Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Serbia: Vasa’s Torte

Flag of Serbia

In terms of national cuisine, we talk a lot about heterogeneous cuisines, or cuisines that have developed from centuries of rule or habitation by peoples who are not part of that country from birth. This is particularly prevalent in Balkan countries, as up until comparatively recently these countries were ruled by others, part of a larger union of countries. Unsurprisingly this impacts on the food – influences can be taken from many countries can be seen even today. This is particularly true of this cake – one that takes much of it’s style from the Austrian gateaux which would have been known to Serbia during it’s time of Austro-Hungarian leadership.

Serbian Cake

This cake is a very traditional Serbian cake, with the flavours of chocolate, almonds and orange. The cake is a very light cake, held up primarily by egg white rather than raising agents. This is then topped with a chocolate almond topping, and the whole dessert is covered with whipped cream.

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I have toned down the amount of cream in this cake; the picture below shows a traditional cake, but I could not face the sheer amount of whipped cream! Feel free to increase the amount if you so wish!

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A Traditional Vasa’s Torte

Vasa’s Torte

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons walnuts (ground, or almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 juice of oranges

For the filling and topping

  • 250 grams walnuts (ground)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 150 grams butter (soft)
  • 50 grams dark chocolate (grated)
  • 0.2 litres milk
  • 1 orange
  • 300 ml double cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and base line 23 cm/9in round cake tin with greased greaseproof paper.
  3. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add walnuts and flour and combine all. In another clean bowl whisk egg whites to the stiff peak stage and carefully fold them into the egg yolk mixture, bit by bit, using a metal spoon.
  5. Now pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake it for about 30 minutes.
  6. When it is baked, leave it to cool and than transfer to serving plate. Pour orange juice over cake and prepare the filling. For the filling melt chocolate and cool a little.
  7. In a saucepan put milk and 1 tablespoon sugar and heat it to boil and then pour over ground walnuts and mix well.
  8. Add melted chocolate, grated zest and juice of orange and combine all.
  9. In separate bowl whisk egg yolk and sugar until pale and add to chocolate mixture and finally add butter and mix well.
  10. Spread the filling over the cake, it will be thick like one layer of cake.
  11. Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours.
  12. Then whip the cream and spread over and around the cake.
  13. Can be decorated with grated chocolate.
Desserts · Vegan

Vegan Chocolate and Orange Mousse

I am really excited about this vegan dessert, and so happy it worked! Presenting number two in the vegan dessert duo – Chocolate and Orange mousse!

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I love chocolate mousse. One of my guilty pleasures is those chocolate mousses that come in yoghurt pots, but there is nothing to beat the deliciousness of actual chocolate mousse. However, I have a thing about using raw egg in anything and most recipes for chocolate mousse either have raw egg or so much cream that it turns into a ganache. This however, solves that problem! Four ingredients, 5 minutes and you are sorted with a delicious light pudding that almost feels healthy! Enjoy!

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Vegan Chocolate and Orange Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chilled coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp orange liqueur
  • 1/2 cup icing powder

Instructions:

Place the sold layer of coconut cream in a bowl and add the other ingredients. Beat for five until doubled in size and light and fluffy. Serve in small dishes with chocolate shavings to decorate.

I think this might be the easiest recipe in the world. Delicious, simple and very addictive! Come back in two days for a return to cake, and most specifically a Eurovision-themed post! Cannot wait!

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Spain: Orange and Almond Cake

Flag of Spain

Young Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry...

This cake was conceived in honor of Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish-born princess who became Queen consort of England during the Tudor Period. Though predominantly remembered for her refusal to divorce Henry VIII (thus allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn), she is also remembered as a female role model who gained much popular support. From raising an army to fight the Scots to promoting the education of women during a time when this was not encouraged, she made such an impression on England that Thomas More said of her that ‘If not for her sex, then she could have defied all the heroes of history.’

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This cake pays homage to her Spanish upbringing through the use of oranges and almonds, both of which would have been plentiful in the palace of the Alhambra, where she spent her early childhood. The decoration features a pomegranate, her chosen emblem, which she is said to have adopted to boast of her fertility (sadly a boast that was to ring hollow in later years), whilst the addition of golden lustre and dragees represents the Spanish sun (which I think we could all do with at the moment!)

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Orange and Almond Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges (total weight 280g/10z)
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds

To decorate:

  • White marzipan
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Gold lustre powder
  • Gold dragees

Instructions:

Roughly chop the oranges, leaving the peel on, but removing any pips. Place them in a small saucepan with 1 tbsp water and cover. Cook gently for 30 minutes until the oranges are soft and any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4). Grease and line a 9in round baking tin and set aside. Using a food processor, finely chop the oranges.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then add in half the sugar. Once combined, whisk for another minute.

In a different bowl whisk the remaining sugar and the egg yolks until thick and creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in the finely chopped oranges and then fold the ground almonds into the mixture

Using a metal spoon, stir in three tablespoons of the egg white mixture to loosen the mixture, before gently folding in the rest of the egg white mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin, and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.

Once removed from the oven, leave the cake to cool before removing from the tin. Place on a serving plate ready to decorate.

Dust your clean worktop with icing sugar and roll out a circle of marzipan large enough to cover the cake. Using the rolling in to help, life the marzipan over the cake, allowing it to drape down the sides. Using your fingers (or a fondant smoother if you have such a thing!), start to smooth the marzipan down the sides of the cake, trimming off the excess as you go. You will likely have a small crease at the back of your cake – to solve this problem use a sharp knife to cut away the excess and then smooth the edges to eradicate the cut. (Don’t wory if you can still see a little bit – this can be the back of the cake!)

