Friday, 9 September 2011

Belated post!!

Just a quick note to say that I discovered the previous post in my draft folder.  I had no idea that I hadn't posted it so even though it was baked back in June you are seeing it now.  Hope you enjoy,


6 Layer Chocolate Cake

Over the  June long weekend I wanted to make a cake that celebrated the birthday of 3 friends. They were on different days over the space of a week but we were going to have the cake Sunday morning.

I wanted to bake something different, with a bit of a challenge and a dramatic presentation.  So.... I began to leaf through some cookbooks.  Fatal mistake, as you get so caught up in what you would LIKE to cook, and inevitably don't have the ingredient that you need.   As for the internet and recipes,  don't even let me near it or I'm there for hours.
 Thankfully, I realised that what I wanted that day wasn't really in cookbooks.  For some weeks I had have had 'tortes' on my mind.   Here in Australia, we associate the word with a many layered cake with those layers separated with anything from butter cream, mousse, cream, ganache or, as in my case, custard. Not just any old custard I might add but one that evolved for the specific purpose of spreading  between layers of cake as I am not a fan of just whipped cream.

In central Europe, the origin of these delightful confections, a torte is a cake that is made with ground nuts and/or breadcrumbs instead of or in addition to a small quantity  of flour.  The German word for cake IS torte, not pronounced the way we would, just to complicate matters, and was derived from the Italian word Torta, originally describing a round cake or bread.  According to Wikipedia anyway.

One of the most famous tortes, the Sachertorte, was created in 1832 when Prince Metternich ordered the creation of a delectable dessert for some high ranking guests who must have been so used to good food that they had to be impressed with something out of the ordinary for even them.  Apparently he warned the staff not to make him look a fool!!  The chef was unavailable that day,  perhaps having a sickie to recover from dealing with a difficult boss, so the 16 year old apprentice, Franz Sacher, was quick witted enough to produce this delectable concoction of a soft, fluffy chocolate cake with apricot jam under the icing.

  It was a resounding success and when he finished his apprenticeship and branched out on his own, he reintroduced his masterpiece on  a large scale which has continued to this day.  In 1998, the Hotel Sacher Wien in Vienna, Austria, made a single cake with a diameter of 2.5 metres.  I wonder how you get that into the oven??
classic linzer tort

linzer cookies

Information on the website  'What's cooking America' by author Linda Stradley, tells of   another famous torte, the Linzer Torte,  reputed to be the oldest known cake in the world and been named since 1696. It is quite different to the sachertorte as it is really an almond short crust pastry with red currant jelly with the pastry forming a characteristic lattice pattern. No one knows who discovered the recipe and named it but the oldest recipe, or receipt as they used to be called, dates back to a 300 year old cookery book.  Butter, almonds, sugar, flour and spices are used when making the "Linzer torte".

Years ago I used to make tortes for occasions that usually meant lots of ladies sitting around without children and downing many cups of tea or coffee and goodies we shouldn't be eating.  I even made them for primary school fetes, to be sold by the piece for those needing to sit down and recuperate with food and beverages, in between the exhausting efforts of either trolling the stalls or manning the stalls in support of your child's school.  They were always so proud that you were involved that it did make it worthwhile. 

So, back to the Layer Cake.  (I have to stop calling it a torte now that I have researched the history.)  I used my trusty, fall back upon cake recipe, that I picked up from a magazine many years ago and in my usual fashion have played around with the ingredients, although not the basic balance of eggs, flour, liquid.  It is originally a chocolate cake but works just as well with other flavours.
I tripled the recipe and made six thin  layers of chocolate cake in pans that are 29cm x 24cm x 2.5 cm deep.  The layers were not that deep. Luckily for me I also had six of these pans, bought long ago to make multiple batches of slice without having to wash up in between each batch.
chocolate custard

Next I made my egg custard, which I have been making for way too long to want to remember and which my sister taught me to make in that long ago time and I have been making ever since. I increased the amount of cornflour to double which causes it to set very firmly when cold. Somewhere along the way I decided that orange would go well with the chocolate so added some juice plus a good amount of zest to the custard, cocoa powder and some melted chocolate. I then add cream that I've whipped to firm, folding it through till it is well incorporated but avoid beating it. 
Usually the cake layers are brushed with warm jam or a syrup before being sandwiched together so this time, in keeping with the orange theme, I brushed each layer with a cointreau syrup before spreading the chocolate custard almost to the edges of the cake and so on until all six layers were in place.
A batch of ganache was put together and when it had cooled down and was more spreadable I did a crumb coat layer all over the cake. The sides of tortes, especially ones that are quite high are always difficult to present nicely so I had decided to do the crumb coat and then wrap a chocolate collar around it which is best done when the crumb coat is still tacky. 

