Sunday, June 24, 2012
Strawberries & Cream Layer Cakes and Nielsen-Massey Product Review
I felt that to give you an honest and unbiased review I ought to do a blind taste test to compare Nielsen-Massey's premium vanilla extract with vanilla essence...is it really worth going the extra mile and using vanilla extract in your bakes? So without further ado I whipped up 28 mini vanilla cupcakes, half were made with vanilla flavouring/essence and half with Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract. I then found 14 willing volunteers who took part in the taste test, they ate one of each cake without knowing which was which.
Each tester was then asked to pick a favourite if they could taste a difference. And the results... 11 picked the Nielsen-Massey vanilla cupcake as their favourite, 2 picked the vanilla flavouring and 1 said they couldn't taste the difference.
So the results were fairly conclusive. My favourite quote from a tester was that the cake with the extract gave 'more of a vanilla experience'! Many testers also commented on the fact that the flavouring tasted and smelt more chemically and left an after taste, whereas the Nielsen-Massey product was more natural. I guess this is due to the fact that the extract is made with finest quality vanilla beans.
You can buy Nielsen-Massey vanilla products in many supermarkets and at Lakeland but one thing you will notice is the price differential between buying vanilla essence but as Mary Berry always says...'buy the best you can afford'.
So if you do bake regularly with vanilla or are making a special cake, I would recommend using vanilla extract if you are able as it doesn't just add flavour, it also complements and enhances other flavours too. If you watched the last series of Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard, he actually threatened to throw one lady out of his kitchen as she wasn't using vanilla extract!
I recently made these 'Window Cookies' using Nielsen-Massey's Madagascan Vanilla Bean Paste too. They had a lovely vanilla flavour and you could see the little seeds in the dough. The bean paste can also be used in custard, ice cream and creme brulee or in any other recipe that requires vanilla.
So there we have it! And now for the recipe...
mini cake tin. However, if you don't have mini cake tins it is still possible to make these. You can just make a regular large sponge and then use a circular cutter to cut out sponge rounds which can be stacked.
All I need now is a glass of Pimms....oh and maybe some sunshine! :-)
N.B I was sent the Nielsen-Massey vanilla products to review with no expectation but an honest opinion and I received no recompense for the review.
115g caster sugar
115g softened butter
85g self-raising flour
1tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
300ml double cream
1tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
200g icing sugar
Red and green sugarpaste
To make the sponge, whisk together the butter and sugar, it should be pale and fluffy. Then whisk in the eggs before sifting in the self-raising flour. Finally fold in the almonds along with the vanilla extract and divide between the cake tins. The recipe suggests this amount makes 10 cakes but I would suggest dividing it between 8 tins as it seemed a little sparse between 10. One thing to note is that the instructions don't suggest greasing the tin but just in case I greased and floured each one which I think helped.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180c/160c fan/gas 4 for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch. You can then allow to cool in the pan. To remove slide a knife around the edge of each pan. To finish follow the instructions above.
* Recipe adapted from mini cakes & other bitesize treats