Monday, 20 January 2014

Neapolitan Cake

I made this for two of my friend’s birthdays, but I don’t think they minded sharing since it was an absolute monster of a cake. It’s really sweet so I’d recommend swapping the buttercream filling for something else if sugary is not to your taste. Bear in mind for the measurements below that I first weighed the eggs and then weighed the same amount of flour, sugar and butter so it depends entirely on how heavy your eggs are.

6 eggs
13oz self-raising flour
13oz caster sugar
13oz butter
3tsps baking powder
Vanilla bean paste
Cocoa powder
Chocolate extract (optional)
Red food colouring
Strawberry jam
Strawberry essence (optional)

To decorate

Icing sugar
Crème cheese
Vanilla essence
Cocoa powder
Strawberry jam
Pick N’ Mix chocolates

Begin by preheating the oven to 180⁰C and lining three 20cm wide cake tins with parchment.

In a large bowl combine the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder using an electric hand-held whisk until smooth.

Split the mixture evenly into three.

To the first mixture add half a tsp of vanilla bean paste, and stir through until evenly distributed. Pour into the first tin.

To the second mixture add a large dollop of strawberry jam, a small drop of strawberry essence and some red food colouring. Adjust this depending on how pink you want the mixture. If this adds too much moisture then add a couple of spoonfuls of flour. Pour this into the second tin.

To the last bowl add a small drop of chocolate extract if you have it, and a couple of large spoonfuls of cocoa powder. You can add more or less depending on how chocolately you like your cake. Pour this into the third tin.

Bake all three in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing first cream a large knob of butter until light and creamy.

Sift in large spoonfuls of icing sugar, adding small splashes of milk if the mixture becomes too thick. Add a small knob of cream cheese and mix until smooth.

Separate two largish blobs of icing into bowls. Add cocoa powder to one, and strawberry jam to the other.

Get a cake stand or plate and plop a little blob of icing into the middle to help keep the cake in place.

Place the chocolate layer on the bottom and cover in the chocolate buttercream.

Add the strawberry layer next and cover in the pink icing.

Add the vanilla layer last.

Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract to the remainder of the icing. Cover the whole cake, including the sides in the vanilla icing.

The next step is to cover the sides in rainbow coloured sprinkles, so that it looks like an ice-cream. I will admit that I had a bit of a ‘mare at this stage trying to figure out how to get them to stick to the cake. Chucking handfuls of sprinkles at it and hoping for the best is unsurprisingly not very effective. The best way I found was by using a palette knife dipped in hot water. Then put the hot knife into the tub of sprinkles and then smush into the cake. Do this all around the side of the cake (it takes a lot of sprinkles).

I found some little chocolate ice-cream cones in Wilkos which I used to decorate the top of the cake, but it would look lovely with anything.

As you can see from the photos, there is no such thing as a ‘small’ slice of this cake.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Gingerbread Sleigh

I’m going back to the office tomorrow after a joyous Christmas break full of glorious lie-ins, homemade sloe gin and more cheese than you could possibly imagine. This is a quick guest post from the mother-ship, since I was too busy this festive season to do anything this fun baking-wise, but here’s to 2014 and hoping that I have more time to bake!

My mum was left alone with my camera, and here’s what happened…  This is the same recipe as my mum’s gingerbread tree decorations too, if you fancy making any of them too next Christmas.

6oz butter
6oz light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 lb plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1-2tbsp ground ginger
2tsp ground mixed spice
White royal icing
White chocolate
Chocolate Santa (optional)

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar using an electric hand-held whisk.

Gradually beat in the eggs.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, ginger and mixed spice.

Stir everything until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently.

Wrap the dough in some cling film and leave to chill in the fridge overnight.

Now is where you need to create your templates. Sketch out the shapes you want on some card and cut them out to be used as stencils.

When you are ready the next day, preheat the oven to 180⁰C.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment, until about 3mm thick.

My mum had a few issues cutting out the shapes, and wanted me to include the ‘fail’ pictures to show that even experienced bakers make mistakes! She learnt from this that you need to flour the card templates so that they don’t stick. She also accidentally made the two sides of the sleigh identical, instead of one the mirror opposite, but when all is said and done and you decorate it, it doesn’t really matter!

To make the Reindeer she used a cutter from M n S.

Place the shapes on floured parchment onto baking trays and bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that they don’t burn. Cool on a wire rack.

Make some white royal icing and decorate the sleigh before sticking it together.

My mum used white chocolate and a bit of royal icing to stick the sleigh to a silver cake board.

Stick things like tin cans to prop up the gingerbread whilst it’s drying.

Then go nuts with the decoration, and use plenty of icing sugar as snow, because you know…Christmas.