Friday, 10 June 2011

Sachertorte - Dad's 60th birthday take 2

So this year my Dad decided to be greedy and have two birthdays. Admittedly it's not every year you turn 60 and it's quite a milestone so really he was entitled to it! Anyway, for his actual birthday I made the fruit cake and we celebrated with my other half and his family, and he decided he wanted a family celebration too for my brother, my brother's girlfriend and my uncle. Plus it was a good excuse for a holiday!

I was asked if I could make a cake and I'm definitely not one to turn down an excuse to bake! I had the perfect cake as well: a Sachertorte. I fell in love with this cake when I lived in Austria and have made it many times since. The recipe is one my family there got from a magazine years ago - the original Sachertorte recipe is top secret. However, this recipe is the best I've ever tasted.

Sachertorte is a chocolate cake with apricot glaze through the middle and under the glaze, and the glaze is a bitter chocolate icing. It is the perfect chocolate cake in my opinion: not at all sweet, very chocolatey and a very balanced flavour. The cake is not too heavy, but at the same time it's dense enough that every bite of cake contains a lot of flavour. It uses plain flour and no baking powder; instead it is the eggs which cause it to rise (it uses six and the whites are whisked separately to make snow)

I have to admit to using ready-made Sachertorte glaze, bought in Austria, rather than making my own. It's so good that I haven't dared try making my own, although now that my supply has run out, I might have to start doing so soon however as I haven't got any trips to Vienna in the pipeline at the moment! The only bit I wasn't very happy with was the writing - I used a white chocolate icing pen and if you leave it for any amount of time, it seeps and widens - it does not hold its shape at all. Next time I'll try making royal icing and piping it on.

This is my favouritest chocolate cake in the world! It disappeared very quickly (my brother would have licked the cake plate clean if I had allowed him to!) and my Dad enjoyed his second 60th birthday!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The best cookies ever!

Now these cookies might not look anything special, but believe me when I say that they are the best cookies ever! The recipe is based on one from The First Time Cook by Sophie Grigson (the same book that my extremely chocolatey brownies recipe came from). It is another really simple recipe, and the beauty is that you can add whatever you like to the cookie mix. I think the original recipe is for cookies with pecans and dried apricots, but I used chocolate chips. I've also made them with Smarties before and I think those were even better! The basic recipe, however, is the best cookie recipe I've come across.

The cookie dough is simple: butter (I used margarine), sugar, self-raising flour, milk and then whatever you want to add. They bake in 10-14 minutes, and the end result is soft, chewy cookies - exactly how I like them! They keep well for a few days in an airtight container, but the chances of keeping them that long are pretty slim - I can guarantee that given a chance, people will snap up these cookies!

I'm going to try them with cocoa powder in next to see whether I can make good chocolate cookies from the same recipe. Watch this space for the answer!

You can also find the original recipe here.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Vanilla sponge cake

I'm still catching up on blogging about the baking that I've done over the past couple of weeks, but I'm getting round to it! This is going to be a short post as there's not really a huge amount to say about it. I made a vanilla sponge cake for my other half's cricket match, using the Hummingbird bakery's Cake Days vanilla cupcake recipe. A note on the recipe advised doubling it to make a three tier cake, but thinking that three tiers would be a bit much, I decided to stick to the quantities given for cupcakes. It turned out that this was a very good decision as the cake was the perfect height (this was using two 20cm cake tins).

I adapted the recipe slightly as I used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract - having procured some recently, I wanted to see how much difference it would make.

The answer is that it makes quite a lot of difference. The sponge had a much fuller vanilla flavour. Added to that was vanilla buttercream icing, again made using the vanilla bean paste. That was all topped off with strawberry jam and the result was a lovely, moist, light sponge with lots of flavour. I have to admit that vanilla sponge is not really my thing, nor is buttercream, and I wouldn't have chosen it for myself, but the combination of flavours did work very well.

If you want a simple but impressive cake, this one certainly fits the bill. It is a little sweet, but for those who like their cake that way this is sure to go down a treat! It looks a little plain on top, but I'm always stuck for what to do with vanilla sponge cakes. Any suggestions welcome!