First I finished the top off with another layer of ganache so that it had that lovely thick, shiny finish.  As a final presentation flourish I made a batch of toffee to break into shards and attempted to spin some as well but something went wrong with my mix and it didn't spin well so we ended up with some small threads.  I use Adriano Zumbo's toffee recipe as I find his works best for spun toffee.  It has glucose in it which I think must give it more flexibility.    It wasn't working for me that day.  Never mind.           
toffee strands
                                  I did wonder the next morning if the whole thing was a gross overindulgence of chocolate but from the reactions the cake received, even if that was the case, it obviously didn't seem to matter.  The birthday people were very happy although we did end up with only two of the three.  And forgot to keep a piece of cake for the missing person.

The  collar of chocolate was anything but perfect in shape and application as I let it set a bit too long before putting it on and the size of it did make it awkward.   Next time I will put it on in sections as it is hard to wrap around corners smoothly.  All in all thought I can't complain with the end result .                                                                    
set toffee ready to crack into shards

In closing there are many other famous European tortes, there is the Hungarian Dobos Torte, Gateau Mercedes, Gateau Pithiviers to name just a few. One day I would love to be able to say  that I have baked them all!!!!!!!
ganache crumb coat

Here are the basic recipes:

125gm butter chopped
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup water

*Have all ingredients at room temperature
*Combine all into appropriate sized bowl - depending on how many times you double it
*Beat on low speed till combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes
 till mix is paler in colour and smooth
*Bake in a 20cm pan at 170 deg for 40-50 minutes till skewer comes out clean

*Temperature may need to be dropped if your oven is hot
*If colouring too soon loosely cover with foil
*Also does well for muffin/patty cakes  - makes about 12
the layers did set better after refrigeration which is always
advisable for this kind of cake


600 mls milk  -  I have successfully used skim milk for this over the years
2 eggs              - one will do if that is all you have left
2  1/2 level tablespoons sugar
2  1/2 level tablespoons cornflour  -  remember I doubled the amount for this recipe
125gms melted chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa
zest of 1 large orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 cup cream whipped till firm

*Beat all ingredients thoroughly
*Cook in a double boiler over gently simmering water  stirring well
*when cooked, cover surface with slightly wet gladwrap, pressing right down and pushing out air bubbles
*whip cream and fold into custard mixture after it has cooled right down


There are lots of ganache recipes out there.  If you have a favourite just use that one.

1/2 cup cream
400gm dark chocolate chopped

*Bring cream to boil
*Pour over chocolate stirring till melted
*You can refrigerate it but unless the weather is hot, leave it out, stirring occasionally, till      the consistency you need.
       (this is from the Australian Womens Weekly Celebration Cakes cookbook)

*The right temperature for pouring ganache is about 85 deg. if you have a sugar thermometer


75mls water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
8mls cointreau

*bring sugar and water to boil stirring to dissolve the sugar
*when cool add cointreau
*brush cake layers


200-500gms dark chocolate depending on how much cake you have
A piece of baking paper cut to the length of the cake and a little higher than you want the actual collar to go
*Melt the chocolate in a pan over barely simmering water
*Spread the melted chocolate over the piece of baking paper
*Have the cake crumb done so that you can wrap the collar around as soon as it is ready to go
*'Smooth the collar around from one end to the other continuing to smooth until the chocolate has adhered to the cake.  Leave the baking paper attached until chocolate has completely set.

The toffee recipe can be found at
It is a large amount of toffee as you can imagine so you will have to adjust it for your specific recipe. It does work well when you follow the recipe precisely which is what I didn't do this time. 



Rainy Spring morning and Lemon Meringue Pie

After a lovely week of spring weather this morning we have a  rainy spring morning.  It is actually quite heavy and the wind is whipping the trees.  The blossoms won't like it much especially if it goes on for too long. 

It is nice to be cosy inside looking out.  the may bush boughs are bobbing up and down with the wind, their heavily laden arms always remind me of bridal veils.  I watered my garden yesterday afternoon.  Rain had been promised all week but hadn't shown itself so I decided to give it all a drink particularly the plants I had put in on Sunday along with some dynamic lifter scattered around the whole garden.  I did water it all in well but somehow rain always does the job a lot better so this will be appreciated.

