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If things get a little cake-heavy round here for the next week or so I can only apologise; it was big sis’s hen do at the weekend, and I made a shedload of cakes for afternoon tea. The centrepiece, and most technical was this, my first attempt at wrapping a cake in fondant. It was not as easy as I had expected. Nothing in cakeworld is. Turns out fondant, though it rolls out beautifully, gets sticky very quickly if you play with it too much. Plus, because it clings so well to cakes it highlights every lump and bump underneath. I was planning on just coating the cake with a thin layer of jam to help the fondant stick, but I actually needed copious quantities of buttercream to even out the not so geometric lumps of sponge. Torting frozen cakes is not as easy as you’d think.

Quantities were also tricky. To make an L-shaped cake I needed rectangular pieces of cake. My 8×4 loaf tins were roughly the right size, as compared with the 7-inch sandwich tin called for, but I needed three cakes in total, not two, and wanted them slightly thicker, so I could cut them in half lengthwise, so I opted to double the original recipe. I ended up with an L which was the perfect size, plus a little mini layer cake left over for me to munch on during the week.

Apologies if the recipe seems a little long-winded; I’ve tried to add in all the helpful things I learnt along the way to save you having to discover them yourself.

Triple-layer L-shaped sponge cake
Cake recipe adapted from Healthy Gluten-Free Eating; Buttercream adapted from Wilton

280g butter
275g sugar
6 eggs
220g gluten-free flour blend
100g ground almonds
1 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 tablespoons milk
3 drops red food colouring

To decorate
1 12-inch cake board
4 tablespoons strawberry jam
180g butter
330g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
400g pink fondant icing
Sugar decorations, if required

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Lightly grease and line the bottom of three 8×4-inch loaf tins with greaseproof paper.

2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

3. In a medium bowl stir together the gluten-free flour blend, ground almonds, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Slowly add to the egg and butter mixture, stirring carefully, and add the milk to make a smooth batter of dropping consistency.

4. Spoon one-third of the mixture into another bowl and add the red food colouring to the remaining two-thirds of the batter. Stir well. Divide the mixture evenly between the loaf tins, so you have two pink cakes and one white cake. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 5 minutes, before tipping out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

5. Once cool, using a sharp serrated knife, slice the cakes in half lengthwise, so you have six 8×4 cakes. Trim the sides and top of the cakes so they are rectangular then wrap tightly in clingfilm and freeze until required, for up to a month. If using straight away it’s still a good idea to freeze them as frozen cakes are easier to ice.

6. To build and layer the cake first lay the cakes out on a chopping board. Layer a pink cake on top of a white cake on top of a pink cake. Do the same for the horizontal arm of the L, then cut about one-third of the cake stack off, so your L doesn’t have a freakishly long bottom. Check that both arms of the L are roughly the same height. I failed to do this and ended up using a lot of buttercream to fill in the cracks. When the cake is as neat and geometric as you can make it, spoon the jam into a bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it slightly. Stir and set aside.

7. In a large bowl beat the butter until soft, then beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and milk and beat into a smooth, homogenous cream. Dot a little of the buttercream onto the cake board and use it to stick the first cake layer onto the board in the L shape. Dollop about 3 tablespoons of the buttercream on top of the first cake layer and smooth with a palette knife. Make sure the buttercream fills in the crack between the two cake pieces as well. Take the two white cakes and using a different knife spread about 1-2 tablespoons of the melted jam onto their underside. Gently place the jammy-bottomed white cake on top of the buttercreamed pink cake layer. Repeat the process with the remaining cake layer – spread buttercream on top of the white cake layer, then place a jam-covered pink layer on top.

8. This process should only use about 3/4 cup buttercream, if that. The remaining two-thirds of the buttercream I used smoothing out the profile of the cake. Of course, if you’ve done a good job of torting the cake, you won’t need all the buttercream. The fondant will highlight every uneveness in the surface of the cake so use the remaining buttercream to fill in any cracks or dents and to build up areas that are a little lower. If the cake is perfectly smooth, then just cover it with a very thin layer of buttercream, or if you like a little more jam. Then place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes for the crumb coat to firm up.

9. Meanwhile roll out the fondant icing into a 12-inch square. Carefully using the rolling pin lift the fondant onto the cake. Using a palette knife carefully press the fondant down onto the surface of the cake, then working round the edges press the fondant into the sides of the cake. Using the edge of the palette knife remove any excess fondant at the base of the cake and tuck the edges under. You may need to fold the fondant round at least one of the corners to get it to fit neatly.

