Strawberry and chocolate cake

slice of chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

Is there such a thing as baker’s block? If not, there should be. I bake on Thursdays and by Wednesday afternoon this week my mind was still blank. Frustration set in. Instead of forcing the issue I cleared my mind and did some other stuff. And by stuff I mean planning a wedding.

Stack of wedding magazines

4 months until we indulge in a little champagne and decadence. I can’t wait! The initial momentum I experienced right after the “will you-yes I will” moment disappeared after a couple of months. So with a venue booked, caterer chosen, dress bought and photographer and DJ picked, I went into wedding hibernation mode. And that’s where I’ve been for the last 6 months. Now I’m desperately trying to get it back so I can finish off the last bits and pieces. Any tips?

And then I saw this tweet:

Natalie

I met Natalie in April at the Hive Conference in Berlin. She is a fabulous woman with bundels of energy and enthusiasm. She is part of Apartment Diet and I am bummed I missed their workshop at the event. Anyway, Natalie just published a book called “The Wedding Virus” (find it here) and I downloaded it last night. I am now counting the hours until I can start reading it this evening.

Now, back to that Tweet…

cake, strawberries and wedding magazines

I was sitting at my dining room table, wedding planner open and budget spreadsheet on my laptop, baking still in the back of my mind and then I read this quote on Natalie’s Twitter Feed. And I had a moment. I sighed and thought: “Yes, and you can add chocolate and champagne to that”. So I did! I immediatly got out of my baker’s block and then I got rid of the line in the planner that said: start wedding fitness routine.

(P.S. Feel free to enjoy this cake with champagne in the bath. But I will not be held responsible for the consequences.)

Chocolate cake with strawberries and cream on cake stand

Chocolate cake with strawberries and vanilla mascarpone cream

(Glas of champagne optional but recommended)

Serves 6

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:

2 eggs

180g sugar

100g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp cacao, unsweetened

100g melted butter

Ingredients for the vanilla mascarpone cream:

200ml whipping cream

200ml mascarpone

3 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar

250g-500g strawberries (depends how many you want inside the cake) roughly all the same size

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

2. Line(or grease and flour) 2 18cm/7inch springform tins.

3. Throw all the ingredients for the cake in a standmixer (or a bowl and use a handmixer) and mix with the paddle attached. Be careful that your melted butter isn’t too hot or your eggs will cook.

4. Divide the mixture equally between your 2 tins. If you only have 1 tin I suggest you make half the batter, bake it and then make another batch.

5. Bake for 20 minutes.

6. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then cool fully on a wire rack.

7. Make the cream when the cakes have completely cooled down. Do this by putting all the ingredients in the bowl of your standmixer which is now fitted with the whisk (or use a bowl and handmixer). Mix on high until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.

8. Wash the strawberries and cut the tops off flat so that they can stand on their own, upside down as it were. Slice in 2 vertically. When you have enough to cover the circumference, stop cutting the strawberries in half. Keep them whole with the tops off.

9. Take your (cleaned) springform tin and put one of the cakes in. Put the sliced strawberries on the cake around the edge with the cut side lightly pressed against the springform.

10. Put the rest of the unsliced strawberries inside the strawberry edge you’ve just made. Strawberry tops onto the cake surface so they don’t fall over.

11. Carefully fill the gaps with the mascarpone cream. Smooth over the surface when you have covered all the strawberries. Don’t overfill with the cream. You’re looking to just cover the strawberries.

12. Place the second cake (top side down) on top of the cream.

13. Put the cake in the fridge so it can set a bit. When ready to serve, take it out of the fridge and carefully remove the springform. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so that it can warm up a bit to room temperature.

Optional: dust lightly with powdered sugar and serve with some champagne and the rest of the strawberries.

