Sunday, October 24, 2010

Adventures in the black forest

As a child in the 80s Black forest cake was like the holy grail of fancy desserts - something grown ups ate in restaurants.
In the 90s all that cream and fuss became deeply unfashionable for it's calories and the millions of steps it takes and now it's more of a nostalgia thing - which doesn't make it any less annoying I've discovered.

It was my nanna's 85th birthday last weekend and she has been very unwell. In and out of hospital and off her food with a stomach ulcer that has only just resolved itself. I wanted to make her something really tasty as well as beautiful for a birthday cake so I decided on a black forest cake - which I've never made before- because the lady loves cream, and there are few things as cream stuffed than black forest cakes!

Well, every recipe is spectacularly different and of course I picked a traditional german version with sliced chocolate cake, cream, chocolate mousse, cherry syrups, ganache, shaved chocolate and slices of butter cake in between the layers - the internet offers far too many choices for a perfectionist like me...

Then I bought the ingredients and started the process. Not too far in I had a meltdown. I was melting chocolate, whipping cream, reducing cherry liquid and mixing a cake simultaneously. The kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it and I was covered in cream and chocolate. Some sanity saving decisions had to be made! I scrapped the butter cake layers and chocolate mousse and all of a sudden the task became a lot more manageable.

Then I struck the next problem - the cake. It was the oddest cake batter I've ever come across:

250g Chocolate & 180g butter melted together
Beat in 250g sugar, 1.5 cups flour and 6 eggs.

Does that seem like a ridiculously small amount of flour and a ridiculously large amount of eggs to anyone else?

Anyway, I was making 2 small cakes rather than one large so I cooked up the batter in a little wedding cake topper tin.
It came out at the exact consistency of chocolate brownies- except in a giant cake shaped version- not exactly as expected.
I've since been informed that a traditional German version is supposed to be very dense - this was VERY dense so I suppose VERY traditional..

I cut it into 3 almost even slices. Then I reduced the syrup from a jar of morello cherries and plopped the cherries back in - which honestly made it just as runny again. I sandwiched the layers with sweetened whipped cream and the cherries.

The whole thing was topped with a fabulous ganache- can I just shout to the hills how wonderfully adding a teaspoon of glucose syrup to ganache works! That's a brilliant stepford secret.

95ml Whipping cream
1 tsp glucose syrup
pinch of table salt
95g chopped chocolate
20g unsalted butter

melt together gently.

Chopped chocolate went on top plus a cherry to make it look perfect. It did look beautiful and was received well by the birthday girl but I wasn't very happy with the texture. Plus imagine how tricky it would be to cut layers of dense brownie sandwiched with cream, it all slid around into something resembling trifle, yummy but not quite right.

So take two! This time I decided to make my own nod to the black forest. I had to make a dessert for a women's dessert and coffee night last night and I still had all the ingredients so this time they became black forest cupcakes.

The cakes:

Melt together 250g butter, 1.5cups water with 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in it, 200g caster sugar and 200g dark chocolate.
Sift and beat in 1.5 cups self raising flour, I cup plain flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Bake in cases at 160C for about 30mins or until cooked through.

I then scooped out their middles and filled with morello cherries drizzled with the reduced syrup they came in (with a little sugar added) and a little of the ganache. Whipped cream was piped on top and then ganache drizzled over.

They were fabulous. My only regret is not saving a cherry for the top of each cake - I'm so pathetic that forgetting that step actually unsettled my sleep last night - what a nerd!

I think in the future my version of black forest will be the winner- even if it's not traditional, it's a bit lighter and well more aussie :)

Next time I'll take on something a bit less complex!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Aquarium Cake!

This one is backdated quite a bit - I think I made it for lovely friend Kristen's birthday about 2 years ago. My apologies for the dodgy photograph too, this is back in the days when my phone camera was the best option available...

The reason I haven't been blogging much in the last few weeks is because my lovely camera died! I'm saving up towards a new one but in the meantime I've got a few old pics that I'd love to share.

This recipe is fancy birthday cake made simple. It's so easy but super impressive and perfect for kids or young at heart adults.

You bake a cake in a roasting tin, pop it out to cool and then set a packet of blue jelly in the same tin lined with cling wrap. When it's set plonk the flat side of the cake on top and then turn the whole creation out onto your cake board and decorate to your little heart's content!

I iced the sides in blue and used lolly snakes to make the weeds. Guylian chocolate sea creatures chopped in half swim around the sea and coloured chocolate pebbles make the sandy bottom of the sea.

This recipe is from Party Cakes for Kids By Murdoch Books Pty Limited, Zoe Harpham, Jacqueline Blanchard. I highly recommend it. It is an excellent book - second only to my old favourite - The Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book!

Have a lovely day