Mocha Meringue Cake

mocha meringue cake gluten free dessert recipe and method brownie cake

A few weeks ago, the lovely ladies at Sugar and Crumbs got in touch to ask if I’d like to try some of their new flavoured icing sugars in my recipe. I’m pretty sure you can guess my answer!

First up is their mochalicious icing sugar, which does exactly what it does on the tin. A chocolate icing sugar with a hint of coffee, not too overpowering and subtle enough to use in a cake.

sugar and crumbs mochalicious flavoured icing sugar review and recipe

My inspiration for the recipe came from this BBC post, and adapted to be both gluten-free and icing sugar friendly! It’s one of those cakes that looks more complicated to make than it is, so is a great showstopper-dessert to serve to friends.

Ingredients

Brownie cake
175g dark chocolate
150g butter
75g mochalicious icing sugar
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs
85g ground almonds

Meringue layers
3 large egg whites
175g mochalicious icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

To finish
200ml cream, whipped
20g icing sugar
20g cocoa powder
Hot water

Method
– start by greasing and lining 2x 6 inch sandwich tins. They will be baked twice so it’s worth doing this well!
– melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly
– beat together the butter, icing and caster and sugars. Add the eggs and almonds and beat again until well combined.
– once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature, fold it into the rest of the mixture
– divide between the two tins, smoothing the top for a flat bake.
– bake at 180 degrees C for 12-15 minutes, until the top is turning crisp, and the middle does not wobble when you move the tin
– set aside to cool while you make the meringue (leave the brownie in the tin, as the meringue will be baked on top of it!)
– whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks (I highly recommend using a stand mixed for this)
– add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time, continuing to whisk after each addition
– continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and glossy, and holds its shape
– spoon on top of the two brownie bases, making one with a smooth top, (so it will hold the top layer), and one with a decorative pattern (to top the cake)
– bake at 150 degrees C for 30 minutes, until the meringue is crispy and starting to brown
– allow to cool completely before carefully removing from the tin
– make the chocolate drizzle for filling and decorating, by mixing the cocoa powder and icing sugar with enough water to make a thick sauce
– layer the cake up when you are nearly ready to serve. Start with the flat-topped brownie/meringue base, then the whipped cream, drizzled with some chocolate sauce, and finally top with the decorative meringue/brownie layer, and finish with a final drizzle of chocolate

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As long as the cream is well-whipped, the cake will hold shape well until you are ready to serve. Don’t leave it too long though – or the cream will start making the meringue soft.

mocha meringue cake layer recipe fresh whipped cream brownie chocolate sauce

I love how the layers came out – wonderfully separate but oh so tasty when combined! layered cake mocha meringue recipe chocolate and coffee brownie layers

The cake is best cut with a large knife and served in thick wedges, too thin and the cream will ooze out from the middle as you slice.

slice of mocha meringue cake chocolate and coffee with cream filling and brownies

Disclaimer: Icing sugar was provided to me by Sugar and Crumbs for the creation of this post. Recipe and reviews are all my own!

Lemon Meringue Pie Baked Doughnuts

glazed lemon meringue pie doughnuts recipe greatbloggersbakeoff2014

This week’s Great British Bake Off was Advanced Dough week – groan – when is it time for cakes! However once the doughnuts came round (no pun intended), I was positively drooling. How amazing were Luis’ cocktail ones?

We don’t own a deep-fat fryer but I found a great recipe for baked doughnuts which was seemed both healthier and easier. The dough is fat-free (unlike regular doughnuts), but still enriched with milk, egg, and a little sugar.

Lemon Meringue Doughnuts – makes 18-20

500g white bread flour
Pinch of salt
10g dried yeast
50g sugar
1 egg
150ml milk
125ml hot water

To fill and decorate
400g lemon curd – one batch, or one jar if you are buying it in
100g icing sugar
Crushed meringue pieces

– In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar
– Beat the egg and add to the dry ingredients, before mixing in the milk and hot water
– Mix to a dough consistency, and knead until smooth and silky (5-6 minutes with an electric mixer, slightly longer by hand)
– Divide into 18-20 even balls and spread evenly on greased baking sheets. The dough balls do need to be spread well apart as they’ll expand rather a lot!
– Cover and place in a warm place until risen and doubled in size, about 45 minutes
– Bake in a hot oven – 200 degrees – for 10-12 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden. Set aside and leave to cool

