Tag Archives: cake

Layered birthday cake (gf)

David Lebovitz.

A name that acts like a comfort blanket in the kitchen. When I use one of David’s recipes, I relax and let my hands get into the rhythm of measuring, sifting, creaming, folding. Because I know it’s going to work, so well, and so easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and discovering new food blogs. I would be that much more productive and better informed about non-food news* if WordPress, Blogger and Google didn’t point me to all those food blogs and websites.

* Though I had to smile at twitter messages this week asking “Who was Margaret Thatcher?”. Or, maybe I’m just showing my age, and the company I keep?

But. When I am baking for a friend and it’s her birthday, and it’s a gluten free cake (and I have no idea about the chemistry behind gf baking), and I’m taking this cake into work, and there is no time to make a second cake when the first one goes wrong, the recipe just. has. to. work.

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That’s when I saw a recipe for a layered German chocolate cake on Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, which was adapted from David Lebovitz. Shauna Ahern + David Lebovitz = phew.

This is not the first time I’ve baked a gluten free cake, though my last proper gf cake was at Christmas, where the batter was more or less something to hold the brandy-drunken fruit together. This time, the cake will stand or fall by the taste and texture of the chocolate cake batter. What’s more, we all have our own idea of the perfect chocolate cake, our palates are honed since childhood to pick up the nuances of a chocolate cake that differ from our ideal.

So, attempting a gf chocolate cake? That was scary. But I muttered David and Shauna’s names like a mantra and boldly went where no saucy gander has gone before.

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Autumn, bringing plum blueberry yeast cake

How does autumn tangle
everything so elegantly, as when crimson
replaces the decorous sheen of green?
Such willful ambiguity. I walk steadily.
The soft retreat of chlorophyll asks useless
questions.

Christine Klocek-Lim, Strange Violet Behind Trees (2009)

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I read my obligatory share of poetry at university, but always preferred the hard-edged cutting edge gritty hyper-realism of modernist and post-modernist fiction (who says the academia is impervious to passing whims and fashions?). Christina Rossetti’s nightmarish Goblin Market was fascinating, but generally poems were … elusive, at once capable of too little and too much meaning. Slippery words with many ideas.

Now, I seem to have less time for uninterrupted leisurely reading, I read on the plane, the bus, while waiting for the plane or bus. Unexpectedly, I stumble across a poem like Strange Violets, whimsical, quiet, just a teeny bit dreamy. Like autumn should be.

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For a while, we’ve seen signs of autumn making its way into our city. Even in the heart of the city, I’ve seen small changes in the trees in Hyde Park, the flowering plants in the neighbourhood, and have felt the sneaky previews of a cool breeze. There has been an influx of new season fruits in our markets and shops. I first woke up to fresh fig season (at the time of the episode of dried figs coming out of our ears). And walked into the grocers to crates of plums, grapes, and the last of the summer nectarines and peaches. The stone fruit tempt us with the delicate furs on their skin, honey sweet smell, and promises of lush juices that run down our chins. Then there’s fresh green olives, new apples, dragon fruit, and (for a very little while longer) such a range of berries that I want to feast on berries and nothing but.

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Belated Valentine: Boca Negra

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What did you do on Valentines Day?

I went home to give Mr Gander plain yoghurt for dinner.

You see, Mr Gander had two wisdom teeth removed on 14 Feb, so ‘real food’ was out of the question. Diddums. Instead, I drew a heart on his yoghurt with pomegranate molasses as an ironic V-day gift.

On Saturday, he could eat food again. To celebrate this milestone, we had momofuku pork belly buns (another post coming soon) and boca negra.

Boca negra: a spoon-able, custard-fudgy, intensely decadent, dark chocolate concoction that leaves traces of itself every step of the way. Dessert forks, plates, cake knife, the mixing bowl, whisk, spatula, all had a slick of rich, soft chocolate that whispered ‘lick me’ – no wonder the cake is called ‘boca negra’ or ‘black mouth’ in Spanish.

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The texture was similar to the Orbit Cake from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (a version of the Orbit cake recipe is on his blog). The main differences are boca negra is not flourless, but uses 1.5 tablespoons of flour, and the baking time is much shorter at 30 minutes rather than 1.5 hours. I also saw a version of boca negra with chipotle chiles on Epicurious It adds a throat warming heat to the chocolatey-ness, which I imagine would be great for those hibernating winter months.

But back to Julia Child / Lora Brody’s version of boca negra.

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“Double happiness” cake

This cake had a good yarn, presentation and tastiness too. It was definitely one of my favourite baking moments this year.

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The yarn

Two people who were coming to Christmas lunch had got married eloped recently, in a ceremony with only 5 people present (including the celebrant). We were invited to ‘casual drinks’ that evening, which turned out to be their ‘wedding’ drinks. With this in mind, I wanted to give them a ‘wedding cake’ at Christmas lunch – which they were happy to have.

The presentation

This gave me permission to put highly unorthodox cake decorations on the Christmas cake. Other than the fact that I used a red and white colour scheme, it wasn’t Christmassy at all.

The cake had a raised circle of white icing in the middle, which was covered in white holographic glitter and edged with silver cachous (balls). In this circle, I used red-coloured white chocolate to write the characters ‘double happiness’, which is commonly used at Chinese weddings. And outside the circle, I drew abstract-ish patterns vaguely based on traditional Chinese graphics, also using red-coloured white chocolate.

I didn’t get a very elegant, smooth surface on the calligraphy-icing, but I did manage to reproduce some of the characteristics of calligraphy brush strokes. If I do this again, I may use a pattern rather than writing freestyle, as a pattern would ensure the characters were aligned and perfectly proportioned.

Still, it was a fun, light hearted way to celebrate (again) with the recently eloped couple.

And the cake?

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Almost Christmas: très serious fruit cake

This year, I have tried out many Christmas fruit cakes. While there are variations in the mix of dried fruit (or, indeed , fruit mince!), type of alcohol, or the exact way to mix the batter, the cake that comes out of the oven share important characteristics of a dark fruit cake, ripe with tradition and dried citrus peel.

What happens when a French chef puts his spin on a fruit cake? Will it have unexpected quirks, as though you were served baguette instead of scones for Devonshire tea?

I had one answer to this question when I made Philippe Rochat’s recipe for Serious Fruit Cake, reproduced on the now-dormant fxcuisine. (The site is still well worth a visit and still sets the benchmark for memorable and often unusual food adventures. For this cake, FX used one of the most expensive brands of rum in the world – yikes!) According to FX, this recipe was designed by Swiss chef Philippe Rochat as food to be taken on an expedition by his friend and adventurer Mike Horn.

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