Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Baking Sunday: Pastel Cheesecake

This is such a beautiful cake and I was super pleased with myself when it turned out with all layers intact. I had originally seen this pastel cheesecake on Bake A Boo blog (via Pinterest) and fell in love with how pretty it was. It is a relatively easy no-bake recipe and I made a few modification to the original to make it even easier! I added a buttery biscuit base instead of the sponge and just have three layers, although you could have as many as you like. You can flavour each layer individually too if you so wish but be very careful to add tiny bits of flavouring as they’ll be added to a much smaller volume than usual. Personally I would find it a little overwhelming to have so many flavours in one cake. I would strongly recommend using a springform tin as it will be far less stressful releasing the cake and ensuring the layers don’t blend into each other and the recipe below is for a 9” tin.

Pastel Cheesecake
100g butter
250g crushed digestive biscuits
180ml milk
3 egg yolks
525g cream cheese
180g caster sugar
1.5 tbsp gelatine powder
600ml double cream
Your choice of flavourings and colourings (a few drops only required): such as vanilla, fruit puree for both colour and flavour, coconut essence,

1. Line and lightly grease a 9” springform tin. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the crushed biscuits and mix until the butter has been absorbed.
2. Remove from the heat and, while still warm, press the mixture (using the back of a spoon) into the bottom of the cake tin. Leave to set for one hour in the fridge.
3. While the base is chilling, combine the milk, egg yolks, cream cheese, sugar and gelatine powder in a double boiler or in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and gently heat. Stir over simmering water until mixture is melted.
4. Remove and leave to cool
5. Gently whip the double cream until it just holds soft peaks.
6. Once the cream cheese mixture has cooled to room temperature, fold in whipped cream until blended
7. Divide mix into 3 portions and combine with different flavours and colourings. Colour and flavour with just a few drops at a time to ensure you have the desired shade/taste.
8. Choose whichever cheesecake mixture you want to go in first for the bottom layer. Spread it in the tin and place it freezer for about 10 minutes. Once you see the layer is shiny and set, pour the next cheese cake mixture in. Repeat this process until finished.
9. Cover and refrigerate until set for about 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Baking Sunday: Concorde Cake

I was a big fan of Edd Kimber (aka The Boy Who Bakes) on the Great British Bake Off and he was a worthy winner of the show.  He has since released two baking books, both of which I really love.  This chocolate concorde cake is from the second of his books, Say It With Cake, which I'd thoroughly recommend.  In this day and age where anyone from telly that's ever appeared near an oven seems to have a baking book out, it's rare to find one with original ideas and definitive takes on classics.  What this book really excels at though is the big impressive show stopping numbers which I happen to love making.  I made this cake at an Edinburgh Bakers event rather a long time ago now (two further EB events have since passed, eep!), when the Edinburgh Bakers met the Glasgow Bakers.  With over twenty bakers attending there was a lot of cake that day!  There was friendly banter over which side would have the best cakes and the theme was, accordingly, show stopper cakes.  It was a fun theme to research with plenty of time spent on Pinterest and Tastespotting looking at beautiful cakes! I decided to make this cake as I was after something light but chocolatey and that would look beautiful and unusual.  This ticked all the boxes I think!  It consists of three layers of chocolate meringue, filled with a chocolate whipped cream mousse and covered with small meringue pieces.  I personally wanted to add a bit more of a wow factor and added an extra step of covering the cake in a chocolate mirror glaze before covering with the meringue pieces, which can be made in advance and reheated.  It adds another layer of texture to the cake and is darkly delicious.  I also added fresh raspberries between layers along with the chocolate mousse, just to freshen the cake up a bit.  It was a real hit on the day and I'm looking forward to when I have an occasion to make this again!

