Friday, August 30, 2013

Apple & Blackcurrant Crumble Sponge Cake

Every Friday at work we have 'Cake Friday' which as the name suggests is when we convene for cake! Each week a different person provides the cake and one of the cake club favourites is Waitrose's Seriously Buttery Apple and Blackcurrant Crumble Cake. We discussed at length how it would be good to make this cake at home but none of us has gotten round to trying it! It's a very light cake and the crumble adds interest, as does the blackcurrant as it is not as commonly used in a sponge as strawberry or raspberry.
In general I'm not that brave when it comes to ad-libbing with recipes which is perhaps why it's taken me so long to attempt this...I generally stick to recipes the gram! To make this though doesn't deviate too much from the norm. It's a 6 inch Victoria Sandwich recipe to which I added 100 grams of stewed apple. I did contemplate adding grated apple or apple that was finely chopped but was worried that it may sink? Does anyone have any good suggestions about how to add apple to a sponge? The stewed apple melted into the sponge giving a sweet taste but not a discernibly appley taste.
Once the two sponges were ready to go in the oven I sprinkled a crumble topping over one of the sponges and then they were baked as normal. Then once cool I turned the bottom sponge upside down and spread it with blackcurrant jam, although you could make your own blackcurrant compote, and then piped on some Swiss meringue buttercream before placing the crumble sponge on top. The Swiss meringue buttercream is a good choice as it's lighter and much less sweet than regular buttercream; it is also most reminiscent of the Waitrose cake.
The overall cake tasted really nice and it's something a bit different without being too difficult to make. I gave the cake to my mum and dad and they both enjoyed it. It is quite sweet however, so you don't need too big a slice! If I were to make it again I think I might try the small chunks of apple to see if you can get a noticeable taste or texture of apple and I think I'd add a little more of the crumble mixture on the top.

If you'd like to try this recipe then just take your favourite Victoria Sponge recipe and add some stewed apple or diced apple before baking. Also sprinkle the top of one of the sponges with a crumble mix before it goes in the oven. To sandwich the cakes together use blackcurrant jam or homemade blackcurrant compote and Swiss meringue voila!

Waitrose describe their cake as 'A buttery cake with diced apple pieces, sprinkled with butter crumble topping, split and filled with layers of buttercream and blackcurrant jam' and I think this homemade version lives up to that billing!
I'm entering this cake into August's Calendar Cakes which this month is hosted by Rachel from Dolly Bakes and is hosted bi-monthly here at Laura Loves Cakes. The theme this month is Summer Lovin' and as blackcurrants are a seasonal summer fruit this cake fits in nicely. Check out next month's theme here on 1st September.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Baking Course at Squires Kitchen

As mentioned in my previous post I haven't been able to do much baking of late for a number of reasons so I was really pleased to have booked a place on the Squires Kitchen 5 day baking course some 6 months ago. I've been looking forward to attending since booking and this course didn't disappoint. 
Squires Kitchen is based in Farnham and caters for both baking and decorating enthusiasts and has an attached shop. Squires also produce many of their own products. The school itself is bright and modern and it is also well equipped. The maximum number of students in each class is 10 and the tutors are knowledgeable and keen to help. Our tutor for the week was Mark Tilling who was UK Chocolate Master for several years in a row and he also came 7th in the World Finals in 2007!

So what did we make on the course? Well day one was pastry so we made a shortcrust that we then used to make the Raspberry and Frangipane Tart that you can see in the first photo. This would be a perfect dessert if you had friends round for dinner.

We also made some puff pastry containing yeast...this was my least successful endeavour of the week but I'm glad to have tried it as it will give me the confidence to try again in the future. We used our puff pastry to make Croissants as well as Pain aux Raisins. We also made the pastry cream to spread inside the pain aux raisins.

In addition to the shortcrust and puff pastry we also made choux pastry to make little choux buns. Unfortunately I can't share any of the recipes from the course with you here but we did learn one major top tip on choux that I can share with's AMAZING!

