Monday, 17 November 2008

Butterscotch Layer Cake

This is the sort of cake that people call 'very rich' but then go on to have three slices with languorous ease - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: This is, hands down, one of the best cakes I've ever had the pleasure to make. It was great fun, taught me a thing or two and turned out perfectly. You can't ask for more.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: For this cake, you need to make caramel before you even start the cake. Not being much of a confectioner, this presented a challenge for me.

I was a bit nervous and in fact ruined the first batch. All that boiling sugar syrup turns to burnt caramel in an instant. Despite Nigella warning that caramel is meant to burn, I don't think she meant this much.

I made it again, and the second time, it was the warm, golden brown you expect. You put that aside and get on with the cake which is one of those lovely 'blitz everything' recipes that I love Nigella for.

She asked for Golden Caster Sugar and I finally figured out that in Australia, CSR produce 'Raw Caster Sugar' which I'm reliably informed is the just the thing. It, along with the brown sugar (she asked for light muscvado) gives the cake a lovely, not overly cloying richness.

The caramel is later mixed with 400g of cream cheese which sounded really, really odd to me but then I'm not technically a caramel lover so I was open to whatever she said to do, even if it did sound odd. Blended together, it makes the most delicious icing and filling.

Special utensils or cookware: I finally got to use the sponge tins I bought a long time ago. That's the only thing, really, that you'll need to get if you don't have some already. The rest is standard.

Repeatability: After a string of Nigella failures, which I haven't documented here because, well, I'm not keen on dwelling on such things, I was beginning to lose faith, but this cake is about as good as it gets. I just loved it. I made it for my husband's 40th birthday - he requested it after we spent a while leafing through books, and it delivered. Make it. It's fabulous.

Sauciness: So delightfully rich, so beautiful to look at - you can't beat it. Decadent and saucy!

Overall pleasure level:
If the amount of times I told the story of this cake at work today is any indication, it's got a high pleasure rating from me. I loved looking at it; I loved eating it; I loved serving it. Loads of pleasure to be had from this special treat. I'm giving it 9 out of ten for all round greatness.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Torta alla Gianduia

Welcome to our newest Mouthfuls of Heaven team member, Georgie! We're thrilled to have her helping us out, sharing the Nigella love!
Bells and RoseRed.

"Anything that has a whole jar of Nutella in it is already a winner in my book" - Rose Red

Or, if you're from the more working-class neck of the woods, Nutella Cake.

The verdict: A winner indeed. Despite some mistreatment in the form of my temperamental oven, this cake was moist but firm, rich and importantly, chocolatey. Definitely on my make-again list.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: I made the recipe to spec, including a 400g jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread, ground hazelnuts and quite a bit of dark chocolate. Double cream for the ganache topping. All readily available, but not often in my pantry.

Oh, and Frangelico liquer, both in the cake and the ganche topping. Nigella suggests substituing with rum or similar; easily done, depending on preference and availability, I think.

Special utensils or cookware: None. Baked in a springform tin.

Repeatability: Certainly. Go the whole hog with the toasted hazelnuts on top for a special occasion, or just the ganache, or even your regular choccy butter icing with a dash of liquer for everyday. It's a lovely dense, moist cake (being all nuts and no flour), so would keep rather well for several days.

I did break the cardinal rule here though: I didnt read the recipe all the way through. Cooking instructions are for 40 minutes at 180oC, "until the sides come away from the pan"; after that time, it was still very moist in the centre. Yes, the sides had come away, but it was pretty wet in there still. So I gave it another 15 minutes (with 5 minute-ly checks).

If I had kept reading, to the part where Nigella says " unmould the cooled carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece." I may have twigged that the cake is supposed to be fairly moist.

Sauciness: Oh yes, very high. Not only are there good bowls to lick, plus an empty Nutella jar, this combine two of my favourites, chocolate and hazelnuts.

Overall pleasure level: Very good indeed. This was given an very solid 9 by those who partook. Bumped up to a 9.5 with double cream on the side. Yeah, baby!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Apple and Walnut Cake

The cake is lovely, but in an unfancy 'cucina rustica' kind of a way - Nigella Lawson

I've always thought that you can't go wrong with an apple cake (or any kind of apple dessert) - and this cake proves it.

The verdict: This is one great cake. I was a bit worried about it during the making of it, for a whole range of reasons, but it turned out so well, in so many ways!Unusual or substituted ingredients: Nigella warns that walnut oil is expensive - in fact, she says not to buy it specially for the cake, and suggests using olive oil instead - which is exactly what I did! I also did not use the walnuts, as I'm not a huge fan of them. So I guess it's really just an apple cake - although it's not "just" an apple cake! Nigella also specifies using Cox apples. I just used what I had in the fruit bowl - 2 pink ladies and a granny smith. And I think I forgot to put in the cinnamon (whoops!)
Special utensils or cookware: Nothing special except for a 20cm springform tin - which of course I don't have! I've used bigger tins before and the cake hasn't quite worked, so I used my old faithful ring tin instead - and hoped like heck the cake wouldn't stick - I made sure I greased and floured the tin thoroughly! And it worked (phew!)
Repeatability: Oh I would definitely make this cake again - it was a highly successful cake, made for a work morning tea - and it keeps so well, it was also afternoon tea, and then morning tea again the next day. I'm sure it would keep for 3-5 days in cool weather!
Sauciness: I possibly used a bit too much apple - because when I mixed the apples in with the rest of the cake mix, it didn't seem to mix too well - the apple was hardly even coated. Nigella says the mix will be "stiff" but this was ridiculous!! Fortunately it settled, and expanded, nicely when cooked!
Overall pleasure level: This was fabulous, appley, with just a hint of rum and a very nice, moist texture - 8/10 for me!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Rhubard Cornmeal Cake