Strawberries and champagne

ENJOY!

close up slice chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

close up chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

Rhubarb and cream cake

Rhubard and cream cake with vintage Agfa camera and spring flowersSpring has put its foot down and reclaimed Berlin from winter. The trees are turning lusciously green and there are blossoms everywhere. Ice cream shops are thrown into mayhem with kids and adults desperate to buy their first cone of the season. Benches in parks and outside seating at popular coffee houses are becoming prime real estate for those of us trying to take a break from office life. Oh how I love those first days of spring when I can cycle through the Kiez (neighbourhood) wearing just a light jacket.

spring flowers yellow and purpleWith the arrival of warmer weather people inevitably start thinking of summer (I know, we get one day of sunshine and t-shirt weather and already we want more!). And summer tends to mean that it’s time to take a step back and relax. Are you planning to escape to even sunnier places? Or are you staying home and enjoying BBQ’s and lazy evenings in your very own garden (or balcony) paradise? In any case, I am nearly certain you will be planning some sort of an adventure this summer. Wether it be on exotic beaches or in a trendy city, planning is half the fun. Flipping through guidebooks, searching maps for interesting places and checking out this brilliant travel blog. All best done on a lazy Sunday afternoon with coffee and this simple but delicious cake.

Rhubarb and cream cake with vintage Agfa camera and vintage London guide book  5 ingredients is all it takes unless you are motivated enough to make your own jam. But lets face it, you’ve worked hard all week and you spent most of Saturday running around doing the shopping, washing clothes and putting up that new IKEA bookshelf. You deserve a summer-travel-break (and a slice cake)!

Vintage London guidebook with vintage London bus and subway tube map

Rhubarb and cream cake

(serves 8)

Ingredients:

3 eggs at room temperature

75g fine sugar

75g sifted flour (sifted is very important)

200ml whipping cream

Rhubarb jam or a jar of the very best and tastiest jam you can find

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Line a round cake tin (approx. 20cm in diameter) with baking paper.

In a standmixer with the whisk attached (or use a handheld mixer), whisk the eggs and sugar until they turn a very pale, creamy colour. The mixture will triple in volume and will be thick.

Slowly and carefully, fold in the flour. You need to keep the air and volume in the mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated.

Pour into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean).

Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking it out an carefully pealing off the baking paper. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the cake is completely cooled, whip the cream until nice and thick. Then spoon it onto the cake.

Top the cake with jam. As much as you like!

Enjoy!

Rhubarb and cream cake

Vintage London subway Tube map

Rhubarb and cream cake with spring flours and vintage Agfa camera Vintage London guide book

Mini apple cakes

Mini apple cakes with coffee and book

Today is the start of the Easter weekend here in Berlin which means that tomorrow I will be doing (read: attempting) all sorts of Easter projects with the kids. I’ve found some really fun and simple things I can do with my two toddlers. I’ll report back to you on how that goes…

But before that, some baking and blogging needs to be done. So here goes!

I recently bought a stack of mini silicone moulds. I was persuaded by their pastel colours which made me feel all happy and ready for spring. By the way, it’s been snowing here for the last two days so I don’t know where spring is but I’m assured it’s on its way. Make it hurry up! Back to the moulds. I made these mini lemon cakes a couple of weeks ago and loved how easy they just “dropped” out of the moulds. And then I remembered my mom had given me some tart moulds a while ago which until now I had never used. As per usual, my grand plan to make fruit tarts (make pastry, cut fruit, make creme patissière) did not happen because I am still new at this blogging business and I am still learning how to manage my time.

This is a recipe my mother gave me. She in turn got it from a friend who got it from somewhere else… You get the idea, right? I have adjusted it a bit to suit the mini mould situation though.

mini apple cakes with book and glasses

Mini apple cakes

(makes 6, depending on the size of your tart mould)

If you are using silicone moulds, refer to the manufacture’s instructions with regards to greasing. If you are using conventional metal moulds, grease with a bit of butter and dust with some flour, discarding any excess flour.

6 tbsp flour

1/2 tbsp baking powder

5 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp vanille sugar

4 tbsp milk

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 egg

1 large apple, pealed, cored and cut into small cubes (approx. 60g of cubes)

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, except the apple cubes, together. You can also use a mixer at low speed.

