Upside down [boy you turn me]

It seems everywhere I turn there is an upside down cake being made and consumed. I have always wanted to make tarte tat in but when I saw this dish on, once again Lorraine Pascale’s cooking show, I had to give it a go. I was going to have a break from baking for a little while to concentrate on new jobs and the PhD, but then I went out to dinner. Now I’ve never really been a fan of banoffee, taking two perfectly good flavours and then combining them to create something that has never quite made me want to devour it completely, just seemed a waste of experimental baking time. But then I had the banoffee pie at gourmet pizza in Gabriel’s Wharf, and I’ve clearly grown up, it works! And not only does it work I want more of it, so whilst this cake isn’t banoffee pie, it does use the basic flavour combination. Incidentally I tried whisky again in the same evening, and it wasn’t awful, which for those of you who know me well, will recognize this comment as a departure from my usual description of any kind of whisky as lighter fluid. What a good evening, and it led me to make this (recipe taken from Lorraine Pascale):

Ingredients

The topping

  • 50g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50g soft light brown sugar

The sponge

  • handful of pecan nuts
  • 150g soft butter
  • 175g soft light brown
  • 4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
  • ½ vanilla pod (or a couple of drops of vanilla extract)
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 75g whole meal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • pinch of salt

Bananas

  • 2 small, firm bananas

Method

You will need a 20cm (8in) square cake tin or equivalent tray bake tin, for example 24cm x 20cm x 5cm (9 ½ in x 8in x 2in). Preheat the oven to 180°C, (fan 160°C), 350°F, gas mark 4, with the middle shelf at the ready. Grease and line the cake tin with baking parchment and grease again.

First, make the sticky topping. Place the butter and soft light brown sugar in a small pan over a medium heat. Once the butter is melted, turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes until it begins to thicken slightly. Stir it frequently so it does not catch on the bottom. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the lined tin and tip the tin back and forth to spread it out evenly (the mixture will eventually solidify in the tin so make sure to spread it out now). Next, tip the pecans onto a baking tray, with a knob of butter and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pecan nuts from the oven once toasted and set aside to cool.

Now, make the sponge mixture. Cream together the butter and the sugar in a large bowl, by hand or with a hand-held electric whisk (or freestanding electric mixer) until it becomes a little lighter in colour. Then add the eggs one at time, beating hard between each addition. Split the vanilla pod open, scrape the seeds out and add (or add the vanilla extract). Then fold in both flours, the baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, golden syrup and salt and set aside.

Take the bananas and slice them into 5mm (1/4 in) thick pieces. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the tin. I line them up so they are nice and straight, but of course it is fine to do them in any old order too. Pack them all in tight so they don’t move around once the cake mix goes over, it should look like this:

Bananas in harmony

Roughly chop the pecan nuts and stir them through the cake mix. Now carefully dollop the cake mix over the bananas and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon or with a palette knife, levelling the top to look like this:

Looks a bit like polyfiller, thankfully doesn’t taste like it.

Then pop it onto a baking tray and into the oven for about 35–45 minutes or so to cook.

After the cake has been cooking for 35 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and insert a metal skewer or the blade of a small knife right into the centre (but not touching the bottom). It should come out completely clean. If there is some cakey gooeyness left on it, just pop the tin back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Then put a large flat plate over the top of the tin and, holding the tin and the plate, flip the whole lot over so that the tin is now upside down. Gently remove the tin and peel off the baking parchment to reveal your very tasty dulce and banana underneath, voila:

Yum

It was a pretty large cake, so whilst a considerable chunk was destined to be a present for the dinner companion, I cut the rest into individual pieces and distributed amongst the museum lovelies to an overall positive response. The rest was placed in the coffee table Tupperware, and seems to have gone down, so I assume this is a positive response from the housemates too. Its great because its quite a versatile cake, you can have it hot or cold, and once warmed up again is lovely with some cream or toffee sauce. A cake for everyone, except perhaps those with nut allergies.

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Stuffed (us and the chicken)

September 4th

I had invited my best London friend and her husband round for dinner before they jetted off on their second summer holiday! Shocking I know. I had recently seen a cooking show where someone did saltimbocca, and rather than cooking veal, I decided to do a similar dish, stuffing chicken and wrapping it in pancetta. But what to stuff the chicken with?

I decided to stuff it with a mixture of sundried tomatoes, basil and olives blended to form a paste. This would then be served with whole-wheat spaghetti tossed with spinach and cream cheese.

