Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake - Again!

You know me. When I like a particular cake, I will feature it again. It's clear from my archives which cakes I favour. :) This is one of them.

In my last post, I shared a Marble Cake recipe which I thought was absolutely delightful. I noticed though, that my children were fighting mainly for the chocolatey bits (good heavens!), and so I promised to bake them a chocolate cake next. Well, here it is today.

I wanted to make Tish Boyle's Chocolate Buttermilk Cake again, but this time in "whole cake" version. The last time I baked them, I used a Bundt-lette pan, just as she stated in her recipe, and got 6 mini loaves. I can now understand the rationale behind this.

This cake, when baked in a 7-inch pan, took double the baking time! I waited forever, while the cake took its own sweet time. Ah, the smell of a chocolate cake baking is pure heaven, and the waiting is sheer torture. My children came in and out of the kitchen countless times, harassing me for cake. Yes, harass.

Luckily, I had earlier saved some of the batter and poured them into 3 cupcake cups. So while the big cake was baking away, the smaller cupcakes were done in about 18mins, and I could throw them to my hungry mob and beg them to "please leave me alone now". True story.

Anyway, when the cake was finally done, it was dinner time, so I left it on a cooling rack at room temperature, until the next day. Then I sliced it and oohed at the sight of its velvety interior. Just take a closer look:

See what I mean? So soft and moist!

As I took photos, my children again circled me like vultures, asking for cake. My big boy said, "I tasted the cupcake yesterday and it was sooo delicious!" Special emphasis on the "sooo". Awwww! How sweet is that? Of course I hurried up and got my photos done so that they could eat. And eat we all did. It was the perfect chocolate cake ... and I am using the word "perfect" unabashedly. :)

I did not make changes to the recipe, save for 2 things: I chopped the chocolate a bit coarser, and cut down the sugar to 220g.

If you are using semi-sweet chocolate, I think you can further reduce the sugar by another 10 or 20g. I used Valrhona Caraïbe 66%, so I decided to err on the side of sweet, and it turned out to be just nice for us.

Oh, one other thing! If you intend to make a whole cake like I did, you need to adjust the temperature. I baked at 175°C for the first 30 minutes. After that, I lowered the temperature to 160°C for the next 40 minutes. Test with a skewer at round the 1 hour-mark. I also tented my cake throughout the entire baking time. This is important, because I can guarantee you a burnt top if you do not do this.

I managed to snap a photo of the batter! Gorgeous, isn't that? It reminded me of creamy melted ice cream. :) Fold in the chopped chocolate after this, and you're ready to bake!

Here's the reward for waiting. Enjoy!

Recipe can be found here. Please use good quality chocolate for the best results. For Singapore readers who want to know, I buy my Valrhona cocoa and chocolate from Sun Lik.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Old-fashioned Marble Cake

I love a good, simple cake. It is the true test of a recipe and the quality of the ingredients. A good cake does not need fancy frosting or gilded garnishing. It stands out on its own because of its taste and texture. Give me a good, simple cake any day, I say.

This old-fashioned Marble Cake is one such example, and it's no surprise that it's from one of those handwritten recipes that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Grandmother/Grandfather recipes are always the best. :)

I saw this cake at Pick Yin's lovely blog and was wowed by the beautiful, fine texture. I got even more excited when I saw that the recipe uses the "egg separation" method (beating yolks and whites separately, and then combining them). I had previously baked a Marble Cake using the "whole eggs" method but found the texture too blah.

So naturally, this joined my ever-growing list of "must-try" cakes, and I finally made it yesterday, all thanks to a sudden craving. You know the sad thing is, I realised the only way to have a real buttery, chocolatey marble cake is to bake it myself. Commercial ones seem to reek of margarine (or is it shortening?), which totally kills the cake. Honestly, I don't know of any bakery in Singapore which makes a good Marble Cake. Do you?

My word of caution is, the yolk/sugar/butter mixture is rather viscous, and you need to "loosen it up" with some egg whites before folding in the rest. There is also the challenge of making sure you fold thoroughly without overfolding in the process. A simple cake, no doubt, but one which does require some technique.

But do it right, and you'll get this:

A tender texture with just the right amount of bite AND it tastes even better on Day 2! I guarantee, you won't stop at one slice. I scarfed down 2 slices as I shared it on Twitter, and then climbed 70 flights of stairs as payback. Remember: a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. You have been warned. ;)

(from Life is Great - do hop over for a glimpse at the gorgeous Marble Cake!)

- 8 large eggs, separated
- 9 ozs (255g) castor sugar
- 12 ozs (340g) unsalted butter, softened
- 9 ozs (255g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsps good quality cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven at 160°C (convection fan on) with a wire rack in the middle. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with parchment, butter and flour. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment till light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar till light. Gradually add this into the butter and beat on medium speed till just incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in the meringue into the egg yolk mixture in 3-4 batches*. Add in the dry ingredients gradually until just incorporated.
* The first time I added the egg whites, it was impossible to fold. What I did was just mix it up with the thick yolk batter and "loosen up" the batter. The subsequent batches were much easier. I folded the whites in 3 batches.

3. Scoop out 1/4* of the batter in a separate bowl. Sieve cocoa powder over it and fold to mix well. Pour batters into tin, alternating between the two mixtures. Start with the yellow batter and end with the cocoa mixture. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. With a long skewer, swirl (sparingly) around the batter to create the marble effect. Bake for 40-55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
* This is somewhat arbitrary. A little more won't hurt, especially if you want a bit more chocolate in your cake! :)

4. Cool on wire rack completely before serving. Cake keeps at room temperature up to 3 days and can be frozen up to 3 months.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chocolate Malt Cake

April is birthday season for us. We celebrate 5 birthdays in the span of 30 days. Before we can recover from one cake, another one appears. ;) Pity our waistlines.

My big boy turned 7 some days back, and this was the Chocolate Malt Cake I baked for him. He loves his chocolate, so no surprises here.

Since it was a weekday, it was business as usual. But I let him open his presents and cut the cake before he went off to school. When I picked him up in the evening, he related to me how his classmates sang him a birthday song, and how that made him "very happy". :) Children. How precious it is to be contented with the simplest things in life.

We polished off about two-thirds of the cake that evening. It's a different sort of chocolate cake from my usual suspects, thanks to the addition of malt. Do you know how much I love malt? I love, love, love malted stuff!

BUT, after being so accustomed to the taste of pure Valrhona in my chocolate cakes, I found the taste of malt in this somewhat distracting. My hunch is that this cake would taste better if baked with Hershey's unsweetened cocoa instead of Valrhona's dutched cocoa (which I used). I suppose I have become a "100%-Valrhona-or-nothing" kinda girl. ;) But still, a good cake that everyone enjoyed!

And I am sure, so will you.

(from the lovely ovenhaven, who made the same cake for her own birthday last year, only much more stunning - see it to believe it!)

For the cake
- 225g butter
- 225g castor sugar
- 80g malted milk powder (I used Horlicks)
- 50g cocoa powder
- 4 eggs
- 200g self-raising flour
- 4 tbsp milk

For the icing
- 250g powdered sugar
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 45g malted milk powder
- 125g softened butter
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- 1 packet Maltesers, halved

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the malted milk powder, cocoa powder, eggs, flour and milk, and beat together until smooth and creamy.

3. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins, and bake for about 30mins, or until well risen and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

4. To make the icing, blend the boiling water, malted milk powder and cocoa powder together in a bowl, then set aside to cool.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and half of the powdered sugar together until creamy, then add the remaining powdered sugar and the cocoa mixture until well blended.

6. Sandwich the two cakes together with half of the icing, then spread the remaining icing over the top. Decorate with Maltesers around the sides of the cake.

Maltesers, anyone?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

Over the weekend, my daughter turned 13. Yup, officially a teen! :) Needless to say, it was a milestone, both for her and for me. It's not everyday your child goes from "kid" to "teen", so of course I made a big deal out of it. :)

For a start, I asked her what cake she'd like.

"Nothing in particular," she replied. "Actually, I don't need one."

