Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Daring Bakers: Lamingtons

I joined the Daring Bakers about six years ago, when I first moved to the US. It's such a great idea - home cooks, at all different levels, commit to complete one baking challenge once a month. The idea is that you step out from your own kitchen and in to someone else's, trying someone's grandmother's recipe from the other side of the world, learning how to make things from scratch, and widen your horizons when it comes to flavor and execution. I haven't been active in years, but thought it would be fun to get back into it. So, here it is, the Daring Bakers May Challenge: Lamingtons.

Honestly, I had never heard about Lamingtons before this challenge. I've now learned that it's a national Australian dessert, a light corn flour based vanilla sponge cake, that is dipped in a chocolate syrup and then rolled in shredded coconut. It's very simple, but oh so delicious.
There are a few variations on this traditional dessert - some people like to have a little strawberry jam or lemon curd in between two layers, others use whipped cream. Since the cornbread, chocolate and shredded coconut are all so sweet, I used some of my home made salted caramel sauce to balance the sweetness. And because, who doesn't think that vanilla, chocolate, caramel and coconut are a match made in heaven? 

I know I many times use the word "easy" when explaining the baking process. Many of you have said that the recipes look complicated, so just to make sure you believe me, I'll show you how easy it is to make these yummy treats. And messy. Be prepared to get your hands dirty!
This is an old family recipe from Marcellina in Cucina, and is sure to make your tummy happy.

Lamington Sponge Cake
from Marcellina in Cucina
Servings: 24
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups (660 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper. I sprayed a little cooking spray between the pan and the parchment paper, to make sure it stayed in place.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.

4. While the eggs and sugar are beating, sift the corn flour and baking powder at least 3 times.

5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in color and very foamy.

6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.

7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly.

8. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently.

9. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

For the salted caramel recipe, please go to this blog post.

Chocolate icing

3 ¼ cups (780 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1-1/3 oz) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to 180 ml) milk


Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.

Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.

To assemble the Lamingtons:

Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. You can trim the crusts to make the square more even. Plus, you just have to make sure it tastes good, right?

Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place the shredded coconut in a shallow bowl.

Add the filling and arrange the squares on top of one another.

Dip each piece into the chocolate icing. I used a fork to lift the sponge cake bites.

Allow excess to drip off then toss gently into the coconut. Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about one hour.



Friday, May 22, 2015

Chocolate Tart with Cardamom and Baileys Cream Truffle

For all you chocolate lovers out there, finally, here is a blog post involving chocolate! I made this decadent chocolate tart for the first time for a potluck we had at our friends' house this past weekend, and it was a hit.

Personally, it's pretty much a no-brainer for me when it comes to chocolate. One of my favorite things to bake is the Swedish style molten chocolate cake, known as kladdkaka. It's so easy to make, doesn't take that much time, and will satisfy your chocolate cravings for sure. This fudgy chocolate tart is a type of kladdkaka, but has a few more elements that makes it a little more fancy and complex in flavor. Still, it's very easy to make.

The first thing that sets it apart from other chocolate tarts, is the use of cardamom in the recipe. The cardamom gives it an interesting depth, and a nice surprise when taking your first bite. Some friends made comparisons to the taste of Earl Grey, and I can see that. Even though I would describe it to have more of an adult flavor, the kids scraped their plates clean and asked for seconds. That must be a good sign, right?

What really makes this a five star in my book, is the truffle. You just can't go wrong here. Irish cream whiskey that is heated up with heavy whipping cream, then stirred together with milk chocolate and butter, makes an amazing truffle top layer on this cake.

When decorating this tart, you can go any direction you want. Melt chocolate (white or dark) and swirl it on top of the cake, make chocolate shavings, or your own chocolate designs you can arrange in an upright position. If you have extra time on your hands, it's fun making your own chocolate covered truffles to decorate with, otherwise you can buy your favorite chocolate candy and put them in a pattern you like. I used chocolate sprinkles, a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans and a few malt balls, which I bought by the pound from the Fresh Market. To make the standing triangles, I melted some dark chocolate, spread it out on a parchment paper and sliced some straight lines, dividing it into triangles. When set, you just remove it from the paper and use to decorate. Lastly, I dusted the malt balls and chocolate triangles with some edible gold dust I had bought at a specialty baking store a while back.

If you want to avoid getting this chocolaty goodness stuck to the pan and not being able to transfer it onto a beautiful plate (d'oh!), you can use parchment paper at the bottom, and wait until the cake has cooled and is firm enough to remove from the paper. I missed this step, and if I had tried to move it from the pan, it would have collapsed.

A plus with this cake is that you don't need any electrical equipment to make it. All the ingredients are stirred together or whisked with a hand whisk, which is perfect when your making it at night and don't want to wake up your little ones. Or you know, those times when your hubby's watching Game of Thrones and gives you dirty looks for making too much noise in the kitchen. This chocolate tart is a win-win situation for everyone.

