A student's guide to baking

Posts tagged ‘Vanilla’

Rainbow Cupcakes

IMG_5044

Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Food colouring/dye

The icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour.
  • Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • Ideally you want 6 different colours for this recipe: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. If you only have red, yellow and blue, you can mix as necessary to make up the remaining colours, but be careful not to use too much.
  • Split the mixture evenly into 6 separate bowls and add a little of the food dye or colouring to the respective bowls to make the various colours.
  • Divide the purple mixture up between the 12 cupcake cases, using a teaspoon if needs be to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly and covers the base of the cupcake case.
  • Repeat with the other colours, working backwards through the rainbow to end up with red on top.
  • Bake the cupcakes at 180ºC for 12-15 minutes. When done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.
  • Make the buttercream icing by beating the butter until soft, and then adding in the icing sugar and mixing. Add in the vanilla essence and continue mixing until pale and fluffy. Use the buttercream to decorate the cakes.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/13653/rainbow-coloured-cupcakes.aspx)

Today’s post is a bit of a #throwbackthursday. These cupcakes were one of my first forays into the world of baking. At the time I’d just started my second year at university, and my room this time around had access to a kitchen, which I didn’t have in my first year. I decided to christen the kitchen by baking some cakes for my flatmates to try and make unpacking and 0th week work seem a bit more bearable.

And so, in a bid to put off the effort of unpacking for an extra half an hour or so, I decided to make the cupcakes rainbow coloured, seeing as I had various different food colours with me. I must’ve had them for quite some time though, as the purple, whilst still perfectly fine for human consumption, had changed colour to a dark green, so the rainbow effect didn’t quite work. The lesson here is that if the mixture goes green when you add the purple food colouring, then baking it is not going to effect a miraculous change and render the result purple after all. Also, whilst I wouldn’t advocate pouring in half a bottle of food colouring, feel free to add a little more than you would normally to make sure that you get a nice bright colour.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

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Carnation Cupcakes

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Ingredients (makes 36 total, 12 of each colour):

White:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon, zest

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice

Pink:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 12 squares of dark chocolate
  • 12 raspberries

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 12 raspberries

Red:

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Red food dye/colouring

Carnation cupcakes 2

Recipe:

  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line 3 muffin tins with cupcake cases. If you don’t have 3 trays, you can make them one colour at a time, remembering to wash and dry the tray after each round.

Each of these cupcakes starts with the same basic recipe:

  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour. Add the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • For the white cupcake, stir in the lemon zest until it’s evenly spread throughout the mixture. Split the mixture between the cupcake cases.
  • For the pink cupcake, sieve in the cocoa powder after adding the flour. Fill each cupcake case half full with the mixture, then place a square of chocolate and a raspberry in the middle of each before pouring the remaining mixture on top.
  • For the red cupcake, add in the vanilla essence before dividing the mixture between the cases.
  • All of the cakes should be baked for 15-18 minutes at 180ºC. Remember to use the knife test to check before removing them from the oven. If you don’t have room in the oven for all 3 colours at once or are only using 1 muffin tray, place them in the centre of the oven to bake.
  • When the cakes are done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

Set a timer so that you don’t lose track of time, and then you can start making the icings. Again, the icing for each different cake starts with the same basic recipe:

  • Beat butter until soft. Sieve in the icing sugar and mix together until the buttercream is pale and forms stiff peaks. As you’re going to be piping and you want the design to hold it’s shape, continue beating the mixture until it’s stiff and holds its shape well.
  • For the white icing, stir in the lemon juice and beat thoroughly.
  • For the pink icing, add in the raspberries and beat thoroughly. The mixture should turn a light pink colour.
  • For the red icing, add in the red food dye or colouring, following the instructions as to how much to use. The icing should turn a bright red colour.
  • Leave the icing to cool in the fridge briefly whilst you’re waiting for the cakes to cool.
  • Once the cakes are cool, you can start icing. Do make sure that the cakes are at room temperature before you begin, or else the icing will melt and start to run.
  • Use a piping bag with a cross-headed nozzle, preferable with one point being slightly longer than the others. Pipe small circular ‘petals’ in a clockwise direction, spiralling inwards to the centre.
  • Once the cakes are iced, leave them in the fridge to allow the icing to set fully.

