Chocolate and Espresso Cake

Who buys diet books? And what has happened to just healthy eating, everything in moderation?

Diets just don’t work in the long run silly! Plus they always tell you to cut out cake! Whats with that, maybe have just one small slice. I’ll be waiting for the diet book deal penguin!

So on a completely unrelated note, I will talk about cake.I was recently asked to make a cake, for money, like a proper baker, it was for a 60th. Cue pressure. They wanted two cakes shaped like a P and a J, cue extra pressure and reading womens weekly Kids Birthday cake books like a mad lady. I’mstill in two minds about whether selling cakes is something i’d ever want to do, the main part for me is making people happy, and you don’t really get any of thatwhen you just sell them.

I got my planning on and pretty much knew exactly what I would do for every step, I’m so glad I did this otherwise it would have failed big time. Also I really like planning, not lame…shh.

Have any of you ever tried to make a rainbow cake before, i’m going to attempt one for my best friends 5th/20th (she was born on the 29th of February) picnic.

Because I made a shaped cake, I used almost double the mixture, this is the base recipe I used though.

Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Eat Boutique

Serves 12 (makes two 8 or 9 inch layer cakes. Or 24 cupcakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder, I used Vittoria Espresso
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup chocolate covered cocoa nibs or chocolate chips (optional)

Heat the oven to 350*F. Butter the pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter again, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Reduce mixer speed to low.  Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until a cookbook inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes for an 8 inch round, and 25-30 for a 9 inch round (cupcakes will be done around 20-25 minutes). Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the racks to cool completely.

Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 3 ½ cups), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder and 1 tablespoon hot water until the powder is dissolved, and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the sugar, then the vanilla, salt and espresso/water mixture. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Note: this makes a LOT of frosting. Make sure you add a liberal amount of frosting in between your layers, as you will have plenty. I was stingy here and regretted it later.

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Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread

Fears are irrational but phobias are disabling, that’s one of the tabs I have open right now. Phobias suck. You know what doesn’t suck, summer and friends. But what does suck is having a preoccupied mind, it makes it hard to be hilarious… which I totally am. Usually.

This bread is amazing, the smells while it’s baking are amazing, the way it tastes is amazing. Maybe we just agree to call it amazing bread. You have to enjoy it with your favourite people that’s a must.

I didn’t have time to take photos of the process but when I make it again i’ll add the photos to this post.

Also coming up this week is two birthday cakes, crazy town.

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread adapted from Joy the Baker

2 packages (about 5 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (about 50 degrees C)

3 cups of flour, divided into 1 cup increments

3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 cup thinly sliced strawberries

coarse sea salt for topping

feta for topping, feta is origin controlled, I used Dodoni, real Greek feta.

good quality balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

1 tablespoon fresh mint, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir to dissolve.  I use a fork so I can mash and stir any yeast clumps.  Add the flour and blend together until smooth.  Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

After the mixture has risen, remove the covering and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and orange zest.  Add one cup of flour and stir to blend.  Add the remaining cup of flour and salt and work together into a dough.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead.  Dough will be slightly sticky, and that’s alright.

Clean out the large bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Place dough in the bowl, and flip it over so that it’s entirely coated in oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead for just a minute, before pulling and stretching the dough into a flat shape.  I used a rolling pin to help me to this.  Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 190 degrees C.

When dough has risen, use your fingers to make random indentations in the puffed dough.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden, crisp and baked through.  I rotated the pan once, halfway through baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from the baking pan, slice into squares with a pizza cutter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, feta, and fresh mint.

Serve.

This bread is best served within 2 days of baking.

Pancakes with Sour Berry Sauce

Summer is hard, you know. You have to deal with that whole, I woke up too late and now I don’t know what meal I’m supposed to eat. And like you’re starving! This is most definitely one of those ‘first-world problems’, but hey it’s still a problem.

These pancakes may not be the solution, but they are a tasty way to avert your thoughts until anything starring Michael J Fox is on tv.

Also they are super-duper easy and the sauce you can make in minutes. You can also add pretty much anything you want and then tell people it’s your sauce. They will think you are a god. Maybe.

Easy Pancakes

188 grams of flour

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

300 ml of milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and add the milk (you may need slightly more if it looks too dry/lumpy at the end)

Mix in the milk and add the eggs, vanilla and oil, beat until combined but with a few lumps still visible.

Heat up a pan on a medium heat, if it is non stick add some butter or oil to grease.

As you cook the pan will obviously get hotter and may start to burn the pancakes, metal retains heat well so just take the pan off the heat and continue cooking until it has cooled down again. With your now mad pancake skillz this should be easy.

Simple Sour Berry Sauce

2 handfuls of frozen berries (if using fresh add a tablespoon of water for every handful)

1 lemon

2 tablespoons of sugar

1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Paste / 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Heat a saucepan on a medium heat.

Add berries (and water if using fresh berries), I used a handful of raspberries and a handful of blueberries, you can use whatever you like.

Add the juice of the lemon, and simmer the sauce until berries soften.

Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla and simmer.

Taste and add more sugar/water/vanilla as you please until sauce is to your liking, heck even add more lemon.

If you want to get rid of the seeds just pass through a metal sieve for a clearer sauce, making sure to press out all the juices.

