Saturday, 24 July 2010

A slice for you and I

I decided to stay home today to accompany my mum who's still recovering post-surgery.  We spent the day shredding my private documents which had accumulated over the space of a few years and oh my goodness; we filled two bin bags and that was excluding blank envelopes, leaflets, catalogues, etc... I have to say though, looking at my room you still can not tell I have just removed two bin bags worth of junk from it.  Once we had dumped the contents into the recycling bin, I decided it was time for tea.  A tea break sounded amazing, but tea with cake sounds even better so off to the kitchen I trundled with subtle positive encouragement from mother dearest.  Once there though, I had problems thinking of a cake to make - you see, recently my sister has been on a bit of a diet and I've noticed that my eating habits have not been much better so I wanted to opt for a healthier cake.  I thought of a swiss roll but I really dislike the ones with nothing fresh in them, and I really didn't want to walk to the shops, so I pondered some more... Wouldn't a chocolate cake be amazing with a cherry filling? Mmmm, now there's an idea, maybe a fat free chocolate sponge? That should work!  A brief rumage through my baking draw and out came all the ingredients needed for a chocolate sponge, I'm doing well today it seems. 

Amazingly, the mixture doubled in bulk in the oven and didn't collapse

Normally when I'm home with my parents, my mum, sister and I go to town and take a tea break whilst there.  This usually consists of the mentioned tea and a naughty slice of cake, but since my mama's surgery going to town hasn't been possible, but she's getting stronger everyday so hopefully we'll resume our trips together soon.  In the meantime though tea is taken at home which suits me just as much as it gives me an excuse to get messy in the kitchen.

Morello Cherry Conserve

I do not bake sponges often, but I can confirm that beating eggs with a whisk until tripled in bulk is possible by hand, it's just slightly quicker with an electrical whisk.  I can happily admit I am a sloth at heart, therefore I use a hand blender with a whisk attachement.  I must say though, if you have time on your hands, it's quite satisfying seeing this eggy gloop turn into a beautiful fluffy mass and doing it by hand in my opinion gives it a glossier appearance.  Today is the first time I tried the whisking over a double boiler over a low heat- this is simply a small pan of some gently simmering water with a bowl over the top with the sugar and egg mixture in, gently warming the mixture without burning or scorching it - in this case scrambling it.

So far so good, cherry conserve on one side and buttercream on the other

The scent of chocolate permeating the air is something a cafe can't recreate and moments like this I do cherish.  Mama was right when she said nothing can beat homemade cakes, or homemade anything come to that.  It's not just the taste and texture, it's the whole experience from thinking about what to make to serving your finished creation.  Teatime is just so much more satusfying with homemade goodies- not that I object to the occasional teatime out, some cafes have their own little charm- just look at the Art House Cafe

Viola!
I am happy to say that the cake turned out almost perfectly, ignoring the slight incident with the cake refusing to let go of the cooling rack (aka my masquerading grill rack).  After much teasing and coddling, they let go and continued their journey to become one.  At this point, I would love to acknowledge the miraculous ability of icing sugar to hide scars and holes - icing sugar, I commend you.  I would also like to take this opportunity to praise the morello cherry conserve - it was sweet but not overly so with a tart kick which went wonderfully with the chocolate sponge.  Whilst the cake was cooling, I decided coffee was better suitor with chocolate and cherry so out came the cafetiere, and about an hour after my first thought of a tea break popped up, cake and coffee was served.  My verdict? Scrummy and guilt-free as no butter went into the sponge, just a smidgen in the buttercream.  Mum's verdict? She wanted seconds!

That didn't last long...

Chocolate Sponge Cake
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:
  • 100g Self-raising flour
  • 25g Cocoa
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 125g Caster sugar
  • 85g Icing sugar plus extra to dust
  • 40g Butter
  • 1tsp Milk approx.
  • 2-3Tbsp Cherry (Morello) Conserve
Method:
  1. Grease and line the base of two deep sandwich tins (around 20cm) then preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F.
  2. Set a pan of water (about 2cm deep) to a gentle simmer and place a bowl over the top, keeping the heat very low.  Meanwhile, mix the flour and cocoa together until well combined.
  3. Add the egg and sugar together in the bowl and whisk until tripled in bulk and thick enough that a trail is left behind when the whisk is lifted.
  4. Remove from  the heat, and continue to whisk until cool, about 2 minutes.
  5. Fold in the flour and cocoa, divide between the tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  The sponge should spring back when lightly pressed and be beginning to shrink away from the sides.
  6. Turn the cakes out to cool and make the buttercream by beating the butter until soft then gradually beating in the icing sugar, thin with some milk and continue beating until all the icing sugar is gone and a smooth buttercream appears. 
  7. Before spreading the conserve, give it a stir to loosen it up and spread on one of the sponges then spread the buttercream on the other sponge.  Sandwich the two together then dust with icing.  Don't worry if the sponge appears to be stuck to the rack, coddle it a bit and it will come off intact - if it doesn't icing sugar is a beautiful thing - the cakes's equivalent to concealer.
Not long at all!

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