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One of the many Oxford traditions when it comes to exams is wearing a carnation to mark your progression through your exam period. You start with a white carnation for your first exam, then a pink carnation for all of your middle exams, and you finish with a red one to mark your final exam. It’s a popular tradition in Oxford in May and June, and it’s rather lovely when you get congratulations on the street from people who see you wearing your red carnation.

Part of the tradition is that someone else has to buy your carnations for you, as its apparently bad luck to buy them for yourself. In some ways though, it’s just nice to find flowers in your pigeon hole when you’re otherwise surrounded by revision, even if those flowers do remind you of the upcoming ordeal.

In addition to the carnations, many people also give each other chocolate and sweets as kind little gestures around this time. To those of you worrying about the state of pre-exam nutrition, most colleges also offer a Fruit for Finalists scheme, where you can also get fruit rather than living off a diet of Dairy Milk and Lindt. I particularly like this culture of giving and gestures of goodwill around the time of exams, so I came up with these carnation cupcakes as a way to combine both aspects.

When it came to posting the cakes to various people’s pigeon holes, I put each set into resealable airtight sandwich bags to stop them from drying out, and I wrote a little note, wishing them good luck for their exams and explaining what the flavours were in each cake.

Naturally of course, I couldn’t just do vanilla cupcakes with different coloured icing on top, so I decided to have different flavours for each cupcake. I’ve always been a fan of lemon flavours in cake, and it also lent itself well to keeping the colour a light creamy white, so I went with that the for the first one.

As I’ve mentioned in my melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, I really liked the concept as a cake in itself, and using the raspberries helped not only to create a contrast with the dark chocolate and lighten the taste, but also to create a naturally pink icing for the cake. I also liked the added ‘middleness’ of the cake, in that there was a nice surprise in the middle with the melted chocolate and raspberry as an extra boost, as well as it being the middle cake and carnation of the three. I decided to keep the final cupcake simple, sticking with a reliable vanilla cupcake, and using food dye to achieve the red colour.

Another advantage of using vanilla for the last one is that it would last better than the other two cakes, as there wasn’t any fresh fruit in the cake. As someone who had to have 2 pink carnation flowers to last them through the exam period in first year because the first one was in danger of withering before I reached the final exam, I was aware that exams can end up being spread over some time, and I wanted people to still have the option of eating each cake as they donned the matching coloured carnation.

For those of you who may be wondering what I did about my own carnations and arguably more importantly, my exams, I thankfully didn’t have any. At undergraduate level, the arts subjects only have exams at the end of the first year and at the end of the final year, so I spent last term as I did any other: writing essays, doing translations, and reading. However, many of my friends had exams, whether they were 2nd year science subject exams, first year Prelims or fourth year linguist Finals, so I spent a lot of last term baking these too!

Carnation cupcakes

Raspberry Layer Cake

Raspberry layer cake

Ingredients:

The cake:

  • 350g butter
  • 350g cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g sour cream
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

The filling:

  • 200g raspberry jam
  • 250g fresh raspberries

The icing:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease 3 round cake tins.
  • Cream together your butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs to create a smooth mixture before adding in the sour cream, milk and vanilla extract.
  • Sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth and consistent. The mixture should be slightly more runny than a normal cake mixture.
  • Divide up the mixture between the three greased tins and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake passes the knife test.

Whilst the cakes are baking, you can make up the filling:

  • Lightly mash half of the raspberries in a bowl and then combine with the raspberry jam. Stir gently to ensure an even spread.

For the icing:

  • Start beating your double cream until it starts to thicken.
  • Add in the icing sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until the cream starts to form stiff peaks.

Once the cakes have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

  • When they’re ready, first ensure that they are all flat, using a serrated knife if necessary to trim the tops if they have domed.
  • To assemble the cake, take the bottom layer and spread a layer of the icing over it. On the bottom of the next layer, spread the raspberry filling and carefully place this on top of the bottom layer. Repeat with the next layer.
  • Once you’ve got all three layers together, spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake, using a palette knife to give smooth and even coverage.
  • Push the remaining raspberries gently into the icing for decoration.

(Recipe adapted from: http://recipes.coles.com.au/recipes/2634/vanilla-raspberry-layer-cake/)

IMG_6059

Prior to making this, Ele and I had spent the day at the Worcester College Garden Party, celebrating the fast-approaching end of term in elegant British style. The garden party was a lovely affair; we were greeted with glasses of champagne upon our arrival, and there was also a wonderful array of sandwiches and miniature desserts of various kinds for us to try. As a result, our main source of nutrition turned out to be strawberries and cream and ice cream in various flavours from the local Oxford ice cream parlour G&Ds. There was live music and dancing, giant garden-sized games of Jenga as well as limbo, and plenty of conversation as students emerged from the libraries, remembering the joys of friendship and trying to forget about the fast-approaching exams.

