On this Thanksgiving, I have to share what has to be one of the most whacked out culinary ideas ever. Ever! Piecaken!
Think turducken – but with pie and cake! How does it work?
Essentially envelope a layer of cake batter around a fully cooked pie, bake it up and then frost the whole thing. It’s a deeply illogical Frankensteinian creation and seems wrong on all sorts of levels, but also kind of right. Of course, I must eat this. Maybe something to work up to next Thanksgiving?
At any rate, happy Thanksgiving! For those celebrating, have a wonderful turkey day with family and friends!
Victoria Sponge success
Ages ago — ages and ages, long before kids, the Kardashians and the invention of cronuts — I loved Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, “How to be a Domestic Goddess.” It was a great cookbook, filled with recipes for breads, cakes, cookies and puddings.
And then I made her Victoria Sponge recipe and it made me rethink everything that I once believed to be true. I don’t actually remember why it was so bad. I just remember not even eating it and throwing it away. I made a small note at the top of the recipe “BAD 😦 ” and haven’t tried making this cake again.
Fast forward all of these years and my daughter wanted to have high tea at home so a cake was in order. I looked for a recipe – so many British recipes were still in British measurements and I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do the conversions. So I found one on Food.com that got nearly 5 stars and took a gamble.
As it turned out, then gamble paid off. The cake was so moist and delicious and ridiculously easy to make. The only adjustment I made was to double the recipe since my cake tins were larger than 8 inches (how large? I have no idea – again, I didn’t have the energy to measure them).
VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE
3 large eggs, weighed in their shells
butter or soft margarine
raspberry jam (or jam, jelly or curd of your choice. I used Bonne Maman’s Four Fruits preserve)
powdered sugar to dust on top
The measurements for this recipe are equal amounts of sugar, flour and fat to the weight of the eggs. Weigh the eggs first – if the eggs weigh 8 ounces, you will use 8 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of butter or margarine and 8 ounces of flour. If the eggs weigh 6 ounces, all the other ingredients will be 6 ounces – easy!
Set oven Gas 4 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F: grease and base line the bottom of 2 x 8” sandwich tins – cake tins.
Cream margarine or butter together with the sugar, until light and fluffy.
Beat the eggs, and then add them to the mixture, gradually and beating well after each addition.
Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.
Divide equally between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
Remove and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from the tins and fill with raspberry jam when cold, to avoid the jam seeping into the sponge.
A light dusting of powdered sugar on the top will finish it.
Place on an attractive cake stand or plate, and serve in dainty wedges with freshly brewed tea.
If you use butter remove from the fridge to soften before using. This is not necessary with soft margarine.
If large eggs are used they may weigh 7 ½ ozs/210g. If so make sure you use this weight for the other ingredients.
A smaller sandwich cake can be made with 2 medium eggs. Weight about 4 oz/55g. If so, use 2 x 7” sandwich tins and the cakes and the cakes will need less time in the oven – probably 20mins.
Another year, another coffee and walnut cake
My husband celebrated his birthday on Saturday, which, of course means one thing: Coffee and walnut cake.
I was running around on Saturday morning, making a nice birthday breakfast, getting ready to take my daughter to a birthday party, wrapping presents, brushing teeth and negotiating the time it would take to bake the cake. Thankfully, I had blogged last year sending a message to Future Me about the ease of cooking this Nigella Lawson recipe and Past Me was entirely correct.
It was a breeze to make. 10 minutes prep. 25 minutes in the oven. Then boom! Done.
Visitors bearing Tunis cake
First of all, apologies for the radio silence this past week. It’s been honestly the busiest week of my life. Possibly ever. And I still haven’t had time to entirely catch my breath yet.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law arrived at our place today and came bearing gifts! Check out this new tea towel that they brought from Scotland:
And not one, but two Tunis cakes. Tunis cakes are pretty seasonal cakes (that taste much better than a fruitcake, if you ask me!). They’re getting more difficult to find but my sister-in-law tracked ’em down. In fact, when she asked the supermarket clerk for Tunis cakes, he asked, “Tuna steaks”?! LOL!
We just cracked into the one she bought from Marks & Spencer. Delicious buttery pound cake with a thick cocoa frosting! (We also have one from Waitrose so will be doing a taste test later!)
Have you ever tried Tunis cake? What do you think?
Tea at Wickle
After our visit in Devon, we headed back on the train to visit friends in the town of Lewes for a couple of days. Lewes is a gorgeous little town just an hour from London on the southeast coast.
One of our favorite moments was having afternoon tea and cake in the children’s shop Wickle. The shop sells beautiful clothes, high-quality toys and games and tucked in the very back of the store is a little cafe, perfect for children and grownups. The kids got the most decadent hot chocolates and we sampled ginger cake, brownies, millionaire’s shortbread and victoria sponge cake.
