Cake Fail. Meh.

Oh bugger it.  This one hasn’t worked out like I planned – at all!  This (see exhibit A) was my attempt at adapting a red velvet cake from the Hummingbird Bakery.  In fact, in this photo the worst bits have already been cut away (for which at least the chickens were very grateful)

Exhibit A. Red Velvet? Where?

It all started because I saw these delicious raspberries peeking out from under the leaves in our garden:

Raspberry Delight? Sadly, not.

Poor things, I should have left them alone.

We planted 70 canes in March, and I was delighted that they have fruited so quickly.  And they keep coming!  So I thought this recipe would be the perfect one to adapt.  If you haven’t seen a red velvet cake before, it’s supposed to look like this (from Alpine Berry – of course she gets it right, grrr):

Red Velvet Cake – Alpine Berry does it right

The bright red colour comes from a generous splash of red food colouring, mixed with cocoa powder.  And the texture comes from the buttermilk in the mix that gives it a slightly tacky, muffiny feel.  BUT.  No sign of red velvet in my cake.  Irish pointed out that ‘brown with reddish smears’ is not the most appetising cake colour.  However once I’d cut the burned bits off, and tidied it up with some cream cheese icing, it actually looked passable:

Phew! Raspberries make everything better..a bit..

I think the reason it went wrong was because I tried to make it with two deep layers instead of three shallow ones.  I used the leftover cake mix to make some cupcakes, which actually turned out quite well, although they too looked pretty appalling when they first came out of the oven.

Cupcakes to the rescue..

Luckily, both cake and cupcakes tasted a lot better than they looked.  The moistness of the cake works really well with the raspberries added on top, and given Irish’s alarm at its rather , erm, stained appearance, he did manage to eat half of that giant cake in just under 24 hours.

So I offer you the recipe and challenge you to tell me where I went wrong!

For the cake mixture will need:

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 600g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red food colouring
  • 3 tablespoons best quality cocoa powder
  • 375g plain flour
  • 250ml buttermilk.  If you don’t have buttermilk, put a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar into a measuring jug and top up with milk until the mixture reaches 250ml. Leave to stand, and after about 5 minutes you will magically have buttermilk!  I don’t know how it works (not really strong on science) but it does.  Trust me (despite the burnt cake).
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
For the Icing you will need
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 600g icing powder
  • 100g butter, softened
  • a handful of fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 170° and line three cake tins (I used two, and made cupcakes with the rest of the mixture).

Use a hand held mixer to cream the butter and sugar together.  Then add the eggs, one at a time, continuing to beat well.  Mix the cocoa and food colouring together and beat into the mix.  After that, you can add some flour, beat it into the mixture, and then add some buttermilk.  Repeat this until all the flour and buttermilk has been combined into the cake mix.

Mix the vinegar and bicarb together, and then add this gently to the cake mix – be careful not to beat it too much.

Put the mix into your cake tins, put them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  NB: Mine were still absolutely uncooked in this stage according to the skewer test – this could have been because I used only 2, deeper, cake tins.  It took about 40 minutes until mine were burned – ahem, I mean cooked.  When they’re ready, take the cakesout of the oven and leave them to cool in their tins before you tip them onto a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the butter until combined, and then add in the cream cheese and mix together.  Don’t over mix or the icing will go runny!  Use the icing to sandwich the cake together (and if you’re me, to hide the scars where I had to hack off the burned bits), and to decorate the top of the cake.  Then decorate with raspberries.

So – I burned a cake, and I liked it!  I think there’s a moral in this story, but I can’t quite work out what it is..

Yummy – but best eaten with eyes closed.


Is this the Ultimate Comfort Food Cake?

Well?  Is it?  I think so.  It is Nigella’s Butterscottch layer cake.

Comfort Food?

Don’t let the butterscotch title put you off.  I don’t think it tastes of butterscotch at all. I passionately dislike butterscotch – it reminds me of Angel Delight (seventies flower children might remember this).

This cake is sweet, because of the fudgey drizzle over the top, but importantly, not too sweet because of the cream-cheese frosting.  The sponge is substantial, but moist and fluffy.  It is possibly the Queen of Cakes (although I will be blogging about another contender for that title later).

Here’s how to make it.

Don’t mind if I do…

For the Icing and Drizzle, you will need

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g cold water
  • 250ml double cream
  • 400g cream cheese.

For the sponge, you will need

  • 225g unsalted butter, soft
  • 125g light muscovado (or brown) sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar (you can use ordinary)
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2-4 tbsp thickened cream

Preheat the oven to 190° and line two cake tins with greaseproof paper.  Then get on with making the icing.

