Sunday, 30 March 2008

Triple ginger pudding cake

This is a cake for people who, whenever they eat ginger cake, say “I’d like it a bit more gingery”. I had a little taste of the raw mix (as I always do) and burnt my tongue it was so hot! Luckily it settled down on cooking resulting in a flavoursome moist sponge that falls into the category of “cake you could easily eat a lot of”. Admittedly, most cake seems to fall into that category....

Halfway house between cake and steamed pudding, this could be eaten with a cup of tea or as dessert. It’s lighter than you might expect on glancing down the list of ingredients and really packs a punch on flavour – I defy anyone to eat this and not be able to guess what the main flavour is.

I love the fact that it uses ginger in three different forms. This photo shows them – from left to right: ground ginger, fresh ginger, crystallised stem ginger:

My tip when measuring out the wet ingredients is to measure them into the same jug. You need 170ml each of soured cream and golden syrup. If you measure out the cream, and then measure the syrup on top of it you won’t have the hassle of trying to scrape thick syrup from the bottom of the measuring jug. A picture paints a thousand words:

I should point out that the cake didn’t sink but I had a slight mishap on getting it out of the springform tin that split it a bit. Some idiot (ok, I confess it was me) when last using the cake tin put the base back in upside down; had I realised this, I would have served it from the base but I didn’t. Disaster! Don’t worry, I have suitably remonstrated myself and it won’t happen again. Anyway, here’s the cut cake:

The slices look particularly pretty with the dates dotted around the sponge and the jewelled topping of crystallised ginger:

280g unsalted butter, melted and cool
2 eggs
170ml golden syrup
170ml soured cream
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
110g brown sugar
130g plain flour, plus an additional 2 teaspoons
130g self raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger (yes, tablespoon, not teaspoon)
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g dates, stoned and roughly chopped
6 pieces crystallised stem ginger thinly sliced

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease a 23cm round cake tin (I used a springform).
- Melt the butter only until it is melted, you don’t want it to start browning. Set aside and leave to cool.
- Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk only until they are combined.
- Add the golden syrup, soured cream, freshly grated ginger, brown sugar and cooled butter and beat until thoroughly combined.
- Add both flours, ground ginger and baking powder to the wet mix and beat until well combined.
- Toss the chopped dates with the extra 2 teaspoons of flour. This will ensure that they won’t stick together in a clump.
- Add to the mix and stir in ensuring the dates are well distributed.
- Pour the batter into the cake tin and level.
- Scatter the thinly sliced crystallised ginger on the top.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin for approximately 10 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Cake can be eaten hot or cold and reheats in a microwave should you want it with ice cream or custard for pudding. I served mine cold with some thick cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (29 Mar 2008)

Those who read this bit of my site (if anyone!) will know by now that I’m a sucker for anyone who can write a good lyric. In the 1990s, when Britpop and Cool Britannia was all the thing many journalists called Oasis the new Beatles, because of their melodies and style, and Blur the new Kinks, because of their wit and quirkiness. To my mind, this would be to miss a link in the chain. The natural successor to the Kinks is surely Squeeze , formed in the 1970s but churning out material right through to the 1990s. If quirky, humorous, interesting pop music is your thing and you appreciate a biting wit, then seek out a Squeeze greatest hits CD at once!

How can you not love songwriters who can write a blistering line such as: my assets froze while yours have dropped
That one’s from “Is that love?” but there are so many classics such as “Cool for cats”, “Labelled with love”, “Up the Junction” (a particular fave as the title only appears as the song’s last three words), “Hourglass”, “Take me I’m yours” and – as the greatest hits adverts always say – many, many more!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Chocolate layer cake with bitter-sweet ganache filling

If you’re going to have chocolate cake then it has to be no-holds barred chocolate cake. And this is just the job! Layers of white and dark chocolate sponge are sandwiched together with a rich chocolate and cream ganache, topped with mini chocolate eggs – well, it is easter!

Here’s the finished cake:

Admittedly, any cake containing four and a half bars of chocolate could not be called a low fat, healthy cake. Every forkful probably contains a day’s allowance of calories. But let’s be honest for a minute – who cares? And dieticians are always on about how top quality dark chocolate has antioxidants in it so that’s good – you might not get those antioxidants if you didn’t eat a slice of this!

