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.

 

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Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Ukraine: Philosophy Meets Cake (Kiev Cake)

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What is the first thought that comes to your head when I say ‘Karl Marx’? I would assume that those two words are not going to be automatically followed by ‘Confectionary Factory’, but that is in fact what we will be thinking about today. The company is the biggest company of this type in Ukraine and was named in honour of the philosopher and socialist’s 105th anniversary. Personally I feel that we should start a trend – desserts would make complex political thought far more accessible. I’m suggesting ‘Descartes Desserts’, ‘Confucious’s Confections’ and ‘Kant’s C/Kakes’ – any other suggestions?

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Before you all think I’ve gone completely off my head, there is a link to all this. Today’s cake from the Ukraine is this delicious delicacy, the ‘Kiev Cake’, which was crated by the Karl Marx Confectionary Factory and is one of their most famous desserts, now seen as a symbol of Kiev itself. I’m using the term ‘cake’ here rather loosely, as this is technically probably more of a gateaux, featuring layers of meringue and buttercream fillings. My recipe is adapted from this recipe at GrabandGoRecipes, though I did end up making a few differences to the eventual result, starting by downsizing the recipe to make a more reasonably sized cake for two people!  Nevertheless it is absolutely delicious and I cannot recommend making this enough!

Ukrainian Cake 1

As a side note, does anyone know why the Balkan countries seem to have a preference for complex layer cakes? It seems to be a common trend within the Eastern European countries not shared with those of the western countries. I can’t seem to find any rhyme or reason for this, but if you can enlighten me, I would be very grateful!

Ukrainian Cake 2

Kiev Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 5oz caster sugar
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 5 oz caster sugar

Creamy frosting:

  • 5oz condensed milk
  • 4oz butter
  • 7oz cream cheese
  • 4oz double cream, whipped to form soft peaks

Syrup:

  • 7oz tinned apricots, syrup retained. (the fruit can be changed according to your taste – I have also used raspberries, in this case, simply substituting a punnet of raspberries.
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

Instructions:

Like quite a few of the cakes that have featured from these region, the cake includes lots of different processes, so please read the recipe through first – it will help your baking run a lot smoother!

First, preheat the oven to 350°F/170°C/Gas Mark 4 and line and grease a baking dish ready for use later. Start by making the sponge; separate your eggs and beat the egg whites and sugar until they form stiff peaks. In a different bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale before adding the flour and vanilla extract. Fold the egg white mixture into this, being very gentle so as to not knock the air out of the egg whites. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, testing with a toothpick to see if it is complete. When it is done, take it out of the oven and set aside to cool before removing from the tin.

Once the cake is out of the oven, turn the oven down to 250°F/120°C/Gas Mark 1. Prepare your dish for the meringue – this needs to be the same size as the cake, so if you do not own two dishes the same size (let’s face it, most of us probably don’t!), then wait for the cake to cool, remove from the tin and wash and re-line the tin. To make the meringues, whip the eggs whites  and sugar (added in small amounts) on high for about 5 minutes until they form stiff peaks. Spread the mixture into the tin and bake for 4 hours in the oven (you might want to set a timer and go and do something else whilst this is happening!) Take it out and carefully peel the meringue layer from the parchment paper. [Note: because this part is so long, I would suggest doing this the day before if you are not in a rush – the meringue will be fine sitting on the side all night as long as you cover it.]

Next, time to make the syrup and the cream cheese frosting. The syrup could not be easier – stick the whole lot in a blender and puree until smooth. The frosting is not much harder; start by beating the condensed milk and butter before gradually adding in the cream cheese. Once this mixture is nice and thick, stir in the whipped cream (on a slower speed if using a machine).

