First bake: toscakaka

ToscakakaYou can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned British cake, but it’s nice to try international cakes every so often. This toscakaka (caramel and almond sponge cake) hails from Scandinavia, although rumours suggest it might actually be Italian. Wherever it’s from, it’s a brilliant invention!

I decided to bake this on impulse to cheer myself up following a lot of house buying-related stress this week, and it certainly did the trick. It’s easier to make than it looks – you just make the sponge, fling it in the oven, make the praline topping while it’s baking, then pour the caramel on top of the cake and bake for a bit more on a higher heat setting. Et voila – toscakaka!

Toscakaka mix

Toscakaka mix

The cake mix ended up being quite runny, so I was a bit worried about the texture of the finished cake, but I needn’t have been. The sponge somehow manages to be both dense and light, with pleasing results. The praline topping didn’t set as I hoped, but it’s still super delicious! The recipe adds a fair bit of sea salt for that fantastic savoury-sweet combination, and that’s exactly what I’ve got.

ToscakakaI’ve only had one piece so far after making it last night, but I fully intend to sample some more! This is one for anyone with a penchant for salted caramel or simply something a little bit different from the norm.

The recipe

From Vegetarian Living magazine. This may be a recipe by a particular chef, but I don’t know as I ripped the recipe out and chucked the magazine away a while ago!

Serves 10

For the cake:

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp fine sea salt
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 75ml buttermilk (make your own by adding a splash of lemon juice to whole milk and leaving it for a few minutes to thicken)

For the topping:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 150g flaked almonds (or dessicated coconut to create a Danish dream cake (drommekage))
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 0.75 to 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • double shot of espresso (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3-4. Lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.
  2. For the cake, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until pale and fluffy.
  3. Combine the baking powder, flour and salt in another bowl.
  4. Gradually add the flour mix, buttermilk and melted butter to the egg mixture, taking it in turns to spoon each one into the bowl and folding the ingredients together the whole time with a large metal spoon.
  5. Pour the mix into the tin and tap it to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 mins, or until firm and golden.
  6. Begin making the topping 15 mins into the baking time so it’s ready for when the cake comes out. Place the topping ingredients in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and bring to a simmer, mixing all the while. Keep it at a low simmer for 3-4 minutes until it has slightly thickened.
  7. Take the cake out of the oven when done and pour the hot topping over it. Turn the oven up to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and put the cake back in for another 5-10 mins, until the topping has turned golden brown and is crispy.
  8. Cool the cake slightly in the tin and then run a knife around the edges to make sure the praline isn’t stuck to the tin. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

First bake: fudgy coconut brownies

Fudgy coconut browniesI haven’t had much of a chance to get stuck into some new baking recently, what with a rather few hectic weeks at work and the trauma of being a first-time home buyer to contend with! But I managed to knock out these fudgy coconut brownies last night after months of thinking I should *definitely* make these next.

They were really easy to make – just melt a whole block of butter, some cocoa and a whole load of sugar in a pan, then mix in some eggs, flour and dessicated coconut. Then bake for 45 minutes. And that’s it. I used my posh Valrhona cocoa (which is nearly finished – sob!) and half the amount of sugar specified in the recipe. Yes, half. Half a kilo of sugar is waaaay too much for a mere 16 brownies, in my opinion!

Fudgy coconut browniesI have to say, the finished product looked amazing. Super dark, thanks to the posh cocoa, and an incredibly dense texture. The mix rose a LOT in the oven, so the brownies ended up being massive to boot! However, I think all the rising plus the relatively long baking time (for brownies) meant they ended up more cake than brownie-like – or it could have been the ‘missing’ sugar that caused it.

Nevertheless, they were still extremely delicious. I was really pleased with the strength of the coconut flavour – I usually feel a little disappointed in the lack of coconuttiness (yes, I just made that up) whenever I bake something with coconut in, and try to put more in the next time I bake that particular item. But I think this recipe has just the right amount! I suspect the flavour would have been even stronger if I’d used bog standard supermarket cocoa rather than the Valrhona stuff.

All in all, this is a great little recipe if you need to whip up some chocolatey/coconutty treats in a hurry – try it NOW!

The recipe

On the BBC Good Food website here:

First bake: plum cake

Plum cakeHappy new year! Didn’t 2012 whizz by?! I was meant to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a Japanese meal at a friend’s house, so I made this plum cake to take round, as plums play a big role in Japanese cooking. Unfortunately, the meal fell through, so I ended up with a lot of cake on my hands… not really an awful situation to be in!

I originally meant to try my hand at sata andagi with cinnamon cream and a plum compote, but chickened out at the last minute, partly due to a lack of time, but also because I was a bit scared of doing doughnuts for the very first time. So I decided to make a plum cake instead.

This recipe was very easy to whip up, fortunately. The most time consuming part was halving and stoning the plums; everything else was just a matter of beating together all the ingredients.

Plum cake, pre-baking

Plum cake, pre-baking

I used my square brownie tin instead of a round tin as specified in the recipe, simply because I didn’t have a round tin that was big enough. It worked fine in the end, but I needded fewer plums (10 instead of 12) and had to bake the cake for a good deal longer than the recipe said. I also cut it into 9 pieces instead of 12. I was very generous with the cinnamon on top – 1 tsp doesn’t sound like much at all!

I also made an almond cream to go with the cake; this was just a matter of whipping some double cream until thick, adding a few drops of almond extract and mixing in a little icing sugar. And that was it!

The cake was very, very nice indeed, and I will definitely make it again. It’s quite sweet, and the plum flavour combined with the cinnamon is divine. The almond cream goes really well with it; I would recommend whipping up something similar to serve with the warm cake if you try this recipe too.

Warm plum cake and almond cream

Warm plum cake and almond cream

The recipe

From Allrecipes here: