White Chocolate Truffle Cake

Recently my friend asked me to make her a special cake, and inspired by some white chocolate truffles I'd been given, I decided that a creamy truffle type topping over a light sponge cake would be ideal . I wanted to add some body to the truffle topping, so used an idea I saw in a magazine and added fromage frais.

It's not a big cake, but is rich, so you only need a small slice.

You need a 20cm springform cake tin, base lined.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

For the sponge:

Whisk 2 eggs with 50g of caster sugar till light and frothy. Fold in 50g of plain flour and then 50g of white chocolate, which has been melted in a microwave or over a pan of hot water.

Pour this batter into the cake tin and bake for 25 mins till the cake is springy to touch.

Leave cake to cool for a bit in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack.

For the topping:

Put 300ml of double cream into a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to stop it sticking and burning.

Turn the heat down very low, then add 350g of white chocolate broken into pieces. Stir till the chocolate is melted and mixed with the cream.

Take pan off the heat and leave till it's nearly cool, then add 250g of fromage frais and stir together.

Pour the topping onto the cake and chill for 2 hours in the fridge. That's it - all you have to do is enjoy it!

I made some chocolate curls the other day for my chocolate gingerbread, had some left over and used them to decorate the top of the cake. I dusted a little cocoa over the top, using my trusty small tea strainer.

I didn't have any trouble finding fromage frais, but you could use Quark instead. It went down well with my friend and her visitors. They said it was rich without being too sickly and heavy. The sweetness of the white chocolate in the topping is counteracted by the fromage frais and cream. Adding the cheese gave it an extra bit of zing!


Chocolate gingerbread

This recipe is for a 'pain d'épice' [spice bread]  type of gingerbread - a French classic. Each country has its own version of gingerbread, but I love the French one best.

I wanted to do something a bit different for a special tea, as I'd invited the French conversation group I belong to. I decided to push the boat out, so instead of making just a normal cake looking gingerbread, I made it into a sort of millefeuille version, and added chocolate to it.

The basic recipe came from my French friend's mother, and unlike our English gingerbread, it uses several spices. It's not difficult to make, but making it into a millefeuille was a bit of a faff!

You need:
100g of dark chocolate
100g of honey
*200ml cold double cream
130g flour [my friend's Mum used rye flour but I didn't]
11/2tspns baking powder
2 tspns vanilla sugar
20g icing sugar

for the spices:
1 tspn of cinnamon, 1/2 tspn ground ginger, 1 tpsn freshly grated nutmeg and 1 star anise [crushed in a mortar or a grinder]

100g bar of chocolate to make chocolate curls - or buy some
4 tbspns of cocoa powder

a little flour and 1 tbspn of oil to grease the cake tin

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease and flour a 15cm springform tin - the original recipe asked for a small 'moule à manqué, so I judged that this would be about the right size, and it worked out fine.

Melt the chocolate, honey and 10ml of water in a bowl over a saucepan. Add the spices and mix together.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl then add to the chocolate mixture a little at a time. if the mixture seems too thick, add a little water.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.

It's best to make the pain d'épice the day before you need it, as it's easier then to cut it into disks. This is what I did, and it wasn't too difficult to cut the layers.

Whip the cream till thickish then add the icing and vanilla sugars at the end and mix in gently.

Cut the cake into disks using a bread knife. Make a layer with a disk of pain d'épice then some cream, another biscuit layer and finish with a layer of cream.
Decorate the top with the chocolate curls and sprinkle the cocoa over [I used an old tea strainer].

Everyone enjoyed this, and loved the subtle spice flavours mixed with the chocolate and then the cream layer. It really is a cake of contrasts.

*Sorry, I originally said 20ml of cream - it was 20cl of cream in the French recipe and I just typed 20ml, but it's 200ml of course.


Blackcurrant Clafoutis

 Am having a clear out of last year's fruit from the freezer, and found a bag of blackcurrants lurking in the depths. I have to say that they're not my favourite fruit - not sweet enough for me, but OH loves them. What to do with them? Didn't want another crumble or tart, so had a look in one of my cookbooks and found a recipe for an apple clafoutis - I was sure that blackcurrants would work just as well.
What is a clafoutis? A batter pudding/flan with fruit, usually cherries.
I 've seen many recipes for the batter, including one using yeast; I read through this one, then did it the wrong way round - beating the melted butter and sugar together instead of the sugar and eggs, but it didn't seem to have made any difference. I was a bit worried that the blackcurrants would be too tart, but in the sweet batter they were fine.

Preheat oven 220C/gas7 and grease a gratin dish with a little butter.

Put 500g of fresh or frozen blackcurrants [or cherries, thinly sliced apples, plums, blueberries] into the dish.
Beat 2 eggs with 100g of caster sugar and a tspn of vanilla extract. Stir in 150g of plain flour, 400ml of milk and 100g of melted butter till well mixed. Pour this batter over the fruit and bake for about 30 mins [if you're using frozen fruit, add another 5-10 mins].

I used the gratin dish I bought from a pottery in Alsace. The clafoutis had a good texture hot, but I preferred it cold.

I know it doesn't look very appetising in this photo, but there's a great contrast between the tart fruit and the sweet batter. It's more solid now it's cold.


Moka Cake

Part of my husband's Christmas present to me was a 2 day Cookery course, which included making and decorating cakes.
I went to the first day last Saturday and brought home this Moka cake. We made tuiles and langues de chats too, but they were eaten before I had a chance to take a photo! I asked, and got, permission from the tutor to put this recipe on my blog, so it's legal, but I've written it in my own words anyway.
It's quite a complicated cake, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it's worthwhile making for an occasion. As it was Mothering Sunday last w/e, it was the perfect special cake for tea.
It's a Genoese sponge cake which is cut in half and sprinkled with some coffee syrup. Then you make some crème au beurre [it's much posher than a buttercream, hence the French term!] and use this to fill the sponge, to cover the cake and to pipe around the top of the finished cake. It's a luxurious 'treat yourself' kind of cake.

For the Genoese cake:
225g caster sugar
225g flour
15g butter
A 20cm springform cake tin and a sugar thermometer

Coffee syrup:
100g granulated sugar
75ml water
2 tbspns strong black coffee or coffee extract

Crème au beurre:
150g granulated sugar
75ml water
2 egg whites
225g unsalted butter
10g vanilla sugar
coffee essence
50g grilled flaked almonds

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Use the 15g of butter to grease the cake tin.

For the cake:
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and set over a simmering saucepan. Beat with a wire whisk till doubled in size and warm when you touch it. Take the bowl off and beat till cold.
Beat in the sieved flour then pour into the tin.
Bake for 18-20 mins and don't open the oven door [a couple of people on the course had to have a look and their cakes were flat!].
Cool on a wire rack.
For the coffee syrup:
Boil the sugar and water together over medium heat for 5 mins. Let it cool a bit and then add the coffee.
For the crème au beurre:
Cook the sugar and water till it registers 220 on the sugar thermometer [or you can drop a bit of the syrup into some cold water and you should be able to make a soft ball when you roll it between your fingers].
Beat the egg whites to a stiff peak, then slowly add the boiling syrup beating all the time. Keep beating until the mixture is cold.

Soften the butter till creamy, then add the vanilla sugar and fold in the egg whites. Add a few drops of coffee essence to give it a bit of colour.
Cut the cake across and sprinkle the cut surfaces with the syrup.
Put cake onto a plate and spread the bottom half with some of the cream and put the other half on top.
Using a spatula dipped from time to time in water, spread some cream over the top and side of the cake, keeping as bit back to decorate the top.
Coarsely chop up the grilled almonds and press them over the top and side of the cake.
Put the rest of the cream into a piping bag with a fluted nozzle and pipe around the top edge of the cake.
Chill the cake in the fridge for a few hours before using.

Like I said earlier, this cake really took me out of my comfort zone. I hadn't made this kind of butter cream before - I really had to concentrate hard pouring the boiling syrup into the egg whites. I feel very proud of my effort - it's good to learn new techniques. The second day of the course is next month, and we'll be using yeast and making some biscuits.
And the cake? Lovely flavour from the coffee [I bought some extract from Lakeland], a light sponge cake, delicious cream filling, and added texture from the almonds. A little piece of heaven!


Pecan Brownies

Needed to make something for a Bake Stall, so decided something with chocolate, as they're always popular. My friend had been raving about these brownies, so I persuaded her to part with the recipe! Have to admit that I'm not a great brownie fan. I think it's because I've eaten a lot of overcooked ones which were disappointing. There's a fine line between their being squidgy and overcooked - as I know too well! I made a recipe not long ago that was so awful even the birds wouldn't eat it! What a waste of chocolate!

180g 70% dark chocolate
175g butter
150g light brown sugar
3 eggs and 1 yolk
85g plain flour and 1 level tspn of baking powder
100g pecans - keep 25g for the topping

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/fan165C

Grease a 18x32cm tin

Break the pecans into pieces.
In a bowl beat the eggs and yolk lightly with a fork.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over simmering water. Take off heat when melted.
Add the sugar and mix together.
Add the eggs a bit at a time, mixing well.
Add the flour and baking powder, and the broken 75g of pecans.
Spoon into the tin and sprinkle the rest of the pecans over the top.
Bake for 18-20 mins. Leave in tin for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.
When the brownies are cold, cut them into squares.

A nice deep squidgy brownie, much appreciated in the Bake Sale. They're fairly quick to make and I like the addition of the pecans as an extra texture. Could use walnuts or hazelnuts. I don't think this recipe is better than my usual one, but it's a change.

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