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– Once cool, fill each doughnut with around a teaspoon of lemon curd – a filling nozzle and piping bag worked perfectly for me
– Mix the icing sugar with a little water, and a teaspoon of lemon curd, to form a thin paste
– Lightly paint the glaze all over the doughnuts, placing on a wire rack to set. Sprinkle with the meringue pieces and leave to rest until dry.

filling baked doughnut with lemon curd using piping nozzle lemon meringue pie doughnuts toppings icing glaze and meringue pieces glazing baked doughnuts with lemon curd icing recipe glazed baked doughnut lemon meringue recipe lemon meringue pie baked doughnuts glazed and topped recipe

A quite sticky bake in the end – but well worthwhile! The doughnuts had a wonderful sugary crunch on the outer, soft and light inside, and oozing with tangy lemon curd. I’ll definitely be trying some more doughnuts – perhaps some mini ones next time – any suggestions?

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Find out more about #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 and take a look at this weeks other bakes here.

greatbloggersbakeoff2014

Strawberries and Cream Baked Alaska

strawberries and cream baked alaska gbbo greatbloggersbakeoff2014

This week’s #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 features something I’ve wanted to try for a while – Baked Alaska. Apparently Rob and I both had a very deprived childhood, as neither of us can recall ever having even eaten this, let alone made it. Challenge set!

One thing that struck me about this week’s GBBO program – unless I missed something – was that none of the contestants actually baked their Alaska, they just blow-torched the outside. Surely this is cheating?! I wanted to do things the proper way, and loosely followed this Mary Berry recipe, scaling down slightly for just the two of us.

Time and equipment not permitting, I must admit I didn’t make my own ice cream. We do actually own an ice-cream-making KitchenAid attachment, it was on promotion when we bought the mixer, but doesn’t actually fit in our freezer, so sits in the cupboard unused!

For the sponge base, I divided the mixture into two, and added a tablespoon of strawberry puree to one half, and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the other. Alternating spoonfuls of the mixture went into the mould, finished with a quick swirl from a cocktail stick – to give a marbled strawberry cake.

strawberry marble cake for baked alaska gbbo strawberry marble cake base for baked alaska greatbloggersbakeoff2014

Once this was cool, it was simply a case of stacking up the strawberries and ice-cream…

piling strawberries and cream for baked alaska recipe

…and covering in meringue.

meringe covering on strawberries and cream baked alaska

Simple, right? With my oven heating up itself and apparently the entire kitchen at the same time, I began to realise how the GBBO bakers had got so fraught in the tent. Trying to construct a dessert is one thing, doing it neatly quite another, and whilst the whole thing is melting at the same time – it’s really rather easy to have a complete meltdown!

Luckily everything just about held together. I’d originally planned to pipe some swirls, but lo and behold had run out piping bags, so food colouring and a paintbrush it was.

painted swirls on strawberries and cream baked alaska

A quick 10 minutes in the oven and it certainly was looking good from the outside. A perfectly crisp meringue shell, and no tell-tale signs of ice-cream puddling out.

freshly baked alaska strawberries and cream painted swirl pattern on meringue painted swirl meringue baked alaska

The moment of truth…

cutting into baked alaska moment of truth strawberries and cream design

And inside, well not bad at all I’d say! The ice cream only really started melting once it was cut and the layers looked pretty good for a first effort. A point to note that taking photos whilst making this rather technical bake is an added challenge – so sorry they’re not amazing!

inside baked alaska strawberries and cream gbbo

The taste was pretty good too – a great contrast between the crisp outer meringue, squishy inner, cold ice cream, and of course cake to finish. I’d definitely like to try it again.

Check out Jenny’s blog to see how the other bakers fared with their desserts this week.

greatbloggersbakeoff2014

Strawberry Swirl Meringues

strawberry swirl meringue nests perfect for afternoon tea cake stand topper

Here is the second recipe from my Birthday Afternoon Tea – I can’t believe it was two weeks ago already!

These little meringues are so easy to make, perfectly bite-sized and a great light little addition to any afternoon tea.

A perfect outing for my KitchenAid Christmas present, (I’m still totally in love!), which whipped up the meringue mixture in no time. I used a simple recipe of 2 egg whites and 110g caster sugar, having always had great success without adding extras (cream of tartar etc.) that some recipes suggest.