You cannot mess up the sauce its super simple! Make it your own, grate the zest in for an extra kick, add some cinnamon, fresh apples, whatever takes your fancy!

Triple Chocolate & Kidney Bean Brownies

For my first recipe in 2012 I thought I would make it interesting, apparently there is a whole beans in baking ‘thing’ going on in America; so I thought I would hop on the bandwagon. I have a feeling Martha had something to do with this ‘thing’, this recipe originated from her via Joy and then I made a few tweaks.

This is one of those recipes that you read and you immediately start browsing the cupboards for ingredients. The only thing I didn’t have already was the black beans that the recipe called for, and I couldn’t find any, so I subbed in kidney beans. I was already feeling uneasy about this recipe and this change was adding to my unease.

The unease may have had something to do with the fact that I have never made brownies before, and you always hear horror stories of dry brownies, or brownies that actually make people hungrier; something about munchies… I don’t know. But these were a success! They worked out perfectly and I didn’t over cook them. In fact my sister ate three in a row, they were cut small, but we still judged. I won’t judge you though eat as many as you want. And they have less fat and more protein! Only slightly but still! Did mention they are delicious!

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

57 grams of unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

85 grams of semisweet chocolate, chopped, I use 70% Lindt

57 grams of unsweetened chocolate, chopped, I use 85% Lindt

48 grams of kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and pureed until smooth in a food processor

299 grams of granulated sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

125 grams of all-purpose flour

26 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

10ish white chocolate buttons, I use Cadbury’s white chocolate melts

walnut chunks and coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving 2-inches of overhang on all sides.  Butter and flour the parchment paper as well.

Fill a medium sauce pan with 2 inches of water.  Bring the water to a simmer.  Place butter, semi-sweet, and unsweetened chocolate in the bowl.  Place the bowl over simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and combined.  Remove the bowl from the simmering saucepan (the bowl might be hot!).

Allow the melted chocolate mixture to cool for a few moments.  Whisk in the eggs and white, one at a time, until mixture is glossy. Whisk in the sugar.  Whisk in the bean puree and vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and sea salt.  Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the chocolate mixture.  Break up the white chocolate and add to mix. Use a spatula and fold to incorporate.  Once thoroughly combined, pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Top with walnuts and sea salt, if using.

Bake brownies for 25-28 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few chocolate crumbs on it.  The center may seem undercooked, but it will cook further as it cools.  Brownies are better slightly underdone than overdone.

Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Use the overhanging parchment paper to remove the brownies from the pan and slice.

Cut brownies into 9 or 12 generous pieces.  Store brownies, wrapped individually, at room temperature for up to 4 days. Mine did not last this long.

2012

It seems like everywhere you look people are filling you in on what their 2011 was like and their resolutions for the coming year.

It’s not that I’m against that, in fact I quite enjoy reading the 12 month count downs; just other people’s, not mine. I just don’t think anyone cares about what I did in the past 12 months. Maybe you’ll care in another 12 months when I’m rich and famous for doing that thing with that girl from blah and that piece of cake in the hotel room etc (probably).

But here’s some things that you will be reading about in the next 12 months; which in my opinion are far superior to the previous 12.

Getting my cake decorator on; I’m talking fondant, finally achieving perfect icing and an inappropriate amount of edible flowers.

More savoury cooking: I have stupid amounts of cookbooks that have barely been used.

Some book reviews; short ones, not: Night before English book review is due. Haven’t written anything. Must. Overcompensate. With. Words

21st planning; it’s a biggie supposedly, but I don’t want my parents to waste money on a party, so I’m going to do it all myself. I have many plans, it’ll be fun! Planning is so much fun I probably wont even turn up to the actual event.

Hope your new year celebrations were excellent; I spent mine watching amazing music with crazy good people. I especially hope that you all had a kiss when the clocks struck 12, even if it was with the drunk old man who thought it meant something.

Red Velvet Cake

Happy new year! The festivities are gone and now all we are left with is new years resolutions and the realisation that they are far to big to tackle. My new years resolution is to make things pretty and keep breathing (also maybe the perfect frosting), the next post will be more of an end of year thing. This recipe is just close to my baking heart and something I felt I needed to do before the year was out.

I once made a version of this cake that I hated and that some of my friends still rave about.

I’m not trying to be humble, I honestly was very disappointed with how it turned out, they were supposed to be amazing birthday cupcakes, full of deep red colour and chocolatey taste; the colour and the taste were at best mild.

Being that I can be a perfectionist, I just had to tackle the red velvet again, this time it turned out exactly as it should have aside from the frosting, but that’s just something that is perpetually wrong.

Recipe from Joy the Baker

I am in the middle of doing conversions to weight for everyone. It is far more accurate than the cup system, I misplaced the paper that had all the weights on it unfortunately so this is a bit half/half.

114 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

338 grams of sugar

2 eggs

5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 Tablespoons red food coloring mixed with 2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

282 grams of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease your pan, I use a 6″x3″ pan for cute little tall cakes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Turn mixer to high and add  the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste.  Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk.  Add half of the flour and salt and mix until combined.  Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour.  Beat on high until smooth.

Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar.  Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream cheese frosting from Joy the Baker

340 grams of butter, softened

227 grams cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

4-6 cups powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons milk

depending on desired consistency

Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.