Now comes the fun bit – putting it together! I would do this on the plate you intend to serve it on – it makes life so much easier! Start by slicing the sponge cake into two layers using a long, serrated knife. place the bottom half on the plate and top with some of the syrup, waiting for about 5 minutes to ensure all the syrup has soaked into the cake. Spread a thin(-ish) layer of frosting (about 1/4) o the top of this and top with the slice of meringue trimming the edges as necessary. Spread some more cream onto the top and top with the remaining sponge cake, again soaked with the remainder of the syrup. Top with the reminder of the frosting (traditionally you would also cover the sides of the cake, but I prefer to have a little less frosting! Decorate with crushed meringue (reserved after you trimmed it earlier), chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. Leave to chill slightly and enjoy!

Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Uncategorized

Hungary: Dobos Torte

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From Hungary, introducing the Dobos Torte. This cake has a wealth of history attached to it, and it went on to become famous throughout the world. Invented in 1885 by the confectioner József C. Dobos, the cake was first shown at the 1885 National General Exhibition of Budapest, where some of its first samplers included Franz Joseph I and his wife. The cake used buttercream which was practically unknown at the time, and differed from the other cakes of the time due to its elegance and simplicity (in the case of mine,a rather more rustic elegance!). Dobos spent much of his time travelling around Europe, introducing this cake to different countries, resulting in the cake achieving international acclaim.

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Dobos invented the cake and buttercream himself, keeping the recipe secret until his retirement in 1906. At this point he gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners and Gingerbread Makers Chamber of Industry, on the proviso that anyone could take advantage of the recipe. The recipe used for this cake is an adaption of Rick Rodger’s torte, taken from here.

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This cake has a lot of components to it, but actually I was surprised to find that it doesn’t take that long to make. So don’t be put off by the daunting scale of the recipe – it is great fun to do, and oh-so-impressive when completed! As you can see from the picture below, my cake has 7 layers in it, however these are very thin layers which make it quite tricky to construct (let alone getting them off the paper in one piece – I originally made 14!) Make it easier on yourself and make the layers a bit thicker! I also used scissors to trim the layers into shape, as I found that worked far better than a knife.

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As you can see, it is very rich and delectable, a real treat of a cake, and one that should definitely be in your reportoire! However, if you eat this and feel like your clothes are getting smaller, in the next post I’m going to be writing about some vegan desserts which I been working on, and am actually quite proud of, considering I’ve never had any experience in this field before. These probably can’t really be called healthy, but they taste as decadent as full-fat versions, but make you feel healthier, which can’t be bad!

Dobos Torte

Ingredients:

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 95g plain flour
  • 17g cornflour
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
  • 4oz (110g) good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 250g butter (at room temperature

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
  • 12 tbsp (180 ml) water
  • 8 tsp (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil

Finishing touches

  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Instructions:

The Sponge Layers (Can be prepared before hand and stored in the fridge)

Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C). Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over.

Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. (The whisk should leave a ribbon-like trail when lifted from the bowl.)

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form then beat in the remaining icing sugar until until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt, before sifting half the flour over the eggs, and folding in. Repeat with the remaining flour.
Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a spatula, spread about 3/4 cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers (6 is a good number but if you have more batter, make more layers!). Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. I found a pair of scissors worked best for completing this.

The Chocolate Buttercream (this can also be prepared in advance)

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened. Place the bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (the water should not touch the bowl) and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a bit at a time. Chill whilst you make the caramel topping.

The Caramel Topping

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and butter the paper. Place a reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges.

Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the contents. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel. The caramel in the picture is probably a little over, though still very delicious – I think that’s a little too dark to be called ‘amber’. However, after tasting we decided that it really wasn’t an issue as far as taste went!

Ensure the cake layer is not too cold, or the caramel will set too fast. Pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer and quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using an oiled knife, quickly cut through the layer along the score lines, making sure that you use one clean cut. (If all else fails, I waited until it had cooled enough to handle and – again – attacked it with a pair of scissors! Not up to professional standards but effective!)

Assembling the cake

Divide the buttercream into six equal parts. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of the serving plate and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with the other layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake, pressing the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides. Prop a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, and arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern.