Monday, 21 April 2014

Recipe: Chocolate salted caramel marble cake



Recipe: Chocolate salted caramel marble cake
Source:
Heat (Issue 776, 5th–11th April 2014)


Growing up, a feature of Easter day in our family was always my Mum’s Springtime marble cake. This was a marble effect ring-shaped cake that was coated in chocolate icing, and filled in the centre with mini chocolate eggs, giving the impression of a nest. It’s been a few years since we’ve had this, now, so when I stumbled across this recipe in Heat magazine (of all places!) on a Stork promotional page, I just had to make it our Easter dessert this year.


The Chocolate salted caramel marble cake was always going to be a richer option than my Mum’s more traditional recipe. The white part of the sponge contained white chocolate rather than being plain, it had an inner salted caramel sauce, and it was topped with truffles. I couldn’t wait to ‘make this Easter marble-ous’ (Stork’s words, not mine!).


 










Although I followed the recipe printed in my magazine, a version of it can also be found on Stork's website where there is also a useful video (I did watch this prior to baking but not immediately before so I may well have done things differently!).

 











The only change I made to the recipe was using two types of caster sugar. About half of the quantity I used was the normal kind but I did mix golden caster sugar in to make up the amount as that’s what we had in stock.

 











The recipe for the cake itself was very easy – so much so that there’s nothing to really say about it! I followed all the instructions in the magazine and ended up with a decent cake. It did take five minutes longer to bake than had been suggested but that was the only issue at this stage. Once cooled, I did get someone else to slice the cake in two – I struggle to even cut a loaf of bread so I didn’t want to ruin my creation!














At the final stages of assembly, things did start to go a little wrong. When I added the inner caramel layer, it began too ooze out of the sides which made me nervous of adding too much. As a result, I think I used less than the recommended half of the mixture. This had implications on the truffles since the recipe said to make them from the left over ganache and caramel (the video on the website didn’t mention using the caramel in the truffles but this was part of the cake’s novelty for me so I just had to!). Since the caramel was runnier than the ganache and there was more of it, I didn’t want to mix everything in together and end up with a liquid mess that I couldn’t use. Instead, I tried chilling a teaspoon of the chocolate mixed with a teaspoon of the caramel and seeing how it worked...it didn’t!


By this stage, it was late on Saturday night and I needed the cake to be sorted ready for the next day (Easter!) so I didn’t have time to be patient. I’d left the separate bowls of ganache and caramel to chill so they were relatively firm so I decided to just go for it. I made a ball shape with the chocolate, drizzled some caramel over the top, rubbed the ball a bit more, and then plunged it into cocoa powder as I kept rolling the truffle. This was extremely messy as the mixtures were too soft, really, to be working with, but I did manage to get some kind of truffles out of the process. Ok, they looked a mess as they were squidgy rather than round (my family decided they looked like boulders!) but by the time they’d chilled in the fridge overnight, they were the perfect consistency! If I’d had the time to deal with them on Easter morning, I would have made them then instead, but that just wasn’t an option for me, unfortunately.


The main thing was that everyone absolutely loved the cake. I was told it was ‘a bit special’ and it was well received by all. Despite containing a lot of chocolate (particularly dark), it wasn’t too heavy, and the balance with the salted caramel was spot on. I always use my three year-old nephew as an indicator of the overall verdict and he ate the whole of his slice without problem...and this was straight after our roast lamb dinner!


The good thing about my caramel filling going, perhaps, a little wrong, was that I had a jug of the sauce left over which we could then pour over the top of the cake. This worked really well and, again, lifted the flavour to prevent it being too dominated by chocolate.


 











It may have looked a bit of a mess but this was a big hit and I’ve even been asked for the recipe. I’d definitely be happy to give it another go when I have a bit more time on my hands!


 

Ease of recipe: 9/10
Finished product:
8.5/10
Overall score:
8.75/10
Bake again?
Yes

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Custom Cupcake Company Berries & Cream Cupcake



Product name: The Custom Cupcake Company Berries & Cream Cupcake
Purchase details:
£2.00 for one cupcake (The Custom Cupcake Company)
Country of origin:
England

When I reviewed The Custom Cupcake Company Peanut Butter Brownie, I said I was sure I’d be back – and it didn’t take me long! I knew I wouldn’t be doing my diet over the extended Easter weekend so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to treat myself to another one of their filled cupcakes.


