Saturday, 24 March 2012

Healthy (er) carrot cake

Whilst I am generally in favour of eating healthily, 'healthy' cakes don't usually feature on my radar as I would normally have the full-fat, full-flavour version without sweeteners and without cutting down on the taste. However, for a friend's birthday I decided to try out this 'healthier' version of carrot cake as she has been doing really well losing weight and we didn't want to make her feel bad about eating cake! Each month, Good Food magazine makes over a dish to produce a healthier version without cutting back on taste, and this carrot cake had really good reviews.

The cake mixture should contain rapeseed oil, which is considered to be healthier than other varieties, although I didn't have any so I did use vegetable oil. There is a lot of grated carrot, plus orange juice, to keep the cake moist without adding more fat, and some of the flour is replaced with wholemeal four. The icing is also a healthier version, using low fat cream cheese and quark, as well as a small amount of icing sugar and lemon juice.

Whilst I love the full fat version of carrot cake, I would quite happily eat this instead. In fact, I might even choose this over 'normal' carrot cake. The reason for this is that it has so much taste, but it's less rich and therefore easier on the stomach! The cake is delicious - full of flavour and extremely moist. The icing is a bit runny due to not being whisked to death with masses of icing sugar, but this does mean that it isn't over sweet like so many types of icing.

It was also really easy to make and didn't involve fussing around with odd ingredients like some 'healthier' recipes do. I realise I say this often, but this is definitely a make-again cake!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Chocolate sponge cake

I make a lot of chocolate cakes, but I'd be hard pushed to have a favourite recipe. I do like rich, moist, gooey chocolate cakes but a decent chocolate sponge cake is not that easy to find. Well, at least I hadn't found one. However, I tried out a recipe from a cake decorating book my other half had bought me called The essential guide to cake decorating and it is fabulous and has immediately become my favourite chocolate sponge.

The sponge contains buttermilk and I think it might be this which makes all the difference. It is moist without being dense and gooey, holds it shape and isn't too crumbly, and not too sweet, rich, or tasteless. It is an excellent chocolate sponge and I will definitely be using it again. The recipe called for a deep 20cm round tin (at least the quantities I wanted to use fitted into this; the book is actually very helpful and provides ingredients quantities for all different tin sizes) and I didn't have one, so I made it in two 20cm sandwich tins. I baked it at a lower temperature and had to watch the time a little, but it worked brilliantly.

Unfortunately, I did realise when making the cake that although I had enough cocoa powder to make the cake, I didn't have enough to make chocolate buttercream as I had intended. However, I'd been shopping earlier in the evening and had, on a whim, bought the new Cadbury's chocolate Philadelphia as it was on offer and I wanted to see what it is like. On a side note, it is quite nice - not sweet and thick like chocolate spread but more like something you'd imagine on a cheesecake. Anyway, I mixed roughly equal quantities of this and chocolate spread (the non-nutty version) and used this instead. I spread a layer of apricot jam in between the cakes, then the chocolately mixture, and used the Philly/chocolate spread combo all over the outside of the cake. I only used a thin layer, as I also used Dr. Oetker's chocolate ready-to-roll icing to cover the cake. Despite my original slight disappointment at the icing not being more chocolately, I used it as it needed to be used!

In the end, I loved the icing. Maybe it was the combination of cake, spread and fondant or something that was different and it just worked better. In any case, I will be buying both the Cadbury's Philadelphia and the Dr. Oetker chocolate fondant again!

The flowers were made at my cake icing class using flower paste. I cut them out, used a ball tool to shape the petals then left them to dry. After that I coloured the flower paste a little more so it went darker, added this as a centre, then dusted some silver lustre dust over the top.

The cake was a very very belated birthday cake for my friend and we ate a lot of it over a weekend! As I said before though, definitely worth doing this recipe again!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sugar roses - first attempt at using the cutter method

For Christmas I was given the International School of Sugarcraft Book 2, and this includes instructions for making sugar roses using cutters (rather than my previous attempts, which involved squishing bits of icing into petal shapes). Unfortunately I had no cutters, so I actually used a knife to cut petal cutter shapes! I wanted to see if I could do it before spending money on cutters. I'm pretty happy with the results, so think  I might invest in some cutters now! They took a long time to make (partly due to me doing a bit, then doing nothing for several days/weeks) but here's a rundown of the stages involved.

Stage 1:

Make buds, hook wires onto them.

Stage 2:

Add three small petals to the bud, wrapping them so that they overlap each other.

Stage 3:

Add five slightly larger petals, making sure they all overlap each other.

Stage 4:

Add six even larger petals, again ensuring that each overlaps the previous one.

Stage 5:

Add calyxes and then wrap the wires with florist's tape and ta-da!

Now I just have to think of something to do with them. I think I'll probably wire them all together, either into a bouquet or a long string of roses then use them for something special... just have to think of an occasion now!