Chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream and dark chocolate ganache

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Happy birthday to my wonderful boyfriend this week! Of course, I had to make him something, but when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t actually like cake, life becomes infinitely more difficult.

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I know right? How can someone not like cake!!! Im converting him slowly. I suppose I could have made cupcakes or brownies (he likes both) however the challenge was too tempting. So I took out a couple of my favourite books, jumped on the internet and asked him for some flavour ideas. Chocolate, caramel and strawberry were mentioned. I decided not to combine all three, and chose to pursue chocolate and strawberry.

Now, please don’t run away when I divulge this recipe. This is by far one of the best cakes I’ve made in a while. To say it was a hit is an understatement. Really, really good.

So take a deep breath. No running remember?

The controversial ingredient is….. Courgette.

Marrow, zucchini, whatever you want to call it. I am simply in love with Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, which relies on vegetables in all her cakes. I find them spongey, light and moist (in fact its very difficult to overcook them). I decided to adapt her Pistachio chocolate cake recipe and make a strawberry buttercream from my own archives. I love contrasting colours and I was set on the cake being a surprise in some way so i decided to cover it in a dark chocolate ganache so  the pink buttercream would revealed when it was cut. Success!!! Despite making 3 batches of ganache…. The first one seized. The next one melted my buttercream because I used it as pouring ganache. I did the same thing with the next batch. I had a lovely melty pinky brown cake 😦 So after watching a couple of ganache videos on youtube, I made my last batch and left it overnight so it was a paste. More of a success, however not as smooth as I would have liked.

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  • 100g hazelnut meal
  • 3 eggs
  • 180g brown sugar
  • 300g peeled and grated courgette
  • 120g flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180˚C, line and grease 2 18cm tins.

Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add courgette and hazelnut meal, then the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Beat until incorporated

Pour evenly into the tins and bake for 20-30 mins

(I doubled the recipe and made a 3 layer cake and froze the last layer)

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Strawberry Buttercream

1 1/2 c sugar

1/2 c water

2 egg whites

340g butter

1 punnet of hulled and halved strawberries

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 c water

simmer 1/2c of water and 1 1/2c sugar in a saucepan until 240˚C. Whisk egg whites until stiff, gradually add the sugar syrup. Continue to whisk until the bowl is cool. Boil the remaining water, sugar and strawberries to make a fruit puree. Add the butter to the meringue gradually, then the strawberry puree.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 220g (a slab) dark chocolate (I like 70% cocoa) broken into small pieces
  • 110ml cream

Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Pour over chocolate, leave for a few minutes and then stir until all the chocolate is melted and combined. Leave covered overnight. I use this  youtube video so i recommend it. 

To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a board/plate. Top with buttercream. Place the next layer on and top that with buttercream. Top with the third layer. You can then do a crumb coating of buttercream or leave it without. Ganache the cake according to the youtube video. I then topped mine with malteser’s.

This cake is awesome.

Cheesecake Two ways

So, I am blessed to live on a mini farm, with my lovely horses, goats, many dogs and cats and…. laying hens!!!!!!!! Getting 4 or 5 free fresh free range eggs everyday fuels lots of my baking. Too many eggs in the house? Oh I’ll just whip up a sponge cake, or a batch of macaroons (see 
mastering macarons). But our chickens got the sniffles over the weekend (who knew?) and are being treated. Good news; chickens will be better. Bad news; we can’t eat the eggs for 3 days. Even though we haven’t got a shortage of eggs, I’ve been told to curb the baking for a few days….

….However I found the cutest little spring form tins!!! Immediately I wanted to make a couple of mini victoria sponges. But I dare not use any eggs!! So a challenge; bake without eggs. Easy! No bake cheesecake. As for the flavour, the majority of my family is partial to berry cheesecake, so that was a must for one. The other was inspired by the lovely cappuccino I enjoyed at Jamaica Blue before finding my tins. As a weekend barista, i really appreciate a good coffee, and my gosh this was a lovely coffee… maybe slightly due to my previous cappuccino drought.

Anyway, I made these at 8 last night… yeah I don’t quite know why… And gelatine decided to fight me, and congeal prematurely in my cream cheese mix, which lead to straining cheesecake mix and having to re add gelatine. They made it into the fridge in one piece and back out to be photographed this morning. I may have also managed to dust a couple of chairs and the floor with cocoa powder when it flew out of my hands while taking the lid off… Oh well, who doesn’t like chocolate dust? It’s the best part of the cappuccino. Image

One Mixed Berry Cheesecake and one Cappuccino Cheesecake

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    • 125g powdered ginger nut biscuits
    • 125g powdered arrowroot biscuits (these are gluten free, and taste amazing!)
    • 100g melted butter
    • 420g cream cheese
    • 1/2c caster sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 100ml cream whipped (soft peaks)
    • 3 tsp powdered gelatine
    • 2 tbs boiling water
    • 1 shot good quality espresso (or 1 tsp instant coffee)
    • 1/2tsp lemon juice
    • handful of berries of your choice (I used 1/2 raspberries and 1/2 blueberries)Image
 

