Rainbow Cake

It was my boyfriend’s birthday yesterday. And Valentines Day. On the same day. I know, talk about pressure! Especially after last year, well, let’s just say, last year wasn’t so good. So I was determined to make up for it now.

I did not know what to get him. At all. Christmas was a mere two months ago and that was hard enough! I’d had a few, fleeting ideas. But they were all too impractical or too practical or too expensive or too cheap or too bad or too good. Ugh. I always thought I was good at presents.

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Maybe I’m just good at cake…

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A few weeks ago I, unable to contain my excitement, propositioned him, ‘Olly can I please be in charge of your birthday cake, pleasepleasepleaseplease?’

‘Of course,’ he said. ‘But I’m not really a cake person.’

What.

Who, in their right mind, doesn’t like cake? (I also know this to not be true, I’ve seen that boy tuck into a big ol’ slice of chocolate fudge cake many times.)

But I decided that I should try and make a cake that was less about being a cake, less about tastiness and more about prettiness. Then it hit me- RAINBOW CAKE.

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I’d seen many rainbow cakes, I’d heard stories of rainbow cakes, but I was yet to make one. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The baking and making was actually surprisingly easy. I used the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe for vanillacake and a simple buttercream icing. The hardest part was making sure the layers were even (I must admit, I did not do this accurately at all, but simply eyed it up and hoped for the best!) Also, it was hard to tell how the colours would turn out. When they came out of the oven, each layer had a golden brown top, so it was impossible to know if the food colouring had had any effect at all. I got very lucky- it was more vivid and bright than I had imagined it could ever be! Annoying, I didn’t have more than one cake tin the same size, so I had to cook them one at a time. I was baking for about seven hours, but hey, what can ya do?

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It was delicious. Six layers of rich, moist, yummy cake and six layers of sweet, sugary, buttery icing- what’s not to love?! (Actually, what’s not to love is how sick you feel upon trying to devour a whole slice at once- a test that very few actually managed to achieve.)

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And I think it was a success. ‘I love cake,’ said Olly this morning. ‘I used to think I didn’t but I do now.’

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Rainbow Cake (adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery  )

16 ounces plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

3 large eggs

3 egg yolks

21 ounces sugar

1 1/2 cups canola or corn oil

1 1/2 cups sour cream

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a seperate bowl beat eggs, egg yolks and sugar until it has thickened and lightened to a creamy colour. Mix in the oil and vanilla. Stir in the sour cream until no streaks remain. Stir in the flour mixture until it is incorporated and smooth.

Once the batter is made, divide it into six bowls. Try to do this as evenly as possible (you might want to weigh it)- I started trying to measure in spoonfuls, but got sick of that pretty quickly and decided to just judge it by eye, which, amazingly, turned out fine.

Then add food colouring. I used A LOT. I know its bad you for. But please, no one is making and eating a six layer cake for the nutrition benefits.

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Bake in a 180 degree oven for about half an hour- but keep an eye on them! Cooking times will vary depending on how deep they are and the size of the tin etc etc.

Once all the layers are cool, it is ready to assemble! To make the buttercream I used, simply combine butter and icing sugar until it is smooth and creamy. I then added an egg white, just to help with the consistency. Simply stack the layers up as you would any cake, making sure to apply plenty of icing in between each layer. (I have to admit, my cake leant slightly to one side.)

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xxR

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Cold Weather Olive Bread

7.30 am. I look out the window and its snowing. Again. Not cool (or, rather, very cool, TOO cool.) We already had our winter- the two days of snow that settled, turning this grey city white and making everything beautiful (well, even more beautiful than it already is.)

The thing about London Snow is that it sucks. Its so rarely anything more than annoying brown slush on the side of the road.  This morning’s snow didn’t even have a vague chance of settling. So its just cold rain, stinging your eyes and freezing your fingers.