When making choux buns, the traditional way is to pipe small amounts on to a baking sheet, however to get regularly sized buns you can actually pipe the mix into half-sphere silicone moulds. You then scrape the top to make it level. The whole mould is then popped in the freezer. To cook the buns you can just pop them out of the mould after about 20 minutes to half an hour and put them on your baking sheet as usual! Alternatively once frozen, turn the buns out from the mould and put them in a freezer bag and then keep in the freezer until you need them...ingenious! Although the choux will all end up an even size they still puff up differently so retain a bit of individuality without becoming too regimented. Apparently you can also buy éclair shaped silicone moulds too.
Once we'd baked our choux buns we made a filling which was a Chantilly cream, which was a combination of the pastry cream and whipping cream. The good thing about this course was that we didn't just make choux buns and then leave it at that, we also learn lots of decorating tips and different flavour combinations. So we created lemon choux buns with lemon Chantilly which were dipped in yellow fondant icing. Chocolate choux with chocolate Chantilly, these were also decorated with a square of chocolate with a chocolate transfer design, and finally strawberry choux buns with a little strawberry jam in the bottom and vanilla Chantilly cream on top, these were finished off with small slices of strawberry and dried rose petals.
Day two was cake day. We looked at how to perfect some classic recipes. We made a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a fabulous Victoria Sandwich which was light, airy and delicious and it also had a perfectly flat, as opposed to a domed top. Inside the Victoria sandwich is a lovely Swiss meringue buttercream.
Finally, we made a fruit cake which was protected from burning with a double layer of greaseproof paper to line the tin and brown paper around the outside. We also learnt some other tricks to get a perfect finish every time. Apologies for the photos...not great on an IPhone under strip lighting! :-)
Later on in the week we had a go at perfecting the art of macaroon making. The ones you can see below are lemon macaroons with lemon Swiss meringue buttercream and homemade blackcurrant jam which was brought in by one of the other students...this was a really great flavour combination.
To add interest to the macaroons we looked at different ways of decorating them. Mark, the course tutor, showed us a speckled technique using a brush and liquid colour which is done before they go into the oven. An alternative is a brush stroke which you can see below which looks quite modern and is done after they are baked.  Mark also has a great book called Squires Kitchen's Guide to Making Macaroons which gives lots of variations on macaroon flavours and decoration.
Another rather refined treat that we were able to master is the Gateau Opera which consists of very thin layers of sponge which were brushed with a coffee syrup and layered up with coffee meringue buttercream and chocolate ganache. The finished product could happily grace any an afternoon tea. If you fancy making one you can find Eric Lanlard's recipe for one large Gateau Opera here.
The final day was bread day. We produced a classic white loaf that can easily be modified by the addition of such things as raisins or sun dried tomatoes. Some students baked their loaf in a tin whilst I opted for the plait below which was egg-washed and covered in seeds...I ate a few slices with my dinner that day and it was perfectly light and soft.
We also made granary rolls and had a go at shaping them in various different designs as you can see below. My favourite is the classic roll or the plait. Again these were finished either with egg wash, seeds or flour.
Finally, was a rye loaf. I went for the loaf tin on this one and we had a go at slashing the top with a razor blade (attached to a skewer) and I decided to flour the top. I asked when the loaf should come out of it's tin and apparently it depends on whether you want a crusty or a soft loaf. If you take it out of the tin, you will get crusty bread, if you leave it in but uncovered it will be soft on the sides and crusty on top. If you leave it in the tin and cover it with a clean tea towel immediately as it comes out of the oven it will be soft on all sides!
I really enjoyed this course at Squires, it was really nice to be baking after a little break and we produced some lovely treats and picked up some top tips along the way, so I'd highly recommend it!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Calendar Cakes Round Up - July

As the saying goes 'better late than never' here is the Calendar Cakes round up for July. As mentioned in the announcement post it's been rather a busy time recently and I've been away for the last few weeks too, so my poor little blog has been sadly neglected but hopefully soon I'll have more time again and I can get back to some baking and blogging! :-)