Concorde Cake
Recipe from Say it With Cake
6 large egg whites
60g caster sugar
300g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
icing sugar or cocoa powder, for dusting

For the simple chocolate mousse:
185g dark chocolate, finely chopped
500ml double cream

1 quantity of Chocolate Mirror Glaze, recipe below

1. Preheat the oven to 110° Celcius (90° fan oven) and line three baking sheets with baking parchment.  Using a 20cm cake tin as a template, draw a circle on each piece of parchment with paper, then turn it over so that the drawing is underneath.
2. Put the egg whites into a lcean, grease-free bowl, and, using an electric mixer, whisk until they form stiff peacks.  Slowly pour in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is stiff and glossy.  Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder over the meringue and gently fold together, being as gentle as possible.
3. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm wide plain piping tip and pipe three discs on the baking parchment using the drawn templates, piping in a spiral starting at the centre and working outwards.  Using the remaining meringue, pipe long strips onto theprepared rays alongside the discs.  Bake for about 1 hour and 40 minutes or until firm and crisp.  Turn off the oven and allow the merinuges to cool in the oven for two hours.
4. to make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  Whisk the cream to soft peaks the pour it into the bowl with the chocolate and whisk to combine.  The resulting mousse should be fairly thick and be able to hold its shape, but not so thick it can't be spread easily.  If it is too thick and looks overwhipped, pour in a little extra cream or milk and stir to loosen the mousse.
5. To assemble the cake, use a little of the mousse to stick the first meringue disc to a bardboard cake board or serving plate.  Spread about a third of the mousse over the meringue and then add another meringue and repeat the process.  Top with the final meringue and then coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining third of the mousse.  Ensure the sides of the cake are smooth and even all over and freeze the cake for at least 30 minutes.
6. To finish the decoration, use a serrated knife to gently cut the meringue strips into pieces.  Take the cake from the freezer and slowly coat the cake with a third of the Chocolate Mirror Glaze.  Cover three times (if it becomes too sticky, reheat in the microwave on low for 30 seconds).  Freeze for 10 minutes and then trim the ends with a hot and sharp knife.  Lightly press the meringue strips over the cake, dust with either icing sugar or cocoa powder and place back in the freezer for an hour (this will soften the meringue slightly).  Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze (Glacage Miroir)
Recipe by Pierre Herme
75g water
150g caster sugar
150g glucose syrup
100g sweet condensed milk
70g masse gelatine (soak 10g gelatine leaves into cold water then weight the soaked gelatine leaves and make up to 70g with the soaking water)
150g dark chocolate

Put the water, sugar and glucose syrup into a pan and bring to the boil. When the syrup reaches 103°C, turn off the heat and mix in the condensed milk and masse gelatine.  Pour over the milk chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth.

It was a popular cake!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Weekend Brunch: Hotel Du Vin

Ahh poor neglected blog.  It's been a busy old year, time has whizzed by and all of a sudden I find myself in mid-May wondering how on earth the middle of the year has crept up on me.  I've been busy working on some other projects, most notably a new Edinburgh lifestyle blog as well as preparing for my dad's imminent visit.  He'll be staying with me for a month and I'll be delighted to see him; it has been a lot of fun researching places in Scotland to visit and places to eat in Edinburgh - he's got a big appetite, which I've happily inherited.  With that in mind, Hotel Du Vin has firmly secured itself on the list of places that I'm sure my dad will love.  They have a four course Le Brunch which can only be described as epic.

As I've previously mentioned on the blog, Edinburghers seem very keen on brunch, with the love veering more towards an all-day breakfast than southern style Sunday roasts.  Hotel Du Vin are bridging the gap between the two with their Sunday brunch where you start off with a soup and then get all of your continental breakfast needs from their French market table. There is a choice between breakfast favourites and lunch options for your main course (from the a la cart menu) and finally some dessert to round it all off.   Brunch runs from 12 to 4pm, leaving you ample time to enjoy the feast at your leisure.  It is priced at £19.99.  