The KitchenAid foamed up the egg whites in no time:

black kitchenaid easy to mix meringues recipe

Before slowly adding the sugar to a thick, glossy mixture.

meringue mixture glossy soft peaks black kitchenaid stand mixer

To get the swirl effect in the meringue nests, I simply painted a few thick stripes of gel food colouring down the insides of my piping bag, before filling with the meringue mixture.
Using a round nozzle I then piped thick swirls of the mixture onto a baking sheet. I’d highly recommend a silicon baking sheet for meringues as they have such a tendency to stick to anything else.

red swirl meringues recipe and method piping colour stripes nests

red swirl striped colour meringue recpie

Just before baking I pressed the top peaks down with a wet finger, creating the well that strawberries would eventually sit in.

I prefer dry, crunchy meringue, so baked mine at 130 degrees for about 40 minutes. Turning the oven off, I then left them overnight to completely dry out.

red swirl meringue nests for strawberry base easy dessert recipe

The next day they were ready to use straight away – and looked perfect atop one of the many cake stands for afternoon tea.

red piped swirl meringue nests on top of cake stand afternoon tea easy recipe

A simple half-strawberry in each (cut-side up, so the moisture didn’t ruin the meringue), and they were the perfect addition to the tea table!

home afternoon tea birthday party chocolate brownie bites strawberry swirl meringues finger sandwiches

And whilst my birthday may be over for another year, there are lots of exciting plans in place for friends and family celebrations in the next couple of months. All accompanied by cake, of course!

My First Macarons!

On my trip to London last week I was lucky enough to be given a beautiful box of bright coloured macarons, which were very quickly devoured in the office. Loving their sweet, crunchy shell, chewy inner and moist, rich filling, I set out to find more about making them for myself.

For meringue-style macarons such as these (not to be confused with coconut macaroons (spelt with 2 ‘o’s which are more of a drop-biscuit made with whole eggs) – there are 2 methods, Italian and French. The difference is in the making of the meringue – the Italian method uses a heated sugar syrup, whereas the French uses a standard meringue base, whipping the egg whites and sugar cold.

I chose to go for the French macaron method, largely out of simplicity (and a little laziness!) As these biscuits (is that what they are?) are such a delicacy and can be tricky to make, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible on my first attempt.

My recipe came from youcandoitathome – they also have an equally good page on the Italian method.

Ingredients (makes approx. 15 macarons)

2 medium egg whites
*Approx. 70g ground almonds
*Approx. 105g icing sugar
*Approx. 40g caster sugar
Handful of blueberries
30g butter
100g icing sugar
*The exact science behind meringues lies in having your ingredients in proportion to the weight of your egg whites. My 2 medium egg whites weighed 65g and I used the following proportions to calculate the rest of the ingredients. There are many different ideas online about what proportions should be used, but I found these worked perfectly so will be sticking with them again:

egg whites: 1.00 part
ground almonds: 1.10 part
icing sugar: 1.65 part
caster sugar: 0.60 part


Method

– put the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz for 1-2 minutes. This starts to aerate the mixture and helps grind down any coarser bits of almond
– whisk the egg whites until they are thick and foamy (shaving foam like texture), then add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking on high speed until the mixture is at soft peak stage – i.e. holds its shape when you make peaks in it. If you want to add a colour then now is the time – being my first batch I kept it simple and left them uncoloured.

(at this stage I was very glad for my electric mixer and food processor. With a history going back hundreds of years, I’m glad the labourious task of making macaroons is that bit easier with all our gadgets and gizmos!)

– sieve in the icing sugar and ground almond blend. The almonds are still quite dense so you may need to push on the mixture with a spoon to get it through the sieve. Don’t try to get through the coarse bits of almond left at the end – they will not be kind to your smooth macaron mixture!

– carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mixture. You want it to be combined but not over-mixed, and it will have quite a thick, sticky, bubbly texture. Mix too much and your meringue mixture will start to break down and go watery.

– fill your piping bag with the mixture, using a wide, round nozzle on the end

– ready your tray with non-stick paper (these bad boys do have a tendency to stick after cooking!). I found some brilliant re-usable, no-need-to-grease sheets in Aldi, they worked a treat. Be careful if you’re using any kind of fat to grease your sheets that it doesn’t have a chance to get into your mixture.

– pipe your mixture into even circles, with a couple of centimetres between to give them room to spread. Make the circles by keeping the nozzle close to the sheet and pressing on the piping bag. Once you have enough mixture twist the bag away so it leaves a clean circle on the sheet.