10. Return the cake to the fridge for at least 30 minutes before adding any additional decorations. I added a few sugar stars at the corners for colour and interest. To attach them I used a cocktail stick to put a dab of buttercream on each star, then pressed them lightly into the fondant with the tip of a clean cocktail stick.

The cake will keep well in the fridge, as long as the fondant is in tact (up to a week). Once the cake has been cut be sure to cover any exposed surfaces with clingfilm to prevent it from going stale. The cake will survive outside the fridge for up to a couple of days, but the buttercream will be very soft when the cake is cut and the moistness from the jam will encourage mould after a few days.

Written by guffblog

24th July 2011 at 15:18

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Jam and cake

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Things I learned this week. One: If you bake a loaf of bread with poppy seeds on top, be prepared to get poppy seeds all over the kitchen. Oops.

Two. Always bring meat to room temperature before cooking it. If you’re making a steak dinner there’s no point focusing on the french fries/Hollandaise/veggies/mulled wine/guests if you end up serving steak that’s cold in the middle. Big oops. On the plus side, at least I won’t be doing that again for a very long time.

Three. You can use up odds and ends of jam or fruit sauce by putting it in a cake pan, before adding a very plain white sponge cake on top and voila, you have a fruit upside down cake, plus marginally emptier cupboards. Score. This particular concoction took less than 10 minutes to throw together (one-bowl recipes, always a winner) and a mere 25 minutes to bake. From start to eating, this was under an hour, and it’s a simple enough, plain enough cake, you can make it for no other reason than you felt like it. Plus, it has fruit jelly on top, so a slice counts as one of your five a day*.

Upside-down cranberry jelly cake
Inspired by Food in Jars; cake recipe from Healthy Gluten-free Eating

3 tablespoons cranberry jelly or other jam
70g butter, softened
90g white sugar
2 eggs
80g gf flour blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

2. Lightly grease the sides of a 7-inch sandwich tin. Spoon the cranberry jelly into the base of the tin and even out with the back of the spoon.

3. In a large bowl cream the butter together with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Pour the batter into the tin, on top of the jelly, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until lightly brown on top and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

4. Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife round the edge of the pan and then invert the cake on a serving plate. Serve hot or cold with a cup of tea.

Keeps well in the fridge, though the cut edges will go stale very quickly; make sure you cover them with clingfilm or foil to prevent this as much as possible.


*Ok I’m not a nutritionist so this may not actually be true.

Written by guffblog

5th December 2010 at 19:47

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Cappuccino cake

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Birthday cakes. I do love making them. Despite the fact that I don’t own so much as a piping bag or nozzle (er, is that what they’re even called); no cake stand or offset spatula; and I wouldn’t know where to even start looking for a cake board, I do love making them. To me it’s a sign of affection, of love. To spend so long making something, the different components, gradually building it up, carefully so as not to mess up each stage, decorating and finally, topping with candles. It takes time, and what better gift to give someone (apart from a dream vacation abroad, of course) than time and effort.

Ooh, I know, the choice of what birthday cake they would like. Unfortunately the DH professes not to like cake. The only suitable concoction, apparently, is tiramisu. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “What cake would you like for your birthday?”
DH: “Tiramisu.”
Me: “You had that last year, choose something else.”
DH: “I only like tiramisu. If I can’t have that I don’t want anything.” Riiiight.

This behaviour would be slightly less bizarre if he didn’t happily eat all manner of sweet treats that parade out of my kitchen every weekend. I decided the best I could do would be to find a coffee cake. Or even, a cappuccino cake. It only struck me when he took the first bite, smiled and said “You made me tiramisu” that in essence, yes, I had. But tiramisu in a cake. Aka cappuccino cake.

This is better than tiramisu for three reasons. One: You can eat it out of hand. The stabilised whipped cream is just firm enough you can pick up a slice of this and bite into it. Two: It is lighter than tiramisu. The cake is so fluffy it almost dissolves in your mouth (a function partly I guess of the high sugar-to-flour ratio but hey, nevermind). Three: It lasts longer than tiramisu. No messing around with mascarpone, not enough syrup to make it turn into a dribbly, puddly mess after the first 12 hours. You could even transport this somewhere I think and it would hold up. Or you can serve it right up at home, with candles and singing and everything. Because even people who don’t like cakes deserve a birthday cake.

