Thursday 31 January 2013

Chocolate orange layer cake

chocolate orange layer cake

Being the pessimist that I am, most of the time I convince myself that surely nobody reads this blog. I say nobody because my adoring mother and twinny simply don't count; they read it because a) they love me and b) they are acutely aware that I'd go into a hufflepuff with them if they didn't.

Convinced therefore that this blog is really just a self-indulgent pleasure that few people would ever take the time to read, I always go rather giddy with happiness when someone other than a family member tells me that they not only read my ramblings but enjoy doing so.  So if I don't have the pleasure of knowing you and you are reading this (firstly you should probably count your blessings we're not related, I'm pretty certifiably loopy, and secondly) thank you, welcome and please don't be shy to say hello or post a comment as it means the world to me.

chocolate orange layer cake

Anyway, the reason I am mulling over the 'reach' of this blog is because recently I began to wonder if actually, perhaps my influence is greater than I would have myself believe. Let me explain: I was going to begin this post with an apology because yet again I have baked something chocolate orange flavoured. Then events took a turn. You see, I watched The Great Comic Relief Bake Off and do you know, across four episodes, I counted at least four different chocolate orange flavoured bakes! Now not only do I feel vindicated for having been a lifelong advocate of all things chocolate orange, but based on absolutely nothing at all other than my own sad delusions of grandeur, I'm starting to think perhaps my blog is actually read by the whole entire universe and perhaps it inspired the Bake Off bakes. Perhaps the programme is proof - proof that I am a pioneer, a trend-setter, a veritable trail-blazer when it comes to the world of chocolate orange baking!!!

Okay, so in reality it's mere coincidence, but I think I'm going to carry on in my own deluded little bubble just a short while longer and pretend that maybe, just maybe, someone out there other than my doting mum does actually read my blog.

chocolate orange layer cake

In the meantime, here's an unapologetic little chocolate orange something-something for you. I first saw this recipe on the blog Le Delicieux, where blogger Jennifer has adapted Ina Garten’s famous Beatty's Chocolate Cake into a chocolate orange cake.  Jennifer fills and coats the cake with orange curd and dark chocolate buttercream, but I decided to fill and coat mine with orange curd and a light, mousse-like chocolate Italian meringue buttercream.  Italian meringue buttercream is light and airy, almost like whipped cream, so it prevents the end cake being sickly sweet, but you do need a sugar thermometer to make it.  To finish, I covered the whole thing with a chocolate orange ganache, which complemented the buttercream perfectly.  The result was deliciously moist chocolate orange heaven!

For the cake (adapted very slightly from Le Delicieux’s chocolate orange version of Ina Garten’s Beatty chocolate cake):
  • Butter for greasing
  • 260g plain flour
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 235ml buttermilk, shaken
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one large orange
  • 235ml freshly squeezed orange juice (you’ll need 2-3 large oranges for this)
For the Italian Buttercream (adapted slightly from Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea's of Bloomsbury):
  • 180g of caster sugar 
  • 2 tsp of golden syrup 
  • 50ml water
  • 3 egg whites (from large eggs)
  • 300g of unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into cubes 
  • 100g of 70% cocoa chocolate, melted
For the ganache (make this only after you have already filled the cake with orange curd and buttercream and it has been put in the fridge to set for an hour.  See assembly instructions below for further details):
  • 284ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • 200g plain chocolate (50-60% cocoa)
  • Juice of half an orange
You will also need a jar of orange curd.  I got some from my local Sainsbury’s, but if you can’t get hold of any, you could either try making some of your own, or just use orange marmalade instead.

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and butter two 8” round sandwich tins (or one deep 8" cake tin) and line base and sides with greaseproof paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment/K-beater.  Add the sugar and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and orange zest.  Then, with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

With mixer still on low, add the orange juice and mix until just combined.  The batter will be very runny - don’t panic, it’s supposed to be.

Pour the cake batter into your two prepared cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack and cool completely.

To make the buttercream:
Place the sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan and mix until well combined.  Use a pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains of sugar from the sides of the saucepan before placing over a high heat.

Stir occasionally while heating and bring to a rapid boil.  Once the syrup starts boiling, add a sugar thermometer and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 120C (248 Fahrenheit).  As soon as it hits this temperature, remove from the heat.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk to soft peaks (they should look like foam).

With the mixer running at a medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, being careful not to touch the whisk (I find it easiest to dribble the syrup down the side of the inside of the bowl), and continue whisking.  Now leave the mixture to cool for five or 10 minutes.

Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the butter, one third at a time, and whip on a high speed until fully incorporated.  Next add the cooled melted chocolate and keep whipping until the mixture takes on the consistency of whipped cream.  Don’t panic if your mix resemble a milky soup at first, you need to turn your mixer to high and whip for a good ten minutes, maybe longer.  Eventually it should all come together to a beautifully silky, soft whipped-cream consistency.

