Entry 43: A Fruitful Endeavour

Hello Koala fans,

I’ve made quite a few different cakes on here but as I look back through the list (and I really, *really* need to add an index for all of this stuff >.>), there is one rather glaring omission: fruit cake. This is kind of odd because I was fond of fruit cake when I was younger, so you’d think it’d have been high on my priorities. So at long last, I’ve finally gotten around to fixing this oversight. Today’s recipe was one I originally spotted in a celebrity chef recipe book but, thanks to the magic of the interwebs, I found a duplicate online:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/138098/recipe/porter-cake

My friends at work had been quite supportive of me recently, so I decided they would be the recipients of this week’s baking. Whether they would be lucky or unlucky recipients was still to be determined. In order to make a porter cake, first of all you need to abduct a hospital porter, which is handy given where I work, then you need a large meat grinder…..

"Or, as an alternative, this stuff."

“Or, as an alternative, this stuff.”

The porter is the can of Guinness in the photo. Apparently, this is the correct term for it rather than beer or ale. If memory serves, this isn’t the first time I’ve used Guinness while baking but I can’t remember for the life of me what the other recipe was. In this instance, I can see how it would work; you soak the various types of fruit in the Guinness so that they take on some of the flavour, in addition to giving the raisins, etc a little extra moistness. The recipe also calls for orange juice as well – there’s a world of difference between true fresh squeezed orange juice and the stuff that you get in supermarkets and given that we need orange zest in the cake, we may as well use the juice from the oranges too:

"How long do I need to keep jumping up and down on this thing for?"

“How long do I need to keep jumping up and down on this thing for?”

One of the advantages of porter cake is that it can be done with a minimal number of bowls and pans. You begin by adding your dried fruit to a large saucepan:

Keeping up to date on currant events.

Keeping up to date on currant events.

…and then proceed to dump almost everything else in there as well; the butter, sugar, booze and orange juice. The net result is something that almost looks like a fruit based soup or casserole:

There's an awfully large amount of liquid in here...

There’s an awfully large amount of liquid in here…

I was starting to panic a little at this point. The recipe doesn’t exactly call for a mountain of flour, so I was worried that the cake batter would be very runny. Once the mixture was starting to boil though, it was a very different matter.

"We're going outside for a bit while you carry on...."

“We’re going outside for a bit while you carry on….”

The smell that was coming from the pan was *incredible*. It was a rich, fruity smell with spicy tones, tangy zest from the oranges, the smell of freshly mown grass- wait, what?

Grand Theft Lawnmower.

Grand Theft Lawnmower.

Luckily for me, the joyriding trio stopped just short of Mum’s flower beds. As we made our way back to the kitchen, the fruit mixture in the saucepan was ready to have the final ingredients added to it. By this point, a lot of the fluid had boiled away, so although it was still a lot more runny than my other cake mixtures, it started to look “workable”. The flour was slowly stirred in and the Koalas offered to help with the eggs.

They were egg-stremely sorry for almost wrecking the garden.

They were egg-stremely sorry for almost wrecking the garden.

One other difference between porter cake and most others is the length of time it takes to bake. Most cakes usually stay in the oven for about 30-40 minutes on a high temperature. With this one, it needed a very low temperature (Gas Mark 2/130*C) for one and a half hours. Even then, I left in the oven for an extra 30 minutes as the centre failed the spike test. I left it in the baking tin for journey home to make it easier to carry, plus the extra heat from the tin would continue to bake the cake gently.

"Leaving it in the tin also makes it more porter-ble!"

“Leaving it in the tin also makes it more porter-ble!”

The cake went down really well with the folks at work; I received quite a lot of positive feedback about it. The slice I tried was firm enough to pick up, with the sponge being moist and light. Its different to something like a Christmas cake, where the sponge is often extremely dense and sits on the stomach like a bowling ball.

The rapidly disappearing cake.

The rapidly disappearing cake.

I’m pleased with how well the porter cake turned out but its definitely not something you could do at the last minute. Perhaps the next time I have a long weekend, I might make another one. =)

Entry 42: What Are Glutens Anyway?

Hello Koala fans!

