Chocolate liquorice cake

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 Two of my dear friends are getting married this June and I’ve been asked if I could bake a cake for the cake table. The bride (my friend Irene) is going to make the wedding cake and her idea was to surround it with some cakes home baked by some of her friends. So my search for ‘the cake’ for that day and my practice sessions have begun!

Chocolate cake with liquorice

I was somewhat overwhelmed with the amounts of recipes available online. Which ones should I try? Martha Stewart, Food Network, BBC’s Good Food, Pinterest and trillions of food blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I do love searching the web for recipes. In fact, I generally tend to lose track of time while doing this. It almost feels like a high; I turn back to reality and can’t believe my eyes when I look at the time. Hours later…This is the reason I sometimes prefer books. I just make myself pick a book from my shelf and then that’s the book I have to choose a recipe from. This time it was a cake book I got for my birthday last year, Trendy Taarten (roughly translates to ‘Trendy cakes’) by Linda Lomelino. There’s so many pretty little cakes in this book. I’m sure I’ll find the cake to bake for the big day in here. But for now, chocolate liquorice cake. Don’t let the liquorice put you off, it’s very subtle and blends very nicely into the chocolate.

Chocolate liquorice cake

Chocolate liquorice cake

Serves 8-10.

For the chocolate cake:
3 large eggs
75 millilitres of water
90 grams + 3 tablespoons of sugar
2,5 tablespoons of cocoa
100 grams of flour
1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
50 millilitres of sunfloweroil
1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar or extract

For the liquorice ganache:

150 grams of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
150 millilitres of cream
2-3 teaspoons of liquorice powder
1,5 – 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
50 grams of butter

For the turquoise vanilla buttercream:
300 grams of butter, room temperature
240-300 grams of powdered sugar
3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or extract)
turquoise food coloring paste

2x springform rings 15 cm/6 inch

For the chocolate cake, preheat the oven to 160 C (275 F). Divide egg yolks from whites. Bring the water to a boil in a watercooker and let cool a bit. Sift 90 grams of sugar, the cocoa, flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mix together the egg yolks, oil, vanilla sugar/extract and the somewhat cooled water. Sift the dry ingredients above the egg yolk mixture and beat until it just comes together. In a seperate bowl, beat egg whites until soft and foamy. Add remaining sugar one tablespoon at a time and keep beating until stiff peaks form. Add one-third of the egg white mixture to the chocolate batter and stir to combine. Then add the second third of egg whites and fold, as to make the mixture light and aerated. Once incorporated, do the same with the last third of the egg whites. Divide chocolate cake batter between two 15 cm (6 inch) clean springform pans (do not butter/flour them). Bake for 30 minutes. After you’ve removed them from the oven, flip the cakes onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, run a sharp nice around the edge and turn upside down above a plate, shaking gently to remove cake from pan.

For the  liquorice ganache, chop chocolate and place in a medium bowl. In a saucepan, heat cream, liquorice powder, golden syrup and butter until all is melted. This mixture should be warm, but not boiling hot. Pour warm cream mixture on chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds before gently stirring. The final ganache should be smotth and shiny.

To make the turquoise vanilla buttercream, beat the butter until pale (about 3-4 minutes). Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add cream and vanilla sugar/extract. Add a tiny drop of the food coloring paste until you get the desired colour.

Assembly of cake: Cut both cakes horizontally, giving you 4 cake layers. Place one of them on a plate or cake board and spread a layer of liquorice ganache over entire surface. Place the next cake layer on top of the first cake layer and continue with the liquorice ganache spreading with the remaining layers. Once all layers are stacked, spread a thin layer of  the turquoise vanilla buttercream on the top and sides of the cake. Then refridgerate for 20 minutes or so for it to stiffen. Fill a piping bag with the remaining buttercream and pipe small ‘roses’ all over cake, starting with the sides and end with the top.

 

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Vanilla bean panna cotta & balsamic strawberries

Panna cotta

Have you ever imagined you were sitting on a cloud, sun shining in your face and truly enjoying the moment? I have. In fact, this is the image that came to my mind, after taking the first bite of this delicious dessert. Pure heaven! It’s creamy and silky, just sweet enough and the vanilla shines through beautifully. Plus, the balsamic strawberries counterbalance all of the characteristics of the panna cotta really well. And of course, it’s no surprise from whom I got this recipe. Misses Domestic Goddess herself; Mrs. Nigella Lawson.

Now, I don’t want to write a blog here, where in each post I rave about a certain chef or their cookbook. However, what I do want to accomplish is to write freely, with no restraint, and I believe if the recipe is worth posting, than the chef or their book is worth mentioning. Even if I do write about them in a romanticized and dramatic way. I’m not in any way trying to make a statement of any kind; just want to take advantage of my, somewhat, decreased inhibition 🙂

Panna Cotta

I was saying? Oh yes, the great and magnificent Nigella. Well, if you’ve watched any of her shows on tv, you will have noticed the lustrous way she presents food. Her show and her recipes are never for the faint-hearted or for those on killer diets. And the best part is that her recipes are manageable. I say ‘manageable’ here, because I wouldn’t dare to classify them as ‘easy’ or ‘simple’. That would just do them injustice. Especially, since I do think she has some recipes with ample steps that could terrify the odd cook. In general though, her recipes make you desire the food she speaks of so dearly and all is explained very thoroughly in a step by step manner. The recipe I’m posting today comes from her most recent book, Nigellissima. I’ve been cooking and baking from this book for a few months now and I believe I have not encountered a recipe in it yet I didn’t like. So there might be more where this recipe came from…

Vanilla bean panna cotta & balsamic strawberries

Panna cotta close up
Serves 4

75 ml full-fat milk
425 ml double cream
50 gr caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
2 leaves fine-leaf gelatine

200 gr strawberries
1/2 teaspoon of caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

4 x 125 ml dariole moulds

Combine the cream and milk into a saucepan. Stir in the sugar. Remove the seeds from the vanilla pod. I do this by taking a sharp knife and slicing the pod open en then using the sharp side of the knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds of the vanilla pod and the pod itself to the saucepan. Put over low heat.
While this is ever so gently heating and comes to the boil, in the meantime, put the gelatine into a shallow dish of cold water to soften (about 3 minutes).
When the cream mixture comes to a boil (when it is beginning to bubble/foam around the edges), take the pan off heat. Remove the vanilla pod and pour about a cupful into a heatproof jug. Take the gelatin leafs from the dish and squeeze them a bit to remove the excess water. Add the gelatin leafs to the heatproof jug and whisk.
Once the gelatine has dissolved, pour the mixture from the jug back into the saucepan and whisk. Then pour the mixture back into the jug and evenly divide the mixture into the dariole moulds. Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight (cover each dariole mould with cling film once cool enough).

To make the macerated strawberries, dice the strawberries finely and add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Allow to steep for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.You can make this ahead and refrigerate, but do remember to take out of the fridge on time so it isn’t too cold.
To unmould, dip the bottom of the dariole mould into hot water for about 5-10 seconds. I run a sharp knife around the edge on the top before I do this. Put a saucer or small bowl on top and flip the pudding and saucer/bowl. Pour small spoonfuls of the macerated strawberries around the panna cotta.