– if you end up with a little peak on the top of the macaron then fear not – simply wet your finger and gently smooth the bump down (the same works for little bumps at the side)

– once all your macarons are piped, give the tray a couple of good hard bangs on the work top. This will remove any air pockets and flatten out the shells slightly.

– leave the trays to sit, uncovered, for a minimum of 30 minutes. What you are aiming for is a skin to form on top of the shells; you can’t see it, but if you gently touch with your finger, the mixture will not stick to it, your finger will stay clean. When this happens, your macarons are ready to be baked.

– pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Put the macrons in and then immediately turn down to 140 degrees C. The time will depend on how thickly you’ve piped your circles, but it should take them around 10 – 14 minutes to bake. Take them out when they are crispy but before they go brown.

– leave the shells to cool for a minute before very gently lifting off and placing onto a cooling rack. They’re very delicate so be careful, if they don’t immediately come off then carefully slide a palette knife or spatula underneath.

– some of my shells came out the oven with air bubbles having risen to the top. I’m not sure if this is because I didn’t bang the tray hard enough, but it certainly didn’t affect the taste. They did however have a perfectly risen ‘foot’ – the unsexy name for the straight side bubble part that rises up under the domed top while cooking

– once completely cool, pair up the shells into equal shapes and sizes (if you’re a piping pro then they should all be identical!)

– beat together the ingredients for the buttercream and sandwich the shells. I placed a big dollop in the centre of one shell, before carefully and evenly pressing down slightly with the second one on top.

– Et voila! Perfect bite size macaroons, with a crispy shell, chewy inner, and buttercream centre. Refrigerate for at least half an hour before eating so the buttercream can set slightly. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Dare I say it – don’t hate me! – but they weren’t nearly as difficult as I’d thought! Yes you have to be quite precise with the recipe and rather delicate when handling the mixture and piping, but, follow a simple set of instructions… and who knows what you can achieve!

Easy-Peasy Pavlova – Red Berry with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Last Friday my parents and grandma came over for dinner. I needed a dessert that could mostly be prepared ahead, didn’t require much cooking on the night (as I’d be working all day), and was quite light – to follow a big course of fish and chips!

Still having a lot of eggs left and after a big success a few weeks ago – meringue seemed like the perfect solution.

So the pavlova idea came about – and I didn’t know it originated in New Zealand. As complicated it as it may seem, it really only takes 4 very simple steps.

1. Giant meringue

To make this size of meringue, i used 4 egg whites and 200g of caster sugar. You can see method I used, as before, here.

To bake, I drew around a large dinner plate on a sheet of greaseproof to give me a rough idea of the shape to make into, and gave it a quick spray with cake-release (I’d really recommend this, the paper will literally fall off the meringue after baking, otherwise it can be a bit tricky and your meringue may end up breaking).

I spooned the meringue mixture into shape, using a spatula to create a rim near the edge in which the rest of the ingredients would sit.

It baked in the oven at 140 degrees celsius for an hour, after which I switched the oven off and left the meringue in to completely cool overnight. Again I’d recommend this – because of the moist toppings, you really want a crunchy, crispy meringue base.

When you take it out of the oven, don’t be tempted to put it in the fridge. This will make it go soft. Instead leave it in the oven if you’re not using it, keep it in an airtight container, or, failing all else, carefully out it onto a plate and cover with a clean, dry tea towel, storing somewhere cool.

2. Whipped cream

I found a 300ml pot of double cream was the perfect amount for this size of pavlova. It took about 3-4 minutes to whip, using my stand mixer on a high speed.

If you wanted to make a lower fat version, an alternative such as creme fraiche or even yoghurt would still work well.

3. Fresh fruit

Take your pick! Whatever is in season, or anything else you fancy! Bananas, kiwis, cherries… Anything would work really. I used a big pile of fresh (hulled) strawberries and raspberries.

4. Dark chocolate ganache (optional)

A big thank you to Moo’s Pantry for teaching me that ganache doesn’t have to be made with cream.

For this I melted 75g dark chocolate with 20g butter, then in a separate pan boiled 75ml semi-skimmed milk with 50g caster sugar. Once the milk and sugar mix was boiling, I poured over the chocolate and butter mix, stirred well, and boiled for another 1-2 minutes.

By making this before I served the main course, it had time to cool and thicken slightly before I assembled the dessert.

Assembly is just as simple, everything in the order above, no need for neatness, patterns etc, just pile it all up! Add the ganache just before you serve so guests can see it running down the fruit and meringue as it’s cut.

