So it was my sister Kate's birthday this weekend and to mark the occasion, she brought the cavalry down to Wexford to celebrate. Well in advance she had the orders put in - the booze, the present, the cake, even the hangover dinner! So with the present in the bag, the fridge stocked, the hangover feast ready to go, all that was left was the cake ...
No better woman to tell you exactly what she wants, Kate requested one of her favourites - a classic American Red Velvet Cake! A dramatic looking red sponge cake with contrasting white cream cheese frosting the Red Velvet Cake is something of a show stopper. There's a subtle hint of chocolate in the sponge that works really well with the vanilla frosting. It's also surprisingly easy to make which is always a bonus!
So, after a pretty hilarious night out on the tiles, there were some tender heads this morning and rather than reach for the panadol or motillium, the cure of the day seemed to be tea, pulled pork and birthday cake! Kate had great intentions of bringing leftovers back to Dublin but, when they finally managed to drag their weary bodies from the couch to head home, they left empty handed. There is but a sliver of cake left on the kitchen table after this monstrosity of a cake was devoured! I think that's a pretty good sign of how tasty the cake was!
300g Caster Sugar
40g Cocoa Powder
50ml Red food Colouring Liquid / 1 tablespoon Red Food Colouring Paste
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
300g Plain Gluten Free Flour
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
3 teaspoons White Vinegar
(Serves 14 easily!)
Preheat the oven to 170'C and grease three 20cm round tins (or the nearest you have to this!).
In a free standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and make sure they are mixed in well. Mix the cocoa powder, vanilla and food colouring together in a small bowl to form a paste and then beat this into the butter mixture.
Sieve the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and then add half of this to the wet ingredients. Add in half of the buttermilk, followed by the rest of the flour and then the rest of the buttermilk. This ensures that everything gets mixed in evenly.
Finally, in a cup, combine the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (these ingredients are used instead of baking powder to cause the cake to rise but they also react with the chemicals in the cocoa powder to create a more vibrant red colour). Thoroughly mix this vinegar concoction into the cake batter and then divide the batter evenly among the 3 cake tins.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes and then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
300g Full Fat Cream Cheese
600g Icing Sugar
100g Butter, softened
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Full Fat Milk
Using a free standing mixer on the slowest speed, mix all of the ingredients together until just combined. Turn the mixer up to the maximum speed and cream the icing until it is light and fluffy. If you prefer a slightly softer icing, add in a few more drops of milk. Taste the icing and make sure you're happy with the flavour, adding more vanilla if preferred.
And now to assemble this beast of a cake ...
Take one layer of the cake and ice the top of it with about a quarter of the icing (this will be the bottom layer). Spreading the icing is much easier if you place a butter knife in a cup of boiling water, wiping it dry just before using it to spread the icing. This gives a nice clean finish.
Place another sponge layer on top of the iced base. Again, ice the top of this layer with a quarter of the icing. Top this off with the final cake layer and spread a quarter of the icing all over the cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for about half an hour to set this layer before spreading the rest of the icing over the entire cake, smoothing with the back of the butter knife.
Tip: For an extra touch, you could trim a very thin layer of sponge of the top of each of the layers before assembling the cake (usually the cake will have a slight rise in the centre so you could trim this off). Keep this excess sponge aside and then use it to sprinkle over the cake as decoration once it is iced.
So a few weeks ago, I posted a delicious recipe for homemade Bounty Bars. They not only tasted better than the store bought versions, but they also didn't contain any nasty additives that most chocolate bars do these days. Think about it - those popular well known bars can sit on a shelf for months on end and still be edible. Think about what goes in to those bars to keep them "fresh". The homemade versions last for about a week before they start to turn.
This recipe takes the homemade Bounty a step further. My previous recipe, delicious as it was, contains quite a lot of sugar and saturated fats (from the condensed milk). This is fine as a treat and, in moderation, there's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying them. As a healthy alternative however and a perfect snack to enjoy with a cuppa, these delicious bars hit the spot.
I made these without telling anyone that they were different to my previous indulgent batches and nobody even realised that it was a different recipe. They taste exactly the same and, to be honest, I think I'll be using this recipe from now on instead of my previous one. All of the taste but without the sugar overload!
Oh and finally, before you start fretting about the fat in the coconut milk and oil, these are good fats and are essential for you to function. So just enjoy them already!
400ml can Coconut Milk (Full-fat)
40g Coconut Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup / Agave Nectar
500g Desiccated Coconut
200g Good Quality Dark Chocolate (whichever you prefer - I use 70% Green and Blacks which is dairy free)
Gently heat the coconut milk, oil agave and vanilla in a pot until they are melted and combined. Allow to cool slightly.
Add the desiccated coconut to the cooled milk mixture and mix thoroughly. Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls (or into traditional rectangular Bounty shapes if you prefer). This is easier if your hands are wet. Place the balls on the lined tray and freeze for approximately 1 hour. This doesn't actually freeze them but makes the final step of covering them in chocolate far easier as they won't fall apart.
After an hour, gently melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. And now for the messy part ..
Place a wire rack on the work-top with a sheet of parchment underneath it (this will make cleaning up dripping chocolate much easier!). Dip the chilled coconut balls into the chocolate and leave to set on the wire rack. Add a sprinkling of coconut to the balls before they set fully. Enjoy!
I think I might have gotten a little bit ahead of myself. The first days of October are only just marked off the calender and already I've cracked open the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and we all know what they represent ... the 'C' word. Not that one ...
There's something about these aromatic spices that create that sense of festivity .... yes, they reek of Christmas. Add in a glug of bourbon whiskey and, sure, I might as well have been baking in a Santa suit. In an effort to validate my premature leap into winter baking, I should explain. Growing up in Wexford, October marks the beginning of the festive season. Our Opera Festival kicks off in two weeks and the buzz around town is always amazing. Once this wraps up though, it's mid November and sure then it's nearly Christmas! So you can't blame a girl for getting the cinnamon and whiskey ready!
Unlike most seasonal treats that pack quite a spicy punch, this cake is surprisingly delicate in flavour. For this reason, this bad boy is getting logged as an 'autumnal' recipe, a transitional cake to get us ready for the richer flavours needed on those cold, wintry nights! "A transitional cake" ... I like that!
I've used gluten-free flour and baking powder here but it works just the same with plain wheat flour versions.
310g Gluten-free Plain Flour
2 teaspoons Gluten-free Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Salt
30g Butter or dairy-free spread, softened
80ml Organic Sunflower Oil
250g Soft Brown Sugar
3 Free Range Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla
300ml Milk or Dairy-Free Alternative Milk
Preheat the oven to 180'C and line a 9"x13" tray with baking parchment. If you don't have a tray exactly this size don't worry, just find something similar. Bear in mind however that if your tray is much smaller/larger, you will need to adjust the timing for baking.
Sift the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter, oil and sugar until fluffy and then add in the eggs and vanilla. You can do this with an electric mixer or with a wooden spoon (I did it by hand and it was perfect).
Add in some of the flour mixture and fold into the wet ingredients. Add in half of the milk and mix this through. Add in more flour followed by more milk , mixing after each addition and then add the last of the flour. Mix through and then pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. If the centre doesn't seem quite cooked after 25 minutes but the top is browning, place a sheet of tin foil over the top of the tray and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes. This will protect the top of the sponge while allowing it to cook through.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully before icing.
250g Icing Sugar
80g Butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Bourbon (I use Makers Mark) or Brandy
Handful Chopped Walnuts
Beat all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Boom - Buttercream!
Layer the cooled spice cake with the icing and cut into bite-size portions and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.