Baking · Cake · Central America · Nation Cake Challenge

Mexico: Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

This delicious cake was taken from the book Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home by the brilliant Thomasina Miers.  One of my favourite restaurants to eat at when in London, she focuses on fresh and simple Mexican street food. This recipe traditionally would use a curd cheese called requeson, however Miers suggests ricotta as a good equivalent. The cake is moist and dense, but surprisingly light and fresh – definitely one to make again!

Ricotta cake 2

Ricotta Cake 1

Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 65g plain flour
  • grated zest and and juice of six limes
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 300g ricotta cheese

Icing:

  • 75g ricotta cheese
  • 30g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2 (300°F/150°C) and grease a 24in springform tin ready for use later. Line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper.

Combine the ground almonds, flour and lime zest in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together, before beating in the vanilla essence. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time before stirring in the flour mixture. In a different bowl, combine the ricotta and lime juice, before adding to the cake mix and combining well.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then start to fold into the mixture. Use a spoonful to loosen the mixture before folding in the rest, being careful to not take out too much of the air. Place in the cake tin and bake for an hour, until the cake is just set and slightly golden brown. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing, beat the butter and ricotta together before beating in the icing sugar and lime zest. Beat with a mixer for several minutes until thick and smooth. Smooth over the cake, and decorate with extra lime zest as required.

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Baking

Happy Blog-Day

Today is one year to the day since this blog began. A lot has happened in this year, and oddly enough this post finds me in a similar situation to that in which the blog started. Starting as an academic exercise (when I was too ill to get out of a chair), this challenge developed into a project to keep me sane, and one that even now keeps me calm and allows me to gain a sense of perspective when I am in need of such.

More importantly, it has produced a lot of cakes, all of which have been enthusiastically sampled by Max, myself and whichever lucky people (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) have been around at the time. As  result, to celebrate one year, this post will revisit some of the most popular cakes to have been created over this period.

Turkish Delight Cupcakes

Turkish Delight Cupcake 1

Hands down, the most request and popular recipe on this site – a complete winner!

Coconut Dream Cake

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Another favourite with everyone , and surprisingly easy to make – foolproof hopefully!

Blueberry and Espresso Cupcakes

Norway muffins 1

These beauties got me a place in the National Cupcake Championships! Sadly no prize but there is always next year!

Wheat Beer and Chocolate Cake

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The favourite of the men folk – beer and chocolate! Can’t go wrong as far as they’re concerned!

The S’Mores Cupcakes

Smores cupcake

After taking these into work, they didn’t even make it past morning break. Success guaranteed.

Baklava

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Made for an adorer of Baklava, despite having never really eaten it before. It went down a treat, and was requested again.

Cranachan Cupcakes

Cranachan Cupcakes

Creamy, fruity and boozy – what could be better?

I hope that these select few give you some nice ideas – there are many more that I could have put in here but otherwise the post would have been a little long… Here’s to another year of baking.

Baking · Baking Trends

The (Baking) Development of 2014

[Note: this started off life as a post about the potential trends of 2014 in the baking world, but t the end of February, it’s a little late. Therefore this should not be viewed as a prediction, but rather as a running commentary.]

As in all disciplines, baking [(as well as food in general!) goes through trends. We all remember the Great Cupcake Extravaganza of 2011, the rise of homemade bread (pun completely intended) and the Surprise Cronut Frenzy of 2013, which sent downtown Manhattan almost to standstill, as hundreds queued around the block in order to taste this delicacy.

The question is then, what will be the next trends to hit us?

As you may expect, predictions vary. I read one article that claimed both that big cakes would be in, tapping in to the family-style, and them almost immediately afterwards claiming that the trend for big cakes was over. Logically that argument seems a little flawed to me. However, there are many others which deserve a mention, and some that I’ll be developing my thoughts on, not to mention giving you my own suggestions.

Naked Cakes

Image here

The natural trend has been developing in the culinary world for some years now, particularly focusing on the twin issues of sustainability and organic produce. Taking this trend to an aesthetic level, the end of last year saw a development of stripping cakes back to their most basic elements (and not in my lazy method of just not decorating it!). This rustic trend has reached substantial popularity in wedding cakes – thankfully taking over from the cakes of cheese – and the focus on fruit and spices (such as lavender and rose) creates a lighter, less sugar-filled cake.