Having enjoyed the champagne, and later on several glasses of Pimm’s and Elderflower Collins, we were a little light-headed as we walked back to Ele’s afterwards. On the walk we decided that having something to eat might be a good idea, and so naturally a summery cake seemed like a rather good idea.

Like the melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, this too was born out of a need to use up some raspberries, and the concept of mixing fresh raspberries with jam turned out to add a nice extra texture to the cake. It also helped to balance out the flavours with the cream frosting, so that despite the considerable amount of cream, it’s actually a rather light cake and tasted wonderful.

Earth Cake

Earth cake

Ingredients:

Inner layer – Vanilla sponge:

  • 120g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Middle layer – Lemon sponge:

  • 180g butter
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon, zest

Outer layer – Chocolate orange sponge:

  • 240g butter
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 240g self-raising flour
  • 120g cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 large orange, zest

Icing:

  • 500g fondant icing
  • Green food dye or colouring
  • Blue food dye or colouring
  • Icing sugar for rolling

TOTAL INGREDIENTS:

  • 540g butter
  • 540g caster sugar
  • 540g self-raising flour
  • 9 eggs
  • 9 tbsp (135ml) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 120g cocoa powder
  • 1 large orange, zest
  • 500g fondant icing
  • Green and blue food dye or colouring
  • Icing sugar for rolling
All the ingredients, ready to go! (I was also making religieuses and brownies on the same day, hence the obscene number of eggs amongst other things)

All the ingredients, ready to go! (I was also making religieuses and brownies on the same day, hence the obscene number of eggs amongst other things.)

Pull up a chair and put the kettle on; we’re in for a long ride. With a combined baking time of 3 hours, plus time for preparing the mixture and icing the finished cake, you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while…

As the seemingly never-ending list of ingredients suggests, this is probably the most complex thing I’ve baked so far. Essentially, it’s three layers of cake, covered with fondant icing. To help you along the way, I took photos of the various things so that you should have an idea of how your baking should look before you get to the end.

A few words of warning before you begin: for this recipe, you’re going to need 3 hemisphere tins or pyrex bowls of different sizes, such that you can fit one inside the other to get the layered effect. The structure of this cake works by baking each layer into the next one, thereby removing the need for any form of adhesive to hold the whole cake together.

To try and make things a bit easier, I altered the recipe for each cake so that all was required was making up the same basic cake recipe and then adding the flavour as appropriate. Feel free to change the flavourings, but bear in mind that you want the inner layer to have a more runny texture initially, as it’ll be baked 3 times in total. If you do change the type of cake you’re using, then the baking times may also be different. In case you’re unsure about whether a layer is baked, leave it in for a little longer. In this case, it’s far better to have a slightly over-baked cake, as you’ll have to trim the layers, but once you remove the cake from the oven, it stops baking and putting it back in may not be enough to save it. The best thing I can recommend with this is to keep a close eye on the oven as you near the end of the recommended baking time to see when it’s done.

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC, and grease the smallest bowl or tin.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the vanilla essence.
  • Transfer the mixture into your greased smallest bowl or tin and bake for about 45 minutes.
The first layer pre-oven baking.

The first layer pre-oven baking.

While that’s baking, you can get started on the next layer, but bear in mind that you have to wait for the first layer to have finished baking and cooled before you can put the next one in the oven.

You can make up the next layers when the first is baking and put them in the fridge to cool whilst you’re waiting.

You can make up the next layers when the first is baking and put them in the fridge to cool whilst you’re waiting.

  • As before, cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the lemon zest and beat to ensure an even distribution throughout the mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to the your greased middle-sized bowl or tin.
  • Once the first layer is baked, remove it from the bowl and leave it to cool. When it’s cool enough to the touch, check that the bottom is round and unbroken, using a sharp knife to shape it if needs be.
  • Once it’s smooth, press it into the centre of your middle layer mixture, and bake for 60 minutes.
The second layer, with the first already-baked layer in it.

The second layer, with the first already-baked layer in it.

The first two layers cooling upside down. The inner layer will rise as the next layer bakes, but you can make it even at the end.

