Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate layer cake with strawberry jam filling – simply good

Many times in life, I see that the simple things are the best. Jeans and tee’s are the best kind of clothes. A plain loaf of bread is one of the best food. This chocolate layer cake with strawberry jam filling is also a simple but very good cake. Who doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and strawberry jam anyway?

Actually, the recipe called for cherry jam, but I had some left-over strawberry jam, which was my elder son’s favorite, so I used strawberry jam instead, and it was a hit.

Recipe – adapted from the book “500 cakes – the only cake compendium you’ll ever need” by Susannah Blake (I got this book thanks to a good friend):

- 113g butter, room temperature.
- 93g caster sugar.
- 2 eggs.
- 93g self-raising flour.
- 2 TBSP (12g) unsweetened cocoa powder.
- ½ tsp vanilla extract.
- strawberry jam.

1. Preheat over to 180oC (350oF). Grease two 16-cm round cake tins and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Sift the flour and cocoa together and set aside.
2. With the mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla.
3. Fold in the flour mixture with a silicone spatula.
4. Divide the batter equally into 2 tins and spread out evenly.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. 
6. Reverse one cake (so the flat bottom looks up) and spread strawberry jam (or any kind of jam or cream you like) over the cake. Top with the second cake. Dust with cocoa powder if you like.

With simple ingredients, I got a delicious cake with warm cocoa aroma. It’s not as “heavy” as a pound cake, so I could eat a very big piece.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Zebra cake and animal prints fashion trend

Sometimes you see something and you like it at the first sight. You may not even know much about it, but you just like it because it looks too cute. Zebra cake is one of those things. When I saw a zebra cake photo, I knew right then and there that I would soon try to bake it. I’m not a fan of animal prints fashion trend, but a cake that looks like a zebra? It’s just too cute to ignore, and one important thing: it’s made of very simple ingredients. I didn’t have to buy anything else to bake this cake, great!

The one and only problem seemed to be making those alternative circles. Some recipes were read, some videos were watched, and I was still not that confident. But in all the recipes, no special tips were noted. So I thought: “Just go on and see” :).

With no special skills, I went on with the zebra cake. The making of those concentric circles was more simple than I had thought. Just one big spoon of vanilla batter and one spoon of cocoa batter, and repeat, and repeat. You’ll see that they work out on their own. Finally, it turned out, phew, a zebra cake.

When I took the cake out of the oven, the surface reminded me of a tiger, not a zebra. It was golden brown with dark brown circles. But when a piece was cut out, you can see why it’s called “zebra” but not “tiger”. Yes, my piece of cake did look like a zebra after all.

Here, the “tiger” right from the oven:

I put a piece of cake on a plate but then it looked so like a lonely zebra, so I added another piece. Now they looked like a zebra couple. Eat some golden kiwi, zebra couple, eat!

But I can’t figure out why there was a big hole under the surface of my cake. Seemed like there was a big air pocket in the batter. I must be careful next time, that’s if I bake this cake again. I’m saying that because the taste of the cake is nowhere near its good look. Despite the impressive appearance, the cake tasted just so-so, nothing spectacular. Maybe this is a bit like fashion trends. They may look very impressive at first but nothing about them is really special. Trends come and go, so if we can’t afford to follow the trends, there’s nothing to be frustrated about. Just save more money and be ready for the next waves :D.

Anyway, I’m just thinking that if I bake another zebra cake, I may use matcha powder in place of cocoa powder. Not that I’m so into matcha taste, I just think a zebra with green stripes may look even cuter :).

Now since this zebra cake included cocoa powder, I’m submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.

The original recipe is from King Arthur Flour. I halved the recipe to make a 16cm round cake. Below is the halved recipe (adapted):
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 120ml whole milk
- 120ml vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 135g All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 9g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I think natural unsweetened cocoa powder is fine too, I like the smell of natural cocoa better than Dutch-processed).
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175oC). Butter a 16cm round baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.
2. Use a hand mixer to blend the sugar and eggs until lightened, about 2 minutes (I blended for 3 minutes at medium speed). On low speed blend in the oil, milk and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine.
4. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until the batter is smooth and lump free. Be sure to scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing.
5. Remove 1 cup of the vanilla batter and place it in a bowl. Sift the cocoa over this batter, and stir well to combine. Be sure to use a sifter to avoid cocoa lumps in the batter. (Now the cocoa batter gets thicker than vanilla batter, and I realized that the cocoa powder didn’t dissolve so easily in the batter. So I guess next time I’ll mix cocoa powder with a little hot water until dissolved, then I’ll add this cocoa mixture to the separated batter. That is, if I bake this cake again).
6. Now you should use 2 large spoons, about 20-25ml each. Pour one large spoon of vanilla batter into the center of the cake pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Next, pour one large spoon of the chocolate batter into the center of the vanilla batter. This causes the vanilla batter to spread out. Continue to alternate batters, in bulls-eye fashion until all batter is used. You will now have thin rings of each batter on the outer edges of the pan, thicker rings towards the center. Note: Don’t tilt the pan to “help” the batters spread out.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar or frost if that strikes your fancy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chocolate chip madeleines and my second attempt

This is the first time I tried baking madeleines. Well, OK, it was actually not the first time. I baked the first batch almost a year ago and they never turned out madeleines. They were just some lumps of batter as hard as rocks but the insides were still wet, although I baked them for more than 30 minutes (and they were mini madeleines, can you believe it?). After a lot of consultations, I decided that I had beaten the egg whites completely wrong (yes, that recipe called for separated eggs and egg whites beaten till stiff, and I used a hand whisk to beat egg whites – I can’t even believe it!). I hadn’t collected enough courage to try madeleines again since then.

Until recently. The sea-shell shape of madeleines attracted me, once again, and with some experience in beating egg whites, I determined to bake another batch of madeleines. I found a good simple recipe at great Technicolor Kitchen blog without separating eggs. I followed the recipe pretty closely but just used Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of bittersweet chocolate chunks (because the chips were all I had on hands). The madeleines turned out really fine and my family loved them, although I think I overbaked them a little bit, because I didn’t realized that my madeleine pans were pretty shallow. Anyway, the texture was good. The cookies were soft and sweet and they were all eaten up within a day, so quick that I could just snap a small ugly photo with my phone – didn’t have time to bring out the real camera :).


I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted