Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 12th May 2012

You might remember me posting about my first encounter with the Clandestine Cake Club when I attended an event in Cambridge in March.  Well, this month I finally had the chance to host my own event in my local town. I had been trying to set one up for some time but I had trouble finding a venue. Finally, though, I happened upon the perfect spot. The Apex is a new venue in the heart of Bury St Edmunds with a large auditorium designed for hosting music, entertainment and a variety of other events and as I was passing it a few weeks ago I remembered that they also have a lovely spacious cafe/bar area upstairs. They kindly agreed to let us take up some of their space for a couple of hours and a date was set. Each meeting has a theme chosen by the organiser - I decided that "Fabulous Favourites" would be a good one to start with.

So at 10.30am on Saturday the 12th of May seven fabulous cakes arrived accompanied by ten lovely ladies. Drinks were purchased and we were soon tucking into our cakes.

We were all thoroughly spoilt by the range of cakes to choose from and I was really pleased that we had a good variety with no duplications.

This first one is Karen's Carrot Cake which was full of aromatic flavour and was served with extra cream cheese icing. It was also topped with delicious home-made chocolate shards flavoured with orange and ginger.

Next is Helen's Chocolate-ccino cake. I don't think I've come across a chocolate cake flavoured with coffee before but it was a great combination that I'll definitely be trying out myself sometime.

This beauty is Corinne's French Opera Cake. Corinne was quite right in saying that it's like a tiramisu in cake form. I wish I'd taken a picture of a slice so you could see the different layers. Corinne has recently set up her own business selling authentic French Patisserie - you can find her website here.

Rene brought along a Butternut Squash and Orange cake which was moist and delicious. She also revealed that her silky smooth icing was a result of whisking up butter that had been melted rather than just softened (although apparently this wasn't necessarily done on purpose ; ) )

This one is Lynda's Apple and Five Spice cake. I've used five spice many times in savoury dishes so it was interesting to see it used in a sweet dish. I thought it added a lovely sweet spicyness which really complimented the apple.

Here we have Shauna's Victoria Sponge.  Shauna confessed that she wasn't very good at baking cakes but after tasting her contribution we didn't believe her!

Last of all we have my contribution - a Chocolate Fruit and Nut Cake. I first came across this cake many years ago but hadn't made it for ages. Since rediscovering it a few weeks ago it's now firmly back on my list of favourites.  I'll try and post the recipe soon.

I think we each managed to have a taste of most if not all of the cakes on offer but at the end of the morning there was still plenty leftover.  Before we left we all filled our various tins and containers until all the cake had been evenly distributed. You can see below some of the goodies I got to bring home with me (this was taken after we had begun to tuck into them!)

I certainly had a lovely morning and hopefully everyone else did too. A few suggestions were made as to the next venue and theme so with any luck the Clandestine Cake Club will be visiting Bury St Edmunds again soon!

Many thanks again to The Apex for letting us use some of their space.

If you would like more information about The Clandestine Cake Club and events in your area then you can have a look at their website here.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hairy Bikers' Chocolate & Hazelnut Cake (Torta Gianduia)

I was watching the Hairy Bikers' Bakeation program a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I saw them making this cake I knew I had to make it as soon as possible. Before making the cake they spent some time with a local hazelnut grower who showed them how he turned his hazelnuts into the most fabulous-looking homemade chocolate spread (like Nutella but more so). They then proceeded to make the most tempting-sounding cake and smothered it with the chocolate spread. I was sold.

So I stocked up on the necessary ingredients and today had the opportunity to make it. There are a few stages involved in the cakes construction - baking and blitzing the nuts, melting the chocolate, beating the eggs - but it was soon in the oven and filling the house with an amazing aroma. Sadly I didn't have any homemade Italian chocolate hazelnut spread to hand so Nutella was the next best thing and it was very satisfying to spread over the cooled and turned out cake. Just a few hazelnuts for decoration and it was ready to eat.

 The resulting cake was dense and moist, almost brownie-like in texture. As the recipe doesn't include flour it doesn't have the usual airy texture of a sponge cake but was rich and very chocolatey with plenty of texture and flavour from the hazelnuts. An undeniable winner from start to finish.

You can find the recipe here...what are you waiting for.....!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book Review: Marshmallow Madness

Marshmallows had been on my list of things to make for ages so a few weeks ago I was very pleased to receive a book entirely devoted to them.  The cutely titled book Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipesis a bright and colourful book written by Shauna Sever and contains a wealth of information and tips on how to make marshmallows together with a plethora of recipes using a wide variety of flavour combinations.

For my first recipe I decided to start with the basics and try the Classic Vanilla Marshmallows. I've always thought that marshmallows would be a bit tricky to make but I was pleasantly surprised.  As long as you spend a little time getting all of the ingredients measured out the rest of the process is pretty straightforward. Yes, you will need to use a sugar thermometer when heating up the sugar but please don't let that put you off.  I think the whole process took me about thirty minutes from start to finish.  Having said that you do have to spend a little more time later on when the marshmallow has set and it's time to turn it out and cut it up but nothing too daunting.  It was actually quite fun and the marshmallows came away from the tin nicely and were easy to cut into squares.

They tasted good too and pretty similar to the shop-bought variety, although the texture isn't quite the same.  A sweet tooth is a pre-requisite though, for these ones anyway, and you wouldn't want to eat too many at one sitting.

The next recipe I tried was the Key Lime Pie which added lime juice to the basic recipe and used biscuit crumbs to coat the outside.  I liked this one even more than the vanilla as the lime juice helped to cut through the sweetness and the biscuit crumbs added lovely texture.

There are so many more varieties I want to try out - Deeply Chocolate, Strawberry, Buttered Rum, Sea Salt Caramel Swirl and maybe even the Maple-Bacon! - to name just a few.

Overall this is a lovely, well designed book, with recipes that really work.  You can find it on Amazon at the moment for around £8.  Many thanks to PGUK for sending me a copy to review.

Classic Vanilla Marshmallows
(from Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever)

4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water

3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided (in the UK golden syrup is a good substitute)
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup classic coating (Sift together 1 1/2 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar and 1 cup cornstarch.  This will keep for ages in an airtight container)

1) Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking tin with cooking spray or oil. Whisk together with gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and leave to soften for 5 minutes.

2) Stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water and salt in a small to medium saucepan over a high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240f.

3) Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup of corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Microwave the gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds.  Pour it into the mixer bowl.  Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.  (I used a hand held mixer with only one speed setting and worked fine).

4) When the syrup reaches 240f, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes.  Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the vanilla. The finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume.

5) Pour it into the prepared tin using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners.  Sift coating evenly and generously over the top.  Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

6) Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever sized pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting of the excess.

Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch marshmallows.