Cappuccino cake
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

I may have mentioned my hate for volume conversions before and this was no exception. Why I used a recipe for a triple-layer cake when I have at most two pans of the same size is beyond me but there we are. Since my pans are only 7 inches as well, I cut the recipe by a third, and it worked just fine. The layers were a touch on the thin side, though that is more likely to be due to me not whisking the meringue quite enough. They will sink back a little on cooling as well. 

1/3 cup gf flour blend, heaped
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons cold espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Another 1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon espresso

Whipped Cream
300ml double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon gelatine
1/4 cup (62.5ml) water

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line 2 7″ sandwich tins with a circle of parchment paper, but don’t grease them (these cakes are light, and require minimal fat).

2. In a large bowl mix the gf flour blend, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, coffee and vanilla extract. Set both aside.

3. In another large bowl whisk the 2 egg whites with the cream of tartar until very frothy. Pour in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form (the tops of them falls over rather than staying upright).

4. Pour the egg yolk and oil mix into the dry ingredients, and fold in gently. Then fold in a couple of tablespoons of the egg white mixture to lighten the mix. Fold in the remaining egg white mixture very gently and then pour the batter into the tins. Smooth the surface out, but don’t over flatten the mix. Put the tins in the oven to bake for 10 minutes each, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

5. Leave the cakes in their tins to cool completely. Once cool I wrapped the cakes in greaseproof paper, followed by clingfilm and froze them for a couple of days (since I didn’t have time to make the cake in one sitting).

6. When ready to assemble remove the cakes from the freezer and place each on a plate. Mix together the espresso and brandy in a mug and brush over the cakes with a pastry brush (it will sink in, even if the cakes are frozen).

7. Sprinkle the gelatine over the 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl and leave for a couple of minutes to soften. Then microwave the water and gelatine on full power for 2 minutes, stirring thoroughly after 1 minute, so that the gelatine is fully dissolved. Pop the bowl in the fridge for 5 minutes (no more) to chill; you want it to be cool to the touch but still liquid.

8. Take your by-now ridiculously toned arm (or, y’know, an electric whisk) and whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract into soft peaks. Pour the cold gelatine mixture into the cream and then whisk into stiff peaks. Working relatively quickly use this to ice the top of each layer of the cake; sandwich the halves together and then ice the sides.

9. Finally, sieve a light dusting of cocoa powder over the top of the cake and serve. (By now the cakes will have defrosted, they are so small it takes hardly any time).

Keeps well in the fridge. Mine lasted beautifully for 4 days, and the whipped cream remained stable for the whole duration.

Written by guffblog

28th November 2010 at 15:41

Science experiments

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Yesterday the lovely Michelle from The Bake Escape came round for an afternoon of experimental gluten-free cooking. We’d decided to try our hands at gluten-free puff pastry, the holy grail of pastry making, and some cake on the side. Being a scientist, experimenting seems to come naturally to Michelle and she wasted no time in pondering how to alter a perfectly good cake recipe I’d found. I think she could be good for me though, as the end result was delicious. Possibly even more so than the original. We took a simple but elegant cherry, almond and chocolate cake recipe and tweaked it some, then mixed up the flavours, and then tweaked it some more. Not content with switching the almond paste (different to marzipan and tricky to find over here) for ground almonds she insisted on different flavours in the cake. I offered raspberries in the place of the original cherries but strangely Ms Bake Escape wasn’t so keen on that combination. Er, am I the only one who thinks chocolate and raspberry is a great combination? To keep the peace in the kitchen we divided up the batter and each went our own way; I chose the chocolate and raspberry and Michelle went for triple ginger, adding in sugar and, tasting all the time, deciding to drop in a splash of honey as well. Needless to say, her intuitive cooking produced by far the better dessert. [Though in working together on the puff pastry I think we far exceeded our individual capabilities – more on that later in the week].

Chocolate, almond and triple ginger Cake
Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille

175g ground almonds
3 eggs
50g butter
100g dark chocolate
30g gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon crystallised ginger, diced
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 160 C.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl in the microwave.

3. Beat the ground almonds and eggs together in a large bowl. Fold the melted chocolate into the almonds and eggs. Stir in the flour, sugar and baking powder. Fold in the honey and 3 different types of ginger.

4. Scrape the mixture into ramekins. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until set on top but still slightly gooey in the centre. Serve warm with ice cream.

Makes about 6 ramekins. For the chocolate, almond and raspberry cakes switch out the ginger and honey for a handful (75g) chopped raspberries, plus 2 drops of either raspberry or almond essence, depending on which flavour you want to accentuate. Add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time, as the raspberries add more liquid to the batter.

Written by guffblog

10th October 2010 at 19:20