Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Coffee and walnut layer cake

After I made my first 5 layer cake to test out my new set of cake tins my Dad saw the photo and put in a request for a similar cake for his birthday this weekend. Being a lovely wonderful daughter (if you're reading this Dad I'm sure you'll agree) I duly obliged and baked him his favourite coffee and walnut cake. Sharing this cake with my parents was also a bit of a treat for me as I rarely get to bake with coffee as my boyfriend doesn't really like it.

I got a bit of a workout making this cake as my Mum doesn't own a stand mixer and is also without an electric hand whisk at the moment (it's still in France) so I had to wield a wooden spoon. As I own both a stand mixer and an electric whisk it's been a long time since I made a cake by hand and I had forgotten how much hard work it was! Fortunately I made sure the butter was very soft before I started.

When I posted photos of this cake on Instagram on Dad's birthday, I had lots of comments about how big the cake was. I'm not going to lie, you do get a very generous portion when cutting into this cake but when it's for a birthday you want a bit of greedy indulgence. Dad certainly didn't complain and wolfed his piece down quickly. 

Ingredients - serves 8 generously

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
75g finely chopped walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 rounded tsp instant barista style coffee dissolved in 1.5 tbsp hot water
1-2 tbsp milk

For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
4 tsp very strong coffee made with 2 rounded tsp instant barista style coffee and 1.5 tbsp hot water
8 walnut halves for decoration
  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour the cake tins, you need 5 x 6 inch cake time to make a layer cake or 2 x 8 inch rims to make a sandwich cake.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the coffee and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and chopped walnuts making sure all the flour is incorporated then divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  • While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. Beat the butter until it is soft and fluffy then add the icing sugar and 2 tsp of coffee. Beat together until the icing sugar is incorporated then add the remaining coffee and beat until smooth. 
  • When the cakes are cold spread a layer of buttercream on the cake you want to use for the bottom layer and stack the next cake on top. Continue layering the buttercream and cakes and finish the top layer with a thick coating of the buttercream then decorate with the walnut halves. 
I impressed myself at how light the sponge was considering I had to do all the hard work with my arms instead of a mixer. Maybe I should ditch the mixer more often and give myself mini workouts when I bake, makes eating the cake more rewarding :) 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: Cold Brew T Bottle From Whittard

We may be in the middle of September but the days are still warm and mostly sunny, at least they are where I am and a long cold drink still provides welcome refreshment. I was recently offered the opportunity to review some new products for Whittard of Chelsea and after browsing their website, the Cold Brew T Bottle caught my eye so I asked if I could try it along with a couple of  loose leaf green teas. I received a packet of the dragon well long jing and a packet of the mango & bergamot flavoured green tea.

You may have noticed a trend this summer for cold brew coffee and tea. The idea is that by infusing ground coffee or loose leaf tea for several hours in cold water in the fridge, the flavour is released without any of the bitterness that can occur when tea and coffee is brewed with hot water. For their Cold Brew T bottle, Whittard recommend using 5-7 heaped tsp (15g) of tea and filling the bottle up with cold water to the 750ml mark. The bottle has 3 small discreet markings designating 400ml, 600ml and 750ml. The tea can then be left in the fridge with the lid on to infuse for 3-6 hours before being poured through the built in strainer. This is a fine mesh concealed within the silicone lid and ensures that no tea leaves end up in your glass

Whittard recommend savouring the chilled tea with food in a similar way to enjoying a good wine. I usually drink water with my lunch but since I've had this bottle, I've been enjoying cold brewed green tea instead on days when I'm working at home. The flavour is more delicate than when brewed with hot water and I've found that even if the tea is left to brew for longer than 6 hours there is no bitterness. The dragon well long jing is particularly delicate and has a pretty pale yellow-green colour with the characteristic green tea flavour. The mango and bergamot tea has a fantastic fragrance, it kind of reminds me of sherbet somehow and I love the taste of it. It's fruity and green but not too sweet and it works very well as a cold drink, I can't actually imagine drinking this tea hot, I don't think it would work for me like that. The mango and bergamot tea is a bolder green colour and when infusing in the bottle, the mixed flower petals (rose, cornflower and sunflower) look very pretty swirling about with the tea leaves.

