb of soda
75g brown sugar
150g margarine – softened
225g black treacle
75g golden syrup
190ml milk
3 eggs
75g raisins / sultanas / currents

Oven temperature: 150 degrees C, for 1 1/4 hours. This is 1.5x the original recipe because I like my gingerbread thick and moist, so you might even need a little longer in the oven.

  1. Sift flour, ginger, spice, cinnamon, bicarb of soda, and sugar together. Throw the raisins in here too.
  2. Whisk together the margarine, treacle, and golden syrup.
  3. Add the milk and whisk again.
  4. Beat the eggs into the liquids.
  5. Mix the liquids into the flour.
  6. Pour it into a square cake tin, and bake for around 1 1/4 hours.

Possible pairings: orange honey cream cheese icing (if you insist on icing – I’ll post this recipe in a bit). Totally not necessary, I’m a purist and would be very unlikely to ice my gingerbread.

To try next time:

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
  • Perhaps a teaspoon of black pepper?

Dirty Old Google, and Cake

Google, you have a problem.

Why? WHY?

Why would you do this to me, google? In the middle of the supermarket where people might see? They will think I’m some really dodgy person who looks up lots of dirty words on my phone in broad daylight, in public.

Before you start calling me a perv or any other slightly more colourful names, note that the reason why I was trying to find out how many inches were in 16 cm was because I was buying new baking tins. Cute, small, cheap Japanese baking tins, just the right size to split one cake recipe into two tiny cakes, one of which can be frozen for a rainy day (like today). They even have little detachable bottoms so they are a bit like mini spring-forms, isn’t that nice?

Cute lil cake tins

No, I do not search for weird stuff on my phone. You try googling “16 cm”, see if you get all these funny links too. I swear it isn’t just me, I tried it on a couple of different computers with similar results.

Anyway. Words don’t do justice to this cake, it tastes awesome. Even people other than me admitted as much. So that means I’m not just tooting my own horn. Snigger. Okay, inappropriate, enough.

All that's missing is a little squirrel Brown butter does not look appealing Hazelnut powder Dry like the desert

But seriously, don’t you think blogging is a little self indulgent sometimes? Who wants to read whatever random drivel I decided to spout, standing on my little soap box in this corner of the web?

I like the spotty batter See the little bit that flaked off? Line your baking tins! I will figure out how to get the hazelnut spread to set soon. I think the oil content was too high Rustically artistic, or messy? Who am I kidding?

It’s okay, don’t feel sad. Eat some cake, you’ll feel better. About yourself and about the world and about everything else, all of which will turn into sunshine and unicorns, after you eat this cake. Seriously. Do iiittttt. And stop thinking about google and dirty words, you’re kinda disgusting.

Sunshine and ponies and butterflies

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Cream Cheese White Chocolate Faux French Buttercream

Bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? The cake is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who originally got it from Sunday Suppers at Lucques). The faux French buttercream is adapted from Bravetart’s recipe, edited slightly because I ran out of butter and reduced to reflect the number of egg yolks I had left.

Cake

140g hazelnuts – I didn’t bother removing the skins FYI, no big deal
225g butter
135g icing sugar
40g flour
5 extra-large egg whites – I used 6 because my eggs were smallish, save the yolks for the buttercream
3 tablesp caster sugar
1 teasp vanilla essence

Oven temperature: 175 degrees C. I used 2x 6 inch pans, it’s probably a good idea to line them if you use anything larger.

  1. Toast the hazelnuts for about 10-15 minutes, until they turn chocolate brown and smell like nutella. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cook the butter over medium heat until it turns brown and smells like toast. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t burn or bubble over, and cooks evenly. Once you’re done, leave the butter to cool. Let it cool to close to room temperature before adding it to the cake batter!
  3. In a food processor grind the hazelnuts with the icing sugar until fine like breadcrumbs. Add the flour and pulse a couple of times to sift and mix. If you’re so lucky as to have hazelnut powder, just sift everything together instead.
  4. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the caster sugar until they are stiff and dry. Stiff and proud like a captured knight in armour, who has lost the battle but never his dignity. Yes, I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels, leave me alone. Turn egg whites out into a big mixing bowl.
  5. Fold in the hazelnut flour and (cooled!) brown butter into the egg whites in thirds, alternating between the two. Be gentle! The egg whites look like they deflate a lot, but that’s alright as long as you’ve whipped them good earlier.
  6. Pour out into a the cake tins, and bake for about 40 minutes, checking afterwards.