To start from the top, the first course of the brunch feast is vegetarian soup du jour and on my visit this was a vegetable soup with fresh parsley garnish.  The soup isn't served with bread (you don't want to fill up on the first course!) but was packed with flavour with a perfect velvet texture.  Next up is a trip or two to the French Market Table, where you can help yourself to freshly baked breads and croissants, charcuterie, rillettes, pates, vegetables and, if that wasn't quite enough, plenty of fresh seafood.  The table was heaving with food and soon my plate was too.  I took full advantage of the beautiful seafood on offer and came away with dressed crab, a few king prawns and a freshly shucked oyster, along with some fresh bread, pates and salad.  A plate full of cockles was also on offer along with a rather delicious potted shrimp.  A leg of serrano ham being freshly carved at the table was also a nice touch.  It really is very generous and you can go back again if you so desire.  By now though, I was starting to feel a little full - worryingly so, considering I'd ordered my main course of Sunday roast.  But that's the beauty of Le Brunch - there's no rush so you can just kick back with a cocktail and enjoy eating at your own pace.

The main course options range from Omelette Arnold Bennett (with haddock and Gruyere) and salmon hollandaise to heartier options like a pie du jour, bistro burger or steak frites.  On this occasion I thought I would go for the Normandy roast chicken as I was in a Sunday roast kind of mood.  It was accompanied with a gravy boat and a good selection of veg - the essential roast potatoes, some carrots, parsnips and the obligatory green vegetable selection.  The chicken was not the boring option here: a very generous portion which was lusciously moist and crispy skinned. 

Finally, just when I thought I could eat no more, we were handed the dessert menus and had to make a decision on the final course.  I did worry this was going to be the 'wafer thin mint' that would tip me over the edge however I can't resist dessert and there were some tempting treats on offer, with rhubarb crumble, traditional trifle and profiteroles being among them.  However I chose what I considered to be the lightest thing on the menu, the Bistro Du Vin coupe which comprises a vanilla and pistachio ice cream with chocolate sauce and pistachio nougat.  It was a fun and simple dessert which rounded off the meal well.  I did have slight plate envy when I saw a huge creme brulee pass me by but I'm glad I finished with ice cream and didn't physically have to be rolled out of the hotel.  

Le Brunch was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon and is perfect for when you want to treat someone to an extravagant daytime meal.  It's incredibly good value and I'd thoroughly recommend it for a long leisurely afternoon with an optional walk across the Meadows afterwards being an enjoyable end to the day.

* French Market Table picture courtesy of Hotel Du Vin

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Best Burger Quest: Hard Rock Cafe

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog/ Cryin’ all the time

Sweet home Alabama/ Where the skies are so blue 

Love in an elevator/ Livin' it up when I'm going down

Rock ‘n Roll – the lifeblood of the Hard Rock Café. And everyone knows what fuels rock ‘n roll right? Uh-huh-huh – burgers! Ah, you were thinking of something else, but I am thinking burgers and that’s what I headed into the Hard Rock Café for to see if a place that’s legendary for using the word legendary could put up a good show in the Edinburgh burger hit parade, after claiming it has the best burger in town. 

Soon after being seated, we were approached by a waitress to see if we’d like any song requests for the big screen. Flicking through the iPad to choose some songs was quite fun, like secretly helping to DJ at someone else’s party. So, to keep the party atmosphere going, we ordered some cocktails. It felt like the right thing to do and, putting ourselves in the hands of the experts, the waitress recommended some fruit and sweet drinks for us. So far, so good. There was a lively atmosphere in the room with music memorabilia to view and talk about and I surprised myself by how impressed I was by some of it. Who knew a hat once worn by Elvis could be so exciting? 

I’d already decided to opt for the classic 10oz legendary burger, but it was interesting to scan the menu and see what other burger options were available. Each Hard Rock Café location has a different “legendary” twist and Edinburgh’s is, you guessed it, haggis. The alternatives were unsurprisingly American-influenced, such as a Hickory Barbeque bacon burger and toppings like buffalo sauce, guacamole and chipotle peppers. I’m normally a fan of additional toppings, but thought these particular flavours might overpower the burger a little bit. On the other side of the table, my dining companion dived straight on in and ordered the Red, White and Blue burger which has spicy buffalo sauce, Cajun seasoning and crumbled blue cheese. It sounded like a tasty combination and, although I was slightly jealous, I stayed dedicated to the pure legendary experience. 

