The whole family was appalled last night when the little parcel I received was revealed to contain what they all guessed to be a small sachet of vomit. Fortunately, I haven’t been the target of malicious postal system-centric activists but the recipient of a sourdough starter. I know. I’ve got friends who’d be more pleased to receive the packet of sick, too.
Anyway, bless my little heart, I was quite excited and it is currently sitting, cosy, on my worktop, fed with expensive flour grown by Prince Charles himself, imagining that this could be the dawn of an entirely new me. (I imagine this fairly often). I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve been quite mad for baking in general recently, with bread and cupcakes and flapjacks and brownies aplenty. With report writing season in sight, this is only going to ramp up.
I’m working on a few recipes that are a tadge more healthy in nature – I’m not concerned about calories, but I’m trying to work a bit more fibre and a bit less sugar into some of the treats the little badgers favour – but my biggest success of recent times has little concern for nutrition.
I made this little beauty for Easter Sunday and then repeated it last week to take into school for my nice friends. Consumers of both were kind in their reviews and I could confidently recommend it as a crowd-pleaser. It’s more of a faff than a tray of brownies, but if you want something for a special occasion it’s all perfectly doable.
I’m not a big fan of buttercream – I find it cloying and sickly in any quantity more than a cupcake’s worth, so for this I used Ermine Icing, which is a similar, less sweet version but a bit more involved to make. I used the Nigella recipe from ‘At My Table‘ but it’s available online here. If you go with the Ermine Icing, start the first step before you start the cake, so it can be cooling.
You could certainly replace the icing with buttercream – I use this recipe – or fill and top with sternly whipped double cream instead. I often just use this, as it’s so much less trouble than any other option, but of course it doesn’t last quite as well and you need to be diligent about fridge time.
I used the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It was easy to make and heavenly to eat and creating my own version would be pointless, so I will simply refer you to her. Nice work, Sally. The caramel keeps well, so you could make it in advance, otherwise make it when the cakes go into the oven.
If this is a faff too far (and if you’ve got tiny children especially, it really might be) then a tin of Carnation Caramel with ½ – 1 teaspoonful of sea salt flakes stirred into it would be a delightful substitute.
The recipe I used for this is very slightly modified from one from one of my very favourite recipe books: The Hummingbird Bakery – Home Sweet Home and is the sponge element of their Chicago Fudge Cake. The recipe suggests dividing between 3 tins, which I did the first time I made it, but the second time I used two deeper tins and sliced each in half to create 4 layers. I thought working more salted caramel into the equation could only be good news.
My cakes didn’t rise enormously either time, they have more of a dense texture, which works rather nicely with the accompaniments.
I used my stand mixer for this but there’s nothing here that couldn’t be achieved with a wooden spoon and a determined attitude.
My second version of the cake looked prettier than the first. Obvs, I forgot to take any photos of this effort, and photos of the first show all the hallmarks of my usual skill and panache in decoration.
- 110g cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 240ml boiling water
- 125g soured cream/crème fraîche/Greek yoghurt
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 210g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp table salt
- 225g unsalted butter, softened/Stork, straight from the fridge
- 300g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
You will also need:
- 2 or 3 20cm tins
- Baking parchment
- Preheat the oven to 170°C and line the cake tins with baking parchment
- In a large jug, whisk the cocoa powder and hot coffee together well, making sure there are no lumps remaining and allow to cool. Popping the jug in a bowl of cold water will speed up the process if you’re impatient, like me.
- Once cool, mix the coffee mixture, soured cream and vanilla extract together.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together.
- Cream the butter/Stork and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well.
- Once they are well-incorporated, alternate adding the coffee mixture and the flour mixture, a few tablespoons-worth at a time. If you’re using a stand mixer, give it an extra mix at the end with a spoon or spatula, to ensure the bottom bit of the bowl is fully combined.
- Divide into either three sandwich pans, if you have them, or two deeper tins.
- Pop into the oven, checking after about 25 minutes. When they spring back when pressed in the centre they’re done. If you’re cooking in two tins, or your oven’s a bit cool, then they may take 35 mins or even more. Those at the top of the oven may cook quicker than those at the bottom, so try to be free to give them your undivided attention for 15 minutes or so of nail-biting decision making.
- Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes and then turn out onto baking racks.
- Once absolutely cool, slather on some salted caramel (it’s also a good glue in the event of any breakage) followed by a generous layer of cream/buttercream/Ermine icing onto the top of the cakes that will be acting as the lower layers.
- Stack the cakes and cover the top and sides with the icing. If using whipped cream, I would leave the sides uncovered.
- Store in the fridge until you need it. This doesn’t make a ginormous cake, but it would easily be enough for 12.
I’m not really eating cake at the moment as I anticipate my upcoming South of France bridesmaid duties, but – oh là là – this has challenged that stance and I’ve had more than the recommended elephant’s daily intake of calories in salted caramel alone. Je ne regrette rien.