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Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

More cake today. This time with fruit which totally makes it healthy. And with big gooey pockets of custard which makes it more healthy. Custard’s good for you right? Lots of calcium, good for strong bones. Ahem. The idea for this cake has been kicking around for a while now going through various transformations in my head before it ever even hit the mixing bowl. The first seed of inspiration came from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, an encyclopaedia of all things good, which has a recipe for apple and walnut cake dotted with custard. I pinched the custard element and reduced the sugar since his recipes always turn out too sweet for my tastes. The cake is a basic sponge made with both caster and soft brown sugar for a caramel depth and spiced with nutmeg, the traditional and perfect flavour pairing for creamy custard and a good match with plums. (more…)

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I’ve been leafing through Dan Lepard’s wonderful book, Short and Sweet, ever since Christmas trying to decide what to make. The problem is there’s too much choice. Everything looks good. How do you pick between passion fruit melting moments, a chocolate cake that uses pears in place of butter or a gorgeous-looking double espresso brazil nut cake? Solution. Open up the book and ask someone else to pick for you. In this case my non-cake fan, but crumble-loving husband picked out a marble cake topped with crumble. Good work! He wins another chance to choose a recipe but I suspect next time he’ll ask to choose from the Hairy Bikers’ Pie Book. (more…)

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With summer in full swing (ha! what’s all this wet stuff coming from the sky?), the shops have ripe, red strawberries piled high and as you walk past their perfume lures you to take the inevitable detour and come home with a box full. Wimbledon is also in full swing and tennis fans will all be sipping Pimms and munching on overpriced but utterly delightful strawberries and cream while they wonder at the Williams sisters’ latest outfits, swoon over Nadal and appreciate the snazzy new roof. (And, of course, cheer for our guy Andy!)

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Come Easter, when the bunny is all tuckered out* from his chocolate deliveries, I’m sure we’ll all have the odd bar or egg that could be put to good use in a rather glorious cake, no? I mean, surely it’s better to get them out the way before I’m tempted to devour them in one sitting? This way you can share them around – surely that’s the heathy option despite the additional cream, and butter and jam.

And of course the creator of this delight – David Lebovitz – knows good cake. Yes, I’m pretty sure this cake is the right thing to do. Just think about that light, fluffy chocolate cake filled with boozy cherry jam and smothered in a soft, smooth chocolate ganache.

Now I should probably confess that this cake is designed to make a feature of several types of vanilla – Tahitian and Mexican are called for in the original. Me being me only had Madagascan to hand (and to be honest that’s all I’ll ever have). I’m quite sure that if you have a good enough pantry to stock different origin vanillas this cake would be quite extraordinary but rest assured, as long as you use good quality extract (not essence) you’ll end up with a pretty-darned-good cake.

I also reduced the amount of sugar (sorry David, I know if I fiddle with recipes they won’t come out as you describe) but quite frankly, I often find American recipes too sweet and I’m trying to be a good diabetic. With all that jam I really didn’t miss the extra sugar and neither did any of my family who happily devoured the lot.

Chocolate, vanilla and cherry cake

This is the recipe I followed with less sugar and one type of vanilla. The original is from David Lebovitz’ wonderful Great Book of Chocolate

Serves 12-16

For the cake:

  • 280g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½tsp salt
  • 375ml sour cream
  • 250g sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 4tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 230g good quality cherry jam
  • 2tbsp kirsch or framboise
  • 2tsp vanilla extract

For the truffle frosting:

  • 120g sugar
  • 250ml double cream
  • 115g plain chocolate
  • 115g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract

First make your cakes:

Preheat your oven to 175°C and grease and line two 23cm round cake tins.

Over a big bowl, sift together the dry ingredients except the sugar. In a large jug whisk the wet ingredients with the sugar. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter into the two tins and bake for 20-25mins. Try not to overbake as the cakes will dry out. Remove from tins and leave to cool.

While the cakes are baking, make the frosting:

In a medium pan bring the cream and sugar to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 8 mins, stirring from time to time.

Remove the cream and sugar from the heat and stir in the butter, chocolate and vanilla. Leave to cool then chill for several hours so it becomes thick enough to spread.

When you are ready to assemble the cake stir together the jam, kirsch and vanilla. Place one of the cakes upside down on a serving dish (secure with a little frosting). Spread the jam over the top leaving a 1cm border around the edge. Put the second cake the right way up on top of the jam. Smooth the forsting over the cake.

The frosting recipe is very generous and you will probably have some left over. The original recipe suggests piping some rosettes for decoration but I saved mine in a small bowl in the fridge to sandwich between cookies. It would also be good as a macaron filling or warmed and poured over ice cream. Or you could just eat it with a spoon…

* Make that bunnies. Apparently even a cardboard tube makes a good pillow…

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Some things just don’t translate well between cultures. What may seem perfectly normal to one country is perfectly foreign to another. Take twinkies for example. Despite them cropping up in so many American films and shows, I had no idea what one actually was until I visited the States a few years ago. Likewise, my concept of pudding is vast oceans away from the beloved stateside treat. I tend to use ‘pudding’ as a generic term for dessert; any good country pub will have a ‘pudding board’ displaying the day’s dessert choices. I even went on a ‘pudding crawl’ for my birthday once, hopping (which eventually turned into waddling) between restaurants ordering only sweets.

But lo and behold, to our American friends pudding is a homely concoction of milk, sugar and cornflour with the occasional egg thrown in for good measure. Sort of like a light set custard. I owe this discovery to the wonderful Deb at Smitten Kitchen who has recipes for several flavours of pudding including this unctuous vanilla version. Of course I could resist fiddling with the recipe by adding a spiced plum compote topping.  I decided not to add sugar the compote, the tartness works very well paired with the sweet milky pudding. Delicious! I recommend doubling the quantity of the compote and eating the leftovers stirred into porridge for breakfast.

Let’s hear it for intercultural understanding by means of dessert! Woop!

Spiced plum compote

(Makes enough to top 6 portions of pudding)

  • 3 ripe plums
  • 50ml orange juice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground all spice

Remove the stones from the plums and cut in to small (1cm) pieces. Place in a small pan with the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20 mins until the fruit is soft and the liquid is syrupy.

Leave to cool and spoon over the vanilla pudding.

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