'You can never have too many rhubarb recipes in my book - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: I would agree with Nigella on this one. RoseRed might not. But I love the stuff. I actually made this quite some time ago and forgot that I'd taken the photos in readiness to write it up. So my memory may be a little sketchy. I'm hoping the photos bring the memories back. Note to self: annotate recipes more often!

Unusual or substituted ingredients: I recall I did this recipe as written. N o modifications. 500g of rhubarb is a lot if you have to buy it because the bunches are small and expensive I think. I plan to grow my own from now on.

Also, polenta/cornmeal is probably unusual for some people. I seem to always have it in the house but never seem to use it. My attempts at making baked polenta are futile but in things like cakes, I think it works a treat.

Other that that, it's just got the usual suspects, butter, bi carb, vanilla, eggs, sugar.

Special utensils or cookware: None. Just a spring form tin.

Repeatability: I've not made it since but I definitely I will make it again. I recall it was dense and moise, sweet and tangy.

Sauciness: It's more your good, solid cake than a saucy one. With a dollop of cream though....that might take it to another level!

Overall pleasure level: Again, from memory, I think I would have given this about an 8. Maybe more, but without certainty I can't say for sure. Looking at the photo above, I remember the slightly crusty top and those delicious jewels of rhubarb dotted throughout the tender cake. Lovely!


Friday, 11 April 2008

Roxanne's Millionaire's Shortbread

Amazingly, Nigella doesn't give any kind of Nigella-esque quote for this recipe. Don't know why, because it is a very Nigella-esque recipe! - Rose Red

The verdict: You know, when I first saw this recipe I thought "oh, shortbread dipped in chocolate. Whoopee". Clearly I didn't read past the first sentence, because this recipe is actually what we in Australia usually call Chocolate Caramel Slice - much more descriptive of what it actually is. Although the idea of calling it Millionaire's shortbread is very apt - it is as rich as all get out! Unusual or substituted ingredients: Nothing unusual. Just sweet sweet sweet - condensed milk, golden syrup, chocolate. Plus flour, butter and sugar for the shortbread. And because milk chocolate could not be decadent enough, I used dark chocolate. But of course!
Special utensils or cookware: Nigella says this recipe introduced her to the concept of both melting chocolate in the microwave, and also making caramel in the microwave. Having never made caramel at all before, I can't comment on the relative benefits, but it was very quick and easy to use the microwave. Nigella cautions to regularly check and stir the caramel to avoid burning it, and I followed this advice to the letter. In fact, I quite possibly didn't cook the caramel enough (about 5 or 6 minutes I think), but it still worked out absolutely fine! Amazing actually, watching the condensed milk caramelise.

Repeatability: Oh, I would definitely make this again. For sure! It is darn hard to cut though. The chocolate on the top cracked and so it ended up being a bit messy. Perhaps if the chocolate was a bit thinner it would be easier. Also, I recommend cutting into small pieces - it really is very rich.

Sauciness: Oh yeah baby! Plenty of bowls to lick with this recipe! As well as the tin of condensed milk (am I the only one who can confess to eating condensed milk straight from the tin? Sometimes my mum would have a tin in the fridge with leftovers, and my brother and I would compete to eat it in secret, a teaspoonful at a time...heaven!)

And you really get your hands dirty making the shortbread - I thought I would never get all that butter rubbed into that flour. But I got there in the end.

Overall pleasure level: I know some people find this too rich (husby wouldn't even try a tiny piece) but for me, it was divine! 10 out of 10. Make it - you won't regret it! (and lest you think I ate it all by myself, I took most of it into work!)

Friday, 29 February 2008

Butter Cut-Out Biscuits

Any time you want to play supermummy in the kitchen, here is where you start - Nigella Lawson

I admit it, I've been a bad bad baker over the last couple of months. Oh, I've got plenty of excuses, but really, I've just been bad. So I finally forced myself out of my baking rutt, and these are the result.
Aren't they pretty!!

The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients: None. You should have everything you need in your pantry. Except perhaps a range of food colouring, which is why I've got pink, blue and white (not because I like girl and boy biscuits or anything like that. In fact, kill me if I ever make blue biscuits for a boy's party, or pink ones for a girl).

