Tag Archives: ganache

Green Tea Cake with Dark Chocolate Icing

This is another one that drew unsure noises from people – they started out going ‘ooooh!’ because they expected me to say something normal and delicious sounding, and it ended up more of an ‘oh?’. It’s comedy gold; I could just make normal sounding cakes all the time, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in making people double take. I think sometimes the enjoyment of a cake is increased by a little initial doubt, too. Of course, sometimes I like to play the guessing game, which I did with the recipient of this cake (sorry Miss S). I get bored of it quite quickly though if people don’t guess, and feel mean for not just telling them, so it doesn’t usually last long. I also say things like ‘oh, good guess!’ to make myself and the other person feel better. If it was a good guess it’d be right, surely?

I’ve seen lots of recipes for sweet things that use green tea, and mostly they use green tea powder – usually sold as matcha, though I think this only applies to a certain type of ground green tea leaf, much like champagne only applies to wines made in that region. What I do know for sure is that it’s expensive, and that by the time I’d decided what flavour of cake to make I didn’t have time to source any, so I went with green tea bags, which are much easier to pick up. I got the idea of emptying out tea bags into cake from making this recipe for mini chai loaves, and I’ve used it since to make a caramel tea cake, which lacked any kind of documentation so I can’t share it with you. I understand that it was lovely, though, if you’d care to take my friend’s word for it? It seems an odd thing to do, at first I imagined that the tea leaves would be dry and would get all up in your teeth and things, like dried herbs would if you tried to eat them straight out of the jar (blargh) but the opposite is true; they have no texture but still give the cake a textured appearance, as you can see from the photo, and the flavour from them permeates the sponge completely.

Let us take a moment to digest the fact that I just used the word permeate. I thank you.

So, to the green tea cake. Here is the recipe for one eight-inch cake:

  • 10oz golden caster sugar (because that’s what was in the cupboard)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus 3tbsp
  • 8oz wheat-free flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 4 green tea bags, emptied out of their paper prison
  • 1/4 cup oat milk

For the icing:

  • 170g dairy free dark chocolate
  • 80ml soy cream

I know that taking pictures of all your ingredients before you start out is pretty retro, and probably the blogging world’s equivalent of brown corduroy flares, but there’s something I like about it. I think it’s the progression from ‘bags of stuff’ to ‘lovely cake’ that I like. It also gets me started on taking photos, which means I’m more likely to take them as I go along, which definitely helps to make this blog a lot more interesting.

The green tea cake had to be both wheat and dairy free to accommodate the birthday girl’s dietary requirements, but I like to think that the missing wheat and dairy weren’t noticeable. The chocolate in particular was a nice surprise – it conforms to loads of different dietary restrictions but it tasted just like normal dark chocolate. This is probably because it was just normal dark chocolate but packaged and priced as special chocolate; I thought it was worth trying anyway, so that I know there’s a brand of chocolate that’s definitely safe for the many friends I have with wide-ranging and varied dietary challenges. The soy cream, too, was great and made a ganache just as well as normal single cream. Highly successful experiments all round!

The first thing I did was the beat the eggs with my trusty hand mixer, then gradually add the sugar and beat for what felt like approximately the duration of an ice age until it was thick and creamy – thick enough to leave trails behind the beaters. Then I mixed together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and tea, and added a quarter of this mix to the  eggs and sugar. I folded it in, then folded in a third of the oil. I continued to alternate quarters and thirds until there was none of anything left, and then I added the oat milk because it looked for too stodgy to produce a good sponge. Oat milk is another recent experiment I’ve made; I’ve been using dairy free alternatives in my own kitchen for a while, initially because I thought it would help my sinuses (it didn’t) and then out of habit, and because it keeps for longer than normal milk. Oat milk is very thin and very sweet, so it’s not suitable for everything (I wouldn’t dream of trying to make macaroni cheese with it, for example) but it works well for baking, cereal and hot drinks, unlike soy milk which curdles at the very mention of coffee, in my experience.

I scraped the cake mix into a greased (with olive oil) and floured (with wheat-free flour) tin, then baked at 170C for about an hour. The result was a dense but moist cake with a lovely crisp, sweet crust. This suggests to me that there is a little too much sugar in the recipe, but at the same time the bitterness of the green tea needs some sweetness to lift it, so I wouldn’t go changing it. Besides, I liked the crust, and got to eat a fair portion of it as I sliced off the slight dome that formed on the cake so that it would sandwich together better. Also, altogether now, I HAD TO TEST IT. Once out of the oven, I let the cake cool in the tin overnight, protected by a food umbrella to keep out marauding dust, mosquitoes and tigers.

