#136-137 Sponge Cake II and Butter Cream I

April has not been a bumper Grigson month like March was. This is due to the fact I am uber-busy with my PhD work at the minute, plus I’m doing the tiling in the kitchen too which does not help. No indeedy. Anyways, enough of the excuses… A kick up the arse came from the fact I had to provide a cake for the Dictyostelium group lab meeting, so I thought I’d do something straightforward – a sponge cake with butter cream. Great stuff; they have separate recipes in the book, so it would be two Grigsons with one stone. There are two recipes for sponge cakes and two for butter cream in English Food and I have already attempted one of each (see here and here), although in a funny order as you can see – this is because the Butter Cream I required a sugar thermometer, which I didn’t have at the time.

Ok, here’s the cake recipe. A word of advice though before I carry on – do not attempt this cake unless you have either an electric mixer or a very strong wanking hand…

Start off by whisking three whole eggs together with 6 ounces of caster sugar until light and frothy – this took 10 minutes using the Kitchen Aid on full whack. Stop when the eggs have reached the ribbon stage. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen, heat the oven to 190°C and grease and lightly flour two 7 inch sandwich tins. Also, gently melt 2 ounces of slightly salted butter with two tablespoons of water. Once melted, leave to cool until at least tepid. When the eggs are whisked, gently stir in the butter. Now fold in 4 ounces of self-raising flour by sieving a small amount in at a time and gently folding it in with a metal spoon to prevent the air bubbles from popping. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked – use a skewer, or whatever, you know the drill. Cool on a wire rack. Griggers says jam and cream is the best, or a nice butter cream, like this one…

The butter cream can be made whilst you are waiting for the cake to cook – especially if it takes two attempts to get the bugger right!

Melt 4 ounces of caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of water in a small saucepan. Once dissolved, raise the heat and boil it until it reached the ‘soft crack’ stack, or 135°C. Be careful here: use a very small pan – too large and the sugar overheats too easily becoming a caramel, which will ruin the whole thing. Whilst it is heating up, put two egg yolks into a bowl and lightly whisk them. When the sugar is ready vigorously beat it into the eggs with a whisk. The mixture thickens up as the yolks are cooked by the hot sugar. When just tepid, beat in 4 ounces of unsalted butter in small amounts until it is all amalgamated. Once cool, you can add all sots of flavourings – I went with some vanilla, but Griggers recommends plain chocolate or a tablespoon of slaked coffee granules. Just go crazy, kids!

#136 Sponge Cake II – 9/10. When Griggers this recipe is foolproof, she did not say it was foolproof and brilliant. The sponge extremely light and not at all rubbery like the usual Genoese sponge on account (I assume) the addition of the melted butter. This is the best sponge cake recipe I have used. Excellent – go make it right now!

#137 Butter Cream I – also 9/10. Griggers totally slagged-off the half-butter (or even margarine, heaven forbid!), half-icing sugar as essentially awful. Having a soft spot for that type of butter cream I was keen to see the difference. The difference is huge – I know it is a bit of a faff using the sugar thermometer etc., but it is well worth it. Once you’ve tried it, ladies and gents, you’ll never go back…

#135 Butterscotch Cake

I was a little bored on Tuesday evening so I thought I’d bake a nice cake for Cake Wednesday at work. I knew there had been no takers this week with it being close to Easter. Plus I’ve not made a normal cake for ages. This one is a variation on the pound cake – I’ve made them before (here is the blog entry) so I won’t go through it. The only difference is that caster sugar is substituted for soft dark brown sugar which gives it a richer, denser molasses flavour. The exciting thing being the butterscotch icing – I’d bought a sugar thermometer recently and not used it yet. I went a bit wrong with icing. Because I was in a rush, I heated it too rapidly before the sugar dissolved properly. Plus I accidentally heated it to the firm ball rather than the soft ball stage, which meant it went a bit too stiff. Hey-ho. If you try it, remember that slow and steady wins the race here. A little practise is required I feel. Any hints and tips are happily accepted!

For the icing (do as I say, not as I do…):

Slowly heat 6 ounces of soft dark brown sugar, an ounce of butter and two tablespoons of double cream until everything had dissolved. Now raise the heat and boil until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage using a sugar thermometer (turn the heat off as it approaches the temperature, as it keeps on a-rising!). Allow to cool until ‘tepid’ and beat. I’m not sure what it’s meant to turn into, but mine was a very stiff blob of sugar. I managed to spread it over the cake top with a wet palette knife and everything looked okay.

FYI: In case you were thinking that butterscotch doesn’t sound very English, but rather Scottish, you would be a fool (as I was). Scotch is a ye olde English word for score as proper butterscotch is hard and needs to be scored before it is broken.

#135 Butterscotch Cake – 6.5/10. I liked the cake as it was piled with dark brown sugar, so it could not be bad, but it was a little dry. I have a feeling that it was overcooked though – I still haven’t got to grips with the old fan oven and sponge cakes. I remember getting a handy hint from Anthea (a sometimes commenter on the blog) that you should put a some boiling water in a roasting tin and place it in the bottom of the oven to stop it drying the cake out. Needless to say, I forgot to. Oh well. The butterscotch topping was very sweet and very tasty, even though it didn’t quite turn out as expected…