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.

Baking · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge · South America

Bolivia: Chocolate and Coconut Cupcakes

English: State flag of Bolivia, from the xrmap...

Back to the country cakes, today we are moving continents, over to South America. Two very important ingredients in Bolivian Cuisine are chocolate and coconut, and as these make a brilliant duo, it seemed to be a easy combination to do. Therefore these chocolate coconut cupcakes were born. They are very quick to make and really hit the spot when you just need that chocolate fix!

Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes

To be really authentic, these cupcakes should be made with top quality chocolate and coconut, and the best cocoa powder you can afford. However, it will also taste good when made with good quality chocolate and dessicated coconut, so whatever you have will do!

Chocolate and Coconut Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2oz dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300g double cream
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut, to decorate.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and line a cupcake tray. Cream together the butter and sugar before adding in the eggs and mixing well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat well, before finally mixing in the vanilla essence. Spoon in the cupcake liners and bake for 30 minutes until risen and firm. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate ganache by melting the chocolate in a bain-marie and then stirring in the double cream. Once completely combined, leave to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until thickened.

Spoon a small amount of ganache onto each cupcake, and swirl slightly with the spoon. Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with extra dessicated coconut. Store in the refrigerator once iced and eat within 3 days.

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Slovenia: Potica

Flag of Slovenia

Sometimes the problems with trying to make a cake specific to a country is that the country has so much variety in the different regions that this is pretty much impossible. Slovenia is a good example of this – according to Wikipedia, the country is split into 23 different culinary regions. As a result, you are never going to find a cake/dessert that is representative of the whole country, so all I can really say is that this cake is a very famous one from the Slovenian country.

Potica 1

Potica is a form of nut roll, very popular though the Balkan countries, and one that has migrated to America, becoming very popular there as well. This recipe features the traditional nut filling, however these can also be filled with chocolate, poppy seed, cottage cheese and more peculiarly, leek and tarragon. The cake is made by first make a dough, which is stretched out very thin. A layer of the nut filling is spread on the cake, before the cake is rolled up tightly. Traditionally (as here) the cake is rolled and placed in a round tin to bake, however it is also possible to bake the cake as a roll.

This recipe is taken from the website of the Slovene National Benefit Society.

Potica

Ingredients:

  • 2oz instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cups butter
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 7 cups plain flour
  • 2 pounds walnuts, chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1-1/2 cups of mlk
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

Dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the sugar, before leaving for 10 minutes. Heat the milk and add the butter to the pan, stirring and then allowing to cool. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla essence until pale and thick. Mix the egg and yeast mixtures with 3 cups of sifted flour, adding the rest of the flour until the mixture is no longer sticky. Knead the dough for 15 minutes, adding more flour if needed to ensure that it doesn’t become sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about two hours. ( if like me, you have a cold house not suited to rising bread, preheat your oven, turn it off and allow the bread to rise in the residual heat).

Melt the butter before adding milk, sugar and honey. Raise the heat to the boil and pour the mixture over the chopped walnuts, adding the vanilla and grated citrus peel. Stir to combine completely and allow to cool. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then fold into the cold nut mixture.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and grease a loaf tin. Roll out the dough very thinly, before spreading the cooled filling over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Start to roll up the dough,stretching slightly with each roll. Once the dough has been fully rolled up, cut the dough to the appropriate length before placing in the ring tin, sealing the ends more completely by pulling the ends down and underneath the roll. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about one hour. Bake for 1 hour until golden brown.

 

Baking · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

France: Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes

Flag of France

Like many famous desserts the origins of the tarte tatin are heartily disputed, but it is considered (by most versions) to have been a mistake on the part of the chef. Serving the incorrect dish, the chef was so pleased by the reception of the dish that it became a regular dessert, thus becoming the classic dish we see today.

Apple Tart Tatin Cupcake

These cupcakes are based on this famous dessert, but in this case, the pastry is replaced by a brown sugar cupcake, topped with caramel apples and a caramel sauce. Sadly they are not baked upside down, but they do make a good alternative for those less fond of pastry!

Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Caramel apples:

  • 2 large eating apples
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

Caramel sauce:

  • 65g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with liners. Make the cupcakes by beating together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla essence until well combined. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool completely.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and place the apples in a single layer in the pan, cooking until golden brown (turning as necessary). Add the sugar to the pan and allow to dissolve, coating the apple slices in a lovely layer of caramel. Remove the apples from the pan, and place the slices on top of the cupcakes.

In the same pan, melt the remaining butter and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla to the pan, stirring until a thick golden caramel is created. Remove the pan from the heat and brush the tops of the cupcakes with the caramel sauce.