When the burgers arrived we were very impressed – they looked great: decent-sized meat patty, a bun that wasn’t too bready, two slices of cheese melted properly, pickles, salad and American style bacon. My one initial quibble was that I’m not a huge fan of breaded onion rings and much prefer the battered kind. Initial impressions were, however, very good. Biting into the burger the bacon was a bit of a let-down, fried as it was to within an inch of its life. It added an unpleasant taste to the first few bites until I decided to just remove it and taste the meat as it should be enjoyed. It was richly seasoned and moist and, I have to admit, tasted pretty good with the breaded onion ring too. There were plenty of chips and a decent portion of salad too. Most of the burgers at the Hard Rock Café are priced at £14.95 which is on the expensive side. However, if your perfect burger accompaniment is rock ‘n roll then go eat the food, drink the drink, hear the songs and admire a hat that The King once wore. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Baking Sunday: Sticky Caramel Pear & Ginger Cake

If you're anything like me, it's around now that new years' resolutions start falling by the wayside - I give things a good go for a week or so, but then boredom kicks in and will power fades. This cake is perfect for the January hinterland where the urge to guzzle down cake can be assuaged with the fact that it's packed full of delicious pears. Just because it's fruity doesn't mean it's boring though - with a caramelised pear topping, brown sugar sponge and slivers of candied stem ginger it's puddingy without being rich and actually kind of addictive. The pears give the cake a moist and mild flavour which works well with the more punchy spices of ginger and cinnamon. They give a silky texture to the caramelised topping, but you could use another fruit if you have too many apples or stone fruit that need using up. And, if you are hung up about healthy resolutions, just think about the calories burnt from chopping up all those pears! Then go ahead and enjoy a few slices warm from the oven anyway.

Sticky Caramel Pear & Ginger Cake
2 ripe pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise
50g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
50g soft brown sugar
100g caster sugar
175g butter
50g black treacle
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175g self raising flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mixed spiced
2 pears, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 pieces of stem ginger, chopped into small pieces (from jar in syrup)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin (springform if possible) and grease lightly with some butter or oil.
2. Make the topping first, by mixing the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Spread this evenly onto the base of the prepared cake tin and arrange the pear slices on top in a fan-like pattern around the edge of the tin.
3. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and then add the treacle and then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 
4. Add the flour and spices to the batter and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped pears and stem ginger and then spoon the cake mixture over the pears and smooth over to level the surface.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until golden brown - you can test if its baked with a toothpick/skewer if you wish, insert into the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is done.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Scrape the sides of the cakes with a knife to make sure none is clinging to the edges and then turn out onto an inverted serving plate and turn over. The lined tin prevents any pears sticking to the bottom so it should look very pretty on your plate!

Monday, 7 January 2013

My Bloody Valentine Cake - Edinburgh Cake Ladies Going Underground

This post has been a long time coming!  I made this cake for the last Edinburgh Cake Ladies baking event, a Spooky Bakes themed cake munching extravaganza held at Mary Kings Close.  For those that don't know, Mary Kings Close is a preserved underground close from when Edinburgh was a rabbits warren of different lanes, alleyways and closes coming from the Royal Mile.  These date back to the 1600s and most of these have been closed up now but Mary Kings Close remains preserved under the Royal Mile, providing a fascinating insight into how people from all classes of society lived.  With two potential ghosts haunting the close it was the perfect venue for our spooky bakes and it was a really special event.  

I pretty much knew what I wanted to make straight away - a gruesome (but delicious) bloody heart cake.  As a long time fan of Miss Cakehead's Eat Your Heart Out project, I love gory cakes so it was a great excuse to make this bloody anatomical heart cake.  It had to taste amazing too, so I combined a cherry vanilla cake filled with cream cheese icing and covered with cherry syrup sticky sugarpaste.  It's not quite as an intimidating project as it looks and it doesn't matter if you're not very confident with rolled fondant - it's very forgiving of a roll or two as this helps with the anatomical veined look that it's aiming for.  It does take up a bit of time but the cake can be frozen before you're ready to cover it in fondant and certainly benefits from a long period in the fridge before carving it.  

