Vanilla & Apple Cake

A couple of weeks ago a new branch of Norfolk St Bakery¬†opened at the top of the street where my office is. I can only describe this place as having some of the best cake I’ve ever eaten, not to mention the insanely good bread. They have an amazing range of Portuguese treats, pastel de nata, bolinhos, etc etc. The first time I went in I bought a few different things to share with my colleagues, all of which were incredible. The next day I went back and bought more of my favourite, the vanilla roll. I feel pretty certain that I’m destined to put on some serious weight with this place two minutes from the office, but there will so much joy in gaining that weight from the deliciousness of the cake, maybe I don’t care?

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Anyway, having consumed all this cake, I realised that I’d never made any Portuguese cake, and that this clearly needed to change. I tried (unsuccessfully) to find a recipe for the vanilla roll, so decided to settle instead for a vanilla cake with caramelised apple topping. Maybe settling isn’t the best word, because, wow. Like, really wow. I think this might be just the beginning of a love affair with this type of cake. It has a load of egg in it, which creates a sort of denser sponge, but it’s not heavy, it’s just, great. Go find yourself a Portuguese bakery, or make some of this cake and indulge.

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Suksessterte – Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’

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So, this week was supposed to be sticky toffee pudding (don’t worry, it’s coming next week). Then I found out that my lovely friends Rosie and Jim had got engaged! So I had to make them something appropriate to celebrate ūüôā – I’ve been waiting a while for a good enough success to make a ‘success tart’ and this is definitely it! They really loved it, which is wonderful!

I really want to make another one now though, because I feel like there were a few bits I could have improved on. This tart is best made the day before you want to eat it/give it to someone I think, because the custard takes a little while to set, so by the time I had to take it out it was still pretty wobbly in the middle. I also made the mistake of taking the base out of the tin before putting the custard on it. Do not do this. It is a bad idea that leads to collapsing bases. I’m slowly getting the hang of making custard though, which is a positive – making this was slightly out of my comfort zone, and a lot of things could have gone more wrong than they did, so I’m really glad I did it. Once I’d poured the custard into the base, Oli was practically licking out the saucepan, the custard was that good. It’s really rich and buttery, with a nice hint of vanilla.

From the recipe point of view, one thing I love is that you use egg whites in the base and egg yolks in the custard, which means you end up with no egg waste at all. A lot of recipes that involve either whites or yolks normally don’t have any use for the other, and I don’t like that. Anyway, I highly recommend this – I guess it’s not just for successes, because even making it without anything going wrong feels like a success in itself.

Next week, Sticky Toffee Pudding! (for real)

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Suksessterte, or Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’ (from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen)

Base:

5 egg whites

200g icing sugar

200g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Topping:

150ml double cream

100g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

200g butter, cut in 1cm cubes

1 tsp vanilla extract

cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3-4 and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

2. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Add the icing sugar a few spoonfuls at a time and keep whisking until stiff peaks form again. Put the ground almonds in a separate bowl with the baking powder and salt and stir well. Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until just blended – don’t knock out all the air, but no blobs of egg white.

3. Pour gently into the cake tin, smooth with a spatula and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 mins or until golden and firm to the touch. It may sink slightly after it’s removed from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin whilst you prepare the topping.

4. Bring the double cream to a simmer in a saucepan, stir in the caster sugar and allow to dissolve completely before removing from the heat. Put aside to cool slightly. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium, heatproof bowl. Stir a couple of spoonfuls of the warm cream into the yolks, then pour in the rest of the cream and stir vigorously to create a smooth, creamy custard.

5. Pour the custard into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. As soon as it has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and place on a cool surface. Gradually incorporate the butter cubes, whisking vigorously as you fold them in. If the mixture cools too much, simply pour into a heatproof bowl, place over a pan of simmering water and keep whisking as you add the butter cubes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, stir in the vanilla extract, then pour the filling into a medium bowl and cover with cling film directly on the surface to stop a skin forming. Once it has cooled slightly, place the filling in the fridge and chill until it is thick and stiff (about an hour or so).