A few weeks ago, two wonderful friends of mine asked if I’d like to stay with them for a couple of days (Hi Zel! Hi Nash!). We’ve known each other for about two years or so, playing World of WarCraft together. As always, I decided to put together something vaguely cakelike for them. I picked out all the ingredients, settled on a recipe well ahead of time and even managed to take photos for the blog. About two days before I was due to head up on the train, we talk online just to straighten out a few details like train times, bits I need to bring with me…

“Oh, you made cake for us? Really looking forward to it! 😀 ……it’s gluten-free, right?”

Uh oh.

Like most people, I’m vaguely aware of gluten-free stuff but no idea what’s actually involved with it or what I need to avoid. There was a slight, yet adorable, delay in looking up gluten-free recipes on the internet.

My niece receiving her first experience of youth-corrupting video games

My niece receiving her first experience of youth-corrupting video games.

My search proved rather more useful than I planned. I found a good website on gluten-free diets and it even had recipes for gluten-free cakes too. One of them looked like it might work:

https://www.coeliac.org.uk/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/cooking-and-baking/gluten-free-cake-making/

I chose to go with the chocolate cake recipe. I also tried to enlighten the Koalas about coeliac disease and gluten fibres but I think I just ended up making them confused.

"Is this a gluten?"

“Is this a gluten?”

No, that’s the zergling I ordered off eBay. Glutens are a type of protein found in cereals such as wheat and rye. They cause an allergic reaction in people with coeliac disease, leading to stomach pains and other intestinal unpleasantness. Zerglings are creatures in StarCraft that rip through solid steel and eat people.

"Fascinating. I'm going to run away now."

“Fascinating. I’m going to run away now.”

While the Koala was setting a new world record for the 100 metre sprint, I assembled the ingredients to work on Zel and Nash’s cake.

"...*pant* *wheeze* ...I think I lost him..."

“…*pant* *wheeze* …I think I lost him…”

Eagle eyed readers may notice an extra ingredient in that photo – ground almonds. As I was reading up on gluten-free cakes, I often found comments that they were very dry compared to standard sponges. Mixing in a small amount of ground almonds can help to restore some of the missing moisture that comes from using gluten-free flour. Another hazard is that gluten helps to give a sponge cake form – as a cake rises, the gluten fibres start to form in the cake, trapping air and helping to make the cake firm. It can be helpful to use a little extra baking powder, even with self raising gluten-free flour, just for the extra security.

Sugar and butter. Gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean "slimming".

Sugar and butter. Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean “slimming”.

The gluten-free flours is interesting stuff. Despite being made from things like maize, tapioca and potatoes (!), it’s identical to work with as normal flour. I imagine that’s one of the things that scares people off about specialist baking like gluten-free or nut allergies; that they will find themselves in completely unfamiliar territory. Reassuring though it was to work with, whether it would actually *taste* like a normal sponge cake was still a cause for concern.

"Hang on, let me see if I can unjam the whisk from here!"

“Hang on, let me see if I can unjam the whisk from here!”

So far, it was coming together reasonably well, although the recipe did call for the drier ingredients to be mixed together first and the eggs last:

"Nope, no glutens in here. Or zerglings."

“Nope, no glutens in here. Or zerglings.”

The cake also took roughly the same length of time to bake as a standard one. After tipping out onto the rack to cool, I set about whipping together the icing to go on the top-

"Now, I know this looks bad, but it totally wasn't us..."

“Now, I know this looks bad, but it totally wasn’t us…”

And so *another* 40 minutes later, I finished *another* gluten-free sponge and decorated it.

The finished cake.

The finished cake.

This entry has a good and bad ending, regrettably. Unfortunately, the day after the cake was made, I came down with the flu and wasn’t in a condition to anywhere, let alone on a several hour train journey to see my friends. However, the cake was every bit as good as my other sponge cakes and tasted absolutely fine. So hopefully, when I head up to see my friends soon, I’ll be able to make them a gluten-free cake with confidence. ^_^

Entry 36: A Mocha Mockery

Hello Koala fans…

Things have been going reasonably well down here on the coast. My new place of work has been wonderfully supportive and I feel happy and comfortable here. Bournemouth seems to be a better fit for me than living in London was, although each has their merits. London has good shopping and better public transport while Bournemouth has breathable air, for example.

It also does sunsets really well.

Every so often I need to pop back home to keep in touch with the folks and generally catch up on things and last weekend was one of those times. I was toying with the idea of making a cake for my new workmates too. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan…

On the night before I had to head down to Bournemouth, I had a very strange dream. I dreamt that there was a blue whale sitting on my chest and that it was grumbling because I wasn’t very comfortable. 

