Waiting for Agnes

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White nemesis August 28, 2010

One of my lovely-midwife-friends is engaged! Well, to be absolutely accurate, two of the LMFs are engaged and I give a third one about six months before she too sprouts a sparkly rock on her ring finger. But back to the point – the LMF of this story had her engagement party last night. She and her fiance (both as cute as buttons can be) celebrated their engagement with their friends and family in a hall bedecked with twinkling fairy lights, with ivy winding about candles, with photos of the two of them looking button-cute and with tables groaning beneath plates of all sorts of food (there was middle-eastern lamb that I would have sold a relative for, not small obviously, but any of the extended family). A week ago this LMF was at small’s birthday party. We were chatting about her upcoming celebration and how all the guests were bringing food. I half-jokingly offered to make the cake, thinking ‘oh it would be lovely to be able to do it for her’ but also thinking ‘surely she would have that all wrapped up by now’. Not, as it seemed. Huzzah! Gift baking! Not just fun and indulgent but completely sanctioned by the beloved at any time.

Having spent much of the past two weeks poring over epicure: chocolate, I had ideas. Too many ideas. The LMFs engagement story is utterly romantic. It all began in the dead of the night, there was mystery, there were aeroplanes, there was even a sea-plane, there was swimming, there were fish, and of course the popping-of-the-question, all by the love of her life. A heart shaped cake seemed the right choice. But one heart seemed small and lonely. Almost as importantly, it only enabled the use of one recipe.

Two Hearts

Part One:

“Coco the burlesque wonder cake” (I could not pass up an opportunity to make a cake with such an impressive name – thank you to Ben Johnson of thelovebite.com, very very much)

175 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 of a cup of cocoa

2/3 of a cup of caster sugar

1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 a cup of golden syrup

3/4 of a cup of sour cream

2 eggs

For the cake –

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced)

Butter and line a tine (~22cm diameter)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Whizz until well combined. Pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat by 20 degrees and bake for another half an hour. It’s done when you poke the top gently and it springs back.

Cool in the tin for about ten minutes then turn onto a rack and cool completely.

Frosting:

50 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 a cup of sour cream

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

80 grams of dark eating chocolate, melted

3 cups of icing sugar, sifted

1/4 of a cup of cocoa

25 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped into little bits

Put all the ingredients except the chopped chocolate into the food processor. Whizz until well combined. Add the chopped chocolate and pulse to splinter it a little. Spread over the cooled cake. This cake is luscious – the golden syrup gives the cake and the icing a hint of caramel; there is a generous amount of icing; the chocolate splintered through the icing adds bite and a bittersweet edge. It doesn’t surprise me that this cake is rumoured to receive fan mail. I’m tempted to send a little note myself.

Part Two:

“Lisa’s white chocolate cake”. Not such an exciting title, but this LMF does like her chocolate and I was aiming for contrast.

125 mls of water

200 grams of caster sugar

80 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

100 grams of white chocolate broken into pieces

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

30 grams of cocoa powder (yes, you read correctly, cocoa – the cake is not white to look at, until it’s slathered with icing)

1 cup of frozen raspberries (my tweak)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Butter and line your tin.

Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Take off the heat.

Add the butter and white chocolate. Stir until melted. Cool slightly.

Whisk in the eggs. Sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until well combined.

Pour into your prepared tin (it will be pourable) and tap the tin to settle any bubbles. Drop in your raspberries at the last minute (they will sink, but will still be tasty).

Bake for about half an hour. When done an inserted skewer will come out clean.

Cool in the tin.

For the icing:

Up until this point everything was very smooth sailing. Perfect. Tasty cakes. Excellent first batch of icing for cake number one. Layout ideas coming along nicely. Found a tray that meant I wouldn’t have to venture out to buy a cake board. Then I started on the white chocolate ganache. I haven’t baked with white chocolate for a long time and now I remember why. It is an abomination. It does not behave like chocolate. It doesn’t cooperate.

1 cup of thickened cream

200 grams of white chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of unsalted butter

~1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, sifted (yes I know, not traditionally a ganache component, all will be explained)

Heat the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate, mixing until it is melted. Add the butter and mix to combine. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.

Right. Well the first time I tried to be clever – I tried to treat the ganache like the version from the Nutella cake, whisking to cool and thicken it into a mousse-like consistency. So it split. Tasty, but kind of nasty to look at.

Nevermind, thinks I, I have enough things for a second batch. Gently I repeat the melting and stirring process, then leave it alone. It cools. It does not thicken. I put it in the fridge. It does not thicken. I put it in the freezer. It does not thicken. Time is running out. We should have left for lovely party an hour ago.

In desperation, I put a bit on the cake, hoping it will set in the manner of ice-magic touching ice-cream. No.

In further desperation, I start whisking icing sugar into it. Ah ha!! Success! Lovely texture, not quite tooth-achingly sweet, very white.

I put this on the cake. The previous, runny stuff slooshes off from beneath the new icing and onto the tray. I mop it up with half a roll of paper towel while the beloved, small and another LMF watch with a kind of amused horror. Frantic smoodging of icing continues. Cake ends up well covered, if not as perfectly pretty as I would have liked. In the meantime I have melted some extra dark chocolate and piped a message out onto some baking paper. Miraculously it has set and can even be extricated from the paper and transferred to the cake without stuffing it up irreparably. With zero time to spare, cake is complete.

Sadly I cannot show you a photo of the finished cakes in all their glory. For one thing, the hurried photo I took before we sprinted out the door was pretty appalling. More importantly, the anonymity of my LMF and her own beloved would be compromised. Best just to look at the second last photo and use your imagination. My last pieces of advice: if you want white chocolate just buy a block of Cadbury Dream. Then eat it. If you want glorious cake and mouthwatering ganache, use 70%+ dark eating chocolate, the tastiest you can afford.

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