The first two layers cooling upside down. The inner layer will rise as the next layer bakes, but you can make it even at the end.

The next thing to do is make the final, outer layer of cake:

  • As you’ll probably have gathered by now, follow the same plan as before: cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale and stiff.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the texture is smooth, and then sieve in the flour.
  • Sieve in the cocoa powder, and then pour in the milk and mix.
  • Add in the orange zest and beat to ensure an even distribution throughout the mixture.
  • Transfer the mixture to the your greased largest bowl or tin.
  • Once the middle layer is baked, remove it from the bowl and leave it to cool. When it’s cool enough to the touch, check that the bottom is round and unbroken, using a sharp knife to shape it if needs be.
  • Once it’s smooth, press it into the centre of your outer layer mixture, and bake for 75 minutes.
  • When that’s finished, remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool. You can now turn off the oven at last.
  • Once the cake is cool, use a sharp serrated knife, such as a bread knife, to flatten the top of your cake carefully. Turn the cake upside down so that the layers are facing down and unseen, and leave to one side.
All three layers of baked cake. As previously suggested, this does have a tendency to mushroom as each successive layer rises from beneath the previous cooked cake.

All three layers of baked cake. As previously suggested, this does have a tendency to mushroom as each successive layer rises from beneath the previous cooked cake.

However, with the use of a sharp knife, you can create a flat base for your cake.

However, with the use of a sharp knife, you can create a flat base for your cake.

For the icing and assembly:

  • Dust a surface with icing sugar and, using a rolling pin, roll out your fondant icing.
  • Split the icing roughly in half, and put one half to one side for now.
  • To the remaining icing, apply your blue food dye or colouring. The quantities of this will depend on the substance you’re using. I used strong food dye, so a pea-sized amount was plenty to give the icing a bright colour. If in down, remember the mantra of all one-way processes such as baking and painting: less is best. You can always add more afterwards, but you can’t take out the colour once it’s mixed in.
You want your icing to have a bright and consistent colour, especially for the blue for the sea.

You want your icing to have a bright and consistent colour, especially for the blue for the sea.

  • Roll out the icing again until you have a large circular piece of blue icing.
  • Your cake should now have completed cooled, so transfer the blue icing to it, draping it over the rolling pin to help carry it.
  • Make sure that the icing completely covers the cake on all sides with no tears, and use a sharp knife to trim the sides.
  • Apply the green food dye or colouring to your remaining icing, and roll it out.
  • Using a sharp knife, carve it into the shape of the landmass(es) of your choice. I would highly recommend having a map or image to work from here.
  • Once you’ve got your green icing cut to shape, apply it to the cake, being careful not to rip it in the process.
A finished slice. I appreciate that the inner layer is rather difficult to see, given that it’s almost the same colour as the middle layer, but I promise you, it was there!

A finished slice. I appreciate that the inner layer is rather difficult to see, given that it’s almost the same colour as the middle layer, but I promise you, it was there!

Congratulations, you’re finished!

(Inspired by http://cakecrumbs.me/2013/05/24/commission-earth-structural-layer-cake/)

As I mentioned earlier, it’s far better to risk over-baking the layers on this one. Unfortunately, I learnt that lesson the hard way… On the plus side, you can eat it like a pudding with custard, except that it’s with cake mix instead!

As I mentioned earlier, it’s far better to risk over-baking the layers on this one. Unfortunately, I learnt that lesson the hard way… On the plus side, you can eat it like a pudding with custard, except that it’s with cake mix instead!

Be warned; this may look baked on the outside, but pyrex bowls are much slower to cook the inside of a cake than metal tins.

Be warned; this may look baked on the outside, but pyrex bowls are much slower to cook the inside of a cake than metal tins.

I saw this idea on the Internet somewhere quite some time ago and was immediately taken by it. One of my close friends and flatmates from last year, Kesia, studies Earth Sciences, so naturally my first thought when I saw this was to make it for her for some occasion. Unfortunately, her birthday is in August, so doing it as a birthday cake would have required considerable planning and organisation.

When I came across this recipe, I had only just started baking, and so I decided to leave it for when I had a bit more expertise in the kitchen and could make a decent attempt at such a complex cake! Thankfully, the two timing requirements came together in the form of a post-exams celebration for Kesia, as she had exams at the end of last year, whereas, being a languages student at Oxford, I didn’t, so I had more time to focus on baking rather than revising.