The theme for July's Calendar Cakes was fruit as its the perfect time of year to visit a PYO to stock up on all the luscious fruits that summer brings. Apparently it's also going to be a bumper year for blackberries too, although they will ripen a little later than usual. Anyway without further ado here is the round up...
Our first entry was from Let Them Eat Cake and it was this gorgeous Summer Fruits Vanilla Cake. I love the piping and you can check out more great bakes on the Let Them Eat Cake Facebook page.
Next up is a Honey Almond Cake with Macerated Strawberries from the Hungry Hinny. This recipe was inspired by a visit to Romania! The honey is acacia honey and it came from a farmer in Romania. The finished product looks really tasty and perfect for summer.
Like me Katharine from Leeks and Limoni loves fresh fruit in cake, berries are in fact my favourite so this cake would be perfect for me as it's a Three Berry Cake with strawberries, raspberries and Katharine says it's summer on a plate!
A more unusual fruit next from Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker who has given us a Fig, Yoghurt and Walnut Cake with Pomegranate and Pistachio. Ros describes the cake as sheer perfection as it is both moist and flavourful and it certainly has visual appeal too. The moistness comes from the syrups which are used on the baked cake...looks delicious!
Bundt queen and co host of Calendar Cakes, Rachel from Dolly Bakes made this Strawberries and Cream Bundt which would be perfect to celebrate the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Rachel reports that the cake is supremely moist with a delicate flavour and firm sugar crust.
Lottie from Lottie's World of Cakes and Bakes made these Strawberry and Chocolate Cupcakes for her classmates on her graduation day after finishing 6 years at university. The chocolate cupcake recipe comes from the Hummingbird Bakery and the strawberries and chocolate make perfect partners. Well done to Lottie on her graduation too!
Baking in Pyjamas entered a Strawberries and Cream Buckle with a Hint of Lemon. I must confess that I've never heard of a buckle before but as far as I can ascertain from Google, it's a old-fashioned single layer cake with the filling mixed in!! Regardless of the definition this looks seriously tasty and it also has a streusel topping and a glaze.
Next up a showstopper from Mummy Makes Cakes, it's a Fruit Topped Chocolate and Vanilla Swirled Sponge. The cake is a chocolate and vanilla swirled sponge with vanilla frosting and Cadbury's fingers around the outside. The finishing touch is chocolate covered strawberries on the top, this cake would be perfect for a special occasion.
Eclairs are currently enjoying a moment, so Caroline of Caroline Makes is on trend with these Mini Apple and Chocolate Eclairs. The recipe is from a book called 'Secrets of Eclairs' and Caroline added stewed apples inside before the cream which is an interesting twist on a traditional éclair.
Just the sight of this next cake will make your taste buds tingle, it's a Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake from Cupcakery. This cheesecake was created as a result of an excess of chocolate cake and I can't think of a better way of using it up...yum!
Next up Triple Strawberry Cupcakes from Tea with Erika. If you want strawberries, strawberries and more strawberries then this is the one for you! There is strawberry jam in the batter, diced strawberries mixed in and then strawberries on the top with Chantilly cream. That may also be the world record for the number of times the word strawberries has been used in one paragraph! These cupcakes look really lovely and Erika made them for a friend's birthday. Strawberries ;-)
Shirley from Bells Bakery made this delicious looking Strawberry and Frangipane Tart. It's so good that Shirley would rank it amongst her all-time favourite tarts as the pastry is crunchy and the frangipane lasted all of 10 minutes when it came out of the oven...that's pretty good going!
Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog always comes up with interesting recipes and this one is no's Raspberry, Rose and White Chocolate Cake. This was made for a pop up café in Liskeard and is described as having a slight puddingy quality...anything pudding related gets my vote.
Dawn from a Cup of Tea and a Slice of Cake made this scrumptious looking Coconut Meringue Roulade. The recipe is from Rachel Allen but Dawn found it a little bit sickly but has decided to give it another go. This roulade contains strawberries which are a nice alternative to the raspberries in the original recipe.
Next another lovely chocolate and strawberry combination from Tasty Recipes and Other Stuff who made these Malteser and Strawberry Muffins with Vanilla Buttercream Icing. What's not to love with moist muffin, strawberries and Maltesers which would be my chocolate of choice! :-)
As I was away I wasn't able to make anything especially for July's Calendar Cakes but you might like this Peaches and Cream Upside Down Cake which I made this time last year. Click here for the recipe. It was completely delicious and it just so happens that it's currently National Peach Month!
Thanks to everyone who entered July's Calendar Cakes, all the entries were fab. If you'd like to enter in August then head over to Dolly Bakes where the theme is Summer Lovin'.