This morning my cat door finally went into one of the windows in my kitchen!!!  I have been waiting for about 6 months to get it done and it is very exciting to finally see it.  Now I just have to get Poppy used to it.  She didn't seem very impressed when I tried to get her to use it but I have my ways!!

I had researched cat doors for some time, wanting one that only let her in and not all the neighbourhood cats.  Found one called 'Sure flap' which is activated by the microchip that your cat has.  As this was something I had done soon after getting her it was a perfect solution. Going away for 2 months meant that she needed to have access other than me opening and closing doors on her whim.  Yes, yes, I know I have spoilt her but she is used to coming in and out during the day and the housesitter will be at work.

Decided to check out my freezer to see what goodies I had forgotten about. even though I have a list of what is there, I do forget to cross things off.  Found some date slice and a few cakes which I have neglected to label so will not know what they are till they have defrosted.  They will save me some time this weekend as I have several functions to attend on Saturday which is my usual baking day.

  It is good to have a little holiday from something, maybe especially when you love it, so that it doesn't get stale.  i need to think about an engagement/dessert cake for a fortnights time so will have to spend some time in the recipe books.  I am leaning toward a chocolate layer cake with mousse in between the layers.

 In the meantime I made Lemon Meringue Pie which is my very favourite pie.  From making the dough, to rolling it out, to pouring in the lovely, lemony filling and spreading out the luxuriously white meringue to eating it, I enjoy every step.a lemon meringue pie which has to be my very favourite pie.  From making and rolling out the pastry to spreading the luxuriously white meringue to eating it, I enjoy every stage.

As you can see by the amount of dough I had, there was lots to spare so now I have 2 uncooked bases in the freezer plus a partially rolled out slab.
 When I was ready to pour the custard into the pie crust I found that it was just a little too thick so added a touch more water and blitzed it with my trusty sunbeam stick mixer.  This made it lighter in colour and really creamy.  A fact which was remarked upon by several eaters of same pie!

baking, baking, baking!!

Cannot wait to dig in
This recipe is from the Womens Weekly Pies and Tarts cookbook.  The lemon filling is made from scratch and not with condensed milk.  I actually love the recipe with condensed milk but also enjoy making the custard the traditional way. 



Thursday, 8 September 2011

The magic of the lengthening spring afternoons doesn't diminish as day after day comes to it's close, the sky softening as the sun slips softly and swiftly over the horizon. 

After such a cold winter the warmer weather is a joy, not just for the warmth, but to see the burgeoning of life in the landscape around us. 

Many more people are out with their families, dogs included! walking, running, strolling. just generally enjoying the balmier conditions.

The birds are in full voice.  It is also time to 'beware' of the magpies who are very ready to dive bomb any unsusupecting passer by although most of us know their tricks and hope to avoid their attacks.

   The light at the end of the day is almost irridescent as it washes over the light green haze of new growth on trees and grass.

Around every corner there is the delight of blossoms of all types and I have to restrain myself from stopping to photograph them all.

This past weekend being fathers day, I decided to make lots of muffins for the fathers at my church.  All the mums received a rose on mothers day so it was only fair that the dads were not forgotten.                

    As one lady said about the muffins, 'this is a man rose'. 

Muffins are so easy to make.  I found a recipe many years ago in one of the cookbooks that brownie, scout and church groups put together with everyone's tried and true recipes.  It was so successful that it is my muffin base for all flavours.

when deciding on what flavours to use for these ones, besides chocolate of course, I rummaged around in the cupboard to see what I had.  There was some pineapple, shredded coconut, coffee leftover from the coffee maker that I can't bear to waste and had frozen.  Oh yes and apple.

So we had pineapple and coconut, apple and cinnamon and coffee chocolate.

They didn't take long to make on Saturday evening, one dozen of each flavour, thank goodness for multiple muffin trays, only taking 14 minutes per tray.  It took considerably longer to wrap them in cellophane. 


2 cups Self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Pineapple coconut:
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of crushed pineapple

Apple cinnamon:
2 grated apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Coffee Chocolate:
1/4 cup coffee
1 cup choc chips
2 tablespoons cocoa

*Sift dry ingredients and mix
*add dry flavourings
*combine milk, butter and beaten egg
*add to mix with wet flavourings
*mix till combined with a wooden spoon
*spoon into muffin papers in muffin tins

Bake in a moderate oven for 12-15 minutes

Hope you all enjoyed your fathers day