Phew – the posts are coming thick and fast, but I knew I’d be leaving you all on a cliffhanger if I didn’t blog about the final result!
In the last two posts I talked about making my gran’s 80th birthday cake, and making the passion fruit curd to fill it with. In this post, I’ll show you how to (really easily) make the buttercream icing and put it all together. The only ingredients at this stage are for the icing and decoration, and there are only three of them!
INGREDIENTS: 750g icing sugar, 375g soft unsalted butter, 100g white chocolate. (‘Happy Birthday’ candles are optional)
- Make sure the butter is soft and use a hand mixer to blend it a bit in a big bowl. You might find it easier to do this icing half at a time, as moving this much butter around is tough on the old arms!
- Once the softened butter is mushed a bit, add the icing sugar a little at a time, using the beaters to mix it into the butter after each addition. Don’t be tempted to put it all in at once, you’ll create an icing sugar cloud, sneeze a lot and make a very big mess.
- When all the icing sugar is mixed in, beat until completely smooth and soft.
- That’s it! You can add a splash of vanilla essence, a hit of lemon zest or anything else that takes your fancy, but this is the basic ratio of butter/sugar for buttercream icing.
ICING THE CAKES:
- Cut each cake horizontally through the middle (its easiest with a serrated knife) and spread a thick layer of the passion fruit curd over the bottom layer of each cake.
- Then spread a layer of buttercream over the curd. It doesn’t matter if they mix a little bit, it’s going to be covered.
- Put the top of the cakes back on their bases.
- The larger cake will be your bottom layer. Its easier to pop it on your serving plate/stand before you start icing the exterior, so do that now. I also placed the bottom cake upside down, so that I had a very flat surface to place the next cake onto. It doesn’t matter if the base is a little wonky as you can hide that with icing, although it shouldn’t be too bad if you flattened the top as suggested in part one.
- Buttercream the top of the bigger cake and then place the sandwiched smaller cake on top. Try and get it central.
- Now buttercream the top of the smaller cake, then go round the sides of both cakes, making sure they are completely covered.
- TIP: If the butter wasn’t quite soft enough and you’re still finding the buttercream a bit hard (this can make it tricky when doing the sides) add a tiny splash of boiling water and beat into the mixture. That will soften it nicely but will allow it to harden again when it cools.
- Make sure you fill in any gaps between the two cakes, and any gaps at the bottom. A good idea is to use palette knife once the whole cake is covered. Dip it in hot water and then run it along the sides to create smooth edged and a smooth top.
- To finish it off, melt the white chocolate in the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water if you prefer. While this is melting, get a sheet of baking paper, and place on a tray.
- Once the chocolate is melted, pour into a piping bag with a pinpoint round nozzle – the sort you’d use for writing letters.
- Decide on a shape and then pipe outlines onto the baking paper, followed by some patterns inside the shape to connect all the edges (for stability). I went for tall triangles and filled the insides with zigzags.
- Pop the tray into the fridge until the chocolate has set. The pieces will then come away from the paper really easily.
- How you use them is up to you. I used my tall shapes to stand on the lip between the two cake layers, but they’d also look great forming a sort of teepee on top if you didn’t have candles.
So there you have it. Quite simple really, but very effective. Other ideas could include using milk chocolate for the decorations as a contrast, different colours of icing for each layer or even ombre icing if you were feeling really adventurous!
If you are looking to feed a crowd this is a great cake. By the time we served it everyone (40 plus people) had eaten a lot of food, so we cut it into small squares, like you’d get at a wedding. It probably would have fed twice as many people and several people went home with a chunk! This can also be iced the day before, covered in clingfilm and left somewhere cool. So if you have a big party to plan, you can get this done ahead.
There will now be a short break for the baking bandit. Quite a lot to do in the next few weeks. But its my dad’s birthday at the end of the month and we’re having another party, so I’m sure there will be another cake.
Most importantly – a good wedding cake? I am just looking for something small and white to cut, and some of our friends will hopefully provide a few extra cakes so that we can feed everyone.
Sweetness and that fuzzy ‘too much sugar on my teeth’ feeling to you all,
Hello all and happy Monday!
Well the party was a great success, the birthday cake applauded and everyone had a wonderful time. I have to pay special homage to my cousin’s wonderful chocolate cheesecake, which was my personal favourite of the dessert table! Now that I’m back home, back to work (boo!) I thought I’d update the blog with two posts to complete this celebration cake bonanza.
