Baking Amy

A year of baking disasters and triumphs

Blueberry Peach Buttermilk Cake

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I know this post is late again, but I’m not slacking off I promise. My mother in law is visiting from South Africa at the moment and as she’s sleeping in the office I don’t get much opportunity to use the computer.

Mid-week I was thinking of making either a carrot cake or a peanut butter cake. I hadn’t really settled on a recipe but that was no surprise. Then on Saturday night when I was writing my shopping list (I have small children, my nights out on the town are well and truly over), I still couldn’t decide on a recipe, but I had realised one thing, it needed to be quick and simple! The reason being was that in just a few hours I had to wake up early and cycle 50km in aid of MS Australia. Then, as if that wasn’t far enough, I was going to cycle home. As I have never cycled 85.5km before I thought I might be a little tired when I got home. I wasn’t wrong! So something simple was needed and I was now feeling like something fruity, peach and blueberry’s to be exact. I still couldn’t settle on a recipe so I instructed my husband to buy the fruit the next day and I would make up my mind then and hopefully have all the ingredients I needed. In the end I decided on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It makes a lovely small, light cake and it’s the first cake I have made recently that my husband has told me is really good without me having to ask him, so it must be good.

The only problem with my cake is that all the fruit sank to the bottom, probably because I cut the peaches much too large (I was rushing because I’d already made the batter before I prepared the fruit). It also seemed to brown really quickly, so I covered it up with some foil to halt the browning process. Any type of fruit can used, stewed apples and cinnamon would be nice, served with a dollop of thick custard or any kind of berries and a dollop of yoghurt if you want to be healthier, or whipped cream if not. It doesn’t need anything on the side though, a nice cup of tea does nicely instead. I mostly stuck to the recipe with the exception of only sprinkling 1 tablespoon of sugar on top instead of 1 1/2 as it seemed like rather a lot.

Method

130g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
56g unsalted butter, softened
146g plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C and grease a 20cm round tin
  2. Cream the butter and sugar then beat in the egg and vanilla extract
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add a third to the butter mixture until just combined
  4. Stir in half the buttermilk until just combined, then another third flour mixture, remaining buttermilk then remaining flour
  5. Sprinkle the fruit on top followed by the sugar
  6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean

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Orange and Poppyseed Cake

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I had no idea what to bake this week until my friend suggested orange and poppyseed cake and I came across this recipe that I just couldn’t resist. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, I seem to have had another disaster free baking experience this week, although I haven’t actually tasted the cake yet, as the flavours are still ‘developing’. For some reason this cake took me all morning to make, I think I’m just slow as its not a difficult recipe but then the curd didn’t behave how it should have. In the original recipe it says to stir the curd over a bowl of hot water and it could take up to 30 mins to thicken. Well I stood there for over half an hour and it was still really runny, so I did what any other impatient person would do, and I poured it into a pan and stuck it on the stove over a low heat. I kept whisking until it was the right consistency and it worked a treat, so that is exactly how I will make curd next time round.

Recipe

Poached orange slices

  • 2 medium oranges
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 400ml water

Cake

  • 150g self raising flour
  • 150g almond meal
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tbsp poppyseeds
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar

Orange curd

  • 4 eggs
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter

Method

Poached orange slices

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C fan forced and grease a 20cm cake tin
  2. Thinly slice the oranges and put in a pan with the sugar and water
  3. Stir and poach for 20mins over medium heat until the pith feels soft with a sharp knife
  4. Place the best looking slices into the cake tin (about 6-7 slices)
  5. Puree 100g of the oranges with 75ml of the poaching liquid in a food processor and allow to cool
  6. Keep the remaining poaching liquid for later

Cake

  1. Mix all the flour, almond meal, baking soda and poppyseeds together and set aside
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick
  3. Gently fold in the cooled orange puree
  4. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined
  5. Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 40-45 mins until a skewer comes out clean
  6. Leave to cool in the tin

Orange curd

  1. Beat the eggs, lemon juice and orange juice together
  2. Add the sugar, butter and zest
  3. Cook over a low heat whisking constantly until thick
  4. Allow to cool

Assembly

  1. Cut the cake into three equal layers
  2. Brush the bottom layer with the reserved poaching liquid, cover with half of the orange curd and place the next layer on top
  3. Repeat step 2
  4. Brush the top layer with the poaching liquid and leave the cake for a few hours for the flavours to develop

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Peppa Pig Cake

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Today was my son’s 2nd birthday and he’d asked for a green, strawberry cake. I searched the internet for a strawberry cake that didn’t use a packet mix but could not find one, so I decided to make a chocolate cake with some kind of strawberry filling instead, but I couldn’t find a strawberry filling I liked the look of that didn’t contain a kilo of sugar. In the end I made a Peppa Pig cake with a buttermilk chocolate cake from the book Tea with Bea and a strawberry, white chocolate, cream cheese ganache, invented by me 🙂 and I even made my own fondant using the recipe from Veena’s Art of Cakes.

The weather was against me for this cake. In Melbourne we’ve been having a spell of stupidly hot weather, which isn’t great for making and modelling fondant. I did manage to make most of my models a few weeks ago when the weather was cooler. I followed the tutorial from Bronnie Bakes and obviously my cake was inspired by hers. I’d never made fondant before but at the last minute I decided to give it a go, as ready made fondant is really expensive and tastes horrible. So last Friday night when inside my house was a cool 30 C I made my fondant and it turned out into this horrible sticky mess. No way could I kneed that so I added more icing sugar, and more icing sugar and more… I lost count of how much I added and it was still sticky so I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to see if it would thicken up. The next day my house was just as hot, if not hotter. I took another look at my fondant and yup, still sticky, so I added more icing sugar and more and more. The stickiness would not go away! By Sunday night, the temperature had dropped about 20 C, perfect for fondant. When I got mine out of the fridge to roll it, hmm, it was a little dry. I did manage to roll it out and put it on my cake with only a few minor cracks, then I smeared a very thin layer of butter all over it so it wouldn’t crack any more. It seemed to work a treat, still doesn’t taste that great though. I think its the shear quantity of sugar that went into making the fondant that put me off it though, it does taste heaps better than the ready made stuff but I still peeled most of it off the cake.