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So, there I was, waiting for the number 59, cursing the fact that three 133s had already gone past and starting to wonder if it was the worth the wait or if I should just head back home and hop into bed. I was really wishing I’d worn an extra pair of socks, wondering how cold your toes can get before they actually do drop right off. And I was craving soup.DSCF5162

And I’ve been craving all day. Soup and crunchy bread. It’s bad isn’t it, winter? I’m just craving comfort food, carby, starchy, warm and filling, all the time. So when I got home I made myself the biggest bowl of hot, steaming lentil soup, and this delicious olive bread to accompany it.

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Olive Bread (recipe adapted from Delia’s basic bread recipe)

700g strong white bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon dried yeast

1 teaspoon golden caster sugar

about 425ml warmish water (hot to the touch)

Sift the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Mix into a dough, start using a wooden spoon, then your hand. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is elasticy and smooth. Put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film, and leave it to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Once it has risen, knock all the air out of it and knead it again. Mix the olives into the dough (its quite hard to get them right into the middle- so this may take a bit of working!) Shape it into a loaf: oblong or round, or use a loaf tin, and allow it to rise again for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C.

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Once it has risen, bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. You can check it is done by the tapping on the bottom- if it sounds hollow, it is ready to eat!

xxR

Wickedly Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

Today is my sister’s birthday. She is turning 17 and, to celebrate the whole family is coming to London to see Wicked (and me!) I have been put in charge of the cake, so needed to come up with something suitable wicked and, of course, delicious. My sister is a difficult one to crack-especially when it comes to food. If she doesn’t like something, she’s not afraid to say so! So this was going to have to be good. Really good.

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On the eve of her birthday she requested ‘chocolate and undercooked.’

Which is lucky. Because chocolate and undercooked is my specialty.

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My sister (like me) has quite a sweet tooth, so I decided to jazz up a normal chocolate cake with caramel buttercream, caramel being one of her favourite flavours (and serving as a nice accompaniment to the caramel flavoured coffee syrup I bought her as a gift.)

This was my first experience making caramel- its tricky! But, somehow, it seemed to turn out okay (well, half of it solidified into a big lump, but I did have some delicious, runny goo, so I was happy.)

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I also faced some difficulty in transporting the cake- cakes are heavy! Also, note to self, triple layer cakes are too tall for your average cake tin! All the icing, the beautiful chocolate and caramel marble swirly frosting top- got stuck to the lid. Ruined! Once I carried to meet my sister, to the theatre, stashed it under my seat for the show, then back home, it was looking a little worse for wear. But it tasted SO GOOD. So really, that’s all that matters. (I hope!)

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Ps eating cake out of the tin accompanied by theatre ice cream really is an experience worth trying! Next time you go to a show- take a cake!

This recipe was adapted from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible (with a little inspiration from Whisk Kid )

For the caramel

sugar (I didn’t measure- I just covered the bottom of the saucepan with a thick layer of sugar)

double cream (I also didn’t measure this, I just poured in enough cream to combine with all the sugar, turning it into a nice light brown, beige-y colour)

Prepare a small bowl by rubbing it with butter, so that the caramel will not stick to it.

Melt the sugar in a saucepan until it is a golden amber colour, remove from heat and pour in the cream. Stir it gently until it is combined and no longer bubbling.

Put this aside to use for the icing and caramel cake.

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For the cake

8 oz of butter

8 oz of sugar

4 large eggs

8 oz of self raising flour

2 oz of cocoa powder

150g of chocolate- melted

a tablespoon of cream

Begin by creaming together the butter and sugar. Add eggs. Sift in flour and cocoa powder.

Divide the mixture into thirds- keep two thirds together in a big bowl. To this, add the melted chocolate. To the remaining third, add some of the caramel.

Bake in a 180 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. (Remember- the smaller cake will take less time than the big one!)

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For the icing

Cream together butter and icing sugar, add the remaining caramel. It should be smooth and soft, but not too runny! Icing is often a case of trial and error- be prepared to have to add more icing sugar to thicken it or maybe a little water to thin it as you work!)

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xxR