6. Remove from the fridge and beat the filling with a spatula to soften it slightly before spreading on the almond tart base. Smooth the top of the tart and put back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (preferably several). Serve lightly dusted with cocoa powder.

Pear and Maple Syrup Cake

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I moved! I’m pretty exhausted after two fairly intense days, one of moving and one of doing lots of induction things at uni. Next week is even busier, so somewhere between endless induction events and all the reading I have to do I’ll have to find the time to bake. I’m still trying to work out my schedule and this is the first time it’s really occurred to me that I have spent the last two months being unemployed, so I haven’t exactly been used to having things to do, and now I have a lot to do, so there’ll definitely be a period of adjustment.

Today I’m visiting my house in Cambridge for the last time. I’ll miss it there – the majority of everything I’ve written about on here was baked in the kitchen there, so if I’m not feeling sad then I’m definitely feeling reflective. But I have an equally good kitchen here in Norwich, so we’ll just keep going I guess. I didn’t get to eat either of the last cakes I baked in the Cambridge kitchen though – I made a Guinness cake for my dad to say thank you for helping me move, and then I made a pear and maple syrup cake which I gave to Oli to share with his colleagues because he likes creating goodwill in the workplace.

Being in the midst of moving when I baked it, I had packed up most of my cupboards, and I realised when I went rifling through boxes that I had in fact run out of maple syrup, but I did have a small quantity of golden syrup left, so I used that instead. It probably didn’t taste quite as good – I can’t be sure, but it appeared to work well as a substitute. The quantity of pear appears to outweigh the amount of cake batter, but once baked it looked really good.

Next week: Sticky Toffee Pudding (I desperately want cold enough autumn weather to make this be like a warming pudding for a chilly evening)

Pear and Maple Syrup Cake (from Tender vol.II by Nigel Slater)

100g butter

50g golden caster sugar

50g light brown muscovado sugar

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

3 eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the pears

450g ripe pears

20g butter

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp maple syrup (or golden syrup)

1. Grease and line a deep 20cm baking tin with greaseproof paper. Peel, core and chop the pears into roughly 1cm cubes. Put them in a shallow pan with the butter and cinnamon and let them soften for 10-12 mins over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time. Pour in the maple syrup, let the mixture bubble up briefly then remove from heat. The pears should be sticky and deep golden.

2. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4. Beat together the butter and sugars until pale and thick. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the almonds to the flour. Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl, then add to the butter and sugar a little at a time, alternating with the flour and almonds. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Tip in the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top. Spoon the pears and any remaining syrup over the mixture. They will gradually sink on cooking to make a sticky layer further down.

4. Bake for 40 mins or until golden and lightly firm. Serve warm in thick slices, with cream and a little more maple syrup.

Coffee and Chocolate Loaf

IMG_0588tThis week has been a mixture of boredom and awesomeness. I’ve spent a significant portion of my time trying to find a job in Norwich, which has involved filled out a LOT of boring personality quizzes in order for various large companies to discern whether I am employable (spoiler: I’m not). The rest of the week has been spending time with Oli and my awesome friends and drinking a little too much beer. I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself at the moment after I spent yesterday going to all of my favourite pubs in Cambridge. Seven pubs in one day is not particularly achievable. But we played an edition of Trivial Pursuit from 1983, ate great food and drank awesome beer, and my friend Rosie made me flapjacks and gave me a lemon thyme plant as a going away gift which was super lovely <3.

I made this chocolate and coffee loaf yesterday morning, and whilst it was in the oven I went to have brunch at my local pub. .I was pretty happy because I managed to time my return perfectly, and it was just done when I got home. A lot of recipes for loaf cakes say they’ll take an hour or whatever, but then actually turn out to take much longer. Not this one though!

It’s basically like a rich, dense but moist chocolate cake. The coffee¬†is more like a subtle hint than an overpowering flavour. I put more coffee than the original recipe suggested because I felt like the coffee taste would be masked by all the chocolate. I’d like to try making it again substituting the milk for more coffee to see if it balances out the flavours more. But it’s pretty delicious as is, and great to eat with a cup of tea. Highly recommend this as a mid-morning cake for coffee with friends.