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Malta: Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Flag of Malta

‘Hang on’, I hear many internet-based voices say. ‘This cake isn’t Maltese! It’s Sicilian! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!’ Now, if you are one of these people, you are not wrong (about the first bit at least) – this cake is indeed Sicilian. The flavour combination of this dessert is most commonly found as a cake, but is also the basis of a favourite ice-cream flavour, and by extension a fabulous ice cream cake. However, it is exceedingly popular on the island of Malta as a dessert, particularly at Easter, and as my version is not a strict replica of the original, I feel few qualms about putting it in this category.

Malta Cake 3

As no doubt the pictures show, this is a loose rendition of the flavours of the cake, rather than a complete replica. The actual cake is far more complex and detailed, where as these share the same flavour profiles but can be whipped up very easily. The almond-scented cake is soaked in a rum drizzle, before being topped with green marzipan, and a ricotta frosting including chocolate chips and candied orange peel. The ricotta cheese frosting is almost unsweetened, however this is not to your taste then feel free to add more icing sugar.

Malta Cake 2

Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  • 100g white marzipan
  • Green food colouring
  • 200g ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp candied peel
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in each egg individually. Add the flour and almond essence and mix well. Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Heat the rum, caster sugar and water in a pan until it reaches the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the cupcakes, before leaving them to cool completely.

Tint the marzipan green, before rolling out to a thickness of 1mm. Cut out a piece of marzipan sufficient to cover the top of your cupcake and cover each cupcake, trimming the edges to create a neat finish. Mix the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, candied peel and chocolate chips, reserving a small handful to decorate. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe a small amount on the top of each cupcake, before finishing with the few reserved chocolate chips.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Poland: Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Flag ~ Poland ~ Pologne ~ Polska

What surprised me as I became more involved in the researching of recipes for this blog, is how this blog is not just about cake. Of course, cake is the canvas, but more than that the recipes showcase a culture and its history. Eastern European countries are an excellent example of this, in that their foods are closely linked to their heritage – many recipes are either a result of using what was available during the communist occupations, or conversely a resurgence of traditional cultural dishes.

After gaining independence in 1989, Poland (like many others) started a slow food revival, moving away from the many state-owned restaurants to a reaffirming of their cultural heritage. Fast food declined in popularity and far more interest has been given to reviving traditional meals, this recipe being one of them.

I discovered this recipe whilst doing some research into Polish desserts and cakes, and it immediately caught my attention due to the stripes and layering within the cake. I love cakes that look good though the base cake, not just the decoration put on top, and layers are a particularly good way to achieve this. This cake consists of layers of chocolate and poppyseed sponge, sandwiched with cherry compote, topped with pastry cream and ladyfingers soaked in rum (giving the cake its name). The final layer is a melted chocolate and nut topping which acts as a firm shell, resulting in a fantastic contrast of textures within the cake, from the soft sponge and cream to the final crisp and crunchy chocolate shell.

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The layers of cake, custard and jam

Drunkards cake 2

With the rum-soaked ladyfingers

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With the chocolate and nut shell.

The original recipe was adapted from here. There are several other recipes available, though many of these are in Polish, which led to some interesting translations from Google, which was why I decided to stick to this one! This cake is a bit of a mission as though it is quite simple to make there are a lot of different components, however it is worth it!

Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Ingredients:

Chocolate Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt

Poppyseed Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room-temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup poppyseeds
  • 1/2 cup dried, sweetened flaked coconut

Crème Patisserie

  • 425ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level tbsp cornflower
  • 10g butter

Other ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry preserves
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 pack ladyfingers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and greasing a 13″ by 9″ tin. Set aside. To make the chocolate sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a heat proof bowl and beat over a pan of simmering water for 1 minute, until the sugar has dissolved. Using a handheld whisk, beat on a high setting for about three minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume. Sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt into the bowl, folding gently to just incorporate – you don’t want to stir too much at this point. Spread the batter in the tin and bake for about 12 minutes until cooked. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.

Next prepare the poppyseed sponge in the same method as the chocolate sponge, beating the eggs and sugar together before sifting in the dry ingredients. Bake for 12 minutes (or until done – do check as all ovens are different!) before cooling and removing from the tin.

Next on the long list of components (it’s worth it I promise you!) is the vanilla pastry cream. Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl, allowing the vanilla pod to infuse the milk. Mix together the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture is pale and thick. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and discard. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, whisking constantly. Add the flour and cornflower, continuing to whisk the mixture. Return to the pan and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for three minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the mixture from the heat immediately and place into a bowl, covering with a sheet of greased baking parchment to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool completely.

Now we are ready to assemble! (Finally, you say.) Start with the chocolate sponge, place it on the serving dish and spread with the cherry compote/preserves. Top with the poppyseed cake before spreading with the pastry cream and placing the cake in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Dip each ladyfinger in rum before placing them neatly in a single layer on top of the cake. Return to the fridge and chill for another hour. Melt the chocolate and oil together and spread over the top of the cooled cake before sprinkling with the chopped walnuts. Put back in the fridge overnight, and serve cold, cut into small squares.