Once the cakes from part 1 are ready to go, you need a filling. Now previous posts about the joys of lemon curd hint at my favoured cake filling, but I wanted something that was a little more exotic for a special occasion. Passion fruit always make me think of my grandparents. My granddad is South African, my grandparents lived there for a bit in the 1950s and the flavours of the southern hemisphere were always present in their house – or at least in their fruitbowl! So what better way to fill my grandma’s birthday cake.
Passion fruit curd adds an exotic zing of sweet and sharp and works well with the lemons in the cake and the sweetness of the icing. This recipe is adapted from the ever trusty and reliable bbc goodfood.
INGREDIENTS: 9 ripe passion fruit, 3 large eggs, 140g butter, 200-250g caster sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour, a few squirts of lemon juice to taste.
TIP: The passion fruits must be ripe to get the right sweet/sour balance, so you might want to buy them about a week before you plan to use them. The wrinklier the better – a smooth skin is an under-done fruit!
- Cut the passion fruits in half and scrape all the seeds and pulp into a food processor. Pulse it a few times, which will separate the pulp from the pips. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan set over a low heat. Use the back of a spoon to push as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible.
- PIPS OR NO PIPS? Now, at this point, most recipes I came across suggested reserving a few spoons of pips to put back in at the end. I’m not a fan of this personally, but you can do if you fancy. Pip look nice in a jar of homemade curd given as a present, but they are a tasteless and crunchy annoyance that is most likely going to get stuck in your teeth. As this curd was going into a cake (where you most certainly don’t want a crunch annoyance) I didn’t bother.
- Add the butter, cornflour, eggs and sugar to the pan and continue to stir over a low heat until everything is fully dissolved/melted.
- TIP: The reason I’ve given a range on the quantity of sugar is because it’s all about taste. If your fruits are still a bit too sharp you’ll need more sugar, if they are very sweet, you’ll need less. If you are unsure use about 225g and then use the lemon juice to adjust the taste.
- When everything is dissolved and you have a smooth mixture you need to keep on mixing. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to get it all thickening quicker. All you will make that way is scrambled egg. Keep mixing, remembering to scrape along the edges of the pan, and after up to 10 minutes (maybe more!) your mixture will thicken nicely.
- TIP: If you are making this curd to spread on toast, or stir into porridge, you might want a runnier consistency than I needed for filling a cake, so use 1/2 tablespoon less of cornflour.
- While it is thickening taste it. If you think it’s too sweet, use some lemon juice (a dribble at a time) to balance it out. If it’s too sharp use a little more sugar but make sure it dissolves. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in a whole lemon straight away – it’s a strong flavour which will take away the passion fruit taste.
- When its a good thick curdy consistency, take it off the heat. Unless you are going to use it immediately, when it has cooled decant into jars (remember to sterilise them!) and it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
And there you have it! An exotic but homely passion fruit curd all ready to be spread in a cake, or eat on toast, in yoghurt… the possibilities are endless!
My lovely old gran (oooh she’d hate that description) is turning 80 this weekend. We’re having a big old shin-dig in her honour, which wouldn’t be a proper party without a whole heap of food. My cousins and I have been tasked with providing dessert, and I’ll be making the birthday cake. This is a bit of an epic cake build (yes, I used the word build) so I’ll be posting it in three parts, all of which are useful separately for different things. This first part is about the actual cake.
After much debate, I decided on a Madeira cake. I wanted something with a spongey texture and a certain lightness, but I also needed something that could be made ahead, and sponge cakes don’t last well. So whilst Madeira cake isn’t quite as light, its ability to last a week or so in the fridge made the decision. Madeira cake is denser than sponge, so it also cuts better, which is especially good when you want a cake to slice into lots of small pieces without crumbling.
I decided to make both cakes needed at the same time, but I don’t recommend this unless you have very strong arms or a stand alone mixer! Its a lot of mix for one bowl.
20cm Cake Ingredients: 250g butter, 250g caster sugar, 5 eggs, 185g plain flour, 60g self raising flour, 1 tbsp milk, zest of a lemon
23cm Cake Ingredients: 310g butter, 310g caster sugar, 6 eggs, 230g plain flour, 75g self raising flour, 2 tbsp milk, zest of 2 lemons.
- Heat the oven to 150 degrees
- Make sure the butter is a room temperature and beat together with the sugar.
- Beat the eggs into the mix one at a time. I find it better to break them into a bowl first (as in the picture above) so that you don’t end up putting a bad egg in your mix.
- Once all the eggs are in, sift in the flour and stir, but don’t beat out all the air that you’ve just put in.
- Stir in the milk and lemon zest.