Next week, I will be leaving Cambridge. I haven’t worked out when I’m going to make this yet, because I’m to-ing and fro-ing a lot this week, but at some point I will be making Pear and Maple Syrup cake. I will be impressed if I manage not to miss this one

Coffee and Chocolate Loaf (adapted from ‘Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days’ by Tarek Malouf)

190g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

130g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

140g soft dark brown sugar

50g caster sugar

3 large eggs

60g cocoa powder

1tsp baking powder

20ml whole milk

2 tbsp strong coffee (brewed and cooled)

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3, then grease the loaf tin with butter and dust with flour.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are mixed in properly.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, then pour the milk into a jug, add the coffee and mix together. Add the dry ingredients to the cake batter in two batches, alternating with the coffee milk. Mix well after each addition.

4. Once all ingredients have been incorporated, beat until batter is smooth and even, then pour the mixture into the loaf tin. Place in oven and bake for approx. 1 hour or until the sponge is firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning it out on to a wire rack.

Blueberry Cake

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A belated Happy Father’s Day to my father, to whom this cake was given (albeit a few days late). I cycled a 25km round trip to give him the cake, which I think kind of makes up for its lateness. On said cycle ride, I was yelled at by a woman who seemed enraged that I had only stopped to give her directions, not to have a conversation with her. Sometimes, people be crazy.

The cake was delicious, dense but moist, and most excitingly it was ring-shaped, because this was the first time I have ever used a bundt tin (many thanks again to Seb who has gifted me many a baking thing – especially as I never would’ve bought a bundt tin myself). I don’t think I realised quite how massive the cake was until I tried to lift it into the oven – despite having a hole in the middle, bundt cakes involve one hell of a lot of ingredients (like, half a dozen eggs). It’s gone to a good home though, and actually, has probably been eaten already.

I bought the cheapest blueberries I’ve ever seen to make the cake – on Cambridge market they were doing 2 punnets for ¬£2.00, and I was like, that’s amazing! So I took them home, and naturally, it was too good to be true, because after leaving them in the fridge for a day, quite a lot of them had gone mouldy and I had to pick through and salvage what I could (miraculously, the amount I saved was exactly 250g, the precise quantity I needed for the cake!)

Earlier this week I made a strawberry cake and used up the rest of the chocolate icing left over from the cupcakes last week. One good thing about that icing is that if you can’t use it all at once, and you come back to it a few days later once it’s all hardened, it melts really easily and returns to its former consistency ready for you to pour too much over the cake you made so that it ends up all over your counter (see here). The strawberry cake was just a basic sponge with about 100g of mashed strawberries added, and it was GREAT. I’m trying to make the most of summer fruit season, so I’ve been consuming lots of strawberries and raspberries and jealously watching as my blueberry plants bear fruit back in my parents’ garden. I did have a joyous half hour or so last week though, picking strawberries in Oli’s parents’ garden, only to then find a rash all over my arms. Hayfever is really NOT my friend this year. All in all though, summer is shaping up to be pretty good. Birthday week soon, and in 6 weeks I will be in Canada! A lot of baking to be done, and a lot to look forward to.

 

Blueberry Cake (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)

350g unsalted butter at room temperature

350g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

450g plain flour

2 tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder

280ml sour cream

250g fresh blueberries (plus extra to decorate if you want)

icing sugar, to decorate

~ you can use cream cheese icing to cover the cake, but as I think it’s pretty tasty without, I’m leaving the icing off the recipe here~

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Put the butter and sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

2. Beat in the vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed. Add the sour cream and mix well until everything is combined and the mixture is light and fluffy. Gently stir the blueberries in by hand until evenly dispersed.

3. Pour the mixture into the prepared ring mould (note – grease the tin LOTS) and smooth over. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 mins (or an hour in my case) or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cake to cool in the mould before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar.