Well, that explains that then.

The Koala was rather annoyed with me. I’d been back for a couple of days and while I’d gotten the ingredients together to make the cake, I hadn’t actually started yet. In my defence though, my bed was huge and soft and warm and zzzzz…..

“CAKE!”

 Ugh, fine.

The other reason I was slow getting started was that I wasn’t sure what to make. Originally, I wanted to do something vaguely festive, what with Christmas just around the corner. However, after looking through yet another page of mince pie recipes and even worse jokes, I settled on a mocha cake. I’m not a huge coffee drinker but every so often I’ll take the time to make a good filter coffee, especially if I have a blog entry to write and haven’t properly woken up yet. Mocha is one of those weird middle ground things that can’t quite make up its mind what it wants to be. Translating it into a cake would be an interesting challenge.

The recipe I used for this one came from my Clandestine Cake Club book, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to get an online version of it yet. The idea of the cake is similar to the marble cake I made for my friend’s leaving do all those months ago, except with more coffee.

And more koalas.

By the time I started it was getting well into the afternoon and I could feel the impending deadline of my train departure looming. This is where things started to go wrong. As regular readers will know, I’ve made quite a lot of sponge cakes on here before, both in large and cupcake sized versions. I’d done it many times before – absolutely nothing would go wrong because it’s familiar ground. Right?

It’s always possible something could get overlooked, though.

I’m writing this up from my iPad while laying on my bed in Bournemouth. It’s a considerably more comfortable way to write an entry but unfortunately my location is about 100 miles away from my recipe book. As a result, my memory of the amounts used is a little fuzzy. I do remember that the first stage in making the cake was 170g of caster sugar combined with 170g of butter.

Or approximately three koalas worth of both.

As usual, the first step involves beating the sugar and butter together. The smoother you can make it, the more evenly the cake will rise. You can either do this by hand or with an electric whisk.

Marsupial slave labour is another option.

 Next, I added three eggs, one at a time and whisking gently after each. Then it was just a matter of folding in the self raising flour and the basic batter was ready. I then divided it between two bowls, in order to add the coffee mixture and cocoa mixture to each half separately. The coffee mixture was 1 tbsp of instant coffee with 1 tbsp of boiling water. For the cocoa, the ratio was 1 tbsp of cocoa to 2 tbsp of water. This made sense given the relative densities of them.

On the left, we have a koala-sized espresso. Although it’s a little watery for their tastes.

As you may have spotted, there’s a cupcake tray lurking just behind the Koala and the Twins. My first plan was to convert the recipe into mocha style cupcakes with coffee icing on top. As I began to gauge the amount of cake mix I had and my remaining time, I chose to play it safe and stick with the book recipe. This would result in two 18cm round sponges stacked on one another.

Hopefully the bottom sponge wouldn’t be yelling at the top sponge to get off its head.

With the coffee and cocoa batters, I added them to the tin, swirled them with a knife and popped them in the oven for about 25 minutes. It came out fairly well in terms of texture but…

2/10 – not swirly enough. See me after class.

A rather more pressing issue was that of the amount of cake mix I had. I had followed the recipe carefully, as always, but I found myself rather short.

Unless you’re volunteering to be ingredients, get out of the tin you two.

By now, I was really running short of time and I still hadn’t started on the icing. Luckily, I still had enough ingredients to make a second sponge, so in what was possibly a new record time, I put another one together and slammed it in the oven. 

By now I was really starting to wonder about this recipe, especially when it came to doing the icing. The coffee buttercream needed the same 1:1 coffee mix that I used for the sponge but it also asked for 2 tbsp of milk. Mum popped in to the kitchen at this point to gently remind me* about my train but also to see if she could help. Immediately she spotted that the cream was not very thick and added some extra icing sugar.

Coffee cream. Cadbury’s Roses weren’t the same without them. 😦

At this point things were spiralling into chaos. The second sponge was out but still too warm to set on the cream, the centre seemed a little undercooked and the koalas were holding an impromptu Highland Games.

Thus marking the first time in the Games’ history that someone was disqualified for eating the caber.

 I had to take a gamble at this point. Even though it wasn’t quite ready, I began assembling the cake…and the top sponge started coming apart. My mum is a veteran of baking though and she had a brainwave. We hollowed out the centre of the cake and topped it off with the remaining coffee cream.