To make the ganache:
Break the chocolate up into pieces in a heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream, sugar and orange zest in a saucepan.  Once the cream looks like it is about to start boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.  With a spatula or whisk, beat the cream and chocolate together into a glossy ganache, then add the orange juice and mix again.

To assemble:
Once you have baked and cooled your cake and made your buttercream, you can start to assemble.

Cut the two cake sponges in half so that you have four layers.  Place your bottom layer on the plate you wish to serve the cake on.  Spread a thin layer of orange curd (or marmalade if using this instead of curd) over the layer, followed by a layer of buttercream.

Place the next layer of cake on top and spread this time only with buttercream.

Place your third layer on the top of the bottom two layers and spread with a thin layer of curd and a layer of buttercream.

Finally place your top layer of cake on top of the previous layers and spread only with buttercream.

Spread your remaining buttercream around the sides of the cake to completely cover all of the sponge.  Once you have done this, place the cake in the fridge to set for an hour or two.

chocolate orange layer cake

Whilst your cake is setting in the fridge, you can make your ganache and allow it to cool to room temperature.  Note that ganache thickens the longer you leave it to set, so ensure it’s cool but still runny enough to pour over your cake.  If you find the ganache has become too thick set, heat it for short bursts in the microwave until it’s runny again.

Pour some ganache over the top of your cake, spreading it gently outwards to the edges with a palette knife so that the whole of the top is covered with ganache.  You need to be quite light-handed with this, otherwise you’ll find your buttercream being swirled in with the ganache.

Once the top is done, using a palette knife (ideally an offset one), gently spread ganache all around the side of your cake.  If once you have finished, you still have ganache left over, pour it over the top of your cake and allow it to run down the sides.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Banana and chocolate bread

banana and chocolate bread
How would you answer if I asked you what your favourite meal of the day is?  Technically I'm not sure that afternoon tea counts as a meal, but even if it did, you may be surprised to know that it's not my favourite.  No, if I had to choose, I would actually plump for brunch.  'Why?' I hear you ask.  I'll tell you for why!
  • Firstly, brunch is not a meal I have the pleasure of eating often, thus, because of it's rarity, I appreciate it all the more when I do get to have it.
  • Secondly, the days that I eat brunch are usually weekends or luxuriously languorous days off, therefore I associate brunch with happy times (agreed, all meal times really are happy times for me, but when you have nothing planned ahead of you other than hitting the shops for some retail therapy, or catching up with friends, a meal to set you up for such a day is particularly delightful).
  • Thirdly, and probably the biggest reason why I love me some brunch action, is that it's about the only meal where it is acceptable for your main sustenance to come in sweet form rather than savoury.  Tell someone you're eating a stack of pancakes drowning in maple syrup for dinner and you'd probably get more than a few tuts of disapproval over your unhealthy meal choice, but tell them it's for brunch and all of a sudden it becomes acceptable.  Just think about it: waffles, pancakes, French toast, Danish pastries, muffins, cereal, all sweet and all edible sans judgment.  Ohhhhh yesssss, big-up the brunch!!!

Not surprising then that for my brother's birthday last Sunday, I suggested we should celebrate with a get-together over my favourite meal.  My family doesn't do food by halves so there were all manner of delicious things to eat, but my primary concern was, of course, what I could bake.  I opted for banana and chocolate bread - delicious (studded with satisfyingly large nuggets of chocolate) and nutritious (well, it's got banana in it!) - and so an ideal brunch option methinks.
banana and chocolate bread
So what the 'ecky-peck are you waiting for?!  Make your next day off a brunch day and bake this bread for the occasion.  Trust me, your life will be all the better for it!
Slice of banana and chocolate bread with ricotta cheese
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 250g mashed bananas (approx. 2 bananas)
  • 1 large egg
  • 115g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 4 tbsp milk (I've used both whole and semi-skimmed; both worked equally as well)
  • 125-140g plain chocolate (40% cocoa), chopped into chunks
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line a loaf tin (I used a 21 x 8 cm tin).
Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together into a large bowl, then add the caster sugar and lightly mix.
In a separate bowl, beat together the mashed bananas, egg, melted butter, oil and milk.
Being careful not to over-stir, gently fold the dry ingredients into the bowl of liquid ingredients.
Stir in the chocolate chunks, reserving a few, if desired, for sprinkling over the top.
Pour the batter into your lined tin, sprinkling your reserved chocolate chunks over the top.
Bake for 10 minutes at 180C (160C fan), before reducing the temperature to 160C (140C fan) and baking for a further 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes before removing from tin and leaving to cool on a wire rack.
Taking inspiration from Bill Granger, might I recommend serving slices lightly toasted, dusted with icing sugar and with a spoon of ricotta cheese on the side.
banana and chocolate bread