Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Cyprus: Aubergine,Walnut and Mint Cake

Flag of Cyprus

This cake is proof that sometimes not reading something properly can actually work in your favour. When researching this cake, I read a passage that talked about sweets made from small aubergines and walnuts. I combined this with fresh mint, one of the iconic flavours of Cyprus and used in almost everything to create this very delectable cake. Going back to my research I noticed a comma – the sweets were in fact made of aubergines OR walnuts, not both.

Having said that, the flavour combination is undoubtedly relevant, and so it earns its place in the blog. Chocolate, as some of you may be shouting at your screens, is not particularly traditional but it results in a wonderfully moist and rich cake, which unlike most desserts actually improves over time, both in taste and texture. The recipe is adapted from Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache.

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Please do not disregard this cake merely because of the added aubergine. If you do, you will have missed out on one of the most delicious, moist cakes ever created. Maybe just don’t tell veggie-haters the surprise ingredient – they will never guess!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small aubergines
  • 300g best dark chocolate
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 60g ground walnuts
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g clear honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 small handful of mint, chopped
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Grease and line a 9 inch springform tin.
Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until soft and limp. Discard any water at the bottom and leave to stand until they are cool enough to handle. When cool, skin and puree the aubergines in the blender. Add the warm aubergine to the broken up chocolate, and stir gently to allow the chocolate to melt.
In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well mixed and gently foaming. Add the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl and fold in until completely combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and place on the serving plate. Finish by dusting with cocoa powder and decorating with a sprig of fresh mint.
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Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

England: Victoria Sponge Cake

Greetings! It’s all been rather quiet here recently, due to the fact that I have been in America and most hotels do not have baking facilities for their guests… However, now that I am back in range of a kitchen, normal service will (try to) resume!

Today’s post concerns the mainstay of English baking, and a cake that is seemingly not present in America (though the upcoming posts on my baking adventures here will show you some of the great bakes I did sample!). I speak of the Victoria Sponge Cake. Ridiculously simple, but if made well, this cake can be elevated from tea time treat to dinner party dessert.

The basic cake is a vanilla sponge cake, which is then filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Traditionally jam is the chosen filling, but the addition of fruit makes this cake moister and gives a stronger fruit flavour. I have stipulated strawberries and raspberries here, but the choice is really up to you – any berries will work well.

The lack of pictures on this post is a testament to the quality of this cake – the family gathering demolished this cake within 10 minutes of the cake being completed…

Victoria Sponge Cake

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 8oz softened butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 punnet of strawberries (or other soft fruit of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/375 degrees farenheit, and flour and grease  two 8in round sandwich tins. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in the eggs one by one. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat until well combined. Mix in the vanilla essence before pouring the mixture into the tin. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the tin and cooling completely on a wire rack.

To construct, whip the cream and icing sugar until thick and fluffy. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread with the cream. Top with the fresh fruit and then place the second cake on top. Smooth the edges and dust the top of the cake with icing sugar. Serve in large slices with tea.

 

Baking · Cake · History of Cake · Uncategorized

Positively Medieval – Development in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (specifically in England) was a milestone in the development of cake as a specific baked good, as this was the first time that cake and bread became two distinct forms. As discussed previously, the two terms used to be used pretty much indiscriminately, the only differentiation being size. This all changed during this period – now the term cake was used specifically to denote a baked good sweetened with sugar.

A crucial factor in baking of this time was preservation – without the methods of food preservation that we are used to today, foods needed to be able to be stored for a significant period of time. With this in mind, the two cakes that came to the fore were gingerbread and fruitcake. The Roman influence was evident in the importance of fruitcake, which had its roots in the sweetened, fruited bread mentioned last week. These cakes served two purposes – not only were they made to last for several months, they also included ingredients which would mark out the eaters of being wealthy people able to afford such ingredients.