3. Gently stir in the apple cubes.

4. Fill the moulds to 3/4 of the way.

5. Bake for 25 minutes.

6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the moulds than remove the cakes and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

mini apple cakes

mini cakes with cup of coffee book glasses

one mini apple cake

Mini lemon cakes

Mini lemon cake with spring background

Is it spring yet?

I hope so. Walking around our neighbourhood I’ve noticed the cafe’s and restaurants have brought out the tables and chairs. Coffee can now be consumed out in the sun with a fleece blanket wrapped around your shoulders (provided by the cafe of course. Imagine having to carry your own blanket around when going for your daily caffeine shot). Spring flowers are bursting into view and I no longer need my mittens and hat when I cycle around Berlin.

In celebration of the marvellous event that is the start of spring (whether this weather lasts or not is beside the point. Once something has started it needs to continue in some shape or form. It’s called momentum) I decided to try something new. At least something new to me. In all my years of baking and adventurous food tasting I have never had a lemon cake (shock horror!!!). Not that you need to be adventurous to taste lemon cake. I don’t know why I never tasted this fresh and light cake. What was holding me back? I’m glad to report that whatever it was is now gone. I LOVE lemon cake. Or in today’s case, mini lemon cakes.

mini lemon cake

 

Mini Lemon Cakes

(makes 12)

150g soft butter

150g sugar

3eggs

150g flour

2 tsp baking powder

juice of 1 lemon

for the garnish:

250ml water

220g sugar

zest of one lemon

2 tbsp sugar

powdered sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. In a standmixer (use the paddle) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. You can also use a handmixer for this.

3. Add the eggs and mix well.

4. Add the flour and baking powder bit by bit and mix.

5. Pour the batter into 12 mini moulds or use cupcake cases in a muffin tin.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes (or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean) and then let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.

7. Using a toothpick or skewer, poke several holes in the tops of the cakes. Pour 2 tsp of lemon juice over every cake and let the cake soak up the juice.

To make the sugared zest garnish:

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to the boil. Add the zest and simmer until the zest starts to become translucent (3-5 minutes for very thin zest). In a freezer bag, put the 2 tbsp of sugar. Remove the zest from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and put it in the freezer bag. Close the bag and shake to cover the zest with sugar. Let cool further on baking paper.

Decorate the completely cooled cakes with powdered sugar and sugared lemon zest.

mini lemon cake on paper

(These can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days. However, because the lemon juice was added after baking the cakes can get sticky and wet. They shouldn’t become soggy though.)

Enjoy!

Baking with Kids: Cupcakes

It’s been one of those weeks where I can’t seem to get organised. There are a million things I need to do but there are definitely not a million hours in the day… or week… or month. I like making lists and I did have one for this first week back to work after the new year, but for some reason nothing on that list got done.

I was also home alone with the kids for 4 days because P. (my pilot-husband-to-be) was in London for work. Which means there is very little, if no time at all to get anything done apart from maybe moving one stack of washing from the kitchen to the bedroom (to be placed on the bed of course, not in the wardrobe).

But it was a good week in other ways. I took my 3 year old daughter to the Alte Gemäldegalerie here in Berlin for an exhibition especially for kids. I loved how the old paintings fascinated her. And my nearly 2 year old son started pointing towards my bowls and shouting “bake!”. So we did.

Check out my tips on baking with kids here.

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I used my mother’s apple cake recipe to make these but reduced the amount of sugar and left out the apples.

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Two days later I still had sprinkles stuck to my socks.

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Baking with kids – Cupcakes

(makes 6-8 cupcakes)

100g butter, softened

100g plain flour or self raising flour

1 tbsp baking powder (leave out if using self raising flour)

60g sugar

2 eggs

Sprinkles, chopped up m&m’s, small sweets, etc.

125g icing sugar

several tbsp powdered sugar

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (older kids can do this themselves).

Put cupcake cases in a muffin tray (even little hands can do this).