Since it was Easter, I deliberately steered away from chocolate, and went for this Berries & Cream Cupcake instead. I must say that the in-store description that included a white chocolate icing was part of the reason for this but since, technically, white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, that didn’t count!


I did my best to carry this cupcake home carefully but the bright pink frosting did look a bit deflated by the time I reached my destination. I still thought it looked very impressive, though – I just wish you could have seen it before I moved it! As well as the thick frosting, the pale golden sponge cake was drizzled with the aforementioned white chocolate, sprinkled with a bit of pink edible glitter, and topped with a deep red, real strawberry. Inside was a berry compote and cream filling that resulted in an appearance similar to a Victoria sponge. The cupcake didn’t smell overly strong but it did have a fairy cake aroma.


Now, I know The Custom Cupcake Company can’t take credit for this, but the strawberry was lovely and juicy! I love strawberries but I do find them a bit hit and miss in terms of their sweetness. This one was good, though, and the white chocolate drizzle helped the sweetness levels too.


I tried the frosting next and this was a massive sugar hit. It tasted a bit lemony but there was a mellower berry aftertaste to it as well. I think there must have a been a lot of icing sugar in there as it was a little bit gritty but this texture wasn’t really noticeable when combined with the cake.

On its own, the sponge tasted quite basic but had a fairly rich buttery flavour. It was, perhaps, a little dry, but I ate this the day after purchase so it wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, and this certainly wasn’t the case when combined with the other elements.


The cupcake’s filling was beautiful. The cream seemed to have a deep vanilla flavour that tasted similar to the creme layers you find in sandwich biscuits. The berry compote was a deep red in colour but also added an extra depth to the flavour (it was more than your average jam) and was very enjoyable.

Combined, the different parts of the cupcake worked very well together. I have a very sweet tooth but I can’t deny that I winced when I first tried the frosting – it was so sweet that it was almost sour! However, the filling distracted from this, and the compote also contained a couple of chewy seeds that gave the treat a more authentic feel.

This Berries & Cream Cupcake wasn’t quite as I was expecting because I’d misunderstood the description in-store. I had thought the pink frosting also contained white chocolate but this certainly didn’t taste like the case. Whilst I did still enjoy the flavour, I would have preferred a smaller quantity of frosting, a larger amount of filling, or both! However, there is no denying that this was another well-presented and tasty offering from The Custom Cupcake Company.

Appearance: 9/10
Aroma:
7/10
Taste:
7/10
Texture:
7.5/10
Overall score:
7.63/10

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns



Product name: Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns
Purchase details:
Two packs of four buns for £2.50 (Marks and Spencer Simply Food)
Calories:
207 per 68g bun
Country of origin:
UK 

I’ve been wanting to try a more exciting hot cross bun for a while but I’m from a more traditional family who just don’t do things like that at Easter. Imagine my delight, then, when I found this packet of new Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns in the freezer! I know these were purchased on a multibuy offer but, since I didn’t get them myself, I don’t know how much they would have cost for a single pack. 


These hot cross buns contained 8% ‘dark Belgian chocolate chips’ and 17% fudge and toffee pieces. They were presented on a cardboard tray in a simple clear plastic wrapper which allowed their standard appearance to be viewed clearly. Whilst these looked like ordinary hot cross buns, though, the dark bits were the chocolate chips rather than raisins. The buns’ outer appearance was mid-brown with a sticky-looking gloss and, inside, they were like brown bread rolls that had been flecked with chocolate.


The buns were sticky and moist to the touch and had a cinnamon cake scent that was strengthened when heated. There weren’t actually any serving instructions on the packaging and, whilst I enjoy microwaved hot cross buns, I know a lot of people toast them, so I decided to try them both ways. I also wasn’t sure whether or not to add butter (they already contained 2% unsalted butter and I expected the chocolate and fudge to be luxurious enough!) so I had each bun ‘half and half’. (This additional butter obviously wasn’t included in the above calorie count but I wasn’t worried about that on this occasion!)


I found it difficult to fit a bun’s halves into my toaster but their doughy texture did mean I could squish them in – they did get a bit stuck when I tried to remove them again though! I toasted them on the second lowest setting which resulted in a slightly burnt chocolate smell and, I thought, a hint of sweet raisins. However, I think this may have been my brain making a connection with the presence of cinnamon. The chocolate pieces looked a little burnt rather than melted but I could see where the toffee and fudge pieces had become molten.