 

Next week: Little Blueberry Pies

Iced Apricot and Blueberry Terrine

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I’ve had quite a crazy week – all sorts of things have been going on, and this is the first chance I’ve really had to sit down and write. In the same way that 9:30 yesterday evening was the first opportunity I had to bake. Incidentally it was well-timed, because the weather has been GLORIOUS today (apart from a brief downpour that happened to coincide with my cycle home), and I went to a BBQ at my lovely friends’ house, and they gave me homemade burgers, and I gave them this. Iced apricot and blueberry terrine.

I’ve been abbreviating and referring to it as ‘ice cream’ to people, but when we came to eat it and tried to scoop it out of the tub, it became very clear that it is not ice cream. It does not scoop, it is designed to be sliced. So sliced it was. I’m not going to lie, it mostly tastes of cream and meringue, but there is nothing wrong with that. The original recipe involved blackcurrants instead of blueberries, but not knowing where the hell to get blackcurrants (I tried both supermarket and actual market, and they don’t seem to be a thing), I compromised with the closest thing possible. And it turned out very well. This is like a test run for me before I make real ice cream for the first time, and I’m feeling pretty confident about being able to do that now.

Iced Apricot and Blueberry Terrine (adapted from Tender Vol.II by Nigel Slater)

200g blueberries (by all means, use blackcurrants if you can find them)

2 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp water

4 apricots

500ml cream

120g meringues (8 meringue nests – you can make your own, but I was lazy and used shop bought)

1. Put the blueberries, sugar and water into a small pan. Bring to the boil, leave to simmer for 5 mins, until the fruit starts to burst, then boil hard for two minutes until the liquid has reduced a little. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

2. Halve and stone the apricots, and then chop into small pieces. Whip the cream until it is thick but stop short of whipping it so far that it stands in peaks. It should be able to slide slowly from the whisk.

3. Crumble the meringues into small chunks, then fold gently into the whipped cream with the chopped apricots. Pour into a freezer-proof box (roughly 24x12x7cm) lined with cling film. Pour the blueberries on top, then gently swirl them through the mixture. Fold the overhanging cling film over the top and freeze for at least 4 hours. To serve, cut into thick slices with a sharp knife.

 

Next week: Chocolate Chip Cupcakes!

Chocolate Raspberry Tart

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Today is my lovely boyfriend Oli’s birthday. Earlier this week it was his colleague Holly’s birthday, and at his request I made her, what I would fairly describe as, an epic cake. A Coke layer cake from The Outsider Tart’s “Baked in America”. It took a long time to make, and it’s only the second time I’ve ever made it (although this time I actually got to taste it!!). I forgot to take a photo before it all got eaten, so the one below is courtesy of another of Oli’s colleagues. Everyone at his office was very happy, and consumed the majority of the cake (apart from one small lump that was left and Oli brought home for me). And then I realised that I’d made a pretty impressive cake for Holly, and in a few days it would be Oli’s birthday and I would have nothing anywhere near as impressive to bake for him.

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My original plan for this week¬†was to make a raspberry and almond tart, but it just seemed too mundane to offer as a birthday cake. So I went one up, and I made chocolate and raspberry tart. Okay. It doesn’t sound that much more impressive, and I probably seem like a terrible person. But it has chocolate pastry. And I haven’t tasted it yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be good. I mean, look at it! Chocolate pastry is definitely my favourite thing of the week. Where once there were walnuts, now there is the glory of chocolate pastry. I ate the offcuts. It was great.

I was supposed to use dark chocolate for this recipe, but it said how super rich it was and how you could only eat it in tiny slices, and I just thought, that is not what anyone wants from birthday cake(/tart). So I made it with milk chocolate instead, in the hopes that it will be equally tasty and more quickly consumable. I’ll let you know. Somewhat disappointingly my tart tin wasn’t deep enough to hold all the filling, so I’m going to have to make another tiny one (with plain pastry this time I think though). Luckily this week I have become indebted to my friend Seb for the amount of baking equipment he has showered me with, which included two smaller tart tins than the one I currently have. I am however starting to realise that when I move house, 95% of the stuff I take from the kitchen will be baking related.

You can find the recipe for the chocolate and raspberry tart here.

Next week: Iced apricot and blackcurrant terrine