Hurrah! To those of you that might not have heard yet, yours truly will now be conjuring all manner of cake-a-licious confections for the lovely people of Domestic Sluttery, as their resident cake columnist!
Look out every Friday for new and original recipes, details of my oven burns, witty exchanges and best of all CAKE. ALL CAKE. ALL THE TIME.
The first post is here: http://www.domesticsluttery.com/2013/01/let-her-eat-cake-love-on-run-cake.html
You’ll have to find the rest for yourselves!
Yes, you might have guessed what this week’s venture entails: turning a time honoured and well-loved dessert into something that is both PUDDING and CAKE. An unholy, decadent hybrid of sponge, chocolate, mascarpone, coffee, brandy and cocoa.
Wait! I hear you cry – surely that’s just a tiramisu? No readers, it is so much more. I love a good tiramisu, from it’s salacious history* to its comforting, dark, boozy flavours. It’s wonderful after dinner, surrounded by candlelight, red wine and choice Italian suitors, but it’s not so good for drenching your sorrows come a rainy Monday morning at your desk.
So, the tiramisu cake was born. All the flavours, but easier to transport, and like a true diplomat, as much at home with an espresso as a cup of tea.
For this recipe you’ll need to buy:
250g unsalted butter
2-3 large (free range) eggs
100g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
Stuff you’ll probably have at home:
250g self-raising flour
250g of caster sugar
2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 heaped tsp of instant coffee
1 tbsp icing sugar
Good slug of brandy (or spiced rum, if you’re desperate)
I started out with a basic sponge recipe, indeed, the one I was going on about last week. (It’s Delia and you can find it here) but added a tablespoon of strong instant coffee to the batter. I’m going to be honest, it wasn’t the best mix I have ever made, but the joy of this cake is that you’ll just end up soaking the sponge in booze, so no one will notice if it isn’t the fluffiest thing in the world. It’s such an easy recipe, just 4oz each of flour, butter, sugar and 2 large eggs. Bam. (I usually double up on these quantities for larger cake tins)
Divide your batter equally between two round tins (greased and the bottoms lined with greaseproof) and bake at around 200 degrees (fan oven) for 20-25 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. Forbid housemates, family, parents, guests from going anywhere near it. The cakes are done when they spring back if you poke them with a finger. Accurate, I know.
Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool. And I mean cool. Don’t get impatient or the mascarpone will melt and then there’ll be a mess. In the meantime, break a 100g bar of dark chocolate into small pieces. Place in a glass bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water to melt. Gently gently with the chocolate. You only need to start it off really, then the existing heat will handle the rest.
Mix one heaped teaspoon of strong instant coffee with enough hot water to make about 1/2 a cup. Drizzle this over both cakes so that it soaks in evenly. Take your bottle of brandy and do the same. (About 6-8 teaspoons, or more, depending on how liquored-up you like your cakes)
When the chocolate has cooled slightly, drizzle it liberally over the cakes, paying most attention to the bottom half. Spread it to the edges so it’s evenly covered. Save a little chocolate for artistic decorating later on.
Put the mascarpone in a bowl and beat in 1 tbsp of icing sugar to sweeten. Squidge it over the chocolate-covered bottom half. (This’ll be a bit messy but you can smooth over after the first layer). Spread a bit on the top half as well and sandwich on top.
Repeat with the top of the cake. Next, you’ll need about 2-3 heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder (NOT drinking chocolate, it’ll be all weak and pointless) in a tea strainer or a fine sieve. Dust that cake like a sandstorm. As thick a layer as you like.
If you’ve managed to retain any chocolate, now’s the time for some fancy swirls, angry messages, cross-hatching or polkadots on top.
So there you go. A true, sacrilegious adoption of a classic recipe into something to eat with a cup of tea.
*My notoriously inaccurate but entertaining memory tells me that this dessert, literally meaning ‘pick me up’, was invented by Italian ladies of the night, who needed a quick perk up between clients. Coffee, brandy, cream and sugar obviously did the job…
Yum-gate continued today, and it was the turn of M&S to enter the arena…
I had high hopes for trusty Marks and Sparks; their food does have a reputation for being above the usual supermarket par. Indeed, they were the people who invented the pre-packed sandwich back in the ‘80s (some will shake their fists, some will marvel at being able to eat crayfish on wholemeal bread at the drop of a hat) so we would expect their packet-ed food to be trail-blazingly good.
For those who don’t know, M&S is about as English as Marmite, Eccles cakes, Yorkshire Gold, and pairs of tights. All of which I imagine you can buy there. It’s like the BBC of the department store world. (Hopefully without the recent scandals).
I had expected Marks and Spencer’s yum yums to be more expensive, but shock on shock! They were also £1. So, it was to be a judgement contest of enjoyment and enjoyment alone.
At first bite it was clear who was in the lead: these yums were far lighter than the others, you could tell just by looking, with a gorgeous, slightly crackly soft sugar glaze. They weren’t greasy or too doughy, just enough to make them far, far too moreish. My only complaint of M&S was that the yum yums weren’t twisted as they should be, which didn’t make them look too enticing.
Waitrose has yet to be judged. And judged they will be.
So, in the office today there was some debate about yum yums. I was astounded when several different people informed me that they weren’t sure what a yum yum was, or indeed, if they had ever eaten one! In any case, I insisted that yum yums would be purchased and brought into work to be savoured accordingly.
