Friday, September 23, 2011

Here's to the men in our lives!

There’s one man in my life who I can’t imagine living without – though, sometime I have to admit I do fantasize about life without the clutter he makes! He has an enthusiasm for life like I’ve never seen, he’s always thinking and questioning but most of all he has a childlike zealousness for all things dorky.

Today is my dad’s birthday, no it’s not a significant one but there’s no reason it can’t be special. In the midst of a hectic week with numerous assignment due, overseas guests arriving, a lunch for mum’s birthday (next week) I’ve relished the excuse to get away from the pressures of university by making dad’s birthday cake.

Dad is an engineer and has a fascination with structure, objects works and, well, anything that involves tinkering so this cake had to have some a little more construction required than a normal cake. Given this is the first cake I’ve made in almost a year I erred on the side of caution and kept it simple yet stunning.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo outside and while it’s not set up as I’d have liked the chocolate edge melted before my eyes within 20 seconds of getting outside, however I’ve included this to show you that the top was even!

I found I only needed 100g of chocolate for the wrap, and, I'm not sure if it's just me but I didn't know what a 3dl was, it's 3 decilitres aka 300ml.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did, I was worried when making it that it would be too dense but if you're careful when incorporating the egg whites I promise you can have a normal sized piece without feeling over-chocolated. Is that a term? It is now! 

Finally, the recipe says it serves 10, there were 6 of us and we didn't get half way through so this is a great cake if you're expecting a number of people and want something with wow-factor that you won't have to slave over for days.

Lightly adapted from Jungle Frog Cooking, Blue Chocolate Cake.

300g dark chocolate
4 tbs strong coffee
250g butter (unsalted)
225g cane sugar
8 eggs (split)
50g plain flour
25g cocao powder
1 tsp baking powder
250g ground almonds
100g meringues (ground)
500g blue berries and strawberries
300ml double (whipping) cream
300g dark chocolate
Chocolate Wrap
100g dark chocolate

Preheat over to 180 C, grease two 20cm baking tins.
Melt the chocolate and coffin in a bain maire, leave to cool. Cream the butter and sugar and add egg yolks one at a time beating between additions. Sieve flour, baking powder and cocoa power together and fold into butter mixture. Fold in melted chocolate, ground almonds and meringues. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into batter. Split the batter between the tins and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover cakes with foil after 30 minutes if they look as thought they're going to burn. 
Chop chocolate finely and place in a bowl. Bring cream to the boil and pour over the chocolate, let it stand for a minute and then stir until an even consistency. 
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes then remove and let them drop to room temperature. Stack the cakes onto of one and other with the ganache in the middle (I like to put the second one on upside down as it gives a flat surface for the berries). I then put this in the fridge overnight.
Chocolate Wrap
Measure the circumference of your cake and the height of it. Tear a piece of baking paper the same length as the circumference of the cake and cut it so it is slightly higher than the cake (I added 1.5 inches to the final height of my cake). Place this baking paper over more baking paper allowing for easy clean up. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and pour over the measured baking paper creating a thin layer of chocolate. Now wrap this around the cake and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes before carefully removing the baking paper and pilling with fruit.

Jungle Frog cooking has a wonderful video showing this step here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Devil's Food Cake

Mmmm what’s better than cake? Chocolate cake and plenty of it!

After a hiatus from blogging for various reasons – motivation, or lack there of being one – I’ve decided it’s time for another attempt. ‘Real’ life has more than been full enough to make up from my somewhat absent blogging life. To name a few things, we’ve had two (soon to be three) groups of visitors from the UK totaling two months of hosting friends, which is always wonderful fun. Surviving a very busy university life while maintaining a regular cycling routine and a not so regular gym routine. New cafes have been discovered, tested and more often than not returned to with family and friends. Indeed, Fathers’ Day involved just that.

Now onto the recipe.

This is Design Sponge’s Devil’s Food Cake, which went down a treat (pardon the pun) for my younger sister’s birthday … back in November. This cake was wonderfully rich but not overpoweringly so - though that all depends on how many slices you have! After the party we placed the remaining cake in an airtight container in the fridge because it was too warm and humid to be left on the counter. The following day the cake became slightly fudgy leading to all involved switching to mass cake demolition mode, well worth the painful bellies that ensued.  

Bear in mind that as ingredient quality increases so does the final product. You'll never get an outstanding ganache with mediocre chocolate.

          Devil's Food Cake

150g unsalted butter (more for pans)
50g cocoa powder (more for pans)
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup milk, scalded
210g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
300g granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract

           Whipped Ganache

15 g dark (70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
150g milk (40% cacao) chocolate, chopped
400g Nutella (the original recipe calls for Biscoff spread but I was unable to source any)
400g cold heavy cream

        Chocolate Shards

120g dark chocolate, chopped

          Chocolate Shards

The shards can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until needed, just ensure that the ganache is at room temperature so the shards stick well.

To make the shards place the chopped chocolate into a double boiler and let it melt. When completely melted pour the chocolate onto a 16-inch length of baking paper resting on your bench top and using a palate knife or similar spread the liquid chocolate out evenly, maintaining about 1/3 of an inch away from the edge of the paper. Cover the chocolate with a second sheet of baking paper the same size as the first and gently smooth any air bubbles to the edge of the paper. Roll the paper from one short end to the other tightly to form a 1-inch tube and place on a tray in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours. Unroll the tube in one smooth, quick movement to create the shards and refrigerate until ready to use.

        Devil’s Food Cake

1. Move oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 175°C. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with baking paper. Butter the baking papers and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess.
2. Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl, add boiling water slowly while whisking to prevent lumps forming. Whisk in milk. Set aside to cool.
3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
4. In a large bowl, cream butter on medium speed of an electric mixer or by hand until light and fluffy. Add sugar and continue beating on medium speed for 5 more minutes, scraping down the sides with a spatula as every so often. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in vanilla.
5. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the cocoa mixture on a low speed.
6. Divide batter equally between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through for even baking if over is not fan forced. Allow to cool in the pans for a 5 minutes, then take out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

           Whipped Ganache

Place both milk and dark chocolate in a double boiler and allow to melt. Remove from heat and whisk in the Nutella. Add heavy cream and using an electric mixer, whisk until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over beat, as the frosting will become grainy.

        Putting it all Together

1. Remove parchment papers from the bottoms of the cakes. Using a long, serrated knife, remove the top crusts to flatten the surface of the cakes. Place one cake on an 8-inch cardboard round or your serving plate (Several 2-3-inch wide strips of baking paper placed around the cakes edges will keep the serving plate clean after frosting).
2. Frost the top of the first cake with a 1/3 of the ganache. Place the second cake on top and frost the top and the sides with the remaining ganache.
3. Take the frozen chocolate chards out of the refrigerator and gently stick the shards to the ganache with the help of a tweezer as the heat from your hand may start to melt the shards, tweezers also allow for greater precision. Use long shards for the sides and smaller pieces for the top. Place the cake in the refrigerator until the ganache is firmly set, about an hour, then serve.

Spring Has Sprung

It's that time of year again where gardens are a riot of colour and the bees are buzzing, it's official spring has arrived and I thought I’d publish a brief post with some pictures I took recently while walking home from university through a local garden.

Let’s face it, spring’s too beautiful not to share.

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