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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

10 September 2011

Red velvet cake is not that well known in the UK (although fans of the Hummingbird Bakery are all over it). It’s a recipe from the southern USA, and originally the red colour came from a reaction between the cocoa and the acidic ingredients (usually buttermilk or vinegar). The processing that’s done to modern cocoa means that the colour doesn’t change anymore, so instead, bucket loads of red food colouring are used instead.

Thanks to my last efforts, many people come to this blog because their red velvet cakes weren’t red. To those people my advice is this, use more red food colouring (unless you are trying to do it old school and have got hold of cocoa processed the old way, in which case, I’ve got nothing for you, apart from cheating with red food colouring). This recipe uses two tablespoons.

Yes, you read that right.

I did say bucket loads.

To avoid disasters, this time round I followed the recipe to a T, including hunting down buttermilk in Sainsbury’s (tip: it’s near the milk and cream). There are ways to make a buttermilk substitute, but after my last attempt, I wasn’t going to take the risk. This recipe is from Rachel Allen, but I used a cream cheese icing (frosting to all you Americans).

Be warned, this is a fiddly cake to bake and it requires every piece of kitchen equipment you own. If you can, find someone else to do the washing up. And there is a Surprise! Egg White Whipping in the middle which will make you wish you had two mixing bowls for your Kenwood Chef.

Also this recipe made more than enough batter for my two tins, so I used the rest to make five muffins.

But despite all that, it’s worth it because this cake is lovely, moist, and very, very red.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. And chocolate sprinkles.

Sorry, not the greatest of pictures, I forgot to take one until just prior to the slightly drunken devouring.

Red Velvet Cake

What you need:

  • 150 g butter, softened
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 25 g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 level tbsp good quality cocoa powder
  • 250 ml buttermilk (Sainsbury’s buttermilk comes in 283 ml pots, I used the whole lot, because let’s face it, what are you going to do with 33 ml of buttermilk? No one died)*
  • Red food colouring (use 2 tbsp liquid colour or ½ tsp thick red food paste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

 What you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and grease and line two round sandwich cake tins 25 cm / 9” in diameter.
  • Cream the butter using the k beater on speed 1 until it’s soft. Add the sugar and continue beating on speed 2 until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and the egg yolks, one by one, beating well after you have added each one.
  • Mix the buttermilk and red food colouring together in a measuring jug. Make sure it’s really well mixed and really, really red. Add more food colouring if you have to.
  • Put the flour, cocoa, cornflour and baking powder in a sieve, and rest it on a plate or bowl (to catch the stuff that falls out).
  • Sift a third of the flour mixture into the mixing bowl, and mix until it has just combined. Then add a third of the buttermilk mixture, and mix again until it has just combined. Keep repeating this until it’s all added.
  • Here’s the Suprise! Egg White Whipping! Whisk the egg whites and salt in a spotlessly clean bowl until it can form stiffish peaks. If you are really lucky, and you have two Kenwood Chef mixing bowls, use the whisk attachment to whisk them until there are stiffish peaks. **
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the Kenwood, and with a large metal spoon, gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the mixture. Keep going, a quarter at a time, until they are all just incorporated, trying to keep as much air in the egg whites as possible.
  • Do this next bit quickly. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, it will fizz up. Fold this into the batter too. Then divide the batter evenly between the cake tins and smooth the top (and put the rest in a muffin tray).
  • Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

Once it’s cooled, you can make up the cake using the cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

You will need:

  • 300 g Icing Sugar
  • 50 g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 125 g Cream Cheese, cold

What you do:

  • Put the butter in the mixing bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. Mix together using the k beater attachment, until it is well mixed. The icing sugar will fly everywhere, so cover your Kenwood Chef with a clean tea towel, and start on minimum speed and work up to speed 2.
  • Add the cream cheese and beat on speed 2 until it’s all incorporated. Turn the speed up to 4 and keep mixing for about 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy. Be careful that you don’t overbeat it as it can get too runny.