Overall I think the Cold Brew T bottle is a great product and I'm looking forward to trying it out with some of the other loose leaf teas I have in my cupboard whilst the weather is still lovely and warm. I do however think that the amount of tea suggested to use for a full bottle is a lot and I have had equally good results by using slightly less tea (4-5 tsp) and brewing for longer.

Thank you to Whittard of Chelsea for sending me these products to review, as always all opinions are my own and I was not paid for this post. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Balsamic roasted strawberry and white chocolate layer cake

In the middle of the summer I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the Lakeland press show where I got to see a whole new range of products. One of the things that really caught my eye was the Wilton Easy Layer Cake Pan Set which Lakeland very kindly offered to let me try out for a review. In the box you get 5 tins, each one measuring 6 inches across. On the front of the box is a picture of a rainbow cake which my boyfriend really wanted me to make but I fancied trying something a bit different. There are recipes provided with the cake tins but as Wilton is an American company, all of the recipes use cup measures which I find difficult to visualise and I didn't want go to the effort of looking up the conversions. I took a guess at the quantity of cake batter needed to make this cake just by eyeballing the cake tins next to my usual 8 inch sandwich tins which I know take a 4 egg mixture. The result was slightly thinner layers than I anticipated but when the cake is stacked up I think it's fine and you still get plenty of cake with every slice. I think a 5 egg mixture would work just as well here to give deeper layers.

Update (16/9/14): Lakeland have just told me that there are some recipes in metric for these tins here so do take a look for inspiration.

After pondering a few different ideas for my first 5 layer cake, I ended up settling on strawberries and white chocolate. I read a lot about roasted strawberries on various blogs last year and decided to give it a go as a filling for the cake. I chose a recipe where the strawberries are roasted in balsamic vinegar because I didn't want them to be too sweet as I thought that with the sweet vanilla cake and the white chocolate buttercream, there needed to be a slight contrast in flavours.

Ingredients - serves 8

For the cake:
225g softened butter
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk

For the roasted strawberries: original recipe here
450g hulled fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending on size
1.5 tbsp vanilla sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the white chocolate buttercream:
125g butter
250g icing sugar
150g white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk
Red or pink food colouring - optional

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour the cake tins. 
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla and milk. Fold in the flour and then divide the batter evenly between the cake tins. I weighed the batter in each tin to get even sized layers and put approximately 170g batter in each tin. 
  • Transfer the cake tins into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. 
  • In a medium sized roasting dish, combine the strawberries, sugar and balsamic. 
  • Leave the oven on after removing the cakes and roast the strawberries for about 45 minutes or until reduced in size and the balsamic/strawberry juice is slightly syrupy. Remove the strawberries from the liquid with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on a plate. 
  • Next make the buttercream, first of all melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then leave to cool. Beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the icing sugar, vanilla extract, milk and food colouring (if using), then beat until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat thoroughly until combined. 
  • To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on a plate and top with a layer of buttercream, you can be quite generous with it, followed by a layer of strawberries. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and spread a thick layer of buttercream on the final layer. 
  • Don't throw away the balsamic strawberry syrup, it's lovely drizzled over a some plain yoghurt or a scoop of ice cream. If you were feeling really indulgent then you could serve this cake with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of the syrup.  

The verdict on the cake from my boyfriend was that it was really good and his second favourite cake of the year after his birthday cake. My verdict on the cake tins is that they are very easy to use, the lip on the edge makes it easy to grab them from the oven with thick gloves on. To prepare them for baking I just greased them with butter and dusted with a little flour and the cakes came out perfectly with no sticking. I only have one shelf in my oven (the joys of renting and not being able to choose your own appliances) so I had to bake in batches but I easily managed to get 3 of the tins on one shelf at once. It's my Dad's birthday this weekend and after seeing a photo of this cake, he's requested a 5 layer cake so I'll be heading off to Dorset on Friday with my 5 layer tins to bake him something tasty. I think he's hoping for a coffee and walnut cake so look out for photos on my Instagram profile this weekend to see what I make. 

Disclaimer: I was sent these cake tins for review and was not expected to provide a positive review, all opinions are my own. I was not paid for this post.