During this period, the function of cake also developed, and it became the main celebratory dish of the period. Cakes became very ornate and elaborate, Chaucer remarking that one cake included 13 kilograms of flour, not to mention copious amounts of of fruit, cream, nuts, sugar and butter – all very expensive ingredients that really marked the owner out as a well-off member of society.

The recipe that follows in an authentic recipe for gingerbread, taken from here.

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Gyngerbrede

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup clear honey
  • 1 small loaf of brown bread, ground into breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • ground cinnamon, to finish

Instructions:

In a small pan, bring the honey to the boil before reducing the heat and allowing to simmer for 5 minutes, ensuring that you skim off any scum that may float to the top. Remove from the heat and add the spices, before mixing in the breadcrumbs a cup at a time.Knead the mixture until thoroughly combined and roll out  to a depth of 1cm. Cut into 1in squares or circles and dust with the remaining cinnamon.

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Turkey: Turkish Delight Cupcakes

Flag of Turkey.

Today I’m presenting you with a new and improved version of one of the most popular cakes on this site so far, the Turkish delight cupcakes. These have without a doubt been the most raved about, most regularly made and the most searched out of the whole site, and I’m pleased to be able to give you an updated version of the recipe with some better photographs! (Always helps!) Enjoy, and if you make them, let me know what you think!

Turkish Delight Cupcake 2

I’ve added a chocolate-covered coffee bean to the decoration of these which I feel works very well as a flavour contrast, however if you cannot get your hands on them, feel free to leave them out. Do not leave out the pomegranate seeds though, they provide a sharp contrast to the sweetness of the buttercream which is essential to the overall balance of the cake.

Turkish Delight Cupcake 1

Ingredients

Cake

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 6oz ground pistachios
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 6 pieces rose Turkish Delight, cut in half

Rose Buttercream

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 25ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 drop of red food colouring
  • Chocolate coffee bean and pomegranate seeds to decorate

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and place cupcake liners in 2 12-hole cake tins (you will likely use 18 of the 24).

Beat the butter and sugar together before adding the eggs and vanilla essence. Mix in the flour, baking powder and ground pistachios and combine gently. Place a teaspoon of the mixture  into the cupcake cases  and place a piece of Turkish delight into each case. Cover with the remaining mixture and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Once the cakes have completely cooled, make the buttercream by beating together the butter and icing sugar, before adding the milk and rosewater and beating for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the red food colouring drop by drop, mixing after each addition until a light rose pink colour is achieved. Pipe the buttercream onto the top of the cupcakes and decorate with pomegranate seeds and a chocolate coffee bean..

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Russia: Korolevsky Cake with Vodka Ricotta Frosting

As the largest country on the planet, unsurprisingly Russia has a very varied cuisine, ranging from the European influences on the western side to the Eastern provinces bordering China and the Far East. We could also discuss the central areas, and the multitude of influences to be found there. Basically, finding one cake to represent Russia would be nigh-on impossible – it’s just too big!

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This cake is an example of the Western style of cooking. ‘Korolevsky’ translating as ‘royal’, this cake would usually be found in the imperial cities, eaten by the aristocracy. It is traditionally a three layer cake, each layer made with a different flavouring – chopped walnuts, poppy seeds and cocoa powder. I decided to break with tradition though, creating a marbled version of the cake, which also works well. The recipe is adapted from here, however, I decided to top the cake with a vodka ricotta frosting. Whilst ricotta itself is not Russian, Tvorog (a Russian cottage cheese) is very traditional in the cuisine, and so I wanted to use this influence in my frosting.

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 Korolevsky Cake with Vodka Ricotta Frosting

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped

Frosting:

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) of ricotta cheese, drained of excess liquid
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp of vodka

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 380°F and grease 3 sandwich tins. Set aside.

To make each layer of the cake, mix two eggs with one cup of sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add one cup of flour and stir to combine. In a ramekin, mix 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda with 1 tsp vinegar. When it fizzes up, stir into one cup of sour cream which should also start to rise. At this point stir into the cake batter using a spatula.