The “finished” cake.

We’d managed to salvage the cake. The slice I tried was pretty good too. However, it wasn’t up to the standards I usually set before sharing my cakes with others, especially given that this was going to be a first impression. To my new workmates in Bournemouth – I’ll try again soon with a simpler recipe and hopefully things will be better!

 

****

 

It’s hard to tell whether they were plotting to eat the cake or planning world domination.

 

Entry 17: A Fresh Start

It’s been something of a rough time for me at work lately, as I think I mentioned last week. Things are starting to smooth out again and the whole “stress-rawr-argh” stuff is starting to subside a bit, which is nice. Unfortunately, one of my friends had her last week at work this week and she’s moving on to bigger, brighter and considerably better paid things. As a result, I thought I would send her on her way with a delicious cake. This week’s cake comes from a baking book I bought sometime ago; The Clandestine Cake Club.  It’s been a while since I’ve made anything from it (in fact now that I think about it, the last thing I made was the chocolate nut rum cake) so I flicked through it to see if anything caught my eye.

Eventually, I settled on a dark chocolate and amaretto sponge with a few extra bits and pieces. Over to you, glamorous assistant:

I think it's actually impossible to come up with a pun based on "amaretto".

I think it’s actually impossible to come up with a pun based on “amaretto”.

Unusually, the first step of baking this cake involves beating eggs and sugar together, rather than the usual butter and sugar:

WP_20131006_15_43_45_SmartShoot

One day, I’ll actually get a proper camera for all this. I might even learn about things like “exposure”. >.>

Probably one of the most interesting things about this recipe is that it uses amaretti biscuits:

An extremely rare photo of the Koala not eating everything in sight.

An extremely rare photo of the Koala not eating everything in sight.

When I first saw these biscuits, they immediately put me in mind of the pfefferkuchen I made on here a few weeks ago. These biscuits are quite a bit different, despite looking similar. As to be expected they have the signature amaretto taste to them and my tastebuds also picked up a couple of spices in them as well. Nothing as strong as the cinnamon or ginger used in the pfefferkuchen but definitely there. The texture of these biscuits is also quite a lot harder as well. The recipe calls for 200g of them and clearly they’re not all going to fit into the pan intact. Fortunately, I have a solution to the problem:

When it comes to the crunch, use a Koala.

When it comes to the crunch, use a Koala.

When breaking up the biscuits, it’s important to make sure they’re as finely broken as possible. The smaller the fragments are, the easier the sponge will form around them and the cake will bake more evenly. Ideally, something along these lines:

"Hey, I think we missed a few. Want me to get the sledgehammer?"

“Hey, I think we missed a few. Want me to get the sledgehammer?”

…not until it’s been properly washed in the kitchen sink.

Once the biscuits were broken up, it was time to get to work on the sponge itself. The sponge is fairly similar to that found in banana cake or carrot cake. As such I thought this recipe would use sunflower oil or something similar but instead it has a much better idea:

It's like the lab in Breaking Bad, except with delicious cakes instead of crystal meth.

It’s like the lab in Breaking Bad, except with delicious cakes instead of crystal meth.

In the bowl are the eggs and sugar from earlier, together with 200g of ground almonds. In the pan is the butter but it’s been melted down. I think this is the secret to it as it gives the cake mix a slightly oily texture when putting it all together but as the cake heats up through the baking, you don’t have the same oily texture at the end. The flour quickly followed the molten butter into the bowl and it was time to get the dark chocolate ready:

Cautiously chopped chocolate chunks. Try saying *that* after a few glasses of amaretto.

Cautiously chopped chocolate chunks. Try saying *that* after a few glasses of amaretto.

The cake was really starting to take shape now and I had a good feeling about it:

Almost there....

Almost there….

The finished cake...or is it?

The finished cake…or is it?

As you can see, the finished cake was looking really good at this point. However, I was slightly concerned that it was possibly a little overbaked. The top didn’t seem very spongey, although the sides were fine and the skewer went in and out cleanly. Then I had a brainwave – I still had quite a lot of amaretto left over, so I might as well make some icing with it. I trimmed the top of the cake very slightly and much to my relief, the inside was very spongey and light as I had hoped. With the icing, I used the same method as I did for the father’s day chocolate cake. The method essentially involves adding a small amount of butter and amaretto liqueur, then pouring in unholy amounts of icing sugar. While this method allows you to get the icing exactly the way you want it, you do tend to end up with a surplus of the stuff:

"I'm going to need a spoon, a snorkel and a swimming costume."