Add the sugar to the cold water and heat gently until all the granules have dissolved.  Then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Do not stir! This is the trickiest part – if only because you have to watch the mixture, without stirring, until it turns golden (perhaps 10 – 15 minutes).  Take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the cream.  Keep whisking until the mixture is  smooth, then put back on the heat for a minute and then leave to one side.

Whilst the icing is cooling, make the cake.  This is shockingly easy.  Just put all your cake ingredients, except the cream, into a food processor (I used a Magimix 4200) and whizz it all together until fully combined.  Then add the cream, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches a dropping consistency (you know, when the mixture isn’t quite liquid but would happily ‘drop off’ your mixing spoon in lumps).

Then spoon the mixture into your two tins and put them into the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Use the ‘skewer in the middle’ test to see if it’s ready, and when they’re done, remove the sponges from the oven and leave in their tins to cool for about 10 minutes.

While they’re cooling, beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth, and then whisk in half of your caramel icing mixture. Use this cream-cheese caramel mixture to sandwich your two sponges together, and then to ice the top layer.  Drizzle the remaining caramel icing over the top of the cake using a teaspoon.

Final instructions:  Feel extremely smug.  Try not to eat before anyone has an opportunity to comment on your domestic prowess.

Like a hug, but tastes nicer. Cup of tea optional.

Is there such a thing as a ‘grown up’ cupcake?

Not your average cupcake!

Normally I don’t watch the ‘One Show’.  In my house it’s commonly referred to as the ‘Nothing On Show’.  But this evening there was a piece about ‘clandestine cake clubs‘ springing up all over Britain, and I was most intrigued.    I love the idea that a date and time is given out over the internet, and anyone who wants to can turn up, on the condition that they bring a cake.  A bit like dogging, perhaps, but for people who like to eat cake instead of each other – and of course, dogging would never make it onto Prime Time BBC television, yah*.

The CCC however, are rather discriminating.  No tarts, brownies, or cookies for these ladies (I suspect they are mostly ladies).  Even the frosted cupcakes popularised by the Magnolia Bakery in Sex and the City are banned.  And I can see their point:  I rarely eat a cupcake that isn’t a let-down. Too much sickly buttercream, too vanilla, even for the CCC  who clearly prefer a bit of subversive chocolate (why else would it be a clandestine cake club?)

The delightful morsels I made yesterday break all the rules.  They are dainty enough to be served with an espresso after dinner, and not a swirl of buttercream in sight.  Instead, a lashing (the Famous Five kind, or the S&M kind? You decide!) of dark bitter chocolate ganache drips seductively over a mound of sinful chocolate sponge.

Here’s how to make them.  I’ve adapted the cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcake recipe, and doubled the quantities because why would anyone make just 12 of these babies?  Make 24, take some to work, and you’ll have your colleagues eating out of the palm of your hand.

200g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

280g caster sugar

two pinches of salt

80g unsalted butter, at room temperature (stick it in the microwave for 20 seconds if you get it out of the fridge)

2 eggs

3 tsp baking powder

240ml milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (did you really expect a cupcake recipe to be entirely vanilla-free?)

Preheat oven to 170C

Whirr all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder) plus butter together in a large bowl using a hand-held electric mixer, until it’s the consistency of sand and all buttery lumps have disappeared.  Then whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together, and add this slowly to the sandy mixture, whirring on a slow setting at first before adding more liquid and upping the speed.

When it’s all combined spoon it into paper cupcake cases and bake in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes.  When I used this recipe it made 36 cupcakes.

Glossy Chocolate Ganache

The chocolate ganache is incredibly glossy. I adapted it from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess‘.  Now there is a woman who can make a cake sexy!

All you need is:

150ml double cream

1tsp vanilla extract

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

150g dark chocolate (good quality makes a big difference)

All you have to do is put everything in a non-stick saucepan and heat gently until the chocolate is melted. Keep stirring to make the mixture glossy! Turn up the heat slightly, still stirring, and bring the mixture to the boil.  Take the saucepan away from the heat and whisk until the mixture is thicker and smooth and glossy.  Pour into a glass bowl and leave to cool for a little (half an hour is plenty).

To decorate: Spoon the mixture over your cupcakes, but don’t try and make it too perfect – the cupcakes look better when the sponge is not perfectly covered and the ganache is allowed to drip down over the sides.

The Clandestine Cake Club members may not allow cupcakes – but there is nothing ‘fairy-cake-like’ about these!

* Can I please just point out that I can’t actually confirm any similarity between dogging and clandestine food-oriented clubs, having never attended a clandestine meeting of any kind.  There are other blogs about those hobbies, I’m sure!

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