Special utensils or cookware: A range of cookie cutters is probably a good idea. That way, you won't be forced to use your Christmas shapes and the overly large gingerbread person shape, rather than, say, numbers as Nigella uses in the book, or animal shapes or whatever. Must remember to buy some new shapes next time I'm in the homewares store.

Otherwise, you just wizz it all up in the kitchenaid or with a handbeater, whatever takes your fancy.Repeatability: The mix makes a lot of biscuits - Nigella says around 50-60 and for once I think I pretty much got the number she suggested, or at least I would have except for giganto ginge! You can also freeze the dough ("it makes sense - in a smug, domestic kind of way - to wrap half of this in clingfilm and stash it in the deep freeze until next needed" - thanks Nigella!)
Sauciness: The rolling out of the dough and cutting the shapes is pretty darn messy. You refrigerate the dough for an hour before rolling/cutting. If the weather is warm, keep it in the fridge a bit longer (eg 1.5 hours) and make sure you roll and cut quickly.
And don't roll too thin. Or else you won't be able to pick up the shapes and get them on the baking tray without them breaking. Ask me how I know!
Overall pleasure level: Not only pretty, but pretty darn good, although it's the icing that really makes them! I'm giving them a 7.5.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Flora's Famous Courgette Cake

If courgette cake sounds dodgy to you, think about carrot cake for a moment; this is just an adaptation of that (though if you feel its safer, don't tell people it's made of courgettes until after they've eaten it). - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: Something had to be done with the zucchinis my garden is producing. Admittedly, this recipe only takes 250g and that big one my hand is on weighs a kilo, but you know, Rome wasn't built in a day, so this recipe was a good start.

With the delicious lime curd luxuriously sandwiched between the layers and a decadent layer of a lime flavoured cream cheese topping, it's a wonderful explosion of flavours.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: Well, as Nigella says in the quote above, some people might think zucchini in a cake is weird. I don't. Neither does my husband. He was just glad to see me using one of the monsters! Everything else in the recipe is pretty standard cake fare. Nigella said the raisins could be optional, so I opted not to include them. I'm not really one for raisins etc in cakes.

Nigella also suggested using a good quality shop bought lime curd filling if you wished, boosting it with a squirt of lime juice, but I opted to make the lime curd. It took about 5 minutes. Too easy. Although I take issue with the use of a whole egg.

I didn't get a photo of it, but I would have thought that a custard kind of filling would require only the use of egg yokes, not whites. The whites, even while I whisked it briskly, left trails of cooked white. They weren't noticeable in the eating of the cake, but they disturbed me nonetheless. Next time, I'd just do the yoke.

Special utensils or cookware: This is a two layer cake. Fortunately, I not long ago bought a couple of Victoria Sponge tins.

Repeatability: This, I'm certain, will be dragged out every year when I have zucchinis to burn. It's not time consuming (as you might think it is). There's a bit of a wait while you let everything cool down, so don't imagine you can whip it up quickly before guests come for afternoon tea. Otherwise, it's a winner!

Sauciness: It's saucy alright. Layers of rich, lime flavoured creaminess go a long way towards making this a decadent, delightful and impressive cake. Topped with a smattering of chopped pistachios, it's perfect.

Overall pleasure level: You can't beat it. The cake itself is wonderfully light - some vegetable based cakes aren't. It's a 10 out of 10 for me.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Rosebud Madeleines

It was the curled in smallness of these tender sponge biscuits, as well as the fact that they're flavoured with rosewater, that made me name them as I have - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: At long last - a joint effort between Bells and RoseRed! And mmmmm, these were delicious! They are in the biscuits section of the book, but really, they are more like little sponges or cupcakes, particularly if you make them in a "normal" sized madeleine tin.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: Rosewater is the unusual thing. If you can't find rosewater, you could probably use a bit of orange juice and orange zest, or maybe just vanilla essence. The rosewater really does give a lovely scent and flavour though, so try to find some if you can. Bells found some at an Indian groceries shop. Other than that, standard ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and an egg. Interestingly, not much of any of them. We had our doubts as to whether the mix would make the 48 madeleines Nigella says it would. She's obviously used teeny tiny madeleine tins, because we got 12 out of the mix.

Special utensils or cookware: Madeleine tin. Of which I (RoseRed) now have two, given that I'd already bought one and promptly forgot that I had it, so I bought another one - which I will return, as I really don't think I need two madeleine tins.

Repeatability: I would totally make these again. Possibly with different flavours, just to see how they turn out. They'd be great for a girl's fairy party, given they are so pretty, and simple, to make. Just leave yourself enough time - as Nigella asks you to refrigerate the mix for an hour, then leave it out of the fridge for another half an hour, before you actually bake. Not sure why. Not sure why you can't just refrigerate for half an hour and be done with it. Can anyone shed any light on this? At least you can make them the day before - just don't be tempted to eat them all before the event!

Sauciness: Not saucy - pretty! When they're still in the tin, they look pretty bland but flip them over and you have these gorgeous little shell shapes, all golden and delectable!

Overall pleasure level: These were delicious - the perfect afternoon tea fare, which is exactly what they were made for. Simple and delightful!