Spoken like a true teen already. Oh, I know, I know! Birthday cake requests are made by little kids, aren't they? Teens don't need birthday cakes! They celebrate their birthdays with their fellow teens, at the mall, over pizza and soda, and then catch a movie. That kind of cool stuff, right? ;)

But I would not take no for an answer, and so we compromised. She'll celebrate her birthday with her friends at the mall, then watch The Hunger Games (which, in her words was "mega awesome"), BUT there will be cake and a nice French dinner with her mother (yes, that would be me).

After we agreed on that arrangement, I had to decide what cake to bake. I knew it would not be a chocolate cake. My older son - the chocoholic - will turn 7 next week, and I'll definitely be baking him a chocolate cake. So, I decided on something feminine, like a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake. And she LOVED it. In fact, she ended up polishing off two-thirds of the cake all by herself!

Me: "The cake is good? You like it?"

Daughter: *nods and continues eating*

Me: "Aren't you glad I insisted on baking you a cake?"

Daughter: *nods and looks slightly sheepish*

Me: "Do you know the moral of the story?"

Daughter: "What?"

Me: "Always listen to your mother!"


(minor alterations from Daily Delicious)

Making the génoise
- 3 eggs
- 90g caster sugar
- 90g cake flour (sifted)
- 20g unsalted butter (melted)
- 20ml fresh milk
Note: In all honesty, I will tweak this génoise recipe if I make this cake again. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I like the really soft, airy, moist type of sponge base. If you have eaten the cakes at Canele Pâtisserie or Tampopo Deli, you will know what I mean. But like I said, there is nothing wrong with this recipe.

Making the syrup
- 80g regular sugar
- 100ml water
- 10ml (2 tsp) liqueur (like rum or pure vanilla extract)
Note: I used 60g sugar + 80ml water + 1tsp vanilla extract and it was more than enough.

Making the whipped cream
- 400ml dairy whipping cream (minimum 35% fat)
- 40g icing sugar

1. Make the syrup by gently simmering the sugar and water in a saucepan. Let it cool to room temperature. When cooled, add the liqueur or pure vanilla extract.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line and grease an 18cm round cake tin with baking paper.

3. Beat the eggs until frothy, then gradually add in the sugar and continue beating until ribbon stage.
* The mixture should be very pale in colour, very thick, and tripled in volume. If you get this part wrong, you can kiss your cake goodbye because it will not rise (as there are no leavening agents used).

4. Take 3/4 cup of the egg mixture and mix it with the melted butter (let's call this Mixture A).

5. Sift the flour into the remaining egg mixture, fold gently to combine (let's call this Mixture B).

6. Pour Mixture A into Mixture B and fold gently, followed by the milk. Fold until combined.
* Make sure you fold gently so as to minimise deflating the precious air bubbles in the batter.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.

8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
* I tented the cake to prevent the top from burning.

9. When finished, let the cake cool to the room temperature before filling the cake.
* I baked the cake 1 day ahead and left it at room temperature.

Assembling the cake
1. Have 1 punnet of strawberries ready. The number of strawberries you use is dependent on what type (Korean varieties tend to be smaller than American ones), and how many you want to have in your cake. It's really up to you. Remove the leaves and cut the strawberries into halves. Some people use whole strawberries even!

2. Pour the cold whipping cream into a bowl and add the icing sugar. Whip until it forms medium stiff peaks.

3. Slice génoise into 2 or 3 layers (your preference).

4. Brush each layer with the syrup. This is important because the génoise will be very dry if you skip this.

5. Place the strawberry halves and cover the surface area of each layer. Pour/spread the whipped cream over the strawberries, burying them in the process. Put on the next layer and repeat.

6. Finally frost the entire cake with cream and top with strawberries. Chill the cake well before slicing/serving.
* Note that as this is fresh cream, you can't keep it out at room temperature for long because it will melt. And yes, it was a nightmare frosting the cake in tropical weather! So work fast! :)

PS: In case you are wondering why there are no "inside" shots of the cake, it's because I didn't bother to. You know how it's like with birthday cakes - once the wish is made and the candles are blown out, the cake would literally be chopped up and unceremoniously plonked onto plates for serving. At the same time, there would be little hands helping themselves to the garnishing (in this case, all 3 strawberries were plucked off the cake as I was doing the cutting). So yeah. No point showing everyone the gruesome details. ;) In fact, come to think of it, I have never seen a beautiful slice of birthday cake at any party I have ever attended!