Split the mixture into 3 parts, adding a different flavouring to each one, either 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp poppy seeds or 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts. Alternate spoonfuls of the three mixtures into a loaf tin (or round if preferred) and use a skewer to swirl the mixtures, creating a marbled effect. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

To make the frosting, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Use this to sandwich the different layers together, before sprinkling the remaining chopped walnuts and poppy seeds on the top of the cake to decorate.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Marzipan Modelling · Muffins · Nation Cake Challenge · Uncategorized

Norway: Espresso and Blueberry Muffins

Flag of Norway Español: Bandera de Noruega Før...

Trivia fact of the day, Scandinavian countries drink the most coffee (per capita) in the whole world. Out of the top 6 countries (according to Wikipedia), the only other country to come close is the Netherlands – hardly a surprising inclusion. We mentioned the importance of coffee during the creation of the Icelandic Slongakuka, but today we are going for a different take, and travelling rather to the mainland of Scandinavia, Norway.

Norway muffins 1

Coming in a second place – Finland takes first – Norway consumes 9.9kg of coffee per person, per year. The coffee culture in this country is on of the most developed in the world, and is an integral part of the societal culture. This cake was designed to incorporate this important flavour, but to combine it with a fruit into a muffin that could be eaten alongside. Blueberries grow throughout Norway, and their natural affinity with coffee made them a natural option to include in the cake. The coffee flavour is very strong in this recipe, hence the title ‘espresso’. If you prefer a lighter flavour, then halve the quantity.

Norway Muffins 2

Espresso and Blueberry Muffins 

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp instant coffee
  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 2 punnets of blueberries
  • 120g butter
  • 375g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 30ml boiling water
  • White icing
  • Blue food colouring
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin liners. Cream together the butter and sugar, before adding in the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat in the flour and baking powder and mix well. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water before adding to the cake mixture and beating until completely combined. Reserve 1/4 of the blueberries and gently fold the remainder into the cake mixture, trying not to break the berries. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Leave to cool completely.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the flowers.Take a golf ball sized piece of white icing and briefly knead it, before using a few drops of blue food colouring to create a pale blue fondant. Roll it out to 3mm thick and cut out flower shapes using both a small and large cutter. Colour another golf ball sized piece of fondant brown using the cocoa powder before following the same process to cut out more flowers. These may be either used individually or stacked. Set aside to dry.

Once the muffins are cool, make the icing by beating the butter, icing sugar and coffee (again dissolving the instant coffee in the boiling water) until it is thick and fluffy. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle and pipe onto the top of each muffin, before decorating with the icing flowers and reserved blueberries.

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes

Apple and Vanilla Mini Muffins

As I type this, the sky outside is grey as steel, with no trace of this ‘supposed’ summer. I suppose this is what you get for living in the North of England, but still I can’t help but yearn for the sun that *should* be coming!

Mini Muffins 2

Last week though, the sun came out. The sky was blue and I didn’t have to have a cardigan and coat when walking to school. In this midst of this weather I wanted to make a cake that fitted the summer atmosphere, and these mini muffins fitted the bill. The size makes them easy to  eat in the hot weather, and the flavours are redolent of the heat of a British summer. A vanilla cake with chunks of apple, topped with a vanilla whipped cream topping, these muffins will fill that small gap when our summer finally arrives.

Mini Muffins 1

Apple and Vanilla Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5oz ground almonds
  • 1 small apple, cut into tiny dice.
  • 75g whipped cream
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • Flaked almonds, to decorate.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line a 12-hole mini muffin tray with liners.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat thoroughly. Add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and diced apple and mix until well combined. Add teaspoonfuls of the mixture to the cases and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning after 20 minutes to ensure they don’t burn on one side! Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the whipped cream. Whip until holding soft peaks before spooning into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe a small amount onto each mini muffin and decorate with flaked almonds.