Add half the melted butter to each bowl of biscuits, combine with your (clean!) fingers. Press each mix into a sprayed tin, and refrigerate. Mix cream cheese, caster sugar and vanilla together. Sprinkle gelatine over boiling water and stir until dissolved(do not allow to solidify!). Addthis slowly to the cream cheese while beating. Fold in the whipped cream. separate the mix into two bowls. Add mixed berried andlemonjuice to one and the coffee to the other. Spoon the coffee mix into the ginger nut base and the berry mix into the arrowroot base. Refrigerate until set (I left mine overnight). Decorate as desired 🙂
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Forced to bake

So I’m currently in the middle of study week and probably a bit too relaxed about my looming exams. Instead of hitting the books, I’m planning beach trips, designing houses that will never be built, riding, and baking of course. Free time as well as a bout of the flu over the weekend drew me into the kitchen on sunday. Monday was spent recovering. Tuesday was meant to be a productive day of study and ABSOLUTELY NO BAKING. I swore to myself the most i would do was make toast. Things were going well, I had cleaned out my study (the number of papers that can build up during folio week is astounding) and my bedroom was next. Then my mother came home, bearing a well intentioned gift of cute pink cupcake cases… Alright, just one batch of cupcakes; one hour maximum. Before I had even voiced my intention, she pulled out a box of brandy snap baskets and expressed a desire for some sort of custard filled brandy basket dessert. I was now gone.

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A day that was meant to be kitchen free was suddenly filled with 2 batches of crème pâtissière, 2 batches of macarons, ganache and raspberry coulis. Exhausted does not even begin to describe my state. The first batch of custard split, so onto the next. which left me with 10 egg whites. all my macarons failed (I had about 3 egg whites left at the end of the day which became the perfectly formed beauties in my previous post). However, crème pâtissière is quite marvellous and is a base for many french desserts. In this case I paired it with a raspberry coulis in the brandy baskets. 

Recipe

5 egg yolks

6 tbs flour

1 tbs cornflour

6 tbs sugar

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla bean

Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar and gradually add the flour and cornflour. Heat the milk and the vanilla bean until almost boiling. Gradually add the milk to the egg/flour mix, while hand whisking (it helps to have two people at this stage). Transfer back to the stove, whisk until thickened and boiling, then for a further 2 minutes. cover with a sheet of cling wrap and refrigerate until cool. Just before serving, whip up some cream and add to the custard, until smooth. Serve, in this case in brandy baskets with a raspberry coulis.

For the coulis

250g raspberries (frozen)

2 tbs sugar

water (as it boils)Place all ingredients in a saucepan on low heat for 30 mins until reduced.

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Mastering Macarons

Macarons have become a fashion item, the new fad, much like the cupcake before them. And really, its easy to see why: with their sleek shiny shells and contrasting feet, filled with enticing glossy ganache, their versatility and chicness makes them akin to a well proportioned dome atop a cathedral or as simple as a smooth pebble on a beach. Deceptively simple in appearance, these devil cookies have thrown my kitchen into hell and tormented my family to the point that ‘macaron’ is a swear word in my house and I have taken to my experiments only when everyone else is out, giving me time to compose my self after any particularly trying batches.

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Now, I have perfected italian meringue buttercream,become a connoisseur of caramel and even piped a Valentine box out of royal icing, therefore when I first decided to tackle macaroons, I expected a batch of the most marvellous macarons i have ever seen. Not the case; failure, time and time again. too runny, too flat, no feet, cracked shell, too brown, too high or too dull. I tried recipe after recipe, read troubleshooting, aged egg whites, shifted almonds, Youtubed macaronage and babied my oven. Again and again, i was not satisfied. Macarons were my downfall it seemed.

I could not and would not let a cookie, a little blob of egg whites and almond, defeat me. So this morning i took to the kitchen again. I had a bowl of egg white that had been in the fridge for 2 days, so sufficiently aged. With a silent prayer to the macaron gods, I dived in, for what i swore would be the final time. Unless i failed….

Recipe
100g egg whites (aged for 2 days)
60g caster sugar
110g almond meal
200g icing sugar

Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor, then sift into a bowl. Beat the egg whites, starting to add the sugar when they are foaming into soft peaks. Beat until stiff (I always used the trusty bowl over the head trick). add half the dry mix to the meringue and fold and ‘macaronage’ until combined. Add the other half and repeat. Be gentle but make sure everything is incorporated and shiny without bubbles. Pipe the mix onto doubled baking sheets lined with greased baking paper. allow to sit for 20-40 minutes. Bake in the oven at 140˚ for 13 minutes or until they come off the paper cleanly. allow to cool and sandwich with your choice of ganache or buttercream. I used a dark chocolate coffee ganache and a white chocolate orange ganache.IMG_7525

If they turn out well, enjoy the food porn, because really, a macaron that doesn’t look like a masterpiece of baking, is not really doing its job.

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