“I’m going to need a spoon, a snorkel and a swimming costume.”

Then came my friend’s leaving day. She’s been a keen follower of the Koala’s antics and often gave me the verbal push I need to bake something when I haven’t been in the mood. As such, I thought it’d only be fair if she got to meet the star of this blog in person:

*koalahugs*

*koalahugs*

 The cake turned out very nicely according to the feedback I received. The sponge was moist and fairly light, although I think the chocolate chunks could have benefitted from being broken down into smaller sections. The icing turned out very nicely as well.

To Marie-Claire – I really hope things go well for you in your new job and that you’ll stay in touch with all of us. =)

Entry 12: In which the Koala bakes a cake, starts a nuclear war and makes a hated enemy

Oh my. That….was an incredibly busy two weeks.

As I may have mentioned before, I’m a member of a group of gaming enthusiasts. Board games, D&D…all that sort of thing. Every six months or so, we have a big meet up with folks coming from all over the UK to play games for a couple of days. This time, I had an incredibly sweet and adorable friend of mine staying with me as well for the four days. So last week was spent running around like a mad thing ensuring that my flat was fit for human inhabitation. >.>

But of course you folks came here for delicious bakery goodness and for the meet up, I decided to go with a raspberry bakewell cake. Which was rather apt, given that it’s been blazing hot here in the UK for the past couple of weeks and the cake wasn’t the only thing that was baking well.

Let’s get the ball rolling with the recipe:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11695/raspberry-bakewell-cake

So at a glance, it’s a pretty straightforward sponge cake, with the addition of fresh fruit, which is a pleasant change from dried stuff like raisins & sultanas.

So having spent ages cleaning from top to bottom, the Koala sets about undoing all my hard work.

So having spent ages cleaning from top to bottom, the Koala sets about undoing all my hard work.

As with the salad I made a couple of weeks back, it is important to properly clean and wash fresh fruit to clear off any leaves and pesticides:

Raspberries submerged in cold, crisp, icy water. It's good to be a raspberry on a hot day.

Raspberries submerged in cold, crisp, icy water. It’s good to be a raspberry on a hot day.

While the raspberries were being rinsed in that wonderful cold water, I was busy mixing the various bits and pieces together. It might just have been where this particular recipe lacked any chocolate or cocoa powder but it seemed to mix somewhat differently to the previous sponge cakes I’ve made. The dry ingredients were mixed together, along with the butter and the net result looked something like crumble topping:

It might just have been the searing heat but this looks far too dry to me....

It might just have been the searing heat but this looks far too dry to me….

Once the eggs had been added, it started to look a little better:

Getting mixed up is not always a good thing...

Getting mixed up is not always a good thing…

…and get mixed up I did. I have a number of different tins I use for baking stuff and accidently chose the one I use for cheesecakes. I didn’t take a photo unfortunately but there was this tiny pile of cake mix sitting forlornly in the middle of a huge tin. A few minutes work with a spatula soon transferred the mix to the *right* size tin (which was the same one I used for the chocolate sponge, in the end) and the mix was just right. Every 33% of cake mix I’d pause and scatter some of the raspberries through the cake and then I topped the whole lot off with some flaked almonds. The finished result was quite presentable:

The finished cake.

The finished cake.

This was the easy bit done.

The following day, the cake went on a very long trip in its carrying box. From northwest London to central London, from there down to southwest London to meet a very sweet friend for the day, then back to central London to catch a train to Derby…all in all, this cake travelled over 150 miles. 150 miles of being bounced around, luggage racks and being dropped on the floor in order to give someone a hug. Needless to say, when it was time to actually divide the cake up at the meet, I had visions of this small pile of crumbs and raspberries. >.>

I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. The cake was divided up on the second day, after the board games and meeting of peoples. The Koala was generally well received…with one notable exception:

This was going to end in bacon sandwiches or a set of furry gloves.

This was going to end in bacon sandwiches or a set of furry gloves.