I returned to the cake the next evening, when I made the chocolate icing. I made a ganache, which is so simple to do and produces such amazing results. What’s not to love about a mix of chocolate and cream? It also sets to a fairly robust finish – it’s soft, but not melty the way just chocolate would be if you left it at room temperature. I sliced the cake, then sliced it again since I got it wrong the first time, and this double slice left me, somehow, with the very thinnest slice of cake that you can imagine. You could almost read through it, though why you’d want to do that is anyone’s guess. This is why you shouldn’t hurry cake slicing, and why you also shouldn’t tilt the cake slicing wire, cos you end up with uneven slices and a case of the Rage. I hurriedly applied a thin layer of ganache to the top surface of what was now the bottom slice, then laid the World’s Thinnest Slice on top, patting it in to shape again where it had torn. I applied more ganache here and finished it off with the top layer, which I turned upside down to give an evenly flat edge (I hadn’t managed to mess that up, at least). I was sad about this slicing fail, thinking that all three layers would look completely different thicknesses, but to my delight, the cake looked like this when sliced:

How cool? You can see at the very edge where the slices are wonky, especially the bottom one, but your eye is totally drawn by the tram lines of chocolate in the middle. Yay!

I finished the cake off with some bronze glitter, which looked excellent with the dark chocolate, and some white glitter writing icing. As you can see from picture one, it was for Sally. And you can see from picture two, it’s unwise to use the writing icing in advance, because your cake ends up being for Mr Blobby instead.







I was a little concerned that the overall effect of the green tea and dark chocolate might be too bitter. Certainly it’s not a very sweet cake, but it seemed like everyone enjoyed it and nobody made a face like they were eating a lemon, unless they did it behind their napkin. A lemon icing was my plan B for this cake, if either the chocolate or cream were no good, and I think it would have worked well, as would a vanilla icing. I was going through all the different kinds of green tea I’ve tried in my head – lemon and vanilla are two, as are pear, lotus flower, grapefruit and mint. Mint chocolate might have been nice, in fact, I’ve only just thought of that. Maybe for the best, you don’t want to  overwhelm the green tea, as it’s not a very strong flavour in this recipe. Chocolate all the way, that’s what I say. Who’s with me??

Orange and Cardamom Cake with Ganache Frosting

I’ve ended up with some extra time on my hands, so here is the promised cake post, just to give a tiny bit of variety. This cake was good, like a posh Jaffa Cake (other orange based biscuits are available). It was more dense that I wanted, but the taste was fine, and it was very moist as a result. I love the mix of chocolate and orange, and throwing cardamom into the mix, well, that could only be a good thing.

The recipe is as follows, but if I was going to make this again I would definitely mess around with it a bit to improve the texture, probably by reducing the amount of flour and buttermilk, maybe using some milk chocolate in the ganache and perhaps increasing the cardamom. The recipe will work though, should you want a really dense orange cake with a hint of spice and a rich chocolate topping. Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it…?

Makes one nine-inch cake:

  • 250g butter at room temperature
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • rind of one orange, finely grated
  • 1 tsp cardamom pods, ground finely
  • 250g buttermilk
  • 250g flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the ganache:

  • 150ml single cream
  • 250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Alright, so a pretty standard cake method, with a riff on alternating ingredients towards the end. I’m not really sure what this alternating does, though I’ve seen and followed it in many recipes. I’ve just been blindly obeying, like a sheep. A sheep who can bake. Baa.

  • Grease and flour a nine-inch cake tin, and heat the oven to 170C.
  • Use a hand held mixer to soften the butter, then cream it together with the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the orange rind. Stop every now and again to scrape down the sides of the bowl, to make sure everything gets mixed fully.
  • Mix together the ground cardamom, flour and baking powder and sift. I did not sift the flour, which may have contributed to the denseness of the cake. It may not have, I don’t usually bother. Sift it if you like, how about that?
  • Add half of the flour mix and fold in, then go back to the mixer and beat in half of the buttermilk. Repeat.
  • Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for one hour. Baking longer and not opening the oven door towards the end may also have helped with the texture, but it did seem to be baked through and a skewer came out clean from the middle, so that probably isn’t the answer.
  • Cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  • While you’re waiting, make the ganache, which is joyfully simple. Put the chocolate and cream in a pot over a medium low heat, and melt, stirring gently. When it’s all melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool, then spread over the cooled cake (you’ll have some left over, unless you eat it all off the spoon).
  • To spread the ganache, I heaped a large amount on to the centre of the cake. Then I used the back of a spoon in a circular motion to push the chocolate towards the edges, and finally over the edge to run down and coat all sides. I had to add some extra for full coverage; I put small spoonfuls above any bare patches and pushed over, allowing the ganache to make its own way where possible. This left me with the lovely natural waves and swirls that you can just about see in the photos.