Chocolate Tart with Cardamom and Baileys Cream Truffle
from Mitt Kök

100 g butter
100 g dark chocolate
4 tbsp. cacao
200 g sugar
1 msk vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cardamom
75 g flour
2 eggs


100 g heavy whipping cream
100 g Baileys Original Irish Cream
180 g milk chocolate
60 g butter

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Chop the chocolate, and mix it into the butter until fully melted.
  2. Using a whisk, add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa, salt, cardamom and flour to the melted chocolate. 
  3. whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Pour the batter into a buttered spring form pan. Bake in the oven at 320 F, for about 20-25 minutes. Let the tart cool.
  5. Truffle: Chop the milk chocolate and put it in a bowl with the butter.
  6. In a sauce pan, bring the heavy whipping cream to a boil. Add the Baileys and heat up the cream to about 175 F. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and butter. Mix until a smooth truffle.
  7. Pour on top of the cooled tart and let set in a cool place.

Baileys fina kladdkaka
från Mitt Kök

100 g smör
100 g mörk choklad
4 msk kakao
2 dl socker
1 msk vaniljsocker
1 krm salt
2 tsk kardemumma
1 1/4 vetemjöl
2 ägg

1 dl vispgrädde
1 dl (100 g) Baileys Original Irish Cream
180 g mjölkchoklad
60 g smör

 Gör så här:
  1. Smält smöret i en kastrull. Hacka chokladen, lägg ner den i smöret och rör tills all choklad smält.
  2. Vispa ner socker, vanilj, kakao, salt, kardemumma och vetemjöl.
  3. Vispa till sist ner äggen, ett åt gången, tills smeten blir en jämn massa.
  4. Fördela smeten i en form med löstagbar botten. Baka i ugn, 160 grader, cirka 20-25 minuter. Låt kakan svalna.
  5. Tryffel: Hacka mjölkchokladen och lägg den i en skål med smöret.
  6. Koka upp vispgrädden. Häll i Baileys och värm upp grädden till cirka 80 grader. Häll den varma grädden över chokladen och smöret. Mixa ihop till en slät tryffel.
  7. Häll och bred ut tryffeln över den kalla kakan och ställ svalt att stelna.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vanilla Cake with Caramelized Pear and Salted Caramel Buttercream

This past Sunday was Mother's Day, and of course every mom needs something sweet to help celebrate. Normally you'd probably buy a cake or a dessert, but since baking is one of my favorite things to do, I decided to treat my family to a yummy cake. And since I have a little boy who turns four in about a month, this was a perfect opportunity to practice working with fondant before making his special birthday cake.
I bought a cake book by Sweetapolita a couple of weeks back, and I have been day dreaming about her recipe for caramelized pear ever since. I had never baked with pear, but the sound of pears and caramel in a cake just sounded divine to me. 
This white cake is layered with a home made salted caramel sauce, that is folded into a vanilla butter cream, and topped with caramelized pear. In every layer. Yeah. This cake is something else. The pears bring a lovely texture to an otherwise smooth cake, and because of the salted caramel, it doesn't get overly sweet. It's a perfect marriage.

Now, color blocking might seem hard, but really, all you need is time and patience. Mostly patience. First you have to decide what colors you want the cake to have. You can use more colors than I did, but I wouldn't recommend using less than five, since you want to make sure you're not repeating the color pattern too much.
The next step is rolling out the fondant relatively thin, and using a ruler and a pizza slicer, cut long strands both horizontally and vertically. I used the ruler's width for the squares, because that way I didn't have to measure, and it also made making the triangles easier. For the triangles, I simply put the ruler diagonally over many squares and cut them in half. Easy peasy.
Now to the fun part. Cover the whole cake with white fondant. Using a small paintbrush, put a little water on the place you want the first square to go on the cake. The water will act like glue between the fondant and keep the squares in place. Then just add on squares and triangles as you go. Be creative!
I started at the very top of the cake, just to make sure I got a fine line and that there wouldn't be any gap. If the squares wouldn't have lined up perfectly at the bottom of the cake, I had planned on making a fondant ribbon to cover the gap. The cake I used as an inspiration actually uses ribbon. (One thing I would do differently though, would be to pay more attention to the crumb coating to make sure the top of the cake is completely flat with sharp edges, since it will give the cake a more dramatic look.)