I impressed myself with this cake, I really thought it was going to be another disaster. I baked the cake in a Pyrex bowl to get the hill shape, I’d never done this before and it took at least 1.5 hours to bake (the recipe said 35 mins) and it formed a hard crust around the outside. The crust may have been partly due to the soya bean spray I used on the bowl to prevent the cake from sticking, it worked a treat but I think its real purpose is for making things golden and crispy. I was expecting a really dry and hard cake but it wasn’t, it was lovely and moist and my ganache was pretty impressive to. I will post the recipe for this cake, I just don’t have time right this minute so instead I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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Poached Pear & Frangipane Tart

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I’m calling this one a disaster tart because from start to finish nothing seemed to go right with this one. I knew it was a bad idea to make a tart when it was 40 C in Melbourne, but I’d seen this recipe and had been thinking about it all week. The original recipe is from the book Tea with Bea and uses pears poached in a spiced merlot liquid, which sounds delicious but I didn’t think the flavours would be to my 2 and 3 year olds pallets. Plus buying a bottle of wine would make this an expensive tart for a Sunday dinner so I decided to use this recipe from Beyond Wonderful instead.

Recipe & Methods

Pate sable pie crust

  • 250g plain flour
  • 120g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 70g icing sugar
  • 2 eggs
  1. Put the butter and flour into a bowl and rub between your fingers until it looks like sand (I used my stand mixer, maybe I shouldn’t have)
  2. Stir in the icing sugar
  3. Add the eggs and knead lightly until it comes together into a smooth ball. (In hind sight I should have used my hands for this bit but I didn’t, I used my stand mixer. I also should have added the eggs a little at a time because I ended up with a big sticky mess and had to add more flour, not sure how much exactly but by the time I’d finished, I knew I’d overworked my dough)
  4. Cut the dough in half, flatten slightly and chill for 10 minutes (the recipe only calls for half the dough, the other half can be frozen) but I wish I’d used all of it because my pasty turned out a little too thin I think)
  5. Preheat oven to 170 C
  6. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick, put into a 23 cm tart tin and chill for 10 minutes
  7. Blind bake  for 20-25 minutes until a dry light golden colour (my first attempt was in for around 15 minutes and was over done)

Poached pears

  • 4 firm pears
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice (I used 3 lemons for juice)
  • 1 vanilla bean (I used a ~2 tsp vanilla extract instead because one vanilla pod cost >$5)
  1. Put the water, sugar and vanilla into a pan and heat until sugar is dissolved and liquid is simmering
  2. Place pealed whole pears (I cut mine in half because they were really hard and I wanted to speed up the cooking time) into the liquid, cover with baking paper and a plate so that the pears remain submerged
  3. Simmer for 30 mins over low heat (I have no idea how firm or soft the pears should be after 30 mins and i’m not sure how long I cooked mine for but it was a while and they were very soft when I pulled them out, maybe I should have stuck to the recipe)
  4. When cool, quarter the pears, remove the core and slice into thin wedges
  5. Reserve 1 cup of poaching liquid

Frangipane

  • 250g butter softened
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g almond meal
  • 1 tbsp. cornflour
  1. Whisk butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. whisk in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated
  3. Fold in almond meal and cornflour until thoroughly combined

Assembly

  1. Arrange the pears over the base of the blind baked pastry
  2. Spoon the frangipane around the pears (hmm, my pears covered the whole pastry base so I kinda just plonked the frangipane on top)
  3. Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for 25-35 minutes (my experience was that this amount of time was not enough, see below) until filling is set and golden brown
  4. Heat reserved poaching liquid over medium-low heat until it reaches a syrup consistency and poor over cooled tart

So, what went wrong?

Well, first I over worked my pastry dough, then I over cooked it. I decided to use the left over dough to bake another shell but didn’t quite have enough, I baked it anyway but forgot to put in the baking beans, I remember a few minutes into the cooking time when it was all starting to melt down the sides. I managed to rescue it and achieved the colour I wanted but the pastry was tough and rubbish due to over working it. I considered making more but decided against it because it was around 30 C in my house and not getting any cooler.

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Then, I over poached the pears, and they had started to turn to mush. After I had baked the frangipane and let it cool I tried to get in out of the tin, which was pretty easy as it was a loose bottom, but when I tried to slide it off the bottom it broke and uncooked frangipane leaked everywhere! Oh no, major disaster!! I quickly put everything back into the tin and cooked it for, I have no idea how long but it was a while. I had to cover it with foil so that it didn’t get too dark on top. Then when it was finally cooked, or rather I was bored of cooking the dam thing I put the cold syrup, which now had the consistency of marmalade, onto the hot tart. In the end it didn’t look that bad and it was eaten by everyone, so it must have tasted ok.

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I think, if I hadn’t of over poached the pears they wouldn’t have held so much liquid and made the frangipane soggy. Maybe I should have also put the pears on the top rather than the bottom. In the book the picture shows the pears surrounded by frangipane but not covered in it, not sure how Bea achieved that as my pears covered the whole base so the only place for the frangipane to go was on top of the pears.

I think I will attempt a tart like this again but I will wait for a cooler day. Next week my son is turning two and has requested a strawberry cake and a green cake!