Cake that’s worth the wait
Good news! I made my husband the ultra-British coffee and walnut cake that I had promised! Even better, it was actually really good, thanks to a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen cookbook!
Her version is very simple, particularly since all of the ingredients go straight into the food processor and are blitzed.
The “coffee” ingredient she recommends is instant espresso powder, which I didn’t even know existed, but was easy to find in our nearest grocery store.
After exactly 25 minutes, they were ready.
I waited 10 minutes as instructed before moving the cakes to the cooling racks. The cakes just eased out of the pans, as if on cue. It was amazing.
The frosting was also very simple to make (powdered sugar, butter and instant espresso powder in a little bit of boiling water) but was easily the best buttercream frosting recipe I’ve ever made. I was exceedingly proud of how pretty this cake turned out – just look!
I’ll definitely make it again in non-birthday circumstances. I can easily see this turning into my go-to cake to bake! Note: if you’re making the cake for kids, you can always tone down the caffeine quotient by replacing the 4 teaspoons of instant espresso powder with 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules. (Or you can just serve it first thing in the morning and call it breakfast).
COFFEE AND WALNUT LAYER CAKE
For the sponge
1/2 cup walnuts (pieces)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (soft (plus some for greasing))
1 1/3 cups plain flour
4 teaspoon(s) instant espresso powder
2.5 teaspoon(s) baking powder
½ teaspoon(s) baking soda
4 medium egg(s)
2 tablespoon(s) milk
For the buttercream frosting
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
2.5 teaspoon(s) instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
approximately 10 walnut halves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the 2 8-inch round cake pans and line the base of each with parchment paper.
Put the walnut pieces and sugar into a food processor and blitz to a fine nutty powder.
Add the 2 sticks of butter, flour, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and eggs and process to a smooth batter.
Add the milk, pouring it down the funnel with the motor still running, or just pulsing, to loosen the cake mixture: it should be a soft, dropping consistency, so add more milk if you need to. (If you are making this by hand, bash the nuts to a rubbly powder with a rolling pin and mix with the dry ingredients; then cream the butter and sugar together, and beat in some dry ingredients and eggs alternately and, finally, the milk.)
Divide the mixture between the 2 cake pans and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and feels springy to the touch.
Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the parchment paper.
When the sponges are cool, you can make the buttercream.
To make the frosting:
Pulse the powdered sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing.
Dissolve the instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add it while still hot to the processor, pulsing to blend into the buttercream.
If you are doing this by hand, sieve the icing sugar and beat it into the butter with a wooden spoon. Then beat in the hot coffee liquid.
Place 1 sponge upside down on your cake stand or serving plate.
Spread with about half the icing; then place on it the second sponge, right side up (i.e. so the 2 flat sides of the sponges meet in the middle) and cover the top with the remaining icing in a ramshackle swirly pattern.
This cake is all about old-fashioned, rustic charm, so don’t worry unduly: however the frosting goes on is fine. similarly, don’t fret about some buttercream oozing out around the middle: that’s what makes it look so inviting.
Gently press the walnut halves into the top of the icing all around the edge of the circle about 1/2 inch apart.
Cuts into 8 generous slices.
A weekend of baking
With the challenge of Britain’s National Baking Week set before me, this weekend I did the unthinkable: I baked.
And baked and baked and baked.
I’ll admit I was a bit rusty. I warmed up by baking brownies Saturday morning, which might have been considered cheating. I used Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Brownies, which has to be the most user-friendly brownie mix on the market. It dulls the intelligence. Anyone capable of opening a packet, pouring contents into a greased brownie pan and sliding it into a pre-heated oven can do it. The results are fantastic, but where is the sense of accomplishment?
On Sunday, I made a two-layer yellow cake using a recipe I found online last week (yes, I’ve baked two weekends in a row. This might be a personal record) and then after I put the cake pans into the oven, I realized with dismay that I had promised my son I was going to make cupcakes, not a cake!
He was very brave about it and told me it was okay. We could make cupcakes another day. Which made me feel even worse and so, there began the third baking project of the weekend – cupcakes, using the same winning yellow cake recipe. In the making of this batch, I ran out of granulated sugar and was not going to make my second trip to the grocery store so I subbed the rest of the measurement with brown sugar. It ended up working out very well – moist, delicious and not too sweet. Sense of accomplishment? Oh yes!
With the lack of granulated sugar in the house, I couldn’t make the homemade chocolate frosting I had planned and I didn’t have enough butter to do a traditional buttercream so I cracked open a can of Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting and called it a day. Or rather, a weekend.