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
Topping:
2 ripe pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise
50g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
Cake:
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)

Method:
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
Ingredients:
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)

Method:
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
Ingredients:
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)

Method:
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
Ingredients:
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

Method:
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.