Baking · Cake Decorating · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Sugar Flowers

Estonia: Rhubarb, Rose and Cardamom Cupcakes

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The development of a national cuisine is an ever-changing process. It is affected by many things, from global climate issues to historical events, all of which can drastically change the food that is eaten by a national people. Estonia is a clear example of this; the elimination of much of the culinary leaders during the USSR annexation of 1940 resulted in a country viewing food simply as a way of survival. Food was scarce, both the variety of foods available, but also the amount of food. The many restaurants were either shut down completely or reopened, providing Soviet cuisine. As a result, traditional Estonian food became less and less usual. Alongside this ran an influx of new culinary influences through the many displaced immigrants from other eastern Europen countries, who all played their part in adding a great amount of diversity to the existing culinary minds. After the annexation, Estonians took advantage of the diversity in ingredients, fusing traditional ideas with new concepts, brought in from countries all over Europe. The existing meat-and-potato based cuisine has been extended to include more uncommon fruits and vegetables and as a result to develop a tradition of food which is far more exciting than was previously available.

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This recipe makes use of rhubarb, the lovely deep pink stems of which are seen in many Estonian gardens. A very popular cake in Estonia contains rhubarb and cardamom, so I combined these two flavours with hint of ginger and a dash of rosewater to create a cake which takes traditional Estonian flavours and brings them forward into a decidedly modern cupcake.

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Rhubarb, Rose and Cardamon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 25 cardamon pods, seeds removed OR 1 ts ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 8 sticks of rhubarb
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 10ml cup water
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 80g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 2 drops red food colouring
  • decorations of your choice

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line 2 12-hole bun tins with bun cases. Set aside for later.

Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in the eggs. Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla, cardamon and ginger and mix thoroughly. Spoon into the bun cases and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until and inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove and leave to cool.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the  rhubarb filling. Cutthe sticks of rhubarb into small pieces and place in a small pan with the water and sugar. Cook on a medium heat until the rhubarb is falling apart and the mixture is thick, gloopy and sticky. Remove from the heat and strain 4 tablespoons of the mixture through a sieve to produce a pink syrup. Set this syrup aside for later. Leave the remainder of the compote to cool completely

Use a cupcake corer or a small knife to remove a small section from the middle of each cupcake. Fill this hole with the rhubarb compote made earlier. Set aside. Make the buttercream by beating the butter, icing sugar, rosewater and the rhubarb syrup until the mixture is thick and fluffy (about 5 minutes) Add a few drops of red food colouring to create a pink icing. Spoon this in the piping bag with a large star nozzle and pipe onto the top of the cupcake. Decorate with sugarpaste flowers or other decorations of your choice.

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Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Finland: Almond Cake with Cardamon-Cinnamon Cream

Flag of Finland

Whilst none of the cakes have been a disaster, some are going to be more popular than others, and this is one of them. All I can say is make this cake. Just do it. Very moist and with a delicious filling, a small slice is enough (making it very long lasting), but will also leave you wanting more.

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This Finnish-influenced cake is based on the holiday pastry Laskiaispulla, a sweet bread/cake filled with almond paste and whipped cream. To create this cake, I combined a dense almond cake with whipped cream flavoured with cardamon and cinnamon. The addition of the whipped cream lightens the dense cake base and adds an extra layer of flavour to the cake. The cake recipe was taken from David Leibowitz’s blog, whilst the flavoured cream was the result of many trials and tastings. Enjoy!

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Almond Cake with Cardamon-Cinnamon Cream

Ingredients:

The Almond Paste:

  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 small egg white

The cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
  • 8 ounces (225g) almond paste
  • 3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

The cream:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon

Instructions:

Make the almond paste by pulsing the almonds and icing sugar together in a food processer. Add the egg white and process until the mixture forms a lump. If it seems sticky, add a tablespoon more icing sugar and process again until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. (See Note, below.)

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the butter, vanilla and almond extracts and process until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are completely combined.

Mix the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add half of this mixture to the food processor and pulse several times before repeating with the remaining flour. Do not over mix it at this stage – it should be just incorporated. Add the batter to the tin and baker for 65 minutes until golden brown and firm in the centre. Remove from the oven and loosen the edges of the cake before allowing it to cool completely.

To make the cream, whisk together all the ingredients in a large bowl until soft and fluffy. Slice the cake in half and sandwich the cake halves together with the cream. Sift icing sugar over the top, an decorate with cinnamon and cardamon if wished.