Monday, November 3, 2014

Victoria Sponge

Lately I've been dipping into my arsenal of British baking books when I tire of the tried and true French recipes for genoise, jacondes, etc. It's interesting to see the difference in technique; many of the English sponge cakes are by proportion. The recipes remind me of a French yogurt cake, that French kids made by using the yogurt pots as the measuring device and the cake had relative proportions to the pot.

One tea time favorite is the Victoria sponge, aptly named after Queen Victoria who I guess liked cake with her tea (but who doesn't). The cake is generally filled with raspberry or strawberry preserves and double (whipped) cream. I use a recipe from the Peyton and Byrne cookbook that pretty much uses the same proportion of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour by weight. Theoretically it's like an American pound cake, minus the cream.

In a few Victoria sponge recipes I've tried out, the recipes usually call for creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one at a time, then folding in the flour. I noticed that my cakes didn't rise as evenly and were a bit dense. I decided to use a sponge method of whipping the egg whites and sugar into a meringue, quickly whisking in the yolks and butter, and finally folding in the flour. The cake on the left was made by whisking the egg whites to a meringue.

Peyton and Byrne's Victoria Sponge

4 medium eggs

The weight of the eggs and their shells in:
Self rising flour (or all purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder added)
Granulated sugar
Butter (plus a little extra for greasing)

400ml heavy whipping cream
Strawberry jam
Sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Farenheit. gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter/7cm high cake pan, and line the bottom with baking paper.
Use the eggs to determine the weight of flour, sugar and butter. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites and slowly add the sugar. Melt the butter, and cool. Once the egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks, quickly whisk in the egg yolks and the melted butter. Gently fold in the flour (and baking powder if using all purpose flour). Pour into prepared cake pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the sponge springs back to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Once cooled, the cake fromt he pan and slice in half. Whip the heavy whipping cream until thick. You can optionally add a few tablespoons of sugar while whipping to sweeten the cream. Spread a thick layer of jam on the bottom cake slice. Top with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Place the top cake slice on top and dust with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tea parties

I whole-heartedly prefer a 'proper' cup of tea to coffee. My mornings usually begin with a cup of strong English tea with a splash of milk. No sugar of course. And often the evenings come to a close with another cuppa.

It should come as no surprise, that I adore tea parties. But seriously, who doesn't? I remember my first tea set was a tiny porcelain Barbie set that I arranged around a little table for my stuffed animals. No we didn't have tea... my childhood tea parties featured Coke. But hey, its still a brown liquid, so I think that counts for something.

High tea, wherever its origins may stem from, are the epitome of a tea party with dainty finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. I'm fortunate enough to have a niece who loves tea parties (or maybe its just the desserts) as much as I do.

Recently, I had to throw a baby shower for my best friend and she requested a Mad Hatter tea party theme. Naturally, I was in charge of decor, sweets, and a few baked savories.

I've recently found a lot of recipes, or rather recipe ideas from Pinterest. Though some aren't all that successful, I found an idea for colorful lollipop cookies that were super festive and appropriate for our mad hatter tea.

They were quite easy, but just a little tedious. They can be made with any good rolled sugar cookie dough, or even the pre-made sugar dough that comes in tubes. 

Since the baby shower was in the afternoon, I made an assortment of pastries that included  blueberry and banana muffins.

I really wanted to make some desserts using puff pastry, but as I had already been baking for a couple days, I decided to go with some pre-made dough. They rolled up nicely into some sugary caramelized palmiers.

The spread included muffins, scones, madeleines, sugar cookies, mini blueberry cheesecakes, mini chocolate cheesecakes, chocolate mousse, gougeres (cheese puffs), cheese straws, finger sandwiches, and an assortment of hot teas and chilled beverages.

Overall the baby shower was a huge success. I also made a gender reveal cake, and guests were able to guess the gender of the baby. Though it was a tea party on a grand scale, I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of baking, and at the end of the day was able to kick up my feet with a cup of tea.