The rather grumpy brown fellow goes by the name of “Hateboar” and has a somewhat negative view on life, the universe and everything, according to his owner. This somewhat clashed with the Koala’s easy going view on things, especially those containing cakes and other baked goods. They both joined in a rather large game of Nuclear War but before one could be crowned victor, another player managed to destroy both himself and every other player on the table through a 100 megaton…”mishap”. After the fun was over, the group retired to a friend’s house for some late games and delicious goodies, including the cake. While the cake had gone 150 miles, it didn’t go much further than that:

He decided to hog it all to himself.

He decided to hog it all to himself.

The cake turned out pretty well, according to the feedback I received. It was pleasantly moist, which was quite surprising – possibly a side effect of the raspberries. I neglected to add the vanilla essence however and it did have an impact on the sponge – the texture was good but the flavour was a little drab. A reasonable effort but in need of more raspberries next time and a few other flavours.

Entry 11: Happy Birthday Phil!

Hello again, Koala fans!

It was going to happen eventually. We all knew this was coming.

“You do that cooking blog thing, right? Can you make a birthday cake for someone?”

In this case, that “someone” was my brother-in-law Phil (and a big hello to him if he’s reading this!). Rather fortunately for me, the type of cake he wanted wasn’t the usual sponge cake with icing you need a chainsaw to get through. Instead, he was looking for a banana cake. I made a carrot cake about six months ago and it wasn’t particularly successful. I don’t know whether it just didn’t mix well or I over did something but it turned out more like carrot bread pudding than cake. Yuck. =/

The recipe I found today seemed fairly similar to the carrot cake one, so I was a little doubtful about how it would turn out:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6067/banana-cake-with-pecan-crumble-crunch

It did look very tasty though, so I figured it was worth a shot.

As usual, let’s say hello to our ingredients this week:

Not pictured - the birthday candles and the flamethrower required to light them all.

Not pictured – the birthday candles and the flamethrower required to light them all.

There’s also a tub of baking powder hidden behind the flour in that picture. So to get the ball rolling, we need to prepare the pecans:

The nuts were going bananas and vice versa.

The nuts were going bananas and vice versa.

 

The opening bit of the recipe is a little unclear. It talks about using 2 tbsp of flour, caster sugar and chopped pecans and I misread this as being “add ALL the pecans”. I didn’t actually realise this until this recipe asked for the leftover pecans to be added into the cake mix. Very annoying. So just to be clear:

* 2 tbsp of caster sugar

* 2 tbsp of flour

* 2 tbsp of chopped pecans

* 1 tbsp of butter

…although that said, you could probably get away with 3 tbsp of pecans if you wanted extra topping. It’s all good. I mixed those in a separate bowl and it’s a lot easier to use your hands for this bit than a spoon:

The pecan crumble topping. Sweet and nutty, much like the Koala in that regard.

The pecan crumble topping. Sweet and nutty, much like the Koala .

This recipe uses an awful lot of mixing bowls. You need one for the dry ingredients, one for the wet ingredients, another for whisking the eggs…

The Koala was feeling a little bowled over by the end of it all.

The Koala was feeling a little bowled over by the end of it all.

As with all the other cakes I’ve made on here, mixing is the difference between a great cake and an awful one. Fold in as much as you can by stirring in a figure of 8. It’s really, really important with this one because the wet ingredients are heavy and will sink to the bottom of the tin. So first off the banana mix joins the flour and sugar, then you mix them. Once you’ve done that, mix that with the eggs as well, figure-of-8ing all the way. Rather unusually, this one needs a lot longer in the oven than the other cakes I’ve made – this one needs an entire hour, but then comes out looking something like this:

"Happy birthday to meeee..."

The finished cake.

The cake went down really well with my brother in law and he was kind enough to let me try a slice “so I could comment about it on the blog”. Wink wink. As I suspected, the cake was slightly denser on the bottom, due to the weight of the banana mixture but much lighter and fluffier than the carrot cake I had before. It must have smelled fantastic because even the garden birds were coming inside:

"The hell with bird seed, I want birthday cake, damn it!"

“The hell with bird seed, I want birthday cake, damn it!”

 

Disclaimer: Koala In The Kitchen is not responsible or legally liable for any attacks by wild birds as a result of following this recipe.

Entry 8: The Father’s Day Cake

Hello again, Koala fans!

Following the somewhat exhausting to make quiche last week, I decided to go with a more straightforward recipe this week. However, straightforward doesn’t necessarily mean “flawless”.