Mixing cream cheese icing

*I lied when I said I followed the recipe to a T.

** I don’t have two mixing bowls, and I’ve not whisked egg whites in my Chef yet, so I don’t know what speed you should use or how long for. My recipe book says maximum speed for about 1 minute, but as much as I trust my Chef, I’m not sure I trust it at maximum speed.

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Tempura baby

7 August 2011

Ok, so  fair warning, I did this in the name of Science!

My parents stayed and left behind half a bottle of sparkling water, which I hate, so it was never going to get drunk.

I also currently have a glut of edible things in the garden, more beans than one girl can reasonably eat, and nasturtiums everywhere. 

Everywhere.

So many, I’ve decided the only reasonable course of action is to add them to every meal. So far I’ve had nasturtiums in salad – traditional, on pasta – tasty, in bread – tasteless but colourful.

These two factors came together in a perfect storm called tempura. Tempura batter is really simple. And you can use it with just about anything, including, as I’ve discovered, nasturtiums.

However, tempura batter, like muffins, is best if it’s beaten as little as possible. The Kenwood Chef specialises in beating. It is its thing. So here comes the science, I was curious, what if one day I have to make tempura on an industrial scale – surely, I asked myself, I should find out if the Kenwood would be up to the task.

There are some secrets to the perfect tempura:  prepare everything else before you make the batter, keep the batter very cold and have the fat very hot.

What you need:

  • A selection of things to batter – I had a plateful of vegetables, and nasturtiums
  • 85 g/3 oz Flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz sparkling water
  • Deep-fat fryer or large wok filled about a third full with oil

What you do:

  • Put the sparkling water in the freezer for an hour or so, until ice is starting to form. At the same time, but the K-beater and mixing bowl in the fridge.
  • Prepare your vegetables. Wash them and chop them into chunks or sticks that are all roughly the same size. This will help them all cook at about the same rate. Here is my plate of veg, I needed about half as much batter again to finish off this lot.

  • Get your deep-fat fryer ready (but don’t start heating the oil until you’re ready to go – safety first people!). Also set up a baking tray lined with kitchen paper to drain your vegetables on after frying.
  • Make the batter by sifting the flour and salt into the mixing bowl. Add the water, and mix using the K-beater on minimum speed until the batter is just formed. Don’t over beat it, and don’t worry about a few lumps. (If the adjustment on your K-beater is slightly off, and you usually have to scrape the sides down, rejoice, with this recipe you can just leave it be!)
  • Heat the oil until it is very hot (my sources say 190C, but I don’t have a kitchen thermometer, so I dripped batter in until it started to really sizzle).
  • Take a spoonful of vegetables at a time, using a slotted spoon, and dip them in the batter then place them gently in the oil.
  • Fry for a few minutes until they are crisp and golden, scoop them out and drain on the kitchen paper. I find it less messy to use one slotted spoon for dipping in the batter and placing in the pan, and a different slotted spoon to fish them out again.
  • Keep going until you’ve cooked everything. You can keep the tempura warm in the oven, but I usually eat it as I go along, because it is so tasty.

Tastes prettier than it looks, please believe me.

So the results of the Science? You can make tempura with a Kenwood Chef, but mixing the batter with chopsticks works just as well. Tempura Nasturtiums are tasty.

USE your Recipe Book!

25 July 2011

I can’t help but think that we Brits were trying to punish ourselves in the 70’s. For what crimes I’m not sure, but the penalty seems to have been bad food.

Mad, bad, crazy food.

The Kenwood Chef recipe book must be considerably more delicate that the Chef’s considering the number of people online who seem to be searching for one. I’ve been lucky, the Instruction and Recipe Book for my Kenwood Chef has survived through the ages.  Somewhere along the way it’s lost it’s cover, but it’s still in one piece. It contains are in depth instructions on using the Kenwood Chef and all the attachments, top tips, information on how to care for your Chef and a whole section called USE your Liquidiser! (I will! I promise! Please don’t hurt me).