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using a handheld mixer. Add the eggs and continue mixing (Depending on their ages, kids can either watch, help hold the mixer or mix themselves).

Using a wooden spoon, add the flour and baking powder/self raising flour and mix until you have a smooth batter (be sure to mix it yourself one last time to make sure everything is well incorporated).

Fill the cupcake cases 3/4 full (this can get messy but that’s part of the process. Smaller kids might have trouble getting the aim right so they might need some help).

Put the tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (older kids can, under parent supervision, try doing this themselves).

Leave to cool on a wire rack. You can put the in the fridge for 10 minutes to speed up the process. In the mean time, make the icing and get the sprinkles, sweets, etc. ready in small bowls.

To make the icing, sift the powdered sugar in a bowl and add a tbsp of water at a time. Mix by hand or with a handheld mixer and check the consistency. Keep adding water if it is too thick. Add some more powdered sugar if it is too runny (again, depending on their ages, kids can either watch, help hold the mixer or mix themselves).

Decorate!

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Enjoy!

Be sure to always supervise you kids when baking. 

(Baking with kids is a spontaneous affair. My photo’s reflect that.)

 

My mother’s apple cake

Hi!

Welcome!

How are you?

I’m glad you’re here. Did you bring your apron? Don’t worry if you didn’t, I’ll lend you one. You and I are going to create some amazing things. Sometimes we will achieve perfection and other times frustration will make us yell very loudly at the oven. But we will endeavour and try the best we can.

I think it’s always a good idea to start new things in an easy and simple manner. We can do complicated later when we’ve had chance to get to know each other better. So today, for our first baking project, we will be baking my mother’s apple cake.

The simplicity of this recipe is what makes it appealing. My mother would make this often for when we would come home from school, hungry and tired. She would make it into cupcakes if we had friends over to play on Saturdays. And she still makes it for the coffee break during her watercolour class.

The ingredients are few and simple: eggs, butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, the tiniest bit of salt and apples. If you live in a country where the shops sell self-raising flour, than you can scrap the baking powder and salt leaving you with just 5 ingredients. Few and simple.

IMG_1830

The first thing is to cream the sugar and butter. Use an electric mixer, a stand mixer or a whisk. Just mix,mix, mix. This is one of my favourite processes in baking. Creamy butter and sweet, sweet sugar… I could probably spread this on slice of bread and eat it very, very slowly with a content smile on my face.

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Add the eggs and watch it turn a lovely, warm, orangey yellow. Perfect colour for this time of year. Make sure the eggs are well incorporated into the mixture. Next, throw in the flour, baking powder and salt (or self-raising flour). If you have time you can sift the flour and fold it in. Whatever method you use, the result will be delicious guaranteed.

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Now add those sweet, juicy apples and give it all another couple of stirs with a wooden spoon. That’s it! Preparations done.

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Now for the baking bit. Make sure you have your cake tin ready. Grease it or line it, the choice is yours. I prefer greasing with butter and dusting with flour.  Then fill it 2/3 full, put it in the middle of your oven and patiently wait (what?!?) while your house fills with gorgeously, delicious smells of apples and soft, spongy cake.

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Add coffee because it just makes sense at 3 in the afternoon.

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And try not to eat it all on your own.

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Recipe:

Apple Cake 

200g soft butter

200g caster sugar

200g flour (or self-raising flour)

2 tsp baking powder (eliminate if using self-raising flour)

pinch of salt (eliminate if using self-raising flour)

4 eggs

2 apples

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Line or grease a cake tin.

Peel, core and cut your apples into cubes.

Cream butter and sugar using a hand mixer/stand mixer/whisk.

Add the eggs one by one mixing well between each egg.

Add the flour to the mixture.

Sir in the apple cubes with a wooden spoon.

Scoop the batter into the greased cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes. Make sure when you insert a toothpick or skewer that it come out clean before you switch off the oven.

Let the cake cool for 5 minute before taking it out of the tin. Let it cool further on a wire rack.