It was quite difficult to cut a perfect clean slice but here’s the best we managed:

My one warning with this cake is that it probably isn’t for children. It’s a grown up’s chocolate cake and is very rich with a slight bitterness to the ganache that contrasts with the sweet sponge.

It all starts with two sponges:

The process for making the ganache is interesting. The chocolate is broken into squares and placed in a bowl that you then pour the boiling cream over. And then leave it for five minutes. I looked into the bowl in trepidation:

Wondering if this was really going to work I was very pleased when the five minutes was up and I could stir it. Lo and behold – this is what I ended up with:

For the cakes:
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
100ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa, I used Green and Blacks)
100g white chocolate (I used Green and Blacks as it has vanilla in it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the ganache:
284ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa, I used Green and Blacks)
50g white chocolate
Mini chocolate eggs or maltesers to decorate

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform sandwich tins.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage – give the mixture a good beating.
- Add the eggs, flour, baking powder and milk to the bowl and beat until thoroughly combined. The mix will look deliciously creamy.
- Melt the dark and the white chocolate separately either in the microwave (each will require approximately a minute) or in a bowl above a pan of simmering water on the hob.
- Divide the cake mix into two bowls. Into one stir in the melted dark chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Into the other mix in the white chocolate and vanilla extract.
- Pour each into a sandwich tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took a little longer – roughly 40 minutes.
- Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing and leaving to cool totally on a wire rack. Once cool, the cakes can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so before assembling the cake.
- Now make the ganache – only make this on the day you wish to serve the cake. Heat the cream in a saucepan, while it comes to the boil, break the dark chocolate into pieces in a bowl.
- Once the cream is just boiling pour it onto the chocolate and leave for five minutes.
- Stir it until smooth then leave it to cool as you need it to thicken.
- Cut each cake in half horizontally.
- Take a piece of cake and place on a plate. Spread ganache over it then place a piece of the opposite cake on top i.e. you want alternate colour layers. Layer up the cake and ganache until you have the top of the cake covered in ganache. You will have four layers each of cake and ganache.
- Melt the remaining white chocolate and either drizzle or pipe across the top of the cake. Finish with some mini eggs or maltersers.
- Serve on its own or with cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Easter biscuits

Clearly these biscuits are seasonal – their name alone indicates that, but it seems a shame that such a tasty, spicy biscuit is only available commercially for a few weeks each year.

Easter biscuits cooling on the rack:

These biscuits must come with a warning – the smell of them baking will drive you insane, so don’t make them planning to eat them the next day – you will NEVER be able to resist! I was doubly tormented as the weather was blowing a gale outside so I couldn’t have any windows open thus the warm biscuity aroma hung around the kitchen far longer than it normally would. Torture by baking smells!

When I made the biscuit dough I anticipated that it was going to be a beast to roll out as it seemed crumbly but it couldn’t have behaved any better and was most amenable to re-rolls too. So don’t panic and add water or milk to the dough to make it wetter – there’s no need.

The texture is soft and crumbly:

100g unsalted butter, softened
80g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100g currants
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice

An extra tablespoon caster sugar for sprinkling.

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage – give the mixture a good beating.
- Beat in the egg yolk.
- Stir in the currants.
- Add the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and ensure all the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed into the wet.
- Using your hand, bring the dough together and then give it a squeeze to warm it up and soften it – this will make it easier to roll out.
- Roll the dough out between two pieces of baking paper; aim for approximately 0.5cm in thickness.
- Take a round biscuit cutter (I used a 7cm cutter and got 12 biscuits) and cut out the dough.
- Place the biscuits on the lined baking sheet ensuring they are not too close as the biscuits expand slightly on cooking.
- Take the extra tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle over the uncooked biscuits.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked but not browned. Mine took 15 minutes.
- On removing from the oven the biscuits will be soft; leave them to harden up for 5-10 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack and allowing to cool.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Easter Genoese sponge

Using my trusty Genoese sponge recipe I have made some little easter bunnies and easter nests. Both are variations on Victoria sponges.