Choux Pastry

Image here

Apparently this is going to be the next development in French Patisserie, and the displays in many noted Parisian shops seem to confirm this. The previous macaroon trend was beautiful – however, many of the macaroons I tried were almost sickeningly sweet – one shop almost left me in a (albeit delicious) sugar coma! Now whilst I cannot comment on the development of choux pastry in British Bakeries across the country,I can comment that I have eaten more choux pastry this year than in all of last year, and that this trend is one that I hope will continue to wind its delicious way through 2014.

Baking Mash-ups

Cronut – Image here

The Townie – Britain’s contribution to the baking mash up! Image here

A continuation from last year, suggestions have been mooted regarding the combinations of two desserts, or adding a new spin onto an old classic. Suggestions from Good Food Magazine include the ‘Sticky Toffee Pie’ and ‘Party Dodgers’ – what I can only assume is a cross between a party ring and a jammy dodger.

My personal opinion – Britain isn’t going far enough. At the moment, as with many of the trends, the USA is the pioneer, from the ubiquitous cronut to the townie (brownie-tart) and the duffin (doughnut-muffin). Compared to these delicious treats, turning a lemon drizzle cake into a roulade is simply playing it safe.

Increased Complexity in Baking

Charlotte Royale – the infamous brain cake! Image here

When the Great British Bake-Off began, the level of technicality in the baking challenges was far simpler than in the previous series. I dread to think what dastardly challenges have been thought up for this years competitors, but one result of this is that the previous mystery that surrounded patisserie has dissipated somewhat. No longer seen as overly complex, amateurs are now far more likely to use techniques such as tempering. I would expect that this will develop through this year, though due to a probable plateauing of abilities and equipment availability I would suggest that this would not extend past this.

Biscuits

Image from Bubble and Sweet -Pinterest again delivers some beautiful biscuits!

Sweet Ambs Cookies - Ideal Wedding Favours 7

These from Into the Wildwood are also rather stunning.

I’ve not seen this one written down anywhere, but this is a trend which I feel should come back soon. Biscuits are a ridiculously undervalued baked good – capable of endless variation, easily portable and completely beautiful when decorated appropriately (See the examples below!) All of the other baking trends seem to have found some form of resurgence during the past few years except the biscuit, and I think it is about time the humble biscuit got its due!

How about the rest of you then? Any comments or omissions?

(This post references the Good Food article as a predominant source. There are several other articles which suggest baking trends, though many are similar to those mentioned in this article).

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

The Netherlands: Poffertjes

Netherlands flag outline

Last but by no means least my favourite discovery from the trip to Amsterdam. Poffertjes are little yeasted pancakes, traditionally made with buckwheat flour and served with a variety of toppings. My personal favourite – nutella and icing sugar. However, they are also delicious served with fruit and ice-cream, the freshness of the strawberries cutting through the pancakes.

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Thankfully these little beauties very easy to make, and so I can now have them whenever I want. Dangerous, but good. If you don’t have a poffertjes pan (as I’m sure most people don’t!) either use a heavy-bottomed frying pan or the bottom of a mini muffin tin on top of the hob – not ideal, but it will work.

Poffertjes 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of milk, warmed
  • 3/4 tsp dried active yeast
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • Icing sugar and ice cream, to serve.

Instructions:

Add the yeast to the warm milk and leave to prove. Mix the flour and eggs together until smooth, and gradually add the milk, beating in until smooth. Add in the salt and leave for 45 minutes to rise.

Heat your pan and lightly grease with butter. Pour a small amount of the mixture into each hole, and cook until the sides are crispy and bubbles form around the side of the mixture. Flip over using a fork or a skewer, and cook for another 30 seconds. Serve hot, sprinkled with icing sugar and ice cream.

Baking · Bread

10 Minute Weekday Bread!

Now this recipe is  a complete winner for days like last Wednesday when (like me) you have the following conundrun:

  1. You need some bread. I mean, really need it! I don’t keep bread in as I don’t eat the plastic sliced stuff and the rest goes off too quickly.
  2. You have no strong bread flour. Sad to say that I just don’t keep it in most of the time.

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Anyway this recipe fills the need. It takes ten minutes to make, and whilst it takes an hour to rise, lets face it – you don’t have to spend that time attached to the bread! If you are lucky enough to have a warm house, your bread will hopefully rise of its own accord. If though you are like me and not so lucky, preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3 and leave it for 10 minutes. Place your dough in the oven and then turn it down immediately, this will help the bread rise.

I would apologise about the Instagram photo, but it was 9pm at night, it was delicious, steaming hot – and I really wanted to eat it!