I had mentioned to Kesia that it would be good to have some sort of celebration for her at the end of her exam period, especially as she was going to miss the last night of term because of a field trip. I’d said that I’d make something for the occasion, so she was expecting baking of some kind, but I’d managed to keep the idea itself a secret from her until it was unveiled.

I decided to do a map of Europe for a couple of reasons: firstly, because it would be fairly easy and hopefully recognisable, despite my less than gallery-worthy art skills. I also decided to go with a European theme, because it was the last day that Kesia was going to be in Oxford with Tess (another close friend and flatmate) and I before we went left for our Year Abroad next year.

I did also make brownies for the celebration, and so as a joke, I presented her with those initially, claiming that they were like a tray of soil, but baked. Being the wonderfully kind person she is, she was very grateful, so I did have to say that I was in fact joking, and then brought out the main cake. Few words were exchanged and many were speechless, but the noises of appreciation and amazement as we were cutting and eating the cake seemed to be a sign of positive feedback!

Victoria Sandwich

Victoria sandwich

Ingredients:

The cake:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

The filling and icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 340g strawberry jam
  • 200g strawberries, chopped
  • 400g fondant icing
  • Icing sugar for rolling

Recipe:

  • As always, start by preheating your oven to 180ºC, and grease two 10” cake tins.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs, one at a time, and sieve in the flour and baking powder. Normally you wouldn’t use baking powder if you’re already using self-raising flour, but here it helps the cake to rise that bit more and give it a particularly light texture.
  • Pour in 2 tbsp of milk and mix until smooth. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for about 20 minutes until golden and the cake springs back when pressed, or until it passes the knife test.
  • Leave the cake to cool and make a start on the icing by beating the butter until smooth and soft.
  • Sieve in the icing sugar. My other recipes usually work with a ratio of 1:2 for butter to icing sugar, but here you don’t need something as stiff and strong as you would for decoration or holding a cake together.
  • Add the vanilla extract to the buttercream for extra taste and leave to cool in the fridge.
  • Once the cakes have cooled, take the bottom layer and spread a generous amount of strawberry jam over the top.
  • Next spread the chopped strawberries evenly over the strawberry jam, making sure that they don’t go over the sides.
  • Spread the buttercream over the bottom of the remaining layer and carefully place it over the strawberries.
  • For working with the fondant icing, dust a work surface with icing sugar just as you would use flour otherwise. Work the fondant icing sugar with your hands and then a rolling pin to make it more pliable until you have a large thin layer.
  • Carefully lift the fondant icing off the work surface, draping it over the rolling pin to help carry it. Lay it gently over the cake, making sure that there are no tears in the surface.
  • Using a sharp knife, gently neaten up the edges, using the natural shape of the icing to help guide any curves you want. It’s up to you how much of the side you show, but I think it’s nice to leave some gaps to make it look like the icing has been poured on and so that you can see the strawberries inside.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1997/classic-victoria-sandwich)

 

With the return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens, it seemed appropriate to write about this one. The recipe for this is very similar to my other Victoria sandwich recipe (see here), but presentation and structure are a little different, and the measurements vary too.

The first time I made this cake was for a college charity event, where we gathered in the common room to watch the final of the Great British Bake Off last year and there was a bake sale at the same time too. There was even a competition going for who could make the most money with their cake, where the winner would win the official Great British Bake Off cookbook. Sadly I ended up coming 2nd, losing out due to a limited quantity, even though I managed to sell out first. The event went really well and we managed to raise a lot for charity!

 

The state of the bake sale after half an hour... The GBBO Final hadn't even started by this point.

The state of the bake sale after half an hour… The GBBO Final hadn’t even started by this point.

The inspiration for this cake came from Series 4’s Glenn, who came up with the idea and the design of using whole strawberries and icing over the top. For the charity event it was suggested that we’d get bonus points for recreating one of the bakes from earlier in the series, so I naturally turned to cake and found Glenn’s recipe, which seemed elegant and yet not too complicated.

I also made this cake several months later for my friend Tess’ birthday. The only slight difference there was that I kept 2 small strawberries back at the end, and used them as decoration on the top of the icing. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was time between finishing it and presenting to her for me to get a photo without spoiling the surprise for her, so I don’t have a picture of that particular cake!

When I first made this, it was as I was just starting out with baking, so I can certainly recommend it as a fairly simple recipe that looks good and gets you into thinking about presentation as well.