 

This weekend was Father’s Day in the UK and although I love my dad to bits, Father’s Day has always been something of a niggle for me. It’s the usual conundrum that I never know what to get him and he doesn’t know what he wants. Usually, we go to our local pub restaurant as a compromise (and also because the food there is *fantastic*) but this year, the family’s wallets were feeling a little more stretched than usual, so we had to give it a miss. Also, I don’t think they allow koalas inside. >.>

 

So, if you can’t buy a gift for them and you can’t take them out somewhere, you make something for them instead. My mum used to make these absolutely divine chocolate cakes when I was younger but sadly doesn’t have much time to bake these days. This week, I’m attempting something that approaches on blasphemy and making the same style of cake she used to. First off, we need a recipe for a good chocolate sponge and after a little casting around, I found this one on Allrecipes.co.uk:

http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/17558/chocolate-victoria-sponge.aspx

However, I did not follow the recipe completely – I had my own plans for the filling and topping – so I just used the ingredients on the left hand side. As usual, here’s the ingredients photo:

It's amazing how affectionate the Koala can be at the mention of the words "chocolate cake".

It’s amazing how affectionate the Koala can be at the mention of the words “chocolate cake”.

The first step was mixing the butter and caster sugar together in a method called creaming. There’s a rather good video of the process here, which helps to give you a rough idea of which mixing speeds to use and when:

"Ummm, shouldn't there be more than this...?"

“Ummm, shouldn’t there be more than this…?”

I was starting to get a horrible feeling of deja vu from last week, except instead of having too much, there was too little this time. After pouring the mixture in and baking it, my suspicions were correct:

Two tins, one cake. Not to be confused with an infamous Youtube video.

Two tins, one cake. Not to be confused with an infamous Youtube video.

The sponge had turned out well, with a fantastic smell and a firm, yet spongy texture. However, the end result was very much on the small side:

"Think Koala."

“Think Koala.”

I had two tins, a hefty amount of remaining flour, butter and sugar. With another six eggs, I could attempt to surpass my mum’s original recipe and make a triple layer chocolate cake. The idea was sheer madness. However, given that the only person that could talk me out of the idea was a plush toy koala with a insatiable lust for cake, we set to work:

"Now *that's* a proper quantity of cake mix!"

“Now *that’s* a proper quantity of cake mix!”

So basically I repeated the recipe for the sponge mix, using double of each ingredient (6 eggs, 300g of sugar, 300g of butter, 220g of flour and 80g of cocoa):

With a little Koala magic, these will become sponge cakes.

With a little Koala magic, these will become sponge cakes.

"Koala Magic" in this case consisted of 190°C of fire for 20 minutes.

“Koala Magic” in this case consisted of 190°C of fire for 20 minutes.

And this is where I made a fatal mistake, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Both cakes were firm to the touch and smelled fine and I tipped them onto the rack to cool:

"Do a couple more layers and it'll be the same height as me!"

“Do a couple more layers and it’ll be the same height as me!”

While the cake was cooling, I phoned my mum to discover the ancient secret of making cake filling:

* 1 oz of butter

* 4 oz of icing sugar

* 2 heaped teaspoons of cocoa, with a few drops of hot water poured on both

I may have overdone the water slightly as I had to use an awful lot more icing sugar to get the icing to bind together. However, when I taste tested it, it was *exactly* the same as the icing my mum used to make.

It was either this or forcibly remove him from the icing bowl.

It was either this or forcibly remove him from the icing bowl.

Then it was time to spread the icing. If you recall from earlier, I mentioned I made a fatal mistake with the sponges. In this instance, it turned out that the centre one was undercooked and when I lifted it off to spread the icing…:

"It's a disaster! A delicious spongy chocolatey disaster!"

“It’s a disaster! A delicious spongy chocolatey disaster!”

If I had remembered to test the centre with a fork or knife, just I did with the first cake I made for this blog, I would have popped it back in the oven. Fortunately, the other two layers were absolutely fine. I finished off the cake with a little melted chocolate on the top while my assistant finished off the remains of the middle layer:

The finished sponge cake.

The finished sponge cake.

I’m pleased to say the cake was a big hit with my dad and the rest of the family, along with the small box of whiskey truffles I bought for him. Definitely a big success!

Not pictured: the missing quarter of cake or the missing Koala.

Not pictured: the missing quarter of cake or the missing Koala.