10 Minute Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of cold water

Instructions:

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the cold water. Stir until it forms a dough, adding a little more water if you need to in order to bring it together. Knead it until it becomes smooth and form into a round loaf. Score with a cross on the top, cover and leave to rise for an hour.

Place the loaf on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6 and bake for 30 minutes, until it is golden and crispy on top.

Baking · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Travelling

Slovakia: Chai Maple Cupcakes

Sometimes the simplest thing can transport you back to a place; a sound, a smell, a taste. It may be something you experienced throughout a holiday, or it maybe something new, something that from that point on becomes inextricably linked to that moment.

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A few days ago I wrote about a recent trip to Bratislava, and my fondness for the cafe Urban Space. I’ve talked enough about the cheesecake, but today I’m going to embellish a little more about my beverage of choice – the Maple Chai Latte. I love this drink. Enough said. In fact I loved it so much, I decided that I needed to make it into a cupcake, that being the ultimate accolade for any foodstuff.

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This recipe was adapted from Naturally Ellathough with a couple of minor changes. These changes were borne out of necessity but still worked well. Primarily I used whole spices as opposed to powdered spiced. I also added some vanilla to the whipped cream rather than the maple to add a contrast. They also went down well with Max who liked it far better than the initial Maple Chai latte (not his favourite drink…) Success all around!

Maple Chai Latte Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Chai Mixture

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 black tea bags
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup 2% or whole milk

Cupcake Batter

  • ¾ cup unbleached flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 large egg

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

In a small pot, combine spices, tea bags, butter, maple syrup, and milk. Bring mixture to a simmer, letting butter melt, and once everything is melted together and warm, remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. After, remove star anise and tea bags, making sure to squeeze any remaining liquid from the tea bags.

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a muffin tin with 6 liners. Whisk the egg and then add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir in the cooled chai mixture and mix until just combined. Divide batter into the muffin tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer muffins out of the tin to a rack and finish cooling.

Once muffins are cool, whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract together. Pipe the whipped cream onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon to serve.

Baking · Cake · Nation Cake Challenge · North America

Hawaii: Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

As an American state slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a complete contrast to the rest of mainland America (My lack of geographical knowledge in my younger years becomes painfully evident when discussing the Pacific – until I was 11 I thought that Hawaii was somewhere in the Caribbean!). This tropical paradise (Paradise incidently being one of the archepeligo’s nicknames) enjoys ideal conditions for people from sun-seeking tourists to thrill-seeking surfers and volcanologists. Sadly it has one major issue, in that it is about as far as Britain as possible, therefore making a holiday rather impractical.

I plan to visit Hawaii at some point during my life, and at present the dreams of this island make the grey British January weather rather more bearable. When I walk down the cold, dark roads, I picture myself in Hawaii, eating pineapples (the island’s biggest crop), swimming in the warm sea and generally getting the sun I can’t seem to find at the moment!

pineapple upside down cake

The main aspect of this delicious cake, the pineapple is a major export of Hawaii. Whilst it originated in South America, it was introduced to the islands in the early 1990’s, quickly gaining massive popularity. The two largest pineapple companies (Dole and Del Monte) first started their companies on Oahu (the largest albums) and Hawaiian pineapple is still a massive corner of the market to this day. Combined in this delectable cake is the intensely tropical coconut and some added rum and blueberries to give some extra colour and intensity. Eat this cake and you will forever forget the pineapple upside down cakes of yesteryear.

The recipe was taken from  London Bakes (here)

Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh pineapple (canned will do at a push, but fresh is so much better!)
  • 20g fresh blueberries
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml rum
  • 165g unsalted butter, softened plus more for the tin
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 175F.  Line a tin with parchment paper and grease well with butter. Don’t use a springform tin unless you want to spill hot syrup all over yourself…

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk until boiling, before taking off the heat and stir in the dessicated coconut, vanilla and rum.  Leave to cool whilst you prepare the pineapple.

Cut the pineapple into thin slices (if using canned, then just drain the slices slightly).  Melt the butter and sugar in a frying pan and, when hot, add the pineapple slices and caramelize on each side (this will take about 3 minutes on each side). Remove from the heat, allow to cool and place the pineapple in a layer at the bottom of the cake tin.  Pour over the syrup from the pan.  Add the blueberries to the gaps between the pineapple slices.

To make the cake, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined and then fold in the flour, baking powder and coconut mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, carefully peeling off the parchment paper to expose the fruit topping.

Serve with ice cream or cream.