Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coffee and almond crunch cake

I promised one of my lovely workmates I would bring a cake into work today as two of my friends there had birthdays during the week (in the two days following my youngest son's birthday :) ). Of course I didn't remember until last night, so I hadn't shopped for ingredients. I thought about making pecan and coffee cake, and had all the ingredients except an orange, but I was slow to get going this morning, and then decided even if I went and purchased the requisite orange, the cake might not cool down sufficiently to ice it before leaving. So I instead settled on another coffee cake which I have made once before - this recipe is from Gordon Ramsay's 'Cooking with Friends'. I first made it when the recipe appeared in Australian Delicious magazine when his book was released, and loved the cake so much I bought the book on the strength of this one recipe. It had two advantages for me today - firstly that I had all the ingredients needed on hand, and secondly, that there was no need to ice it as it has a streusel topping, so it wouldn't matter if it was a little warm still at the time I needed to leave. I could just dust it with icing sugar when I got to work just before serving.

The one thing I hadn't considered was that some people don't like really almondy food, and this cake is quite almondy with both almond meal and almond essence. Luckily everyone at work last night were almond fans, and the cake was well received! I'll have to make this again soon...

Streusel topping
  • 60g plain flour
  • 40g demerara sugar or brown sugar (I used demerara because I think it gives more of a crunch factor)
  • 40g butter
Cake batter
  • 170g unsalted butter, softened
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp almond essence
  • 100g almond meal
  • 60ml espresso or strong coffee, cooled
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • icing sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 150C. Line the base and sides of a 20cm springform tin.

Topping: Stir together the flour and sugar. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Put aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a bit at a time, mixing until well combined. (The mixture will probably look curdled at this point. If you want to, stir in a spoonful of the flour which will amalgamate the mixture evenly again.) Stir though the almond essence. Add half of the cooled espresso and stir. Then sift in the flour and baking powder and fold through. Add the remaining espresso.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle over the topping mixture. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Cool slightly on a rack before removing from the pan. When completely cool, sift over icing sugar and cut into pieces to serve.

streusel topping

cake batter in pan

streusel topping sprinkled over batter


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cherry Cheesecake

There were some leftover digestive biscuits and cream from the baked mango cheesecake I made for my 2yo's birthday party, so I decided to take advantage and make another cheesecake, but this time a chilled cheesecake. I adore chilled cheesecakes, and probably even prefer them to baked cheesecakes. A really good baked cheesecake is a lovely thing, rich from the eggs and creamy, but I have eaten some shocking examples that were overcooked, grainy, dense, dry, etc., whereas chilled (uncooked) cheesecakes are always silkily smooth and light. I have grown up on chilled cheesecakes, which is the type my mum always makes. She claims to prefer baked, but I have never known her to make a baked cheesecake.

This recipe is super easy - as chilled cheesecakes generally are - just beating of the ingredients and then leaving them to set. This one requires no gelatine which is always a bonus in my book. I did have one unfortunate experience where I wasn't careful enough to have the gelatine solution and cheesecake mixture close in temperature, and I ended up with streaks of gelatine through the cheesecake - yuck! I have made this recipe before (from Nigella Express), and decided to alter the quantities this time. The original recipe calls for 300g of cream cheese, and makes a fairly low cheesecake. In Australia, Philadelphia cream cheese comes in 250g packets, so this time I altered the quantities to use 500g of cream cheese, so that I could just use 2 packets with no leftovers, and to yield a higher cake. For the original recipe and pics of how it turns out if using 300g of cream cheese, see the recipe here at Nigella's website. The quantities below are my revised quantities.

Cherry Cheesecake

Serves 6-8

  • 125g of digestive biscuits
  • 75g of soft butter
  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice (this should have been ¾ tsp, but I accidentally added the amount of lemon juice I meant to add for vanilla extract, and it turned out fine - didn't affect setting of the cheesecake and I like a bit of extra tang with cheesecakes)
  • 415ml cream, lightly whipped
  • 1 x 284g St Dalfour black cherry conserve

Crush the biscuits in a food processor until they are reduced to crumbs, then add the butter and whiz again until the mixture starts to clump. Press into the base of a 20cm springform tin (see below for how I prepare tins for cheesecake) and a little up the sides to form a ridge. Place in the fridge to chill while you get on with the filling.

Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice until smooth. Fold through the lightly whipped cream. Pour / scrape onto the biscuit base and use a spatula to smooth the top. Place in the fridge to set for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, unclip the sides, and spread the cherry conserve over. I didn't use the entire bottle, probably about 2/3. I found the conserve is quite thick when it comes out of the bottle. It help to give it a good stir to loosen it up before spreading it onto the cheesecake.

Preparing the pan

Call me paranoid, but I always line the base of the pan when making cheesecake because I worry otherwise that the base will get stuck in the springform base. It is an option to just unclip the sides and serve the cheesecake still on its base, but that would mean cutting onto the pan's base, and all my pans are nonstick, so I don't want to risk damaging the surface with a knife. In addition to the precaution of lining the base, I also use the paper leftover from the square of baking paper I have cut off from which to cut the circle of the base, to form 'handles' to aid removal of the cheesecake from the base.

This is the cut out circle for the base, and the remaining paper that I will use to make the handles. To see an easy way of cutting a circle to the right size, see this previous blog post.

I tear the leftover paper in half, to make 2 strangely shaped pieces of paper. You could cut off two rectangles, but this is quick, easy, and saves any wastage. I then unclip the sides from the pan's base, and place the paper at right angles to each other.

Replace the sides, and before you clip the sides closed completely, use the pieces of paper that are sticking out to tighten the paper and make it flat across the bottom of the pan. Clip the sides.

Place the circle of paper over the handles. If you want the base circle to shift less to make things easier when you are pressing the biscuit base in, then lightly spray the base and handles and then stick the base circle in. I don't usually bother with spraying first.

Removing the cheesecake from the pan

Once the the cheesecake has chilled and set, slide a spatula around the edge of the pan to help release the sides of the cheesecake from the tin. Carefully unclip the sides of the pan and remove. Now use the handles to help lift one side of the cheesecake up. Slip your hand under the cake, remove the base paper if you can, and place the cake carefully onto a plate.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My little boy turns 2!

My little boy turned 2yo today! My sister-in-law and her partner were visiting from the other side of the country, and were here in time for his birthday, so I decided to have a little family party for him at home.

Here is the menu I settled on... (mostly a repeat of the menu I did in December for visiting friends with a few extras).

  • Turkish bread
  • red kidney bean dip
  • fried halloumi with lemon juice and pepper
  • cucumber and pomegranate salad
  • herbed bulgar wheat and nut salad
  • olives

  • lamb and apricot tagine
  • couscous
  • steamed green beans
  • roasted beetroot (courtesy of my brother)
  • carrots (again, courtesy of my brother) - they had some yummy dressing on them
  • potato bake (courtesy of my mother, who seems to think potato bakes goes with any menu)

  • cupcakes
  • butterfly cakes with lemon curd (made by my mum)
  • birthday cake (white chocolate mud cake)
  • baked mango cheesecake

It may seem a strange menu for a 2yo's birthday, but he was the only little kid there, and he eats most of that stuff anyway :)

Fried halloumi dressed with lemon juice and black pepper - I love this stuff!

Red kidney bean dip - I was debating making hummus, but this is more yummy in my opinion. People could spread it on their Turkish bread. Recipe below.

Herbed bulgar wheat and nut salad - this turned out nicer than last time, so I had to get a new photo. Recipe is here (along with the recipe for cucumber and pomegranate salad).

The carrot and beetroot dishes provided by my brother :)

Red kidney bean dip

This recipe is from Nigella's Feast, which along with the herbed bulgar wheat and nut salad and cucumber and pomegranate salad form part of the 'mezze feast' menu. Nigella says to think of it as a 'terracotta, sweet and grainy version of hummus' - as much as I love hummus, it is quite bland compared to this. I love the spices in it. I've made this dip a few times before, and each time think I will put less garlic in next time, but I always forget and as I have a thing about not writing in books, so I don't make a note of it - argh!).