I let the cake cool overnight, then iced on some writing with my new glitter icing. The practise on my mum’s birthday cake helped me to get it right this time, or perhaps the white one was just less runny – either way, it came out legible and didn’t require any surgery with a cocktail stick. It wasn’t till we sliced it that I could see the texture; I was disappointed, but it wasn’t offputtingly dense, which I judge by the fact that three quarters of the cake (a large slice of which was mine) disappeared within minutes. Looking at these pictures is now manking me wish I had a slice in front of me, which can’t be a bad sign in itself. It does look a bit snooty in that bottom right picture – cake that turns its nose up at *you*, how do you like that, dieters?

Year of the Cake Part Four: Raspberry Joy Bars and Mister Rabbit

This weekend held our long overdue Secret Santa girls’ night. I think that sentence throws up a lot of questions, so I’ll try to clear them up now. I’ll start with the concept of girls’ night, which I usually abbreviate to GN because I’m not comfortable with that apostrophe – it *is* a night for girls, lots of us, so I guess it belongs to us, but it’s also a night *of* girls, so maybe it doesn’t need one at all… Anyway, the weekly night of girls started long ago, and I think it has its beginnings in the founders getting together to watch e.r. on the TV, and sigh over George Clooney. It evolved from there into bad film night, then grew in numbers, until it reached its current form. The nature of the night is thus: most Thursdays, someone’s living room (or bedroom, in the case of some tiny flats I’ve lived in) becomes a temporary home for as many girls as can make it along that week. Some weeks it’s three or four and some weeks it’s everyone, although this is sadly a rarity. We get together and eat our own body weight in cheese, crisps, chocolate, cake, nuts, sweets, crackers, wasabi peas, cheese straws, strawberries, biscuits and generally anything that takes our fancy or gets in the way. In amongst the eating, we tell each other our ups and downs, cheer for each other’s good news and swear at the bad (sorry mum), sing show tunes, watch edited highlights of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, dance, drink and do our very best to be merry to varying levels of excess. Another thing that happens, more often than not, is that we give presents. It’s an integral and wonderful part of GN, the present giving. Almost every week someone gets something – due to the nature of the night, you can find yourself not seeing someone for weeks on end if you each miss a few nights for whatever reason, and this means that birthday presents can go unopened for a long while after the event. There’s nothing quite like getting a birthday present six months on, long after what you thought was the last one was opened and marvelled over and you thought you had another year to go before the next day that was all about you, unless you could somehow have a fake wedding just to get the attention and gifts but without all the expenditure and paperwork, and husband finding… Presents are also given for new jobs, new homes and sometimes just because something has leaped from a shelf on a mission to find itself a more caring home with one of the ladies. The best thing, though, isn’t the present itself. Oh no. The best thing is opening your present to a chorus of cheering and ‘ooooh’-ing, and then sharing your present with everyone before wrapping it back up safely to take home. Especially if you get candles – candles or other items of a scented nature must be passed round each and every person without fail. That is the law.

It’s difficult to convey the meaning and the joy of GN without drumming up images of saccharin sweet, rose-tinted conversations about kittens – we are girls, and we are proud of it, but by all that is feminine we are not saps. It’s kind of hard to get across how great it is. I won’t try any further – if you’ve been, you know what it’s like. If you haven’t, and you don’t have something similar, you have my condolences. For those who have been and cannot return due to geographical issues – come and visit, and soon.

The Secret Santa night is really the epitome of the GN present giving. We hold it in February most years, because that’s usually around the time that everyone’s schedules are getting back to normal after Christmas and New Year. It’s organised a long while ahead of time to get a night that suits everyone, and we draw names from a bowl, box, hat or other handy receptacle to choose who we’re buying for. It stays a secret until the night when you hand over the present and, all being well, get one handed to you by someone else so that everyone has something to open. We opened them one at a time this year and there was much hilarity and rowdiness for quite some time, what with there being ten of us to take a turn. Good times.

However, the point of this post is not so much to discuss the present giving as the inordinate amount of baking that we churned out between us. Six people had made one or two items each, and our delightful and generous host Miss Prim had lad out a vast spread including a cheeseboard that I was considering marrying, and the most important element of any buffet: cocktail sausages. The table was already groaning when we arrived. This is a dining table, mind, and not a coffee table. It was full of savoury goods of a pleasing nature to begin with, then we cleared a lot of that despite several replenishing trips to the kitchen by Miss Prim, and they were replaced with sweet items of an equally pleasing nature (although the cheeseboard stayed put, possibly due to me clinging to it and wailing as if it was being sent off to war and not just taken into the next room). You’ve never seen anything like this amount of food, unless you’ve watched You Are What You Eat – it was like three or four of those ‘bad’ tables put together, and it was oh so good. Look, there is ONE of the two tables. Picture is courtesy of my lovely lady wife, to whom I am not married in any legal or romantic sense – we’re just wives. Mind-reading, sentence finishing, unspoken sentence understanding wives.

I had brought three things with me to share. Two were recipes I’d been wanting to try for a while and thought that this was an excellent time to do so. If I’m going to bake things to take along to girls night I like to do something savoury as well as or instead of something sweet, not least because my talents as a cake baker are quite, quite overshadowed by some of the other ladies! So I went for some little pretzel bites, as you can see artfully arranged in a tin I purloined from work at Christmas time (after the chocolates had been eaten, of course). I had intended to make actual pretzels, but by the time I was ready to shape and bake them I had run a bit short on time and, if I’m honest, was ready for a sit down. I baked for about four hours on Saturday and enjoyed myself thoroughly, but I always like to have time for a wee rest before I get ready to go out anywhere. So, instead of abandoning the pretzels, especially after spending time making the dough and letting it rise, I rolled the dough into little rounds instead and baked them that way. They made excellent mini cheese sandwiches. The recipe for the dough is here with the lovely folks at Leite’s Culinaria: http://leitesculinaria.com/21126/recipes-fresh-baked-pretzels.html

The second thing I made was this recipe for what I insist on calling Raspberry Joy Bars, because it’s easier to remember and sums them up pretty well: http://leitesculinaria.com/17667/recipes-raspberry-truffle-brownie-bars.html. Mine don’t look as fancy as the ones in the picture, but then I’m not a professional baker so I feel OK about that. I did tinker with this recipe quite a lot, mainly to suit what I had in the cupboard. I replaced the raspberry liqueur with cherry, for one thing. Where the recipe called for semisweet chocolate I used milk, and for unsweetened chocolate I used plain, but it was probably only about 50% cocoa solids because it was a generic brand as opposed to a more expensive, higher quality brand. I think next time I will use a darker chocolate and get a raspberry liqueur – the Joy Bars were lovely and received a lot of very generous compliments, but I think a darker chocolate would make them more luxurious and grown-up. If you are only going to try one thing from this page, make it the marbling decoration on the top of the cake. You can try it on anything you happen to be baking, it’d work with icing as well as a ganache. It’s easy and you wouldn’t believe how many people said they loved how it looked.

The last thing I made was a special and very late birthday cake for one of the ladies, Miss E. Her birthday was in December, and I’d wanted to make her a cake then but never seemed to be able to get it together enough to make the kind of thing I wanted to. Having GN at the weekend solved this problem as it gave me all day to bake before I went out, and I certainly feel like I made the most of the time. Miss E likes rabbits – they’re *her* spirit guide. I therefore wanted to make a rabbit cake, and had been thinking for a long while about how best to make that happen. I’d done the obligatory Google search to check out designs that other people had come up with and came across several cake rabbits coming out of cake hats. while I had originally been thinking of a swiss roll affair, possibly with a muffin for a head and a tiny wee fairy cake for a tail, the rabbit in a hat idea seemed more achievable with my as-yet less than professional skills. I opted for a cake hat and a fondant icing rabbit, and here he is!

The hat’s a bit faded and battered looking, and the poor wee guy did get quite melty and lose an ear in the heat of the kitchen, but he started off very cute, and kept himself together admirably long enough for me to hand him over. Miss E says she’s not going to eat him, which is saying a lot as she’s the same person who took an unceremonious bite right out of my sister’s frog cake’s head… The hat is a chocolate cake which I baked in a ramekin, then trimmed to give the flat, wide top and thinner stem, and then I sandwiched it up with another, smaller cake to give it height. The recipe I used was equal amounts of plain flour, caster sugar and margarine – about two ounces of each – along with one egg, a tablespoon of cocoa powder and a teaspoon of baking powder. That was enough for one ramekin and two cups of a muffin tray, which was more than enough for the size of cake that I was making, but I wanted to have a bit extra to work with in case anything went wrong. It’s coated with ready to roll white icing (cheating!) which I failed to dye black, and the rabbit himself is all just fondant with writing icing applied to give the details. Maybe not as delicious as the Raspberry Joy Bars, but almost certainly the cutest cake I’ve ever made. Happy belated birthday, Miss E!

Tunes: Among other things, I listened to The Presidents of the USA’s self titled album while I was doing all my baking. This is one of my favourite tunes on the album, mainly for the line ‘Put some clothes on and call me’. Full of excellent tunes to rock out to, check them out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FWIQ8erv-0

Movie: I had no time to sit down and watch anything after my marathon of baking, but my Secret Santa present was a copy of the excellent The Ref, otherwise known as Hostile Hostages. An odd film from Simpson and Bruckheimer, featuring no explosions and a very angry Denis Leary, this is my second favourite Christmas film, second only to The Muppets Christmas Carol. Includes the classic line ‘Your husband ain’t dead, lady. He’s hiding.’ Can’t find any clips, or an official trailer, but You Tube makes all things possible… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th9YhAva0Ss

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