Icing Sugar Cloud

That "pfft" of icing sugar that covers every surface in your kitchen. It happens to the best of us…


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Brownies: To Frost or Not to Frost

So, I’m on the question for the perfect brownie because … well, why not?  Unfortunately on my first attempt I fear I may have succeeded!  This is obviously devastating news as I had planned to do a whole series of brownie posts (and eat obscene quantities of brownies in the process).  Still, I’ll have to see how this bad boy stands up to the addition of nuts, chocolate chips, salted caramel sauce, fruit (both dried and fresh)…  I think I’ll manage!

I made the “Baked” brownie from the book “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking“.  This is an American cookbook, as most of my baking books tend to be, from the BAKED NYC Bakery and there are some truly scrumptious looking bakes in this treasure. Peanut butter crispy bar, anyone?  And their Sweet & Salty Cake inspired my own salted caramel chocolate cake.  You have to convert the recipes from cups, but that’s not really an issue for me anymore; I can do it in my head!

I’m not going to print the recipe here.  I don’t have permission and I know I’d be annoyed if someone reproduced my recipe without my consent.  (Psst.  Google may help you!)  I’m working on some variations of it though, so when I’ve changed it a bit, I’ll post my recipe then.

But back to the brownies.  The delicious, fudgy brownie that made me want to lock myself in my bedroom like the teenage boy having just discovered, ahem, himself and not come out until I had regained consciousness from my rich chocolate-induced coma.  In fact, I ate so many of these brownies when I first made them that I did indeed make myself feel rather ill.  If I hadn’t made them myself, I would’ve sworn there was crack in them or something.  You have been warned!

I’m not one for cakey brownies, I’m with Baked on that.  Anyone who wants a cakey brownie can, quite frankly, do one.  A cakey brownie is in actual fact a cake.  A chocolate cake.  This is where I understand the no frosting argument the most too: cakey brownie + frosting = cake.  A cake disguised as a brownie.  If that’s what you want, have chocolate cake not a brownie!  And whilst we’re at it, do you know who else can do one?  Those people who think you get a delicious fudgy brownie by undercooking it.  Do one.  You just get raw batter tasting gloop.  A brownie it is not.  You know who you are, so just stop it.

Baked comments that brownies should be unfrosted.  Naked.  A frosted brownie is just a wannabe cake.  I can kind of see their point…

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The not-totally-naked brownie. I had to dust with some cocoa powder. I can never just leave something alone!

The unadulterated (ignore the cocoa powder!) brownie is a delightful thing: rich, fudgy, decadent, chocolatey, delicious.  It seems a much more “adult” treat, like the baked version of 85% posh dark chocolate.  A small, even stingy-looking, amount is sufficient to give the best food high.  This is not a goody you’d give a child, mostly because they’d have to fight you for it.  Remember when your parents would say to you “Oh, you wouldn’t like it”.  This is that time.

Now enter, the frosted brownie…

"Baked" brownie with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream and yet more cocoa dusting.  I may have a problem...

“Baked” brownie with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream and yet more cocoa dusting. I may have a problem…

Go on.  Take it all in.  Bask in the glory of that brownie: dense chocolatey goodness topped with light salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream.  This.  Was.  Awesome.

Now  I must confess, this brownie is only topped with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream because I had some left over that needed using up.  You know, as you do.  Actually, this is a scarily regular occurrence in my house.  And I wonder why I can never shift that last 7lbs…  However, the combination totally worked.  How could it not?!  In fact, when my husband took the leftovers into work – if I’d had these in the house there would have been a further nausea and coma-inducing gorging session – his colleague said that he’d had a “personal moment” upon eating this brownie.

In fact, I think I’m going to have to go and make another batch, just to test that it wasn’t a fluke…

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Who doesn’t like Chocolate Cake? No-one, that’s who.

I love chocolate.  I love cake.  But more often than not, chocolate cake is a bit disappointing.  It’s a bit dry and flavourless.  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, its too moist and rich.  If I wanted a brownie I would’ve made them (and yes, I will definitely be making brownies.  Lots and lots of them).  I want a delicious, light and chocolatey chocolate cake.  One that’s rich and full of flavour.  Is that too much to ask?

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Triple Layer Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

This recipe is one my go-to chocolate sponge cake recipe.  Its quick and easy to make and delicious with any manner of fillings and frostings.  I’ve made this recipe countless times in various sized cake tins and have yet to fuck it up. Score!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

The first time I made this cake and I’ve never looked back! This was a chocolate cake with salted caramel icing filling, covered in chocolate ganache. I ate about half of this cake!

Dark Chocolate Sponge
Dry ingredients
270g all-purpose flour
400g sugar (caster or light brown, or a combination of the two)
140g dark cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
200ml buttermilk
200 ml espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
120 ml vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Prepare two or three 8-inch round cake tins with butter, grease-proof paper, and cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.
  2. Sift all dry ingredients into your stand mixer bowl (or a large bowl) and give a quick stir.  Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.  Add the wet ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients.
  3. With paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may want to use the plastic splash-guard or a tea towel here!) or beat by hand until smooth.  This chocolate batter will be very liquidy.
  4. Divide batter evenly among prepared tins. Sometimes I eyeball it but more often than not I use scales to weigh divided batter for even layers.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes (30 mins if using two deep tins) and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean, approximately 30 (or 40) minutes. Try not to over bake.
  6. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

Recipe adapted from the amazingly talented Sweetapolita http://sweetapolita.com/2010/11/rich-ruffled-chocolate-celebration-cake/ You should check out her blog and you will see that I have been somewhat influenced by her style.  Cough cough.

Note: These cake layers are rather deep and so I use cake tins that are 3” deep.  If you only have sandwich tins just be sure to only fill your tins a maximum of 2/3 full.

Fill and over this cake with your favourite frosting or, if you’re feeling lazy, just serve with a splodge of cream, custard or ice-cream.  That’s the stuff!  This recipe can easily be halved to a make a 6” cake with either two or three layers (or single layer 8” cake, if you prefer).

Birthday Cake

Triple layer chocolate cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and fondant hippo (that my nephew bit the bum off!).

I’ve made this cake with vanilla buttercream, chocolate buttercream, salted caramel buttercream, chocolate orange ganache and chocolate fudge frosting, to name but a few.  It was delightful in every permutation.  And the possibilities are pretty much endless: peppermint ganache, fresh raspberries and whipped cream, white chocolate buttercream and strawberries, coconut buttercream, cinnamon frosting.  I could go on but I think you catch my drift and, actually, its just making me hungry…

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake filled with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and coated in chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. Plus a modelling chocolate cat for good measure!

In fact, sod it.  I think I’m going to go and eat some off-cuts I have from the cake I made on Friday.  Just imagine me, all Nigella-esque, lit by the flattering glow from the fridge, placing delectable cake morsels in my mouth.  Yeah, that’s exactly what it’ll be like.  Definitely.