It goes without saying that other cakes from the evening were fabulous, however because it was so dark I didn't really get any good pictures so visit the Edinburgh Cake Ladies' blog to see them if you so wish!

My Bloody Valentine Bloody Heart Cake

Cherry vanilla cake
320g plain flour
50g cornflour
20 g baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
415 ml whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries, I used Bonne Maman Cherry Compote)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g vanilla sugar (or regular caster sugar)
173g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g finely chopped maraschino cherries (optional)
1 teaspoon red food colouring gel (I used Sugarflair’s Ruby)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C and centre the oven rack.  Line and grease three round 8-inch pans.
2.  Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cherry juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
3.  In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
4.  With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in finely chopped cherries.
5.  Divide batter evenly among 3 cake pans, smoothing the surface with a small offset spatula or rubber spatula.  Bake until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs only, about 30 minutes. Cakes should be well-risen and springy to the touch.
6.  Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges by running a knife around the sides. Gently turn out the cakes, peel of parchment paper bottom, then cool right side up.

Cherry cream cheese frosting
500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold
1 teaspoon cherry juice/syrup
1 teaspoon red food colouring gel (I used Sugarflair’s Ruby)

1.  Beat the icing sugar and butter together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) until the mixture comes together and is well mixed (about 5 minutes.
2.  Add the cream cheese, cherry juice and food colouring gel in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Do not beat for longer as the mixture can go runny.

Assembling the Cake
1 jar cherry compote (I used a jar of Bonne Maman cherry compote)
Sugarpaste icing, tinted red (I used poppy red fondant from The Finishing Touch)
Blue gel food colouring
Corn syrup or piping gel

1. Once cooled, place first cake on your plate and cover with a thin layer of cream cheese icing and cherry compote. Repeat for the second layer and leave the third top layer uniced. Put the cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
2. Using a large serrated knife, trim the cake into a triangular shape with rounded corners, creating a roughly sculpted three-dimensional anatomical heart shape.
3. Add a small of of blue gel food colouring to the red fondant with a toothpick and knead, folding two or three times. Do not overmix, you just want the illusion of veins.
4. Measure the cake. Dust a stainproof work surface with icing sugar and roll the fondant with a large rolling pin. Roll the fondant to a quarter inch thickness. Fondant should be about twice the size of the cake measurements. Lay the fondant over the cake. Position the fondant so there is a large overhang of fondant at the top of the cake, but still plenty of fondant at the bottom of the cake.
5. Cut away excess fondant around the "bulb" of the heart (everything except the "artery" at the top of the cake), leaving a 2 inch margin to tuck under the cake. Reserve excess fondant for later use.
6. Tuck the excess fondant under the cake by gently lifting the cake slightly and folding the fondant underneath. The weight of the cake will help seal the fondant edges. Use the uncut fondant at the top of the cake to create a tubelike shape, or "artery".
7. Use corn syrup to seal the artery ends together. Fold a portion of the tube inward to create a clean edge. Sculpt the heart's artery further by pressing your fingers into the icing on either side of the fondant tube and pulling your fingers downward to create an impression. 
8. Cut a piece of rolled fondant to 6 x 10 inches. This does not have to be perfectly square, just use whatever scraps are available. Fold 1 inch of fondant inward and roll the piece lengthwise into a tube, leaving the bottom portion open. This piece will be placed to the right of the artery; use corn syrup or piping gel to adhere to the cake. Any imperfections in the fondant can be 'molded' to look more anatomical - don't worry if there's any small tears or bumps, this will all be covered over.
9. Drain the jar of cherry compote and glaze the cake with the juice. Any stray cherries that are on the cake make a gruesome addition! Cover the cake completely so it's shiny and red and sufficiently gory.