Saturday, 9 March 2013

Strawberry Heart Pavolvas

So we'll gloss over the fact that I'm posting my Valentine's bake in March. Anyway, even though this is a heart shaped bake, it doesn't have to be, you could make it any time of year!

I'm always dismayed by the Valentine's Day apathy I see every year, and I don't like being made to feel sad or a sucker for wanting to celebrate it. While I do hate how everything has become crazily commercial these days, it shouldn't mean you have to shun it completely! We all know that you should make sure your loved ones know that you appreciate them every day of the year, but I don't see anything wrong with having a day where you can celebrate it, spend some quality time together, and write some nice words in a card to make extra sure they know.

Anyway, it was bloody weeks ago so there's really no point in me getting on my high horse now! Our Valentine's Days have been varied so far, we have been for a day out, we've been for a meal out, we've had a meal in, and this year we decided to stay in again have a takeaway and watch a DVD. Our tradition is that I get flowers and Mike gets something baked for him (surprise, surprise).

This year I'd spied my Valentine's bake quite early, on one of my favourite baking blogs Butter Hearts Sugar - Strawberries and Cream Pavolva Hearts! This would be an extra special and heartfelt bake, since I don't like meringue and I don't like any egg 'interaction' beyond a quick crack into a cake, egg separation is the stuff of nightmares to me!

The meringues were quite simple to make really, I think mine were a little runny as it was quite difficult to pipe them but I managed to wrangle them into heart shapes and they turned out fine, if a little uneven due to my smoothing shortcomings! The filling was just whipped cream with sugar and vanilla, and sliced strawberries, with a bit of warmed strawberry jam drizzled on top. I think they were perfect for the occasion and Mike definitely enjoyed them. I think I will be making these again in future - reckon they would be great as a summery dessert. The recipe is here if you want to try them.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Coffee Caramel cake

It's posts like this that make me realise how long I've been blogging now - I know that almost 3 years isn't that long compared to others out there, but I'm amazed I've stuck at it this long and really pleased that I've found a hands-on hobby that's actually stayed with me (making jewellery out of plastic beads probably held the previous record, which was about a month in 2001...).

So this is the third 'best friend's birthday cake' post I've written! This is another of the the more important cakes on the calendar and requires careful choosing of the recipe! So in January I'd already forced her into choosing a flavour and that flavour was coffee. I've almost exhausted the world's coffee supply with all the coffee cake I've made recently but I knew I wanted to try a new recipe rather than make a fourth coffee, maple and pecan cake (although I did consider it!).

I scoured all my books, bookmarks, to bake lists, and scraps of paper and came up with nothing but then suddenly I had this searing memory of an amazing coffee cake I'd seen on The Extraordinary Art of Cake - how this escaped my bookmarks and 'to bake' list I do not know! The recipe called for making your own caramel, and since all my previous caramel adventures had involved scooping it out of a tin I was keen to try out the real deal.

Initially I thought this cake would be a massive faff to make but really, as long as you factor in the time to make the caramel, it is no trouble at all. And it's definitely worth making the time for the caramel! The only problem was, I don't know if I overdid mine, as it was very thick and difficult to work with - I just couldn't beat it after refridgerating, and so the drizzling between the layers didn't happen. To be honest, I'm not sure that was a bad thing for my best friend's taste - the frosting was sweet enough to give the balance, any more and it might have been too much for her! It did create a slight problem with the decoration - as I was just going to copy the original recipes I didn't have a back up idea for the decoration, but luckily I had some choc chips and fudge pieces to hand to jazz it up a bit.

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet here, the cake was amazing. This is absolutely most definitely now my favourite coffee cake sponge recipe - so light and fluffy and perfectly flavoured! The frosting was a great pairing with the cake, but it was very buttery and sweet - although I was definitely put off by how much butter it contained, so maybe it is more enjoyable if you don't know! I am thinking I will have to make the coffee cake again with the maple frosting from the previous cake.

Thanks so much to Astral for sharing this recipe with the world, and it is definitely worth checking out her beautiful blog as she does some of the most amazing sugarcraft I have ever seen!
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