All Very Handy.

If you have an old Kenwood Chef but no recipe book, I would recommend you get hold of one.

But then there are the recipes.

I like to think I’m a pretty ok cook, with a good idea of all the basic techniques. And I like to use these skills to make things up as I go along (you will notice this tendency in my posts). But I’ve come to realise that stuff I make is an inedible lump as often as it is a culinary masterpiece. When I got the Kenwood I decided I would try to cook everything in the recipe book (everything vegetarian, that is, as I am one), partly to learn what it could do and how to do it, but also as an attempt to refresh my cooking skills, and reduce the number of inedible lumps I create.

It’s a fine plan, there are many classic British recipes that I really want to get good at. The Victoria Sponge recipe is perfect.  I’ve tried the bread recipe a few times, but it doesn’t knead the dough for long enough. When I figure out where you can buy malt from, I will be making the Malt Loaf. There are a lot of other recipes that are useful or interesting. The one hitch in the plan will be the rest, the mad, bad, crazy food of the 70s.

There’s the Lemon Cucumber Ring made with (among other things) lemon jelly and sliced cucumber. Mad.

There’s the French Fried Cheese balls, which are basically deep-fried cheese. Bad.

And then there’s the Green and Gold salad, containing carrots, salted peanuts, mayonnaise, salad greens and pineapple. Crazy.

What have I committed myself too?

Banana Nut Bread

9 June 2011

Ah, yes, so, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Sorry about that.

There was work, then the cat had a bit of argy-bargy with the fox, then there was more work, then my bag got stolen.

I think, I think, everything’s getting back on track now. Hopefully.

If nothing else, the cat is better, and currently re-enacting epic WWF smackdowns from the late ‘80s with the other cat.

There have been points in the last few weeks where banana bread was the only thing standing between me and total chaos.

That's not a bite mark, just a badly placed walnut. I do have some self-control!

This is my mum’s recipe. It is my favourite kind of recipe because a) it is a bung-it-all-in-a-bowl-and-mix recipe, b) it turns slightly dodgy bananas into something amazing and c) you can adapt it – I’ve made it with apples instead of bananas and just about any nuts I’ve had around, or none at all.

Ideal for lazy cooks who don’t plan.

You will need:

  • 175 g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • ½ level teaspoon of salt
  • 1 level teaspoon mixed spice
  • 100 g/4 oz sugar
  • 40 g/1 1/2  oz chopped walnuts
  • 2 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 25 g/1 oz melted butter

What you do:

  • Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into the mixing bowl and stir in the sugar and the nuts.
  • Peel the bananas and chop them into rough chunks. Add them to the dry ingredients with the egg and melted butter.
  • Use the K-beater to mix on minimum speed to begin with, and then for a couple of minutes on speed 1 until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
  • Spoon into a greased and lined loaf tin, spreading the mixture evenly.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour.
  • Eat, buttered if you like.

Happy Munching!

Land of hope and gloria, Land of my Victoria

16 May 2011

The Victoria Sponge was Queen Victoria’s favourite cake. Like all the finer things in life it is understated and elegant. A timeless classic.

There was no other cake I could bake for the royalists.

A victoria sponge cake. Queen of cakes.

I followed the recipe in the Kenwood Chef recipe book to a T. But, let’s be honest, you can find the recipe anywhere; it’s the classic sponge mix, 2oz of butter, sugar and flour for every egg.

I filled it with lightly whipped double cream and raspberry jam, and sieved icing sugar on top.

It was light, airy and very delicious.

It is cakes like these that the Kenwood Chef was made for.

You could taste the imperialism with every bite.

Anarchist Ginger Fairy Cakes

4 May 2011

I held a Royalists vs Republicans bbq last Friday to commemorate the Right Royal Knees-up/extra day off.  I have friends from all sides of the political spectrum and this brought them all together with bunting, political debate, burnt chicken and CAKE!