Buttercream

6 egg yolks – you saved these from the cake batter earlier, about 100g
100g sugar
200g butter – softened
100g philly cheese – softened
150g white chocolate – melted, whisked, and cooled
1 teasp vanilla essence

  1. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they go pale.
  2. Put everything over a water bath, and heat until about 65 degrees C, stirring all the while. You need to see some steam coming off the top. Once you see the steam, take the eggs off the water bath.
  3. So now you have two choices. You can either whip the eggs until they cool (takes forever!) or you can bung it in the fridge for a bit, have a cup of tea, then come back when they have cooled down. Then whip them on high until the mixture thickens and approximately doubles in volume.
  4. Drop in the chunks of butter and cheese, and keep mixing on high. It should come together and get shiny after a while. If the buttercream gets too runny, put it in the fridge for a bit and then try again once it cools down.
  5. Add the chocolate and vanilla essence and keep mixing. See how it holds its shape much better? I think (not sure) that that’s because of the chocolate.
  6. You’re ready to go ice cakes now. If the icing is a little soft just stick it in the fridge for a bit, it’ll firm up.

Notes: the buttercream recipe makes enough icing to ice both cakes “sandwich fashion” like I did. But, I only torted + iced one cake, and froze the rest of the icing along with the second cake – the icing keeps for a couple of months in the freezer pretty well apparently. I also had a nutella sauce that I put in the centre of the cake, but that was a bit runny so I’d advise just spreading some nutella on the underside of the top tier if you want to match that effect. If I figure out how to get the nutella sauce to set nicely, I’ll add the recipe for that too.

Oddities involving Orange, Cheese, and Raisins

So some people have already told me that this sounds like quite a strange cake. They even went as far as to say something to the effect of: “so if your cake sounds weird, can I always assume in future that the weird bits are things that you added?”

Why yes, you can in fact assume that it was me who created the odd flavour combination. This was originally a plain orange cake, with a chocolate sauce. The recipe’s original creator intended to be one of those wedding cake types that stacks 3 tiers high with white chocolate cigarillos stuck to the outside of it. I just threw whatever was in my fridge into it. Totally not expecting it to taste so good. This is the first cake I’ve ever made that was eaten in its entirety almost immediately. It has a nice crunchy crust and does absolutely not need any icing, being very satisfying all on its own. My favourite kind of cake.

I feel calm just looking at this

Be warned that it’s not mega-sweet, probably because of the orange rind in it. So you feel fresh and happy after eating, rather than sick from overindulgence. This means you can eat more. Again, I like it that way, so there.

It’s the sort of cake you eat in the afternoon, when it’s cold and raining outside, with a mug of steaming tea. You can look out the window in a state of contemplation while watching raindrops falling if you choose, but I think that’s boring and would rather read a book. If you like you can toast a slice and have it with a little butter, but you really don’t need to do that (in fact, I never do that with cake. I feel like it’s a waste of cake. But you could, if you wanted to). I realise that you can eat most cakes in the afternoon with a cup of tea, but you will feel the calmest after eating this one. It’s a soothing, peaceful, unpretentious kind of cake.

Moist crumb and a crunchy crust. What more could you want in cake and life?

It’s also a one bowl recipe, which I made pretty much entirely in a food processor / blender-type creature. Which meant that it took a grand total of about 15 minutes prep time (hence lack of process photos). Serious bonus points awarded.

Whole Orange Cake with Raisins and a Cheese Crust

Yeah so I’m not exactly sure where the original recipe was from, because I only have a photo of the single page in the cookbook showing the original recipe. It’s not my cookbook, and I have no idea who the author is. But….from what I understand, if you change more than 3 major ingredients, the recipe is basically yours. I changed 4 major ingredients and a bunch of proportions, and the method – I suppose that makes it my recipe?

115g butter – softened
115g light brown sugar
2 medium eggs
165g flour
1.5 teasp baking powder
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of hard cheese like cheddar or parmesan – grated using the small holes on the grater. You can use a bit less if you like, but I enjoy the burnt cheese crust
1 orange
2 cups water
2-3 tablesp milk (if needed)
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. Zest the orange. Take the naked orange and it it in the blender with about 2 cups of water. Whiz it a food processor until it is thick and pulpy, then strain the big bits out with a pasta colander (big holes!). Keep 1 cup of liquid aside for the cake. You can drink the other cup if you want, but I wouldn’t, it’s rather bitter.
  2. Chuck the butter in the food processor and whip it a little until it’s a bit creamy.
  3. Dump in the sugar, keep whipping until the mixture goes pale.
  4. Throw in the eggs and about a tablespoon of the flour to prevent curdling. Keep on mixing. Yes, still in the food processor.
  5. Pour everything into a bowl, and fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, raisins, zest, and the cup of “juice” you kept aside earlier into the batter.
  6. Check: is the batter loose enough that it plops off the side of a spoon easily when you pick it up and turn it upside down? If not, add some milk. Keep adding until you get to a slightly looser consistency. You need the batter to plop off the spoon easily back into the bowl. I added about 3 tablespoons of milk.
  7. Put everything into a baking tin, smooth out the batter and sprinkle the cheese on top. I baked for about 45 minutes, but used a shallow baking tin. If you use a loaf tin it might take a little longer because the cake would be thicker. I actually think it’d be even nicer in a loaf tin, because you get a better crust:slice ratio 🙂