The rings are basically fairy cakes and buttercream just shaped a different way; from humble beginnings: can make something that looks quite polished:

The bunnies have an additional layer of jam:

The basic recipes can be found here

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (22 Mar 2008)

At the moment I seem to be having a wander down “nostalgia lane” in my musical tastes and listening to CDs that I haven’t listened to in years. I’ve also had some mammoth sessions of putting all these old CDs onto my MP3 player enabling me to relive my lost youth whilst baking.

This week I listened to Space and I expect you’re probably all saying “who?” as they were never a mainstream popular band but did have a few hits such as “The Female of the Species”, “Avenging Angels” and “The Ballad of Tom Jones”. I was a bit of an indie-kid in my day and loved their guitar pop coupled with darkly humorous lyrics. They were the also the only band I’d come across where the singer sang in character so used different voices to suit different songs. Funny but never novelty, I still recall the first time I heard them – it was an indie pop compilation CD, the best way to come across new artists in the pre-internet days. The song was called “Neighbourhood” and I knew I’d be buying their album just from the brilliant attention-grabbing opening couplet:

In number 69 there lives a transvestite
He's a man by day but he's a woman at night

Over the course of the song we also learn about other residents:

In 999 they make a living from crime
The house is always empty cause they're all doing time


In number 18 there lives a big butch queen
He's bigger than Tyson and he's twice as mean


In 666 there lives a Mister Miller
He's our local vicar and a serial killer

Most songs seem to have sinister or dark themes but then you get an absolute dance classic such as “Disco Dolly”.

If you’re a nineties indie kid looking to relive what was great about music in that era, you can’t go far wrong with Space.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Pear and almond cake with almond crunch topping

I adore pear in any cake or dessert – far more than I like eating pears as a piece of fruit. It’s the combination of the delicate flavour and the juicy texture. This cake contains a layer of pear which combines beautifully with the rich almond cake surrounding it.

The unusual part of this cake is the crunch topping. As it is baked in the oven I expected it to be a bit gungey but it isn’t at all – it’s not as hard as a brittle but the nut content gives it a pleasing crunch. It’s a halfway house between caramel and praline – and how could that ever disappoint?

Here's a close up of the seriously-delicious topping:

I think this cake looks beautiful and everyone’s instinct on seeing it is to try and pick a bit of the topping off!

My tip when making this is only peel and slice the pears when you are ready to lay them on the cake batter; this will stop any discolouration.

Serving suggestion (how pretty do the pieces of pear set into the cake look?):

For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
220g self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
140ml soured cream
50g ground almonds
2 firm pears (I used comice)

For the almond crunch topping:
50g unsalted butter
50g light muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons double cream
75g flaked almonds

To serve: Lightly whipped cream, I used Chantilly cream

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
- Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until they are pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage – give the mixture a good beating.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time and add a spoonful of the flour with the second egg to minimise curdling.
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and nutmeg.
- Fold half of the flour into the creamed mixture.
- Fold in all the soured cream and almonds, then the rest of the flour.
- Peel, core and slice the pears – don’t do this too early or they will discolour.
- Spoon half the cake mix into the tin and arrange the pears on top.
- Cover with the remaining cake mix.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- When there is only about 5 minutes left on the clock, start making the almond crunch topping. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the sugar and cream.
- Stir in the flaked almonds and ensure that they all get covered in the sticky sauce.
- Remove the cake from the oven and pour the almond mixture over the top, be gentle as you spread it out as the cake is fragile at this point.
- I recommend standing the cake tin on a baking sheet when you return it to the oven in case some nuts and sauce dribble over the edge of the tin.
- Bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (barring a bit of sauce from the top). Mine took 40 minutes + 25 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. You have a few minutes to scoop up any flaked almonds that have fallen from the cake and place them back on top – they will stick at this point because the sauce has not fully set. I also recommend just gently using a knife to ensure that no topping is stuck to the end of the tin; this will ensure that when you unclip the tin, you won’t rip any topping off.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tin before removing from the tin and leaving to cool fully.
- Serve with lightly whipped cream – I picked Chantilly cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (15 Mar 2008)

Some bands could only ever come from certain places – for instance, could the Beach Boys be anything other than Californian? Could Kraftwerk be anything but German? And could the Housemartins be anything but British? I listened to The Housemartins this week for the first time in perhaps 15 years and the jangly pop coupled with eccentric lyrics were still as alluring as ever. Wikipedia describes their lyrics as an odd mixture of Marxist politics and Christianity – which makes it sound rather dull - trust me, it isn’t. And I’m not sure that in my “yoof” when I played their records to death (ah, vinyl – those were the days!) either of these themes would have registered with me. All I remember are the jangly guitars and the rather strange looking group of men, all of whom looked like they could be time travellers from a 1950s gritty Northern TV drama.