- Prepare the tin: You need to line the sides and the base as its a relatively long bake and you don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
- When the oven is at the right temperature, pop the bigger one in for 1 hour and 30, and then check but it will probably need about another ten minutes. The smaller cake will take about 10-15 minutes less, but again just keep an eye on them. Make sure they are cooked through, but don’t let them get too dark.
- Once they are cooked, pop on a cooling rack, but leave in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out.
When the cakes are completely cool, you might need to give them a bit of a haircut. Mine came out having risen rather violently, and if you want to stack them, they will need flat tops.
Don’t worry if it looks a bit dramatic once you’ve trimmed it, because you’ll cover it with icing. If you don’t intend to ice it, there’s no need to chop its head off!
The final stage of cake preparation is to pour a lemon syrup over the cakes. For this, mix lemon juice and sugar to taste (I like it very lemony but some prefer it sweet) and put over a low heat until the sugar is disolved.
Use a skewer and poke holes all over the cakes but don’t do too many or your cake will fall apart! sprinkle the mixture over the cakes but don’t overdo it, as you don’t want to oversaturate the cake. You want to try and do this while the cake is still warm, as the mixture will soak in better.
When the cake has cooled, wrap in cling film and then in foil. The cakes will last about ten days in the fridge.
In the next post, I’ll blog about the passion fruit curd filling…. yummy!
Bake well my friends
A few weeks ago a friend of mine called me up and asked if I fancied going to the Gallery of Modern Art here in Edinburgh. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is code for ‘let’s go eat some cake!’. The National Galleries of Scotland do a mean scone, but on this occasion I had a ginger flapjack. It was immense (both in size and taste) and I decided that this was something worth recreating. However, the original was a bit hard, so I was after a slightly less chewy, possibly a bit more nutty, flapjack base, and a topping with a bit more of a kick to combat the sweetness of the golden syrup. Then last week a found a recipe for something that looked vaguely similar, and decided to recreate that amazing gingery-sticky-gooey moment of goodness. This is adapted from a GoodFood recipe.
INGREDIENTS: 350g butter (sadly that is not a typo – quite literally not for the faint hearted), 200g light muscavado sugar, 5tbsp golden syrup, 250g rolled oats (porridge oats are fine), 140g plain flour, 50g pecans chopped into small pieces, 50g desiccated coconut, 1tsp of ground ginger.
- Turn on the oven, set it to 180 (fan) and grease and line a tin. I used one that is about 25cm squared and the flapjacks are quite deep, so you could easily use a bigger tin and make smaller pieces.
- The great thing about flapjacks is that they are the baking equivalent of one pot cooking! So start by putting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a gentle heat. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed the process – you’ll just get a burnt mess.
- Once the butter is melted give it another minute so that the sugar is totally dissolved, then add in the flour. At this point I make sure hob is on the lowest setting – you want the flour to mix in and cook a bit but you don’t want anything to burn or stick. Give it a couple of really big stirs.
- Mix in all the other ingredients. Turn off the heat and stir until everything is really thoroughly combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Its quite runny for a flapjack mix but don’t worry – it’ll all sort itself out!
- Pop into the oven for 35 mins. It’ll still be really wobbly when you take it out, but as it cools will set hard. Leave it in the tin.
You don’t need to wait for it to cool to ice it, so once you’ve removed the tin from the oven get going on the icing.
INGREDIENTS FOR ICING: 175g butter (basically two packs of butter for the whole recipe), 200g icing sugar, 4tbsp golden syrup, ginger to taste (I used 4 heaped teaspoons but I like it quite strong), maldon salt flakes and whole pecans to decorate.
- Put the icing sugar, butter, golden syrup and ginger in a pan and slowly melt over a low heat. If you aren’t sure how gingery you want it to be, put 3tsp of ginger in, stir it through and then taste before deciding whether or not to add more. 4tsp makes for quite a gingery kick.
- Pour the icing over the flapjack (still in the tin) and let it all cool down together.
- While it is still warm sprinkle over the salt flakes. Don’t overdo it but you want enough to balance out the sweetness of the icing.
- Work out how many squares you are able to cut it into, and pop a pecan in the middle of each one. This is really sweet, so I suggest small portions. The pecans look pretty and make it easier to cut as they offer up a guide! I made 16 squares.
Once you have cut up your portions you can pop them in the fridge to harden up the icing, but make sure you take them out at least 15 mins before you want to eat them so that they aren’t as hard as rocks! You can also keep them in an airtight container out of the fridge and they will last quite happily for about 3-4 days.
In the end, I think these were actually better than the ones in the gallery cafe as they were slightly less chewy and had a better depth of flavour. Anyone else like a bit of spice or salt with their sweet?
Happy baking my fellow bandits,