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic (I actually think half this amount would be plenty - I keep forgetting to cut the amount down. It does pack a garlicky punch with this quantity!)
  • 45 ml of olive oil
  • 410g can of red kidney beans, liquid reserved
  • 15ml tomato paste
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (I upped this to ½ tsp)
  • juice and zest of 1 lime

Peel the onion and garlic and process them until finely chopped. Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Add the kidney beans plus their 'gloop' (liquid) and stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for a few minutes.

Zest the lime and reserve in a bowl for later, then juice the lime, adding it to the kidney bean mixture. Take the pan off the heat, and when it has cooled somewhat, process until it forms a bumpy puree. When it is cool, serve in bowls, sprinkled with lime zest.

Dessert is served... From front to back: butterfly cakes with lemon curd made by my mum, cupcakes, white chocolate mudcake (birthday cake - tractor has been removed), and baked mango cheesecake. (You can see the new tagine I used for serving the lamb and apricot tagine in the background - it is made by Emile Henry and the colour is fig).


These were made using the same Nigella recipe as in this post. It comes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess and it is my favourite cupcake recipe - really simple, tastes beautiful, and will keep well in the fridge for several days if needed.

I cheated with the icing and bought Cake Mate icing - the pressurised stuff in a can that comes with different nozzles, already coloured blue. It just saved worrying about how buttercream would hold up on a hot day, no worries about ending up with aqua not blue icing because of the butter, and coped better with heat than the Betty Crocker icing I sometimes use (which colours well but gets very soft in the heat, and if you want to pipe it, you need to add a lot of icing sugar to the mixture first to get it stiff enough).

Fresh cuppies

Cupcakes iced using CakeMate frosting in a can using the star tip provided

The cupcakes with their 'little star' collars (from Robert Gordon)

Mango cheesecake

I love this recipe. The mango puree gives it a more mousse-like texture, and baking it in a water bath helps to keep the texture silky. It is a Nigella recipe which appeared in Australian Delicious magazine (Dec 2004 / Jan 2005 issue).

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar

  • 4 small mangoes (to make about 2 cups of puree), plus extra thinly sliced mango flesh to garnish
  • 680g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • juice of half a lime

Preheat oven to 170C.

Blitz the bicuits in a food processor until they are almost fine crumbs, then cut the butter into pieces and add with the brown sugar. Process again until the mixture starts to clump together. Press the mixture into the base of a 24cm springform tin (I don't own this size, so I use a 22cm tin). Refrigerate.

Peel and cut the flesh from the mangoes (over the processor bowl to catch the juices), then puree until smooth. Add the cream cheese and blend. Add the caster sugar, and with the motor running, break the eggs one at a time down the tube of the processor. Lastly, add the lime juice and blitz again until smooth.

Wrap the pan in a double-layered piece of extra-wide foil; sit in a roasting pan. Spread the filling over the base and smooth. Pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until filling is set with only a msall amount of wobble in the centre (it will keep cooking as it cools). Remove from bath and foil and cool on a wire rack. When cool, cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.

Garnish with the extra sliced mango to serve.

The birthday cake
For my little one's 1st birthday, I baked two white chocolate cakes and layered them on top of each other to get extra height (see pics of that cake in this post). This year I just did a single layer, again using the white chocolate mud cake recipe from Exclusively Food. Rather than ice it with buttercream again as I did last year, this year I decided to follow the recipe for white chocolate and sour cream ganache. When I tried to ice the sides with the ganache, I found it a little too translucent for my liking, though it probably would have become more opaque as it set. I wasn't feeling very creative this year, so I'd opted for a toy tractor to decorate the cake, and wanted to create a ploughed field. So as I wanted a brown colour for the top for the soil, I added one square of 70% cocoa Lindt chocolate to the ganache, and iced the top and sides. Unfortunately it took on a slightly marbled appearance where there had already been some white chocolate ganache (not in a good way). I let the chocolate start to set, then ran one edge of my Wilton decorating triangle over most of the surface to get the ploughed look. I then coloured some coconut green for grass and sprinkled that at the side of the field, and when it was completely set, I added the tractor. I also iced my son's name on the cake using Queen white chocolate fudge icing (comes in a tube with a fine nozzle for writing).

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the candles alight, but I used 'Angel Flames' candles - the flame is the same colour as the candle.