The plain toasted half bun had remained surprisingly doughy and moist but had an added crisp too. Its flavour was familiar and not dissimilar to standard hot cross buns but there was an extra sweetness that was more like brioche. I definitely could have eaten a whole bun like this but I just had to go the whole hog in the name of research! The only downside was that I didn’t find either the chocolate or toffee fudge flavours were very noticeable as distinct elements.

On spreading the other half of the toasted bun with unsalted butter, its surface felt a little crispy, like actual toast. The butter melted in quickly and, understandably, added an extra level of flavour to the bun. However, this seemed to go beyond the butter itself, and actually brought the dark chocolate’s flavour out a little more – possible due to providing a greater contrast for the slight bitterness.

I microwaved my other bun on full power for 20 seconds. This made the chocolate look a lot more melted than burnt (you can see the mess it made on the plate!) and the dough just tore apart. This texture was just as enjoyable in the mouth – it was so soft and doughy that it stuck to the roof of the mouth beautifully. I still didn’t find the toffee fudge’s presence to be obvious but I did find the chocolate’s flavour more noticeable in this format. The bun was very sweet but this chocolate added a welcome undertone.


The butter melted in even more quickly on the microwaved bun and this was my favourite method of consumption. The texture was truly incredible. It was the same as the plain microwaved half, really, but it was just that little bit more special due to the butter making it slightly more dense. The chocolate’s flavour remained relatively subtle but it did add an enjoyable warmth too.

One thing I really don’t like about standard hot cross buns is the presence of mixed peel so the absence of this in these buns was an added bonus. Aside from that, these hot cross buns were very pleasant in their own right. The flavours weren’t as powerful as I’d expected (particularly the toffee and fudge pieces) but the separate elements presumably added to the overall warming sweetness on offer.

I probably enjoyed these more than normal hot cross buns but I know this was down to personal preference (more so than normal). My Dad also tried one of these buns and didn’t really enjoy it at all. He felt it lacked the spicier flavours that are present in the traditional version and, since this variety did taste very similar to brioche, he felt he may as well have been eating one of those instead. However, I would argue that the superb texture provided by these buns made them superior to brioche!

Appearance: 7/10
Aroma:
7.5/10
Taste:
8/10
Texture:
10/10
Overall score:
8.13/10

Friday, 18 April 2014

McVitie's Galaxy: Slices (cookie crumble)



Product name: McVitie’s Galaxy: Slices (cookie crumble)
Purchase details:
£1.00 for a pack of six slices (tesco.com)
Calories:
150 per slice
Country of origin:
UK


I recently spotted these McVitie’s Galaxy: Slices (cookie crumble) online and I just had to give them a go as Galaxy is my favourite chocolate. I’d not seen or heard of these before and the image on the website had the word ‘new’ on the packaging. However, this pack didn’t, so I don’t know if these have been around for a while or not!


These individually wrapped slices were baked for Mars UK and came in a packet that featured the usual Galaxy branding with purple features. It contained mouth-watering photographs of moist-looking biscuit bases topped with a smooth and thick milk chocolate topping. 


Pleasingly, the reality was exactly the same – always a bonus! The deep brown ‘crumbly cookie base’ looked a bit like tiffin, and I couldn’t help but agree with the description of ‘a generous layer of Galaxy milk chocolate’. It contributed to 23% of each 27.5g bar, in fact!


I’ve had the Galaxy Cookie Crumble chocolate bar before but I was interested to see how the combination worked with the biscuit being the dominant feature (46% of the product was simply ‘crushed cookies’). 


The slices had a really buttery scent with a hint of creamy Galaxy, and the texture was soft with a crunchy resistance. There was a lovely sweet and syrupy biscuit taste which mixed well with the cooling chocolate. I was particularly pleased that the creaminess of Galaxy’s unique flavour, whilst not overpowering, was still very noticeable.


I thoroughly enjoyed these McVitie’s Galaxy: Slices (cookie crumble) – much more so than similar products I’ve tried!


Appearance: 8/10
Aroma:
7.5/10
Taste:
7.5/10
Texture:
8/10
Overall score:
7.75/10
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