I gave Rob the slightly daunting task of cutting it up without the meringue breaking – and he did a pretty great job (using a cake slice to take the pieces out helped a lot).

It was met with a Round of approval yums and wows… And between the 5 f us, was quickly demolished!

Rob’s Lemon Meringue Pie Cheesecake

Is it called Rob’s because he made it, or ate it…? I’ll let you decide!

I roped Rob into the kitchen earlier in the week to help make this cheesecake. In theory, he should be able to make it by himself (the story goes, one day he was too impatient to wait for me to come home, so I text him the recipe and very detailed instructions from the gym). In reality, he was under close guidance (and reminder of the ingredients/method), and muggins here had to do the whole cooking and meringue bit.

So realistically lets call it “our cheesecake” – but I’ll let him have his moment of glory (he was too shy to have his photo taken with it!!)
The method and ingredients are very similar to the cherry and amaretto cheesecake I made a few weeks back. So much so, I’ll post the ingredients, but refer you back there for most of the method.

Ingredients

Base
15 low-fat digestive biscuits
1 tablespoon low-fat spread

Lemon Layer
1 pack extra light soft cheese (250g, we used Tesco’s)
200g low fat natural yoghurt (plain, if you can find it, vanilla works too. you can use a little more or less if your pack size isn’t quite 200g)
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Grated rind and juice of one whole lemon
Sweetener or sugar to taste (I’ve not put in a quantity as it depends on the size and freshness of the lemon, when you get to the taste stage, add little by little until you’ve got a good, tangy lemon flavour, just sweet enough that it doesn’t make you pull a face like you’re sucking lemons! Remember the meringue layer will be very sweet to balance it out.)

Meringue
3 egg whites
150 g white sugar (recipes I’ve seen say you must use caster sugar. I only had granulated (which is coarser). It worked like a dream. Take that recipe books!)

Method

– make the base and cheesecake layer as per this post, in an 8-10 inch round spring-form pan. When making the base, try and build it up the sides a little to support this tall cheesecake better.

– as it’s a bit larger than the cherry one, cook for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees C (depending on your oven). If it’s not ‘just set’ after this time, give it 5 minutes more before checking, then another 5, etc, until it’s done

– When it’s near the end of it’s cooking time, start making your meringue. I cannot be greatful enough for my stand mixer in this step – it makes it beautifully simple and no aching arms (which I recall from the last time I made meringue, as a child)

I followed Delia’s meringue method, which is simple enough in itself, but to summarise:

> start with a sparkling clean bowl and whisks. Wipe them if you need to, to ensure there is no grease
> put your 3 egg whites in the bowl, ensure there is no trace of shell or yolk
> whisk at a medium speed, upping to high after a minute, until your mixture resembles a cloud (I didn’t think I’d get this at first either, but you will! You’ll know when you’ve hit cloud texture – quite thick, foamy, doesn’t drip off the whisks and holds it’s shape)
> keep your mixture at high speed, and sprinkle in the sugar, one spoonful at time, leaving a few seconds between each
> stop when you have shiny, thick, glossy white mix, that holds itself in high peaks

– Spoon the meringue over the top of the cooked cheesecake, adding swirls and peaks if you like, before returning to the oven for 8 – 10 minutes (depending how crunchy you want your meringue on top).

I have seen recipes that tell you to cool the cheesecake in the fridge before adding the meringue. I’m not sure of the point in this, the cheesecake is only going to get baked again when you cook the meringue! You have to spread the meringue pretty quickly so it doesn’t melt into the cheesecake, but I certainly had no problem with cooking it altogether).

– When it comes out of the oven, immediately run a knife all around the edge, ensuring you push it all the way down to the bottom. This is to loosen all the layers away from the tin, so they can shrink back slightly as they cool.
– Cool, chill, eat!

It’s not the prettiest cake I’ve ever made but boy was it yummy! If you’re a stickler for neatness, you could try spreading the meringue so it doesn’t touch the sides. It doesn’t help that I actually used a loose-bottomed pan rather than a spring form, it took all 4 of our hands to get it out of the tin in one piece!

I was very pleasantly surprised with first attempt at making meringue – not to blow my own trumpet but it was amazing! Crunchy on the top and soft in the middle (if you wanted it more crunchy all the way through, bake for longer, at a lower temperature). So now I’m plotting what else I could make… and with a massive glut of eggs at home (18 from costco + 12 from my boss’s chickens), now seems like as good a time as any. Watch this space!