The supermarket on my way home is an Asda, so I bought a packet from there. I must admit, I was immediately disconcerted. They also sold toffee yum yums (I know, whaaaa?) which is clearly a perverted bastardization!
I arrived at work this morning, to find that @bristolculture had had the same idea. Those yum yums were from Sainsbury’s. So, it was a yum-off. Whichever packet disappeared first would be deemed the winner.
It was going to be Sainsbury’s from the beginning. The Asda kind were too doughy, not light enough, lacking that perfect, crispy-soft sugar glaze topping. S-breeze ones were better, but I realised, still didn’t measure up to my memory of delectable yums.
The quest continues. Next up, the big contenders: M&S vs Waitrose. Watch this space to see who is crowned Yum-King.
So last weekend, it was my mum’s birthday. (I’m not going to say how old or she’ll lambast me) Thought I’d take the opportunity to share some recent progressions in pursuit of the ever-elusive PERFECT SPONGE.
I’ve had a few sponge mishaps in the past. One was nick-named by my sister Lucy, (a.k.a. Lucifer Knight) ‘Thud Sponge’. I’m guessing it was onomatopoeic. A clementine cake that went wrong was also granted the name of ‘car-sponge’.
It brings me onto a wider point really, that for every perfect example of kitchen alchemy you see on a food blog, there have probably been quite a few which are FUBAR. In these situations, it’s good to have a mocking, but indiscriminate parent who’ll eat anything that resembles a dessert.
I usually have a good baking run that will last for a few months, then produce a disaster, like flattened choux buns or indeed, thud sponge.
Anyway, last weekend was a zen baking day. I did have a kitchen assistant in the person of Mr Hill, who completed all the difficult work like whipping cream. I’m now firmly convinced that the sponge method for me is Delia’s. It’s a matter of patience and the secret is in how you add the eggs, but the recipe couldn’t be simpler. It turns out a lovely, light sponge every time.
My mum isn’t really a fan of desserts (I know, I know, don’t question too much, it will only upset me), especially not overly-sweet, chocolate heavy ones, so I opted for a very simple, but delectable combination. Much like a LBD or a gin and tonic:
Delia’s sponge recipe (doubled, to make two cakes)
300ml whipping cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups fresh or frozen red berries
1 tbsp jam (apricot is traditional, but strawberry or raspberry is fine as well)
Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack (don’t get impatient or the cream will start to slide off). Spread the underside of one thinly with the jam, then top with half the cream and half the red berries. Stick the other cake on top and repeat with the cream. Dot the extra red berries about in any pattern you like, initials, an abstract representation of your favourite literary hero, whatever. I garnished mine with lemon zest, just to counter the sweetness a little.
Here you have it! Happy Birthday, Mummy. Not a thud sponge in sight.
Earlier this week , St Mary Redcliffe’s was the site of the launch for a new app, created by arts organisation Situations. Missorts is a collection of short stories and music that can be activated by smart phone in and around Redcliffe, Bristol. The idea is to shed light on the historic area, largely ignored by the hundreds of commuters who hurry through it every day, en route to work or Temple Meads.
Faber-published author and writer Tony White delivered a reading of his novella, Missorts Volume II , written to accompany the sound work. The text is undoubtedly designed to enlighten heads-down Bristol residents to their immediate surroundings; references to local-born tragic poet Thomas Chatterton, as well as now defunct historical sites, are woven through the narrative. Understandably at such events time – and an audience’s ability to concentrate – is limited. However, with the project being built on a group of 10 short stories by local authors, it seemed a shame that we heard hide nor hair of them, not even the titles of their pieces. (Not least since one was written by my good friend, Ms Corfield Carr)
This being said, their words were undeniably present, though not in an immediately discernible form, in the live performance by South-East London based trio, Beaty Heart. The group had been commissioned to devise and perform a live remix of both the audio narratives and accompanying composition, The Portwall Preludes by Jamie Telford. I was sceptical about how this would work in practice. Going by description, I was not inclined to like the group. However, what they achieved was remarkable. Their rhythms, sometimes reminiscent of a pagan ceilidh, sometimes of classic African beats, were underscored by the jumbled audio recording of the short stories. It created a tide of mumbled thoughts, of hive-like buzzing: a reference to the thousands of pedestrians and commuters who pass feet away from the ancient building every day. Over this, the vocalist’s notes echoed like a bell across long-buried fields, a distant reminder of the hymns which have been sung in the chapel every day for the past 800 years.
It left me spellbound, despite myself.
You can find more information on Missorts and download the app here: http://www.missorts.com/
Exciting news for fans of Nunslinger: if you can't wait for the next instalment of tales from the lawless Wild West, then we have here a snippet of original artwork, produced by the inimitable Mr Philip Harris, the gentleman who is also responsible for Nunslinger's distinctive cover design.
Artwork will be included with all e-book downloads as of 21st September.
Although I should perhaps worry about my cheese consumption, it’s time for another cheese related link!
This week, link goes to Vulscombe Farm Goats Cheese; it’s wonderful, delicious and pretty! If we were having a summer, it would be a perfect addition to a picnic, or a outdoor supper. It would also make for a great bruschetta, spread on toasted ciabatta and topped with podded broad beans tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper.
Drooling. Might have to go out and find another one…