Jammy Fingers and a Custard Face

Many of my cooking adventures seem to begin this way. I found what is probably a very nice recipe for Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes in the Hummingbird Cake Days book. But I thought it was slightly too involved (read: I’m lazy).

I kinda want one of these scales but they're so irritatingly inaccurate

I wanted:

  1. A cupcake that resembles an English dessert. After much thought, I settled on  the Jam Trifle
  2. Not to have to slave away making proper custard for icing (as in the Hummingbird recipe)
  3. For said custard icing to not-melt in the heat
  4. Not to have to spend loads on buying fresh berries
  5. Not to have to layer everything in a very involved manner (as in the Hummingbird recipe…well it seemed involved to me)
  6. To maintain the nice springy cupcakes that the Hummingbird book produces

Dangerously close to my computer..again

My task was not made easier by the fact that I had left my Hummingbird book in Melbourne, apart from the page with the Raspberry Trifle Cupcake recipe which I took a photo of (on my phone). You don’t really want to be my cooking buddy do you? Please?

Though I ate jam and icing, I did not eat cupcake lids. Proud?

After much thought (well not really thought…internet research), I settled on a solution. My solution was to take the normal Hummingbird Vanilla cupcake recipe, flavour the icing with Bird’s custard powder, and fill with jam.

So essentially just a normal vanilla cupcake with normal icing and a jam filling.

Not much less involved I agree, but I at least I didn’t have to stand around over a pan waiting for eggs and milk to clump together.

Better with a raspberry on top? Fresh berries are exp in M'sia

This was the first time I’d ever done filled cupcakes. I think it really made a difference, but I also think I wouldn’t make it a habit to fill cupcakes. Unless there is a good reason (Jam Trifle cupcakes are a good reason).

Why, you might ask? Well firstly, it takes aaages. And secondly, I almost made myself sick with the amount of jam and custard icing I ate.

Bliss..cupcakes and tea

Good afternoon to you.

Jam Trifle Cupcakes

Based on the Vanilla Hummingbird cupcakes, and heavily adapted. I found the original recipe in The Telegraph. I got 9 decent sized cupcakes out of this recipe, though the original states 12. Perhaps I ate too much batter? On a side note, this isn’t the yummiest batter in the world to eat raw.

The icing is taken from Nigella’s Birthday Custard Sponge, and adapted slightly

Cupcakes

120g all purpose flour – I used gluten free with no problems
120g caster sugar – original recipe states 140g. This gave me a slight mental freakout because that meant more sugar than flour. Diabetes hello
40g butter, softened
120ml milk
1 egg
1/2 teasp vanilla essence
1.5 teasp baking powder
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. The recipe says to beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter with an electric mixer until everything is combined and the mixture looks sandy.   I ended up with flour on the walls, so I admitted defeat and used my fingers to rub everything into the butter. You can probably do this in a food processor too.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Whisk the rest of the milk, egg, and vanilla essence in another bowl, then pour that into the flour mixture. Keep beating until smooth, but try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. Fill the cases only 1/2 to 2/3 full, it seems to rise quite a lot!

Custard Icing

125g icing sugar
75g butter – I used salted, softened
6 teasp Birds Custard Powder
1.5 teasp boiling water

  1. Zap the icing sugar and custard powder in the blender to get rid of lumps.
  2. Drop in the butter. Mix mix!
  3. Pour in the hot water – this helps make the custard flavour come out, so make sure it’s hot.
  4. Now turn up to high speed and keep whizzing until it gets fluffy. Mine took about 5 minutes. The longer you keep going the fluffier it gets.

Build it!

