Monday, 13 May 2013

Neapolitan Rose cake

It was my Mum's *whispers* 60th birthday last month, and so a special cake was required. I was originally intending to bake a topsy turvy cake using the tins I got for Christmas (has anyone else used these? Any good?) but decided that it would just be way too much cake than it would be possible to eat, since we already had plans for afternoon tea on the day aswell.

I have seen quite a few rose swirl cakes on other blogs and think it makes for such a stunning effect, and had had a Neapolitan one by Baking Addict bookmarked for a while, as I loved the effect of all the layers of colours, too. I decided that would be the perfect cake for my Mum - roses being a bit of a tradition (the chocolates aswell as the flowers!), plus neapolitan ice cream just reminds me of my childhood and so I thought that would be quite fitting.

The recipe was cobbled together from a couple of sources - a mix of the basic sponge cake recipe I always use, with bits borrowed from Ros' recipe - and I used Ros' recipe for the buttercream with the exception of the fresh strawberries. I decided to use flavouring as when I've used fresh strawberries in the past I've struggled to get the right piping consistency, so I wanted to play it safe with this one as I didn't have any spare time for errors! I think Ros said in her post that the cake really doesn't actually take that long to make, and people will think you spent longer on it than you did - I can vouch for that! I made this in an evening after work and was still in bed by 11pm! I think altogether it took me around 3.5 hours.

Here is the recipe I used:

For the cakes:
300g caster sugar
300g butter
6 medium eggs
300g self raising flour
1tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk
100g milk chocolate, melted
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp strawberry flavouring
pink food colouring (I used Wilton paste)

For the buttercream:
750g icing sugar
375g butter, softened
4-6 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g melted chocolate
drop of strawberry flavouring
pink food colouring

The cakes were made by beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then adding in the eggs, flour, baking powder and milk. Split the batter into three equal portions and add the vanilla extract to one, the melted chocolate and cocoa powder to another, and the strawberry flavouring and pink colouring to the other. (I just made the vanilla and chocolate ones first with 2/3 of the recipe, then made the strawberry one separately)

Spoon the batter into 3 x 18cm sandwich tins, greased and lined, and bake on 190c for around 25 minutes until springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes have cooled, get on with your buttercream. In an electric mixer, mix together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract and add the milk gradually until you get the right consistency. Beat the buttercream on a high speed until light and fluffy. Divide into three portions (you need 3 slightly differently sized portions - the colour on the bottom needs to be the smallest, and the top colour the biggest) and add the melted chocolate to one (this was the smallest portion in my case), and the strawberry flavouring and pink colouring to another (the medium one in my case). Fill 3 piping bags fitted with Wilton 1M nozzles - I went out and bought 2 extra nozzles for this cake and the time/effort it saves you having them all to hand is definitely worth it!

I would recommend levelling your cakes if needed, as this will make it look neater and easier to decorate! Now smear a bit of buttercream on the base of your cake board and plonk the chocolate layer down. Cover with strawberry buttercream, and place the strawberry cake layer on top. Cover that with vanilla buttercream and top with the vanilla cake layer.

At this point I would advise doing a thin coating of vanilla buttercream, especially on the top. I didn't think the sides of the cake desperately needed it, but it would have looked so much neater. I really wish I had coated the top first at least as I ran out of vanilla buttercream and couldn't fill the gaps!

Pipe rose swirls around the bottom layer with the chocolate buttercream, middle layer with the strawberry buttercream, and top layer/top of cake with the vanilla buttercream. You can disguise some of the gaps on the top with little drops of buttercream, which would have been fine if I hadn't ran out (I got my quantities wrong for the portions and ended up with loads of leftover chocolate buttercream!).

I was happy with the flavour of the cake - the flavours of all the layers came through nicely and it tasted fresh and light. I was a little disappointed about the gaps in the piping, and was kicking myself for not doing a base coating. Looking back at the photos I probably should have gone for bigger rose swirls but at the time I was so cautious about it I played it way too safe! Overall though I was really pleased with how it turned out. It's a great celebration cake and the piping and colours make for a stunning effect.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Easter Baking 2013

Again, horrendously late with posting about anything seasonal but for some reason I just cannot bring myself to post things out of the order in which they are baked! I was so late with this that I ended up writing the entire post, looked again at the photos and realised I'd forgotten an entire batch of cupcakes!

Easter weekend usually ends up being fairly busy and for the bits where we are at home I favour lying on the couch eating chocolate over slaving away over anything complicated in the kitchen! But this year I did want to force myself to try something new, so while I still knocked out the traditional favourites of Easter nests, chicks and mini eggs, I did try a new recipe too.

The new recipe was these Creme Egg cupcakes. My friend had sent me a link to the recipe and I knew I had to try them! I loved the idea of recreating the creme egg filling and was happy to discover another fab food blog at the same time! I just used the frosting recipe to go on top of my chocolate cupcakes. A strong lesson learned here was always buy decent food colouring! I thought Dr Oetker gel colours would do the trick but alas not. I'd already used most of the packet and still only had a very pale yellow to decided that would have to do! I also stuffed up the dual piping... I had bought one of the Lakeland dual piping bags but they just seem to be TINY! I rammed way too much frosting down one side first so couldn't get the other side in, I ended up scooping it out and abandoning the pretty frosting, going for spreading frosting on top and finishing with a dollop of the creme egg filling. I was a bit annoyed with it but once I'd stuck a mini creme egg on top it masked the botched job a little! Not quite the beautiful swirl of the original recipe but they tasted pretty good and I will probably have another stab at them next year, armed with better food colouring and lessons learnt in terms of dual piping bags!

So onto the traditional Easter favourites... last year I'd wanted to make something based on the hatching egg cupcakes I'd seen on Butter Hearts Sugar, but saw them too late and ended up making fairly rubbish ones out of Kinder eggs which were the only ones left in the shops by then. This year however, I was fully prepared and bought some smaller eggs in plenty of time and was happier with how they looked.

Easter nest cupcakes never fail to disappoint either, I can't see an Easter passing by without me making some of these! The chicks always end up strewn over the kitchen and I keep finding them in various places throughout the year.

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