To decorate, use a tea cup to make an impression in the centre of the top of the cake, and fill this impression with a light coating of gold lustre powder. Outline this shape with pomegranate seeds, ensuring a small crown shape is made at the top of the fruit to represent the stem (use a template to get the correct shape if wished). Use more pomegranate seeds to embellish the bottom of the cake. Finish the decoration with gold dragees before eating and like Catherine of Aragon, dreaming of Spain.

You may have noticed that recently there have been quite a few very simple cakes – this is because I have been working on an idea for a very complex cake (at least as far as decorations go!) This will hopefully be appearing in a few days time, assuming all goes well… I’m very excited to start it and am hoping for a good result!

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations

Croatia: Orange, Almond and Lavender Cake

Civil Ensign of Croatia

Croatia has to be the most beautiful place that I have been to – I spent some time in Dubrovnik once and I can honestly say I have never been anywhere quite like it. The sea, mountains, islands, old city – what more can you ask for?

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This cake had a lot to live up to then. Not only did it have to be delicious, but also look good – challenge accepted! Lavender is a key export of Croatia, and is heavily cultivated on the island of Hvar. I love the taste of lavender, and so it was a no-brainer that I would incorporate this flavour into this dessert. I added the flavours of orange and almond to this, in homage to the orange trees full of fruit which were evident all over Dubrovnik.

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The cake is topped with an orange buttercream and decorated with dehydrated orange flowers and soft gold pearls. The technique used for the orange flowers is the same as that of the pineapple flowers used in the Nyamanku Cake – however they take far longer to dry out, due to the higher water content of the slices. Be patient – the result is worth it!

Orange, Almond and Lavender Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4oz flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • zest of one orange, finely grated
  • 5 tsp lavender (ensure this is edible and has not been adulterated with essential oils!)
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10ml orange juice
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tsp lavender flowers.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and grease a 6in round cake tin. Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder and ground almonds until well combined. Stir in the lavender flowers and orange zest and pour into the tin. Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool on a cake rack.

Turn the oven down to gas mark 1 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Thinly slice the orange and place in the oven to dry out, turning occasionally. This will take about 2 hours, but check as necessary. Remove from the oven and place into mini muffin tins to air-dry completely.

Make the buttercream by beating the butter and icing sugar until thick and fluffy – it will take about five minutes! Beat in the orange juice and zest to form a thick consistency. Spread over the cake and use a palate knife to smooth the edges and create a nice finish. decorate with the orange slices and the reserved lavender (this is absent on the picture as the wind blew all of mine away – it looked pretty before though!)

Africa · Baking · Cake · Cake Decorating · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations

Côte d’Ivoire: Nyamanku Cake

ivory coast flagToday, I take you on a journey, leaving the wet and cold England behind for a (hopefully) more sunny location. Specifically Côte d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast. Changing continents, I hear you cry? Unorthodox I know, but I think we could all do with some sun, particularly if you are in England at the moment!

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This cake is truly a case of combining flavours found in a certain countries cuisine into a typically English cake, as I don’t believe that Côte d’Ivoire has ‘cake’, as shown here. However the flavours are taken from a specific drink, Nyamanku, which combines ginger with orange, lemon and pineapple juices. Little known outside Côte d’Ivoire, the drink is thought to have many health-giving properties due to the ginger, which seems to cure most diseases known to man, if Google is to be believed!

To reassure those of you who may be reading this thinking ‘I don’t like ginger cake’, do not worry. This cake has chunks of ginger in it, but the taste is very subtle and not at all overpowering, so do not let this put you off!

The cake is flavoured with ginger, orange and pineapple, before being topped with an orange buttercream. The decorative flowers are made from thin slices of pineapple which have been slowly dried out in the oven to give them their characteristic look. I first saw this technique on Pinterest, and have been longing for a suitable opportunity to try them out! They are completely edible and include no extra sugar, so you could even call them healthy! To make the centres, I used candied fennel seeds, which you can find in Indian supermarkets, but if you cannot get these soft gold pearls would also look lovely.

Nyamanku Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pineapple
  • 6oz butter/margerine
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • Rind of one orange, finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 6 large lumps of bottled stem ginger

Icing:

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 10 ml milk
  • Grated rind of one large orange
  • Sugar coated fennel seeds or soft gold pearls to decorate

Instructions:

Start by making the dried pineapple flowers. Preheat the oven to gas mark 1/275°F (or less if you have the option), and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Peel the pineapple and remove any eyes before cutting into 12 very thin slices (about 1mm thick – you may need to use a mandolin slicer unless you are a whizz at cutting!). Transfer to the baking sheets and place in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point, if they are suitably dry, turn them over and return to the oven for about 20 minutes, checking regularly to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and place into bun tins to dry – this will shape them into the round flower shapes shown. Allow to dry out completely at room temperature. Use the best six for decoration, and cut the remainder into thin strips to add to the cake later.

Turn the oven up to gas mark 3/325°F, and grease and line a 6in round cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar before adding the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the orange rind, ginger, shredded dried pineapple (see decoration), milk and remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour into the pre-prepared tin and bake for 75-90 minutes (1 1/4 hours-1 1/2 hours) until golden brown and cooked all the way through (a skewer should come out clean!) Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is completely cool, make the buttercream, by mixing the sugar, butter, milk and orange rind for about 5 minutes until thick and fluffy. Spread over the cake, smoothing with a palate knife to give a neat finish. Top with the dried pineapple flowers, putting a small blob of buttercream in the centre of each flower. Sprinkle with the candied fennel seeds or soft gold pearls to finish.

Eat and enjoy. Came back soon when we will travel back to Europe to visit the amazingly beautiful country of Croatia – I know I can’t wait!