Monday, 26 September 2011

Blackberry wedding cake

Blackberry wedding cake

I made this wedding cake for some friends who got married at Dulwich Picture Gallery over the weekend. While we sat in the ceremony room, forest noises of wind, creaking trees and woodland creatures played, along with the Teddy Bears' Picnic song. This was thematic of the whole day and the cake was no exception. It was an intimate wedding and Alys and Will, the bride and groom, wanted to serve their cake as pudding. They chose a fruits of the forest torte with fruits of the forest chocolate ganache, so that their chosen design was mirrored in the flavour. The cake was gluten free as a number of their guests were wheat intolerant and Alys and Will were keen for everyone to be served the same.

Close up of the bramble thorn and blossom

I made the blackberries and foliage with white chocolate plastique - a mixture of melted white chocolate and glucose syrup, that you can model into shapes. Once I had made the thorns, leaves and fruit, I painted them with melted cocoa butter mixed with edible powder dye. This made it possible to create nuances of colour and levels of berry ripeness. The blackberry blossoms were made from floristry paste, again with painted detail and a royal icing centre and then used royal icing to stick all the decorations to the cake.

Side view of blackberries

With the exception of ribbons, structural rods and cake boards, I always try to make my cakes 100% edible. I avoid the use of wires or plastic stamens in my sugar and chocolate flowers because, in all honesty, I can't really see the point of creating decorations out of edible materials that are rendered inedible by sticking wires through them. I prefer this modern and fresh approach to cake artistry and, although I can understand the sentiment of keeping sugar flowers from your wedding day for posterity, this tradition feels less and less in keeping with the demands of today's brides.

Close up of chocolate blackberries

Fruits of the forest torte

This cake contains white chocolate, but you can't really taste the chocolate. It is used to stabilise the cake, which is necessary because the cake batter is so wet due to the amount of fruit purée used. You can use double the amount of chocolate if you want to taste the white chocolate through the tanginess of the forst fruits. This is definitely a cake which needs a cake fork - deliciously moist and fruity.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and grease and line a deep 6" round tin

3 eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
100ml raspberry purée
100ml blackcurrant purée
50ml blackberry purée
125g/ 5oz caster sugar
100g/ 4oz ground almonds
100g/ 4oz white chocolate, melted

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and mousse-y. Whisk through the ground almonds, then the chocolate and the fruit purée.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form and fold into the fruity mixture, being careful not to beat out any of the air. Once combined, pour the batter into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in its tin on a wire rack before turning out.

Fruits of the forest chocolate ganache

100g/ 4oz dark chocolate
100g/ 4oz unsalted butter
125 ml of fruit purée (a mixture of blackcurrant, raspberry and blackberry)
100ml double cream
1 heaped tbsp light muscovado sugar

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Once melted, stir in the fruit purée. Pop the cream and sugar in a saucepan over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, bring the cream to the boil and pour the cream into the chocolate mixture. Leave to cool and once cold, refrigerate until the ganache has set. Once set, slice the cake horizontally and sandwich the cake with half the ganache and use the remaining ganache to smooth over the outside of the cake. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Chocolate, lime and Szechuan pepper cake

A couple of weeks ago, I was very kindly invited on a food crawl around Angel  by the good people of Great British Chefs, who have created an amazing app full of delicious recipes from the UK's leading chefs. It is elegantly designed and user friendly and packed full of handy hints, tips and snappy little interviews. The app includes 180 recipes for a snip at £4.99 from iTunes. Not bad for less than a fiver!

The food crawl kick started with bubbly and canapés from the lovely ladies of Home and Pantry. Purveyors of all things rustic and cute, their shop is an Aladdin's cave of home and garden ware. Next up on this cold and rainy day was a frozen yoghurt from Frae. Despite the umbrella weather, my pot of green tea frozen yoghurt generously sprinkled with fresh raspberries was refreshing and delicious - like Mr Whippy for grown-ups AND less calories than a Kitkat (though for those unwilling to remain too saintly, you can get those calories back with a Kitkat topping*). What's not to like? After our fat free pot of frozen goodness, off we crawled to Giraffe for a generous array of dishes and drinks from cajun chicken wings and edamame beans to mini smoothies and cocktails, but not before we sampled the delights of Paul A. Young, master chocolatier. Paul welcomed us into his pretty purple premises and we all sighed with pleasure at the rich, intoxicating smell of chocolate. It's a gorgeous little shop full of treasure and we were all invited to pick one chocolate from the tempting display. 

Photo courtesy of GBC, see more here

After much umming and aahhing, I settled on the lime and Szechuan pepper chocolate truffle. The chocolate was smooth and silky with a subtle but zingy hit of lime, and not until after the citrus works its magic on your tongue do you feel the warm and fragrant cuddle of Szechuan pepper at the end. I'm a huge fan of chocolate with pepper and, despite having a keen fondness for a Szechuan pepper rub on duck breasts, I'd never thought to try them out with chocolate before. After tasting Paul A. Young's delicious truffle, I knew this would have to change, and I decided to pair these flavours together in a cake. At first, I was considering just adding the flavours to a chocolate cake batter, but more and more people I know and clients I meet have gluten allergies, so I decided to make this cake the subject of another experiment I've been plotting for some time. Many of my most delicious gluten-free cakes contain nut flours, which is fine if it's only gluten you have a problem with, but not so hot for those who need more of an all round 'free-from' experience. So I decided to make this fruity little number  gluten-, nut- and dairy-free to boot. In my household we are extremely partial to a plate of grilled tomatoes on socca bread for a weekend brunch and, as such, are almost never without a huge bag of gram flour knocking about in the cupboard. I've never used gram flour in a cake before but have often wondered about it, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. What's more, as gram flour is made of chickpeas it must surely count as one of your five a days too, no? So here it is, my free-from chocolate, lime and Szechuan pepper cake and I am very pleased to report that it's none too shabby!

Chocolate, lime and Szechuan pepper cake

Grease and line a 6" round tin and preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

for the cake

6 oz/ 150g dark chocolate (best quality you can afford)
7 fl. oz/ 200 ml sunflower oil
8 oz/ 200g dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs, separated
4 limes
2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, ground
5 oz/ 125g gram flour
1 oz/25g cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 heaped tbsp caster sugar

  • Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water and leave to cool.
  • Whisk the egg whites with the salt and set to one side.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the dark muscovado sugar and oil together and then add in the egg yolks one at a time. Keep whisking until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
  • Mix in the chocolate, pepper and the zest of 4 limes.
  • Sift the gram flour, cocoa and bicarb over the chocolate mixture and whisk in. Don't worry if the mixture looks a bit peculiar at this stage.
  • Fold in the beaten egg white and pour into your prepared tin and bake for about an hour or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • While you are waiting for the cake to bake, mix the juice of 2 of the limes with the caster sugar.
  • As soon as the cake is out of the oven, stab it all over with a skewer and pour the lime and sugar over the top of the hot cake. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in its tin before turning out on to a wire rack with the top of the cake facing up, so all the lime syrup will soak through.
for the topping

2 heaped tbsp light muscovado sugar
The juice of 2 limes
6 oz/ 150g of dark chocolate
A handful of Szechuan peppercorns

  • Bung all the ingredients, minus the peppercorns, in a saucepan and place over a gentle heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the chocolate has melted.
  • Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before spreading the topping over the top and sides of the cake with a palate knife.
  • Scatter with peppercorns and leave the topping to cool completely before serving.

*Other toppings are available.