Monday 10 October 2011

Cakes galore!

Thanks for your advice about focaccia - I did all those things, and it was far *too* wet.  Like, actually liquid.  So that's the last time I trust Paul Hollywood.

Luckily I have no such trouble with sweet things (is this the kitchen's way of telling me to steer away from savoury?) So today I thought I'd share some of my baking creations with you - through photos and recipes, if not actually in edible form. Here they all are:

Obviously I didn't make the crisps, but the rest are products of my hours in the kitchen. Some of you were asking for recipes, so I thought I'd make this into one of my absolutely-simple-easy-baking posts, which can be ignored by those of you who are either (a) much better bakers than me, or (b) wholly uninterested in baking. But everyone likes looking at pictures of cake, right? I'm only actually going to type out one full recipe today, but will link to another two, and explain a fourth.

First things first, and the thing which went down best with the dozen or so people who came to eat cake, we have mini chocolate orange tortes. I basically put together elements of three different recipes from Afternoon Teas by Valerie Ferguson, and added the twist of orange zest. I've made chocolate torte before, but I thought it might be fun, and easier to serve, to make lots of mini tortes. I think it worked better - more pastry in the pastry-to-ganache ratio, which makes them feel a little less rich. I'll list the ingredients in various measuring forms at the beginning, and then just in grams as I go on. It's annoying to have to scroll up and down a webpage, if you're making them from a computer screen...

Mini Chocolate Orange Tortes

Makes about 18

For the Pastry
225g/8oz/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
115g/4oz/half a cup butter/margarine
Two tablespoons icing (confectioners') sugar
1 egg
teaspoon vanilla essence

For the Filling
335ml/11 fl oz/one and a third cups double (heavy cream)
350g/12oz dark chocolate
Zest of an orange

You'll also need a fairly shallow cupcake baking tray - if that's the correct name for one with 12 inlays for cupcake cases! (Or, in this case, tortes.) Until I learn a better word for those things, I'm calling them 'inlays' - which sounds ridiculous, but I have to call them something. This is the one I used, which I think came from Robert Dyas:

1.) Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (imagine degree signs there, would you?)

2.) Sift 225g plain flour into a bowl, add 115g diced butter/margarine, and work with fingers until it's breadcrumby.
I always use a wooden spoon to start with, because I hate putting my hands in mixture at the best of times - once the margarine is worked in a bit, it's less unpleasant.

3.) Stir in two tablespoons icing sugar, then add an egg (which you should have beaten in a mug or similar first). Also add a tablespoon of water, or slightly less. Better less than more at this point. Work into a dough.

4.) Roll out into a dough.
Those five little words sound so easy... I hate using dough, which seems to delight in getting stuck everywhere. So I put flour all over the counter and the rolling pin and my hands and EVERYTHING. It should be rolled pretty thin, but not so you can see the counter through it.

5.) Cut into circles with a cookie-cutter. I didn't have a cutter big enough, so used a tupperware container. Crucially, the circles have to be big enough to go up the sides of your baking tray inlays, otherwise the filling won't work... Once you've cut your circles, put them in the pre-greased tray.

6.) Prick the bases with a fork, line each one with baking parchment (squares will do) and ceramic baking beans.
If you don't own ceramic baking beans (and you should!) then any dried beans will do, or rice, or anything heat-proof to weigh the pastry down so it doesn't rise while baking.

7.) Bake for 10 minutes - then remove paper and beans, and return to oven for another 5 or so minutes, until they're golden. Remove from the tin and put on a cooling rack.

Depending on how deep the tray inlays are, you may have to bake some more cases now (I did) - reusing the baking parchment, of course.

You might need a bit of a break before you do the next step, as the filling doesn't take long and the pastry cases need to be cool before you add it.
So... go and have a cup of tea and read a book.

Ready? Ok, let's make the filling.

8.) Bring 335ml double cream to the boil in a pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in 350g chopped dark chocolate and the zest of an orange. Keep stirring until it has all melted.
For those in the UK, I actually find that Sainsbury's Value dark chocolate works and tastes the best here. Not sure about the ethics of the chocolate production, but it's definitely cheaper and better than their other ranges.

9.) Spoon the mixture into the cases, and leave to set - putting them in the fridge when they're room temperature.

10.) The filling is *very* rich and quite smooth, and I find a topping of a cracklier chocolate is nice - I used Cocoa Nibs from Divine Deli's Decorate! which I've now sadly finished. Must find some more... don't seem to be available from their website, but you can browse their range, and now I want it ALL.

Ok, you're done. Enjoy! (I find they're at their best if they've been in the fridge overnight, so these can be made in advance of a party, maybe...)

This is looking like a long post, but the next two won't take very long, promise...

