#JanuaryJoy – Make something Naughty [to Eat]

Today is your reward for all the amazing things you have done this January! Tomorrow we’ll be reflecting on that, but first of all today, I have a challenge for you to test your baking skills and make you feel like an accomplished domestic goddess in the kitchen. Every January I bake a cake of Pete’s choice from any of our recipe books for his birthday, so it’s kind of a tradition to attempt something new and impressive… I’m so glad he didn’t see this before making this year’s choice 😉

Thank you so much to Asma from Sugared Saffron for sending in this stunning creation – I think it would be a seriously impressive gift or centrepiece on a dessert table or for afternoon tea. Do let her know in the comments box if you have any questions!

Tips:

  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and all spice for an extra wintery flavour
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the caramel for a Salted Caramel layer
  • To save time, bake the cake the day before. The pear means it’s extra moist so just make sure you’ve wrapped it in cling film and leave it at room temperature.

Ingredients for the Pear and Vanilla bean cake: 
170g Unsalted butter (room temp)
170g Caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract or the seeds of half a vanilla bean
3 Large eggs
170g Self raising flour
6 firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped into cubes.
1/2 a firm pear.

For the caramel layer:
100g caster sugar
Water
100ml double cream
1 tablespoon of butter

Finishing touches:
75ml Chantilly cream. That’s just whipped cream, flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with a teaspoon of icing sugar.
Spun sugar

Cake Method

  • Prepare a 7″ baking tin by greasing and lining with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C
  • Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time, make sure they are completely combined before adding the next. If the mixture is curdling, add a tablespoon of the measured flour to it.
  • Mix in the flour.
  • Fold in the chopped pears until they are evenly distributed in the mixture.
  • Spoon the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. This part depends very much on your oven so check after 30 minutes but pressing the cake and testing with a toothpick. If it comes out clean and the cake springs back after being pressed, then it’s done.
 
Caramel sauce

  • In a heavy pan (not non-stick) place the sugar and pour over enough water to just cover the sugar. Heat on a medium-high heat and wait until the mixture dissolves and becomes amber at the edges.
  • Swirl the pan and keep on the heat until the amber colour is uniform, this will only take a few seconds so be quick.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the cream, mix until it’s combined nicely.
  • Return the pan to the heat for a couple more minutes until the caramel thickens and changes colour.
  • Remove from the heat and add the butter. Let it cool down for a minute and pour over the top of the cake.
  • Whilst the caramel is setting, take your half pear and place in a hot non-stick frying pan to caramelise at the edges and surface.
  • Once the caramel is set and the pear is cooled, dollop on some of the Chantilly cream.
  • Add the spun sugar and pear at the very last minute before serving.


Recipe and Photography courtesy of Asma Hassan, (Baking Ninja) Sugared Saffron

Friday Food: Hummingbird Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

Readers, if you are easily offended by images of oozing caramel, stiff chocolate ganache and crumbly moist chocolate cake, then look away now.

This post is basically food porn. 😉

So, one of the best things about birthdays is surely the cake, right? And in my family it has become somewhat of a tradition to make extravagant celebration cakes for any occasion going. When I say family, I really mean, Pete and I’s little family, but my sister happens to also be a baking obsessive and it was she who bestowed on me this tower of chocolate and caramel culinary pleasure.

I’ve asked Francesca to write it up herself as this was not a cake without trauma, you’ll notice the cake is not, ahem, perfect visually, (although could anything be more perfect than that caramel ooze as it crumbles slightly?) but let me tell you, it was melt in the mouth good. It was certainly a tricky one to make but I can now from experience tell you that if you want to make someone feel loved because of the sheer effort you put into something, this is the cake for you. Over to Francesca…

Hummingbird Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake (taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days by Tarek Malouf)
Serves: 12 (Actually serves 16 comfortably as it’s so rich)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the sponge:
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
140g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
100g cocoa powder
160ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence
330g (11½oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

