When Kerry announced the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa was going to be cupcakes, I was initially a little stumped. After all I have made many chocolate cupcakes in my time and was wondering what I could do that would be a little different.
This month for Random Recipes we were asked to take 10 seconds to grab one book and run. Dom reckoned with no time to think, we would automatically go for our most useful book. My go to baking book is Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, which coincidentally is the book that featured in last month’s Random Recipes. If I need a reminder on how to make something or need a reliable recipe, then this is the first book I turn to. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or even most comprehensive baking book I own, although I suspect it probably is, but I’ve had the book for many many years and it is like an old familiar.
The next task was to randomly pick a recipe. When I asked CT to pick a number, he obligingly came up with no. 15 which was Nigella’s Victoria Sponge. I have made a Victoria innumerable times, but I have never used Nigella’s recipe before. She suggests substituting some of the flour for cornflour. I’m always interested in trying different methods and ingredients, so I was keen to see what, if any, difference this made. On the three page spread that this classic took up, chocolate was not even mentioned once – harrumph! With a sponge, this is really not a problem as it can generally be filled with whatever you like. I decided I would fill it with the fig and pomegranate jam I made last year and a chocolate buttercream – chocolate and figs are a good combination I reckon.
This is how I made:
Fig and Chocolate Victoria Sandwich
- Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 225g vanilla sugar (golden caster) until pale and airy.
- Beat in 1 tsp chocolate extract.
- Beat in 4 eggs (2 medium hens eggs and 2 large duck eggs).
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal spelt and half white), 25g cornflour and 1½ tsp baking powder. Stirred in as gently as possible.
- Stirred in 2 tbsp sour milk (ordinary milk is fine, but sour helps with the rise).
- Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180°C for 25 minutes until the cakes were risen, golden and firm to the touch.
- Turned first cake out of the mould to cool. And this is where disaster struck. I normally leave the cakes to cool in the moulds for ten minutes before turning out, but in my eagerness I didn’t listen to the warning bells in my head. Large chunks stuck to the bottom of the mould and my first cake was a mess. I dutifully left the second one in it’s mould for 15 minutes before turning out and it was absolutely fine.
- Melted 15g of dark chocolate (72%) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 100g golden icing sugar until pale and fully incorporated.
- Beat in the chocolate.
- Beat in 1 tbsp double cream.
- Placed all the pieces from the broken cake together to form a round as best I could.
- Covered this with the contents from a small jar of fig and pomegranate jam.
- Spread the buttercream over the bottom of the intact cake and placed this, bottom side up on top of the broken one.
- Dusted the top with caster sugar, then immediately cut a slice to see a) if it would hold together and b) how it tasted.
I am eating that slice now and can attest that despite its rather crumpled look, the cake held together and tastes wonderful. The jam and buttercream are a good combination, but I actually think the jam with whipped cream would have been a better one – less sweet and would have allowed the jam to really shine. I’m not sure I really noticed any difference having used cornflour but it wasn’t a double blind trial.
This lemon & apple curd cake is a basic sponge sandwich but with the addition of fruit curd. It’s filled with white chocolate and lemon & apple curd buttercream and topped with lemon icing. It’s a lovely fresh and lightly fruity cake which is perfect for Easter, but just as good at any other time of year.
Last month, Vanessa Kimbell came up with an inspiring thought – to practice random bakes of kindness. I so liked this idea when I first read it. Nearly two years ago now, I baked for the good burghers of Liskeard and was well rewarded with the delight expressed through their words and smiles, but sadly I haven’t really done anything similar since. So, I had an idea. The staff at Liskeard Railway Station, who I see so much of through my daily commute to work have a very hard time of it. They are the ones often on the receiving end of all the manifestations of travellers’ frustrations when the trains are delayed or cancelled or the ticket queues are too long; they don’t have an easy time of it. So, brightening up their day a little seemed like a nice thing to do.
Not having much time to spare, needing something portable and harbouring a big bag of cooking apples I thought these Apple Oatmeal Cookies would fit the bill nicely – especially when some chocolate was added to the mix. This is what I did:
- Creamed 4oz unsalted butter with 5.5 oz cardamom sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 1 duck egg.
- Mixed in 3oz wholemeal flour, 5 oz oats and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
- Peeled, cored and finely chopped in 1 cooking apple and mixed that in together with 2oz 40% milk chocolate drops.
- Placed teaspoonfuls well apart on two trays – one using my new silicone mat and another lined with baking paper.
- Baked at 180C for 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan and although these biscuits were undoubtedly delicious, they were in no fit state to be given away. When I opened the oven, I gasped in horror. All the cookies from the tray on the bottom shelf had run together and looked a terrible mess. Oh well, I thought, at least the top tray (on my new silicone mat) looks good. They may have looked good, but they were horrendously stuck to the silicone mat and the bottoms of the biscuits came away from the tops. Don’t be fooled by the pictures. Disaster. Mission aborted.
I called on the emergency services in the form of CT to help with the clean up operation. I have to say, crumbs, they were really delicious.
As I’d run out of time, I did a mini bake of kindness with these Rock Cakes, but the staff at Liskeard station had to wait for theirs.