These profiteroles came from Mary Berry's Baking Bible, borrowed from Verity. It's more or less the same as this recipe here, only in the Baking Bible she doesn't leave them in the oven quite as long - the last ten minutes are optional, post-splitting of profiteroles. I didn't bother with a piping bag to put them on the tray, which is why they're a bit misshapen. My twist on the recipe was to add some Bailey's to the cream, pre-whipping, which was (though I say it myself) rather a stroke of genius. Mmmmmm. Plus, it would keep my brother away from them...

For the brownies, I followed this recipe, with no twist at all! (Measurements only in cups, so I had to do lots of online conversions.) Oddly I found it while searching for date brownie recipes, but it wasn't until I started baking that I realised they don't actually have dates in them. So now I have a packet of dates to use later!

Finally, the miniature Victoria sandwiches - this was an idea lovely Jo used on Great British Bake Off, and I thought it sounded fun. I'm not going to give the full recipe, because it's just a normal sponge cake - the difference is the presentation. Bake it in a deep, rectangular baking tin, rather than circular one. Once it cooled, I got my Holly-from-Bake-Off on, and whipped out a ruler. These are 5-by-3.5cm rectangles, but basically do sizes which look sensible. Pick cuboids of cake which look about the same size as each other - spread jam on one, butter icing on the other, and sandwich together! (For butter icing, use twice as much icing sugar as butter/marg.) A fun way to make (almost)bitesize pieces of cake which doesn't involve a lot of knife-wielding during a party. (They will, of course, go stale more quickly - but I don't know of any houses where that's really an issue...)

Phew! We're done. Hope you don't mind such a long baking post, I'll be back to books next time. Do let me know if you plan on trying out any of these recipes!


  1. Wow - seriously impressive! Let me know if you want to borrow any more baking books - I guess I could take a photo of my shelves and you could say what you wanted to borrow?!

  2. Cake always cheers me up on a Monday:) I may have to go and get some real ones! Very impressive, Simon!

  3. Mmm, cake. Looks impressive Simon.

  4. Simon, you should join the WI. Can't your mum wangle you in as a member?

  5. Everything looks delicious, especially the brownies! This is a post to bookmark, thanks for the recipe and inspiration, Simon.

  6. Very impressive! They look so delicious.

  7. Wow. I've been catching up on episodes of The Great British Bake Off this weekend, as well as baking pies, tarts, and turnovers myself, so my mind was already full of baking thoughts before I even saw your post. The brownies look delicious and I love seeing the Victoria sponge presented that way. You've definitely made me realise that I need to get my own tiered stand, too!

  8. Everything looks delicious. As much as I love brownies, I would have sat down with the plate of Victoria sponge and eaten the whole thing. Speaking of brownies. Date brownies? Is that a thing? It shouldn't be.

    BTW, I have only been able to find the first three episodes on GBBO online. I am not sure what I will do if I can' find he rest.

  9. I loved Jo's idea of mini Victoria sponges. Yours look delicious too. In fact it allclooks delicious - photographs
    of cake, especially homemade, are always welcome reading.

  10. Very impressed and very hungry now.

    I am itching to bake, especially after the GBBO. I love the look of them all.

    oooo I have time this week to bake as well.....

  11. Let me recommend Marcella Hazen for a focaccia recipe. We are fond of making one which is stuffed with basil, mozzarella and rocket. Of course you should continue to pursue "savoury"!!

    As far as I know, you just have to be over 18 to join the WI. No mention of any tests for your sex.

  12. I love baking posts and your cakes always look outrageously good. I love those mini victoria sponges - can see them going down a treat with my son and his friends. I recommend lemon drizzle cake as a great, easy but stylish sort of bake.

  13. What a marvellous array of cake!

    I also tried Paul Hollywood's foccacia recipe at the weekend. It was very, very sticky but I did eventually get something like dough. I doubt Paul would have rated the end product although it tasted great - you can't go wrong with that much olive oil and salt, really.

  14. Oh my goodness, those chocolate orange tortes just might have to find their way to my kitchen! :)(Confession:I've never heard of ceramic baking beans.) It all looks delicious, and now I am VERY hungry. It's finally cooled off enough down here to bake (and we actually got RAIN this weekend for the first time since June - yay!). Off to go see what I have in the pantry...

  15. Oops...can't let this one pass...I have to agree with Thomas - brownies with dates sound totally wrong! :)

  16. Yum!

    I think the brownies with dates sound incredible! My favourite is sticky toffee pudding with dates - will have to get that one up on my blog the next time I make it...

  17. Wow, that's aquite an impressive spread there! I do like all the cake stands as well. I have plans for making Victoria sponge this coming weekend as I made jam this past weekend and it was miles cheaper to buy jars with stuff in from Sainsburys than it was to buy empty ones from Robert Dyas, as a consequence of which I now have large quantities of cheap lemon curd in a tupperware box in the fridge which wants using up (22p a jar). Hopwfully mine turn out looking as tasty as yours.

  18. I love this post! It all looks unbelievably yum! The brownies are exceptional. And thanks for including the recipes. I am definitely going to be trying out some of these.


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