Mocha ombre cake

20161022_210631

Every year in October I face the same challenge – coming up with a new idea for a birthday cake for my dad.

He’s very certain in what he likes, which is coffee cake and fruit cake, which makes trying to get creative with different flavours and styles slightly pointless.

I don’t like fruitcake, which means that every year it comes down to how I can make a coffee cake in a different way.

20161022_175820

In the past I’ve done straight up coffee cake, coffee roulade, individual coffee cakes and a coffee cake with mocha filling.

This year I thought I’d try something that (I hoped) would be visually impressive and decided on a mocha ombre cake.

The cake features three layers of sponge – vanilla, coffee and coffee-chocolate – with icing that also graduates in colour with an ombre finish.

20161022_210544

Most importantly it tasted good, but it did also look pretty good if I may say so myself, especially given that the icing was done in a five-minute rush before heading out for dinner.

All the elements of this cake are pretty basic, but they come together for an impressive finish and a cake that’s perfect for the coffee-lover in your life.

20161022_210435_001

Mocha ombre cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1-3 tbsp milk

For the icing:

  • 250g butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve and fold in the self raising flour, then add a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to make the mixture a thick consistency that will drop off a spoon.

Pour a third of the mixture into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. My top tip is to weigh your mixing bowl before starting, then you can figure out exactly how much cake batter you have and how much needs to go into each pan.

Mix the instant coffee with a tablespoon of hot water, then add this to the cake mixture and stir in well. Divide the remaining mixture in half and fill a second 6″ cake pan with the coffee cake mix.

Finally, sieve the cocoa powder into the final third of the mixture with a tablespoon of milk and pour this into a third 6″ tin. Bake all of the cakes at 180 degrees or 160 fan for approximately 20-25 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch.

Set the cakes aside to cool while you make the icing. Beat the butter to soften then add the icing sugar, half at a time, and beat until really well combined. Mix the instant coffee with a two tablespoons of water and add about half of this to the buttercream. Beat well and test to see if it has enough coffee flavour. Add more if you want it stronger, then add just enough milk to make the buttercream a light, spreadable consistency.

Split the buttercream in half, and set half aside. Add the cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time, until the colour is a few shades darker than your coffee butter cream. Split the chocolate mixture in half, and then add more cocoa powder to half of it again, to be an even darker shade of brown. You should end up with half plain coffee buttercream, a quarter light coffee chocolate buttercream and a quarter dark chocolate buttercream.

To assemble the cake, level off the tops of each sponge with a sharp knife, then place the chocolate layer on a plate. Spread a small amount of the coffee buttercream over the top, then add the coffee sponge on top. Spread with another layer of coffee buttercream, then place the final vanilla sponge on top.

Use the coffee buttercream to add a thin layer of crumb coat all over the cake and chill for 10 minutes. To complete the icing, either use piping bags or apply carefully with a palette knife so the dark chocolate buttercream goes around the bottom third of the sides of the cake, the light chocolate goes around the middle and the coffee buttercream goes around the top and on top. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake and subtly blend the three buttercreams together, then cut into slices and serve.

Fresh strawberry Victoria sandwich

Sometimes simple really is the best.

Don’t get my wrong, I love making trashy and over the top desserts with layers of chocolate and caramel and peanut butter, rich and decadent and delicious – but there will always be a place in my heart for a simple, classic sponge cake.

Inspired by a punnet of strawberries sat in my fridge, I decided to go back to basics with a Victoria sandwich, filled with jam, buttercream and fresh strawberries.

Although I did get one comment of ‘what made you decide to make just a sponge cake’, most people loved it, me included.

Simple, to the point, fresh and tasty – perfect for elevenses, afternoon tea, or just because!

Fresh strawberry Victoria sponge

  • 115g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 110g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 30g butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 3-4 large strawberries, diced

Beat the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes, or until really light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla – add a spoonful of the flour if it’s starting to curdle. Sift together the flour and baking powder then fold into the cake batter. Divide between two greased and lined 6″ tins, then bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

For the filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together until well combined, then add the milk and continue to beat until light and airy. Spread a layer of jam on top of one of the sponges, then scatter the diced strawberries on top. Spread the buttercream onto the underneath of the other cake layer, then place this on top. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with a cup of tea!

Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

Cinnamon, milk and white chocolate cake

As I mentioned in my Happy New Year post last week, I made a cinnamon layer cake to take to my friends’ New Year’s Eve  party.

Although I took photos before being cut, I didn’t get any of the inside – normally this would mean that I just wouldn’t blog about it, but I liked the cake so much that I decided I would have to make it again so I could share it with you all.

The sponge recipe comes from The Novice Chef, via Beantown Baker, and is light, fluffy and richly scented with cinnamon and vanilla – everything you could want from a basic cinnamon cake.

For the icing, I was originally just going to do a white chocolate buttercream, but when I first made it I wasn’t sure if I would have enough to both sandwich the layers and cover the cake, so I also made a milk chocolate ganache which became the filling, leaving the buttercream to use as frosting.

The buttercream is sweet, for sure, but it works with the cinnamon, and the milk chocolate ganache is a little less sweet but not overpowering, as I think dark chocolate probably would have been.

I didn’t really need to decorate this cake as it was just for me, my housemates and colleagues, but an all-white cake doesn’t photograph brilliantly so I added some red sprinkles and gold dragees. I love the finish, but I can’t help but think it looks a little red velvet…

This cake is honestly one of my favourite bakes of recent months, and even if you’re not as much of a cinnamon fiend as me it’s still worth giving it a go – the fact I made it twice in a week is testament to how good it is!

Cinnamon, milk and white chocolate cake (adapted from The Novice Chef’s Churro Cake)

  • 115g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 60g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 125ml milk

For the filling and frosting:

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla, yoghurt and vegetable oil. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, then fold a third of it into the cake batter. Add half the milk, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk and finish by folding in the final third of the flour.

Divide the mixture between three greased and lined 6″ round cake tins, and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) until risen, golden and pulling away from the sides of the tins. Leave to cool while you make the fillings.

For the milk chocolate ganache, melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water. Add hot water a tablespoon at a time, whisking into the chocolate. t might not come together after the first spoonful, but even if it splits just keep whisking and it will be fine. Add about 3 tbsp, until it’s fairly liquid but still thick enough to cool to a spreadable consistency.

For the buttercream, melt the white chocolate, stir in the salt and set aside. Beat the butter and icing sugar until combined, then add in the white chocolate and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Spread the cooled milk chocolate ganache on top of the bottom and middle cake layers, stack all three layers, then spread a thin amount of the white buttercream all over to crumb coat. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides. Decorate with whatever you like – the more sprinkles the better!