As most people would know, I am usually the first one to criticise the effects of sugar on people's diets. There is much information available out there that we should all seriously consider in order to become aware of the serious effects that sugar has on our diets, health, energy levels, mood changes, etc.
However, once in a while, I have to let go of this 'crazy' attitude, and allow my other passion to thrive, the pleasure of baking. I love being in the kitchen, making, baking, creating something aesthetically pleasing and equally ravishing on the taste buds. Since it is Christmas, and we are all overeating and indulging, here is a recipe that never fails to impress. Two recipes in fact, so feel free to make one or the other, or go absolutely crazy for two days and do both of them as shown in the pictures below.
Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake
Chiffon Sponge: 200ml veg oil, 7 large eggs, one vanilla bean paste or a tsp vanilla extract, 400g golden caster sugar, 50g cocoa powder (mixed with 225ml hot water and then let to cool), 400g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder.
Mix egg yolks, oil, vanilla, sugar, cocoa mixture, blend until the sugar has dissolved. Then mix the flour and baking powder until all mixed together and smooth. In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until nicely stiff. Mix the egg whites to the rest of the sponge mixture, very slowly in order to maintain the air in the mixture. Put in a 25cm tin (prepared with butter and grease proof paper) and bake for 1.5hours or until in springs back when touched, at 170C. If oven is not too even, perhaps switch to 150C after an hour and bake for longer so the bottom and sides do not get burnt.
Caramel decorations: Caramelize sugar. (200g of sugar) . I have used some almonds to get some caramel on their rounded side, then I have poured some caramel in star shapes (cookie shapes) and then I have mixed almonds with the remaining caramel and poured onto some grease proof paper in order to make some almond praline. Make your own caramel decorations.
Salted Caramel Cream: 150g sugar, 100g butter, 2 egg yolks, 3 tbsp corn flour, 1 tsp salt, 250ml milk.
Caramelise the sugar. Pour 100ml water over the sugar and let boil until dissolved and forming a nice sugary brown syrup. let it cool for a few minutes. Mix the corn flour, egg yolks, butter and salt until nice and smooth. Then add the milk and boil until nicely thick like a creme patisserie. Let it cool.
Chocolate Buttercream: 100g dark chocolate, 200g butter, 400g icing sugar, vanilla extract, a few spoons of milk to loosen the mixture if it is too thick.
Beat the soft butter with the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the melted chocolate (over the steam of boiling water). Whisk everything together for a few minutes until very smooth and fluffy. Add a couple of spoons of milk if too thick.
Chocolate Ganache: 100g dark chocolate, 200ml double cream.
Chop the chocolate and mix with the cream. Put over low heat in a pan and mix until smooth and shiny.
Ensemble the cake:
Once the sponge is out of the oven and cooled down, cut into 3 or 4 layers. This should be a thick sponge, and it should be easy enough to cut into 1.5-2cm layers. Choose a nice plate on which you can put everything together. Lay the first sponge layer. I use either a very thin layer of apricot jam or lemon jam in order to make the sponge better for the cream. Then put some of the chocolate butter cream and top up with some of the almond praline. Put the second sponge layer, thin layer of jam, layer of salted caramel, third sponge layer thin layer of jam, chocolate buttercream and almond praline. Last sponge layer, spread evenly the last bit of chocolate buttercream. Put in the fridge for half an hour. This is a good time to make the ganache. Take the cake out of the fridge, spread the ganache, add the praline to the top and the stars and other decorations around the top layer. Chill for another half an hour and the see if any more piping and decorations are needed.
Lemon Drizzle Cake with Salted Caramel:
3 large eggs
175g plain flour
175 caster sugar
175 softened butter
zest from 1 lemon (finely grated)
Beat eggs, sugar, butter together. Add one spoon of flour at a time so the mixture does not curd. Add baking powder with the flour and the lemon zest. Prepare a 15-20cm diameter tin, by using butter and grease proof paper. Heat up the oven at 170-180C. Put the mixture in the tin and bake for 35 minutes or until baked. Check with a skewer.
When cool, slice the sponge in two layers. Put one layer down, spread some lemon curd or lemon jam then add some of the salted caramel mixture from above. Add second half of the sponge layer and spread the last bit of caramel cream over. Put the cakes in the fridge for them to set well: a couple of hours.
200g icing sugar, the juice and zest from one lemon, 50g of soft butter. Mix together until nicely smooth. Add more icing sugar if not solid enough. Pipe the top of the lemon cake with the icing. Create nice patterns at the top and on the sides.
I am afraid I do not have a vegan option for this 2 tier cake, all I can say is that everybody, even people who are not that much into eating cake, absolutely loved this. There is something for everyone and it keeps fine in the fridge for 1 week, and freezer for 2 months. ENJOY!!!!
Enjoy and don't blame me for putting on the Christmas weight!