You can’t go wrong with either of their albums – London 0 Hull 4, or The People who Grinned themselves to Death.

Strangely, I never liked anything any of the members went on to do post-Housemartins namely, The Beautiful South and Fatboy Slim. Music, tsk – it’s a funny old game......

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Individual ginger puddings

Just the sound of the word “pudding” is pleasing. It suggests nice things – dessert, custard, ice cream, sponge etc. These little ginger puddings are very cute – individual puddings are always so much more attractive than one big one cut into slices. I think it’s because my brain tells me that it’s all mine and I won’t have to share!

The chopped ginger goes in the bottom of the basin which of course, on turning out, will become the top:

The puddings can be cooked the day before required. Just keep in the pudding basins and reheat for 10-15 minutes before required at 160°C/fan oven 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.

Once the puds are cooked, I levelled the surface off just so they’d sit nicely on the plate when turned out:

I’ve tried to capture the lovely sponge texture. These are not heavy puddings that sit in your stomach like you’ve eaten a house brick!

Spooning over extra ginger syrup when served makes these juicy little delights and I love the contrast of warming ginger with cold ice cream.

Here’s the pudding cut open. The photo was taken hastily as I wanted to eat it!

Yummmmmm – pudding and ice cream!

185g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 preserved stem gingers in syrup, cut into small pieces
5 tablespoons ginger syrup (i.e. from the jar the stem ginger is in)
185g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
3 eggs
3 teaspoons ground ginger
185g self raising flour

To serve: custard or ice cream. Or both!

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease 6 individual pudding basins with either butter or cake release.
- Place the chopped ginger in the bottom of the basin (which will become the top on serving) and drizzle 1 teaspoon of ginger syrup over the top. Put the rest of the syrup aside until you serve the puddings.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and pale, then beat in the black treacle.
- Gradually beat in the eggs and don’t worry if the mix curdles – it will correct as soon as you add the flour.
- Fold in the flour and ground ginger until well combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the basins, then place all the basins into a larger baking tin (I used a roasting tray).
- Pour boiling water into the tray until the water level comes halfway up the little basins.
- Cover the tray with foil and, while you need to wrap it tightly to keep the steam in, ensure that you’ve allowed space on top for the puddings to rise – tenting the foil is the best idea.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. I took the foil off after 35 minutes and gave them a further 15 minutes uncovered, but still standing in the water.
- Either serve straightaway, or allow to cool and reheat the next day.
- When turning the puddings out remember to spoon over the ginger syrup you set aside.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

More lemon squeezer details....

Having had a request for more details about my lemon squeezer I have had a look at the packaging label it came with. Unfortunately details are sketchy.

The label says it is made by “AMCO Houseworks”, Vernon Hills IL 60061-1547 and is model number 8645. No website or contact details are provided.

However, having googled “Amco houseworks lemon squeezer” quite a few hits came up. This US based web retailer sells them, and for the UK, the best option seems to be Amazon.

Happy squeezing everyone!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Iced lemon curd layer cake

Today is Mothering Sunday so what better treat for the Caked Crusader’s Ma (CCM) than something lemony? The CCM has a penchant for lemon and I reckon this cake must be a lemon-lover’s dream. The sponge contains lemon, the lemon curd is practically all lemon, and the lemon icing is topped with lemon zest. I don’t see how any more lemon could be added to this cake!