Cupcakes
Custard icing
Jam – I used blueberry but raspberry would probably be nice. I don’t think I’d like it with marmalade or strawberry, but you can always try

  1. Use a small sharp knife and dig out a little hole in the top of the cupcake. Keep the lid aside and don’t eat it.
  2. Using a teaspoon, drop some jam in the hole. Cover it back up with the cupcake-lid. Don’t lick the spoon you need to use it again.
  3. Ice the top of the cupcake with the custard icing. I used the Hummingbird method because it’s relatively easy and I like it, found here.
  4. In the little indentation left by the swirl, add a little more jam.
  5. Now you can eat.

Fancy Cakes for Feeling Fancy

This is probably the fanciest cake I’ve made, and also the first sponge. So to say I was slightly worried about making sponge is a bit of an understatement.

What this means is that I have taken 50 or so photos. How this helps, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps, if I take a photo of it, the cake will pose and not sink? And there will be no cake fail?

One of the best tasting batters I've had the pleasure of eating

The scariest part was when I whipped the egg whites and they got hard like meringue.

Yea not there yet I ate a bit too much batter, was sick the next day No I did NOT sit outside the oven door. I did NOT make extra cupcakes specifically for tasting purposes.

Close second was when I took the cake out of the oven and poked at it too much and a bit broke off. I guess that was entirely my fault. I used that piece as the bottom layer and covered it with ganache. If you leave your cake to cool long enough it doesn’t break.

Pre-melty ganache And this is smooth

Third was when I put the ganache in the freezer, and it somehow fell over by itself in there, and dripped down the inside of the freezer door. I later found out you aren’t supposed to put cooling ganache in the freezer anyway.

Finished ganache Chunky raspberry..did this at night cos I ran out timeI like raspberries Yes I licked my fingers

One good point: my dog didn’t steal any cake. My dog appears to like orange cake, I made an orange cake on another day and he whipped it off the table and ate it. Sigh, I think I need to be a bit more careful. Or get a higher table.

Look at those bubblessss

Orange Sponge Cake with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Filling

This makes an 8 inch double layer cake, in case you were wondering. The recipe is originally for a tube pan.

Cake

Taken from Taste of Home, I was too scared to change anything. I find it hard when there are a few bowls of ingredients running at the same time, so here’s the recipe in the way I write them down for myself – by bowl 🙂

Bowl 1
6 egg whites
3/4 teasp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Bowl 2
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
orange zest from all the oranges used to make the juice – in this case, I used the zest of 2 oranges

Bowl 3
1 and 1/3 cups cake flour – I used normal flour, and for every cup replace 2 tablesp flour with 2 tablesp corn flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teasp salt

Oven temperature: 160 degrees C

Note that you can do some things concurrently – like for example, while the egg whites are warming to room temperature you can beat the yolks and sift the flour.

  1. Bowl 1:
    1. Drop in the egg whites and let them warm to room temperature.
    2. Add cream of tartar to egg whites, and beat them on medium until you get soft peaks.
    3. Beat in the sugar, one tablesp at a time. Keep going until it gets stiff, in my case I kept going until it looked a bit like meringue.
  2. Bowl 2:
    1. Beat egg yolks on high until they go pale and thick. The recipe says ‘lemon coloured’, but my eggs were the orangey type.
    2. Mix in the sugar.
    3. Mix in the orange juice and zest, beat well, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Bowl 3:
    1. Sift everything in Bowl 3 together, preferably twice.
  4. Add Bowl 3 to Bowl 2 (flour to egg yolks). Do it gradually, and mix well.
  5. Fold Bowl 1 (egg whites) into the rest of the batter, gently.
  6. Pour the batter into ungreased (!!) pans gently. Take the spatula and cut through it to get rid of big bubbles. I was scared and did this very gently.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Mine took only 45. Keep going until the cake springs back lightly when touched.
  8. Flip the pans upside down and leave them alone for an hour. Else you’ll break one of them, like me.
  9. After an hour, run a knife around the outside of the pan and flip out the cakes. Cool before assembling.

Ganache

I looked at Joe’s Pastry and Savoury Sweet Life. The amount is enough to fill the cake how I did, but if you want to cover everything you’ll need a bit more. I’m never making any other chocolate icing again!

200g white chocolate
200g whipping cream

  1. Chop the white chocolate into little bits
  2. Pour in the cream
  3. Stick it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  4. Remove and try to whisk (by hand). Did it go smooth? If not, repeat steps 3 and 4 until it whisks smooth and lump-free.
  5. Put it in the fridge for a bit until the texture becomes more like custard or pudding.
  6. Take your mixer and whisk on high until it starts to look like buttercream icing. It took me about 5 minutes. When it looks like icing, stop. You don’t want to overmix, apparently it gets weird.