You will have both salted caramel sauce and caramelized pear over after making this cake, but trust me, it's a good thing. The pears will work wonderfully on top of pancakes, French toast or even oatmeal. And the caramel sauce is perfect to use on top of ice cream or a warm apple pie. Or you can just eat it by the spoon full. It's that good.
Vanilla Cake
from Wilton
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
4 egg whites
Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare five small 6 inch pans with vegetable pan spray.
In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk; beat until just combined. Divide evenly into prepared pans.
Bake 17-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on cooling grid; remove and cool completely before icing.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
  4. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.
  6. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
  8. Cover the caramel tightly and store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
3 - 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the vanilla buttercream recipe instructions, see this post.
Caramelized Pear Filling
from the Sweetapolita Bake book, page 100
6 firm D'Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice.
  2. In a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, melt the butter until bubbly. Add the pears and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears begin to break down and soften, 3-4 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and salt. Add the mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture had caramelized, the liquid has thickened, and the pears are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. transfer to a jar. (The pears will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.) 
från Wilton
5,3 dl mjöl
2 tsk bakpulver
1/2 tsk salt
113g smör, rumstemp
3 dl socker
1 tsk vaniljextrakt
1,8 dl mjölk
4 äggvitor

Salt Karamellsås
från Sally's Baking Addiction
200g socker
90g saltat smör, delat i 6 bitar
120ml grädde
1 tsk salt
Karamelliserade päron
Ur boken Sweetapolita Bake book
6 D'Anjou eller Bosc päron, skalade, urkärnade och finhackade
4 tsk färsk citronsaft
2 msk osaltat smör
2 msk farinsocker
1 krm kardemumma
1 krm kanel
Nypa salt
Vaniljsmörkräm Frosting
från add a pinch
220 g smör, rumstemp
7-9 dl florsocker, siktat
2 tsk vaniljextrakt
nypa salt
2-3 msk grädde

Friday, May 01, 2015

Mazarintårta (Swedish Mazarin Torte)


I got a little homesick yesterday. Back home in Sweden, family and friends were posting pictures of everyone celebrating Valborg (also known as Walpurgis). Valborg is such a great holiday - whole neighborhoods and towns gather around huge bonfires at night to set off some fireworks and sing traditional Swedish songs to celebrate that spring has finally arrived. Growing up, it was always that night I got to break out my new white Adidas sneakers, because even though it was still freezing outside, it was officially spring.

So, to get into the spirit of Valborg, without setting anything on fire, I baked a Swedish Mazarin torte.

Mazariner are normally small, oval pastries made out of pastry dough with an almond paste center, and topped with a powdered sugar frosting. They have always been a part of my childhood, but this was the first time I've had it in the form of a torte.

This cake is very easy to make, but has an amazing almond flavor and complexity that sets it apart from your average pound cake. It's very moist, but still feels very light. My hubby even says it's  better than the ones he had in Sweden!

Traditionally you would use a few bitter almonds together with the sweet almonds in the batter, but they are really hard to find here in the States. It might have something to do with them being very poisonous when digested in large amounts. The almond extract that we use in baking is actually made from bitter almonds, which is why it works excellent as a substitute (and oh, it's not poisonous!). It has such a wonderful aroma, and I even love to put a little in my pancake batter or in my oatmeal in the morning.

This recipe also calls for vanilla sugar, which is very common in Swedish baking. It resembles confectioners sugar, but has been mixed with vanilla beans. You can find it at World Market and in other specialty stores that sell European products. If you have trouble finding it, you can make your own by putting 2 cups of white sugar in an airtight container. Take one vanilla bean, slice it open and mix the specks with the sugar and then bury the pod in the sugar. Cover, and let stand for a week before you use it.

To top this cake off, I used some edible flowers that I bought at Whole Foods in the herbs section. It's a beautiful way to take any dessert up a notch.

We tried our best to save half of the cake, but we just couldn't resist. Something tells me this will be a Raymer household staple.
Mazarin Torte
from the Swedish Baking Magazine Hembakat
7 oz butter 
>1 - 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
30 almonds (grind, or mix in a blender until grinded)
2 tsp almond extract
> 1 - 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
< 2/3 cup milk, cold

Frosting: (I doubled this)
> 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

2 tsp water
 Ps. Since this is a Swedish recipe with metric measurements, it was hard to get the exact amounts. I have used the symbols > and < to show when to use heaping cups and when to spare some.

  1. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add the ground almonds and the vanilla sugar.
  4. Mix the flour and baking powder and add to the batter. Stir in the milk and almond extract.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9 inch spring form pan.
  6. Bake for 50-60 min.
  7. Let the torte cool. Mix confectioners sugar and water. Pour over the cake and let it set before cutting it. Enjoy!
från tidningen Hembakat
200 g smör
3 dl strösocker
2 ägg
2 msk vaniljsocker
25 st sötmandlar
6 st bittermandlar
3 dl vetemjöl
1 tsk bakpulver
1 1/2 dl mjölk, kall

2 dl florsocker
2 tsk vatten

Gör så här:
  1. Sätt ugnen på 180 grader. Rör smör och socker vitt och pösigt.
  2. Tillsätt äggen, ett i sänder, och rör om.
  3. Rör ner de malda mandlarna och vaniljsockret. Tillsätt mjölet blandat med bakpulvret och till sist den kalla mjölken.
  4. Häll smeten i en smord och bröad form med löstagbar kant, ca 24 cm i diameter.
  5. Grädda kakan mitt i ugnen i ca 60 min. ¨
  6. Låt kakan kallna. Blanda florsocker och vatten till glasyren. Glasera kakan och låt den stelna innan du skär i den.