The Royalists cake was easy, the queen of cakes, the Victoria Sponge – more on that later. But expressing the Republican cause through baked goods was harder. After much deliberation, and a little help from twitter, I settled on these fiery radicals.

Fight the power! Anarchist ginger cakes

Maybe my icing skills are lacking or maybe your bourgeois attitudes are putting me down, man

Don’t be put off by the crazy icing, underneath are some very tasty, very, very easy to make, sticky ginger cakes with lemon icing.

What you need:

  • 60g butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 25g syrup from the stem ginger jar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 – 4 pieces of stem ginger*
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 egg, beaten

What you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3.
  • Put the butter and both types of syrup in a saucepan and gently melt, stirring occasionally.
  • Chop the stem ginger into small pieces – warning this is sticky and make you lick your fingers. It’s ok, I give you permission to do this.
  • Sift both the flours, the bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice in the mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the salt, and then the egg and milk. Mix with the k-beater on minimum speed until it is smooth.
  • Slowly add the syrup and butter mixture, a bit of a time, still on minimum speed, until it’s all well combined. Then mix in the pieces of ginger. The mixture is really, really sloppy, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be like that.
  • Pour the mixture into 12 fairy cake cases.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they’ve risen and they’re firm to the touch.
  • Once they’re cool, channel your inner rage against the system and decorate with lemon icing.
  • To make lemon icing, follow the instructions on the packet, but use lemon juice instead of water (Sorry, I haven’t got an exact recipe, because I used a shed-load of red food colouring in mine, which threw out any measurements).

*I went for 4 because these cakes were going to fuel the rebel alliance – power to the people!

Hummus

26 April 2011

Since I’ve got my Kenwood Chef, I’ve been thinking about to what vegetarian purposes I can put the mincer attachment . The only non-meat recipe in the cookbook that uses the mincer is marmalade – which at least clued me in that it doesn’t have to be used exclusively for meat. Sometime in the middle of last week, I was struck with two revelations:

  1. I had (almost) all the ingredients for hummus in my cupboards
  2. I might actually be able to use the mincer to make it.

This might be an actual life-changing moment for me. I eat a lot of hummus. A lot. And it was so, so easy to do it with the Kenwood.

Hummus making is as much an art as it is a science. You take the basic ingredients and play around with quantities until you get something you like. The beauty of using the mincer is that once the chickpeas have been minced, you can play around with the quantities of all the other ingredients until you have it exactly how you want it.

I’m still working on my perfect hummus recipe, so I based this attempt on this recipe from the BBC webpage. I say based because halfway through making this, I realised that the bottle of lemon juice that I had sitting in my  fridge door was empty.  So I made a seat-of-your-pants, right-out-of-left-field, gung-ho substitution of some cider vinegar and good olive oil and added more cumin and some paprika to up the flavour. The resulting concoction isn’t hummus as you’d know it from the supermarket, but it is definitely edible.

Homemade hummus and bread and salad

Homemade hummus, bread and my first crop of the season - rocket. Tom and Barbara called and they want their goodlife back please.

I recommend you use the BBC’s recipe, like so…

You will need:

  • 200g/7oz canned chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or more
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 100ml/3½fl oz tahini*
  • 4 tbsp water

What you do:

  • Set up the mincer attachment, with the coarse cutter, on the Kenwood Chef, with the mixing bowl below the outlet. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and with the garlic, feed them through the mincer on speed 1.
  • Add the other ingredients to the bowl, and mix with the k-beater on speed 1 until it’s all combined. Taste and adjust the lemon juice/cumin/water/tahini until you get the flavour and texture you want.
  • Eat!

There are loads of variations you can do to hummus. For instance, I’m not so keen on raw garlic, so in the past I have tried roasting it first, which I think is a lot tastier.

*Tahini can be hard to get hold off, so you can leave it out, but you’ll probably need to cut down on the lemon juice and water, and maybe add some olive oil.

Basically, in case the message hasn’t got across yet, hummus is really adaptable, and really, really easy to make.

Get out your Kenwood Chef and experiment!