 

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Madeleines

Madeleines

Ingredients (makes 9):

  • 55g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 50g granulated sugar (decoration)

Recipe:

  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Grease madeleine moulds and cover in a fine layer of flour.
  • Melt butter by putting in a bowl and microwaving it on a low energy setting for 10-20 seconds at a time, until it’s just turning to liquid. Leave it to one side to cool.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and salt.
  • Gradually add in the caster sugar whilst continuing to beat until the mixture becomes thick and pale and forms ribbons. This should take about 10 minutes of beating.
  • Add in the lemon zest and pour in the melted butter. Immediately fold in the butter, doing so carefully to avoid spilling.
  • Divide the mixture between the moulds, allowing for it to form slight mounds.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cake is a golden colour and springs back when pressed.
  • Turn the madeleines upside down on a rack and sprinkle with granulated sugar before leaving them to cool.
  • Because of the gentle light texture, madeleines are best eaten sooner rather than later. Then again, in my book that’s the case for cake of any kind, but with these it’s particularly true. They are a particularly nice tea time treat that works well when paired with tea without milk.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/french-butter-cakes-madeleines)

 

Like many of my other recipes already on this site, these were made during the Lichfield Festival. Jen, our Festival Manager, is an Oxford French graduate, and with a few Cantabs in the office and on the team for the Festival, her and I have often banded together to fight the Oxonian corner. As an Oxford linguist myself, albeit a current one, we’ve also had many conversations about all that that involves.

One such conversation involved Jen recalling her time spent in the city of dreaming spires, and the compulsory texts for study in the initial year of a French degree, in particular the first volume of Marcel Proust’s epic novel À la Recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), entitled Du Côte de chez Swann (Swann’s Way). In this monumental and frankly rather long novel, the protagonist triggers a rich and detailed memory of his past by dipping a madeleine in a cup of lime tea. I leave this post here with Bernard Black, of Dylan Moran’s Black Books, who summarises the work rather well…

4 Layer Victoria Sandwich

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Ingredients

The cake:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

The filling:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g strawberry jam
  • 400g strawberries (halved)
  • Icing sugar (for dusting)

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Start by creaming together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Crack in the eggs one at a time whilst continuing to mix.
  • Sieve in the flour and gently stir in the milk.
  • Add the vanilla essence.
  • Grease two 10” cake tins and pour the mix evenly into both.
  • Cook for 20 minutes or until they pass the knife test and spring back when gentle pressure is applied.

 

  • The real beauty of this cake lies in the filling. Whisk the cream until you have a strong whipped cream with stiff peaks.
  • Chop the strawberries in half, trying to make sure that they’re all roughly the same height when lying down on their sides. If needs be, chop large strawberries into three slices.
  • When the cake layers are baked and cool to the touch, it’s time to start the assembly process. Cut each layer in half to give you 4 semi-circle cake layers.
  • On the bottom layer, spread a hearty layer of jam. You want enough that there is a consistent red layer over the lighter colour of the sponge, but not so much that it starts dripping over the sides and makes the cake wet.
  • On top of the jam, create a layer of the chopped strawberries. I usually go for putting the flat edge of the strawberry against the edge of the cake and having the points facing inwards, and then gradually filling in the rest of the layer.
  • Take your next layer, and apply a generous layer of the whipped cream to the bottom before gently placing it over the strawberries.
  • Repeat this process for the next two layers, until you’ve placed the final fourth layer on the cake.
  • Using a sieve, add icing sugar over the top of the cake as dusting.

(See my Victoria sandwich recipe for the inspiration)

4 layer Victoria sandwich

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Certainly in this case, she was. When I started this cake, I had planned on making a standard Victoria sandwich. However, as this was my first foray into the world of gluten-free baking, the cake didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped in the oven, so that when it was ready and cooked, it was about half the height that I’d normally expect from a Victoria sandwich. (I since learnt that the best way to avoid this is just to make more cake mix.)

Not wanting to waste cake (and by that I mean not wanting to have to eat the entire thing myself to dispose of the evidence), I decided to double up the layering on the suggestion of my mother. Thankfully it worked out rather well!

By including the same filling as normal between every layer of cake, the overall height was sufficient that there was plenty of cake in the end. People ended up having smaller slices to accommodate for the height and so only having a half of a circular sponge wasn’t an issue!

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