I didn’t follow a recipe but here is what I did:

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

12 slices of pancetta

1 tsp of light cream cheese

3 tsps of sundried tomato paste

3 tsps of black olive paste or olive tapenade

a handful of shredded basil leaves

pinch of black pepper

Method:

Slit the chicken breasts down the middle and lay open.

Mix the cream cheese, basil, tomato paste and olive paste. Stuff into the inside of the chicken breasts and close.

Lay out 4 slices of pancetta to almost the same width as the chicken breast, making sure that the pancetta overlaps slightly. Then lay the chicken breast onto the pancetta and roll up, like a sausage roll, so it looks like this:

wrapped and ready to go

Bake in the oven for 30 mins or until the juices run clear. I served it with boiled whole-wheat spaghetti tossed with some more light cream cheese, sundried tomato paste and a bag of spinach. Unfortunately it was gobbled down so fast I didn’t get any pictures. If i would do anything differently it would be to make more of a sauce for the spaghetti, otherwise yumtastic.

In case you are interested this meal was sandwiched between a starter of homemade garlic and rosemary pizza bread, and meringue fruit sandwiches. It should be noted that I did not make the meringues, despite spending hours trying to the previous sunday, the skill still eludes me. It was accompanied with both red and rose wine, and Budweiser and Cobra beer, so something for everyone.

Departures with a twist

 

This weekend one of the housemates is moving out, he is off to Thailand to teach English, and whilst I am very proud of him for shaking his life up and going off to do something exciting on the other side of the world, I will miss him. Especially because he is the chief consumer of my kitchen experiments. So we organised a surprise BBQ for him in addition to his big leaving do and so of course I had to make a cake. For a while I have wanted to make Wagamama’s Chocolate and Wasabi fudge cake, I absolutely love it, especially the unusual flavour combination. As the housemate is heading to Asia, what a perfect excuse to make an Asian desert. Wagamama’s don’t publish the recipe, not even in their cookbook, which I own, so I turned to the Internet, and found this. So using her recipe, I adapted the topping section, and this is the final recipe I used:

 

Ingredients

 

For the cake

 

400g plain flour

 

250g caster sugar

 

100g brown sugar

 

75g cocoa powder

 

2 tsp baking powder

 

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

 

½ tsp salt

 

3 eggs

 

1 150g tub Total 0% Greek Yoghurt

 

1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

 

300ml ice water

 

For the Wasabi fudge icing in the middle of the cake

 

50g dark chocolate

 

125g unsalted butter

 

137g icing sugar

 

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

 

1 tsp Wasabi paste, (to taste)

 

For the Wasabi fudge icing on the outside of the cake

100g white chocolate

 

250g unsalted butter

 

275g icing sugar

 

1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

1-2 tsp Wasabi paste, (to taste)

 

Method

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas 4. Butter and line with greaseproof paper the bottom of two 20 cm sandwich tins.

 

2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, sugars, baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda.

 

3. In a large jug whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Add melted butter and ice water.

 

4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and beat in well.

 

5. Divide the batter between the two prepared tins and bake the cake for 50 – 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

 

6. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes, if you try to ice it before it’s cool your icing will melt and become greasy.

 

7. To make the icing, melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.

 

8. In another bowl beat the butter until soft and creamy and combine the sifted icing sugar. Beat until smooth and then add the cooled chocolate, vanilla and Wasabi. Beat until smooth and glossy, check the strength of the Wasabi and add more if necessary. I liked it to have a distinct heat!

 

9. Repeat for the white chocolate topping.

 

10. Use the dark chocolate icing to sandwich the cake together and place on a cake stand to ice the top and sides of the cake with the white chocolate icing.

 

The cake came out nicely and sandwiched together well with the first venture into dark chocolate wasabi butter cream.

 

I made the white chocolate wasabi butter cream the next day, and being a little impatient didn’t wait long enough for the white chocolate to cool, thus curdling the butter. So I did it all again, being patient this time and it worked perfectly…it just didn’t taste like wagamamas. After icing, I added some edible letters to wish the housemate good luck.

The cake was served to Take That’s ‘Back for Good’, which anyone who has seen the last episode of Spaced will understand. The verdict seemed altogether positive, although it was commented that it was a little rich. I definitely want to try this again, as the wagamamas cake is a lot lighter, and fudgier and there is something different about the icing. I think first a trip to wagamamas may be in order. Stay tuned to see how this experiment develops.