Raspberry Filling

3/4 cup of frozen raspberries, or more if you like. I didn’t add sugar because I wanted the tart taste.

  1. Defrost on the countertop, and drain the extra liquid.
  2. Stick your mixer in it and turn it on high for about 20 seconds. It doesn’t even have to be a clean mixer….you can do this after you whip up the ganache.

Build it!

2 layers of cake
White chocolate ganache
Raspberry filling
Raw almond slivers

  1. Toast the almonds over a low flame, and let them cool.
  2. Order as follows:
    1. Cake.
    2. Whack on a layer of ganache, leave a lip on the outside so the raspberry won’t spill out.
    3. Pour on all the raspberry filling.
    4. Sprinkle almond slivers.
    5. Cake no2.
    6. Another layer of ganache.
    7. More sprinkled almond slivers!
  3. Step back and pat yourself on the back. Take a picture while in shock. Hey it’s a sponge!

Note: I also added a quick syrup of 50ml orange juice and 3 tablesp brown sugar, which I zapped in the microwave for 45 seconds and brushed on to the sponge. I didn’t use all of it, and it probably wasn’t necessary. I might also bake it with a tub of water in the oven next time to prevent it drying out.

Hummingbird Red Velvet

I thought everyone in the world had had their fill of red velvet by now, but it turns out my delightful coworkers were very taken by the colour of the cake and the cream cheese frosting.

Among the reactions were:

“When I move out into my own apartment, you’re going to be my roommate”

“I think I love you!”

“Omg”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Is that really the last piece?”

At the other end of the spectrum, my Organic Aunt, whom I gave five mini cakes to last evening, said no to the cream cheese frosting and took a microscopic bite (a crumb, perhaps) out of her husband’s cake, hemmed and hawwed while clutching her belly and said,

“hmmm…not bad, but Cedele’s one was so much better.”

Family. Always wanting the best for you.

Most of my cakes are hits or misses – definitely mostly misses. However, when I was baking this, I instinctively felt that it would come together really well.  I wasn’t entirely sure if it was because I was following the recipe to a tee, or because the recipe is that amazing.

Hummingbird Bakery has become something of an institution in central London, having opened its first store in 2004. It is literally 20 feet from South Kensington station, and perpetually crowded, mostly filled with rich English housewives having a cupcake with a cup of tea, with their little sugar-saturated children in tow. I often preferred the vanilla cupcake (always with green frosting) for its simplicity and lack of overwhelming flavour.

Three years ago, on my roommate and her twin sister’s birthday, they both requested a red velvet cake from Hummingbird. Because it was her birthday, my other roommate and I obligingly said ‘yes’ despite our (now non-existent) aversions to sweets and got Rajeev to hand-carry the monstrous, seemingly overweight cake (in the grey rain, no less) from the bakery to the restaurant the party was at. Because the party was so small and each person could have easily had five pieces of cake, we had an endless supply of leftover red velvet.

As a result, I have never touched a bite of red velvet since. It has unabashedly taken me three years to overcome the red velvet overdose.

Three years. Until yesterday.

“That’s not a hamburger, Hamburglar”

Hummingbird Red Velvet

Taken straight from The Hummingbird Bakery – Cake Days: Recipes to make everyday special

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

Cupcakes:

  • 120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 40ml red food colouring (colour may vary)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 240ml buttermilk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1sp salt
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Cream cheese frosting

  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 125g cream cheese

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F)
  2. Using a hand held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and flurry. Break in teh eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mixing in the scrapings from the side of the bowl.
  3. In a separate, small bowl, stir together the coca powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. Add the paste to the batter, mixing thoroughly until the paste is completely incorporated.
  4. Sift together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add the flour to the batter in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Lastly, in another bowl, mix the vinegar and soda bicarb together by hand and add it to the cake batter, mixing it in until it is fully incorporated.
  5. Spoon the batter into the paper cases so that they are two-thirds full, using any remaining batter to fill up to four more cases in another tin. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a short while in the tin, then place on a wire rack to cool completely before frostig.
  6. Using an electric whisk or mixer, mixing on low speed, beat the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in texture. Add the cream cheese and mix together slowly until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until soft and fluffy.
  7. Cover all but one of the cupcakes with 2 tbsp of cream cheese frosting, smoothing it down with a palette knife and making a swirl in the middle for a decorative touch.
  8. Place the remaining cupcake in a food processor and blitz into fine crumbs, then sprinkle over cupcakes with the red crumbs. Or you can also use coloured sprinkles.