The finished cake is attractive and I like the layering when a slice is cut; I love this photo as the main cake is visible in the background. It's come out rather arty, albeit unintentionally:

Nothing about this cake is difficult but there are several stages to it. I made the sponge and the curd the day before I wanted the cake. This only left assembly and icing on the day itself. It all begins with simple sandwich sponges:

I have been quite vocal in the past about my lemon-loathing but even I have to admit that this cake looks a beauty. The curd was particularly pleasing to make; so many lemon curd recipes contain yucky things like cornflour to thicken the mix. This one doesn’t and I think has a better taste and consistency for it. Here it is cooking in the pan:

I also got to use my new lemon squeezer – it’s great because it gets all the juice out without any risk of pips falling into the mix. And in this age of hi-tech gadgetry it couldn’t be a simpler piece of equipment!

For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the lemon curd:
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter

For the lemon icing:
50g icing sugar
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
- Grease two 18cm sandwich tins.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage – give the mixture a good beating.
- Gradually beat in the eggs, lemon juice and zest, alternating with the flour and baking powder i.e. beat in a bit of the wet ingredients, then some of the dry ingredients, then some wet etc. This avoids the mixture curdling.
- Spoon into the tins and level.
- Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took exactly 35 minutes.
- Allow to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.
- Now make the lemon curd. Stir together the sugar, lemon zest and juice, eggs.
- Cut the butter into little pieces and add to the lemon mix.
- Either place the mixture into a bain marie pan or, if you don’t have one, simply put a bowl over a pan of simmering water making sure the bowl and water are not touching. Cook for approximately 20 minutes until the curd has thickened. Stir frequently – you don’t have to be obsessive, just don’t wander off and forget about it. For the first few minutes the mix will look very runny but then will suddenly thicken!
- When it has thickened remove from the heat, spoon the curd into a bowl and leave to cool.
- Up to this point, everything can be done the day before. Keep the sponge in an airtight container and keep the curd in the fridge.
- When you come to assemble the cake cut each sponge through – so you now have 4 layers of cake.
- Spread the lemon curd evenly over each layer and start to stack the cake. The curd covers the three middle layers – the top will have icing.
- The icing is made by simply beating together the icing sugar and lemon juice until the consistency is smooth and runny. Allow to rest in the bowl as it will thicken slightly.
- Spread the icing on the top layer of cake and don’t panic if it drizzles down the side.
- Whereas for the cake and curd the lemon zest was grated to ensure it was fine, for the top you want something a little more dramatic so use a zester and this will provide long curls of lemon zest!
- Scatter the lemon zest on top and voila – cake made!
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (1 Mar 2008)

Having mentioned him in my music post last week, I decided to listen to Johnny Mercer this week. Many people know of him as a master lyricist – and goodness me, what lyrics they are! Too many wonderful songs to list and for every masterpiece such as “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” there are hundreds of others that deserve equal mention.

The mark of a great lyricist as opposed to a merely good one, is the speakability of the lyric. What that means is whether you can comfortably speak the lyric rather than sing it. Lesser (but still good) lyricists play around with word order to get the rhyme or the rhythm right and this makes the lyric sound clumsy when spoken, for example, this couplet from Ira Gershwin’s lyric in “Someone to Watch over me”:

Although he may not be the man some girls think of as handsome.
To my heart he carries the key.

The words just aren’t in the right order. Johnny Mercer never does this and this is why I think he’s the second greatest lyricist ever (Sorry Johnny, it’s close but Irving Berlin is THE man!). Although not my favourite song of his – that would have to be “Fools Rush In” – possibly his greatest technical lyric is “The Days of Wine and Roses”. A whole song where the lyric comprises of only two sentences!

The days of wine and roses laugh and run away like a child at play, through the meadow land toward a closing door, a door marked "nevermore" that wasn't there before.
The lone-ly night discloses just a passing breeze filled with memories of the golden smile that introduced me to the days of wine and roses and you

What many people don’t realise about Johnny Mercer is that he was also an awesome singer. His deep, relaxed vocals could provide the dictionary definition of “easy listening”. Nothing is ever strained or hurried and the result is singing of the absolute highest quality.

My favourite album is the album of duets he recorded with Bobby Darin called “Two of a Kind”. Both terrific singers in their own right, something magical happens on the album – two people sparking off each other resulting in recordings that are slick, sometimes silly, frequently funny, always excellent – just joyous to listen to.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

I have joined the Foodie Blogroll

If you glance at the bottom right of my site, you will spot a link to the Foodie Blogroll and the names of all the foodie bloggers! There is never any reason to lack food inspiration again!