For the salty caramel:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
120ml double cream
60ml soured cream
1 tsp fine sea salt
For the frosting:
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
360 ml double cream
450g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped, plus extra to decorate
450g unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Method
1. First make the salty caramel. In a small saucepan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60ml (2fl oz) of water, allowing the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, during which time it should become quite syrupy and a rich caramel colour.
2. Put the double cream, soured cream and salt in a separate pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. The salt should completely dissolve in the cream.
3. When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and carefully add the hot cream. It will bubble up as you pour in the cream, but smooth out again quickly after that, becoming a creamier golden colour. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set it aside to cool while you make the frosting.
4. In a small, clean saucepan, bring the caster sugar and golden syrup to the boil with 60 millilitres of water, again letting this boil for approximately 10 minutes or until it is syrupy and caramel-coloured.
5. In a separate pan, bring the double cream to the boil. Carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel: as before, it will bubble up, but settle again shortly afterwards. Set this caramel aside to cool slightly.
6. Once it has cooled, add the chopped chocolate, stirring constantly while the chocolate melts. Using a hand-held electric whisk, mix the frosting for about 10 minutes or until the bottom of the bowl feels cool.
7. Add the butter to the chocolate caramel frosting and whisk together until the mixture is light and looks slightly whipped. Place the frosting in the fridge to cool and set for 40–50 minutes while you make the sponge.
8. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
9. Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, or a hand-held electric whisk, cream together the butter and both types of sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
10. In a jug stir together the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla essence with 60 millitres of water to form a thick paste. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients, then add these in stages to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the cocoa powder paste and mixing thoroughly on a low-to-medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
11. Divide the batter between the three prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the top of each sponge feels springy to the touch. Allow the sponges to cool slightly in their tins before turning out on to a wire rack and cooling completely before assembling.
12. Once the sponges feel cold to the touch, place one on a plate or cake card and top with approximately two tablespoons of the salty caramel, smoothing it over the sponge using a palette knife. Top the caramel layer with three to four tablespoons of the frosting and smooth it out as before.
13. Continue this process, sandwiching together the other two sponges with the remaining salty caramel and a layer of frosting and leaving enough frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. To finish, decorate the top with chopped chocolate and a light sprinkling of the sea salt flakes.

After recently tasting Hotel Chocolate’s salted caramel chocolates I couldn’t resist making this cake as a birthday treat for Rebecca. I’ll warn you immediately it should come with a health warning for the vast quantities of terribly bad, (but delicious) ingredients! I’ll also admit it isn’t a particularly straightforward cake to bake, so clear a morning/afternoon to dedicate yourself to the task! I can however fully vouch for the end result being completely worth the effort!

I started by making the caramel which went without a hitch for the first batch. The second batch I took my eye off for what seemed like a second and I was suddenly surrounded by smoke and a billowing pan of black liquid!
Therefore top tip number one – watch your caramel very carefully! Let it boil gently at a medium heat and be patient.

I found I needed rather a large bowl for mixing the caramel, chocolate and butter to make the frosting – the bigger the better as you’ll end up with a whopping 1.5 litres of it! I think you could afford to make two thirds of the quantitiy and there’d still be plenty. I did have fun with the left over caramel and chocolate frosting though – The frosting sets to a truffle-like consistenty when left in the fridge for a few hours, so I pinched out cherry sized balls from the mix, rolled it into small balls and drizzled the left over reheated caramel over the top to make very simple truffles. Yum!

Although I love dark chocolate, If I made this cake again, I think I would substitue some of the dark chocolate for milk – maybe 300g dark to 150g milk (I like using galaxy in baking) just to make it a bit lighter. But that is entirely personal preference!

The cake mix is the most straightforward part of the cake and of all the mixes I’ve had the perk of licking out of the bowl, this was the best! The cake does come out quite crumbly though so I would use baking parchment and be careful taking it out of the tin in order to keep it in one piece.

Finally, by reheating the chocolate frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds before assembling the cake, it makes the frosting smooth on far more easily when you do the egdes and top.
Good luck and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the end product!

I think I need a lie down… feel free to leave inappropriate comments about the awesomeness that is this cake. I won’t judge you.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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