Sunday, 10 June 2012

Creamy Caramel Cake and Peggy Porschen's 'Boutique Baking' Review

I have been an avid admirer of Peggy Porschen's for a while now. This manifests itself in my frequent perusal of her website, looking at her beautiful cakes, cupcakes and cookies, and putting together a wish list of courses I would do at the Academy if I had all the time and money in the world. Surprisingly, I hadn't owned any of her books until the lovely people at Quadrille Food sent me a review copy of 'Boutique Baking'.
After going through this book cover to cover and marking all the recipes that I wanted to try (as is my standard new baking book protocol), I was glad this was my first Peggy Porschen book, as going from my judgement of her other books, solely from their covers (as that one famous saying says you shouldn't do; and which I always do) this book appears to be a more beginners' guide to cake decorating that is expanded on in the other books. But rest assured, this is in no way full of amateur looking cakes. No siree! These are beautiful cakes that are accessible. Beautiful cakes that you or even I can make! And if you want something more challenging, there's something for you too. Try your hand at the intricate Glorious Victoria Cake or the fresh and pretty Scrumptious Carrot Cake.

I decided to start off with something a bit simpler; the 'Creamy Caramel Cake'; which I made to round off a lunch for some American guests. It's a great cake - albeit with relatively simpler flavours than I was expecting from a caramel cake - and was  an absolute hit with my guests. I only got to keep a small piece after we'd all had a piece and they requested some to take home. The cake was light and fluffy and the sugar syrup definitely adds a depth of flavour and moisture to the cake. I'd only used a sugar syrup once on a cake before now but will definitely be doing it again; probably when I try out all the other recipes in this book that I intend to.
The more I flicked through this book oohing and aaahhing over the beautiful pictures of baked goods on each page (I'm a sucker for food porn), the more convinced I became that it is the perfect book for beginners to baking full stop. It covers sweet treats such as meringue kisses, biscuits, cupcakes, layer cakes, classic cakes and bakes - e.g. lemon, almond and poppy seed cake - and drinks. And for each recipe it contains detailed instructions and the equipment needed to make yours look just like the ones in the picture - which, let's be honest, is always what we're aiming for. I spent lots of time being disappointed when I first started baking because although my cake would taste pretty good, it would look nothing like the one in the picture because the mere line at the bottom of the recipe telling me something like "smooth on your frosting with a palette knife" simply wasn't sufficient instruction.
Boutique Baking's instructions can be intimidating at first glance as there are so many words, but you quickly become grateful for the step by step instructions and advice which you can always ignore or skip if you are an experienced baker/decorator.

Next on my list to try out is the Lemon Limoncello Cake. Or maybe the Cosmo Cupcakes. Or even the Sticky Toffee Cupcakes ... ahh who knows. What I do know is that I didn't win the Euromillions on Friday leaving me the time to take every single Peggy Porschen Academy course ever so instead I'm going to work through my favourites in this book and then graduate to one of her other books; probably 'Pretty Party Cakes' :)

Recipe from Peggy Porschen's 'Boutique Baking'.


For the sponge
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour

For the sugar syrup
150ml water
150g caster sugar
scraped vanilla pod
2 tbsp Brandy

For the buttercream filling
100g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
50g dulce de leche or a can of sweetened condensed milk boiled in water for 3 hours

For the decoration
About 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Basic baking kit
Three 15cm (6in) round sandwich tins
Cake leveller or large serrated knife
Non-slip turntable
Flat disc to place on top of the turntable
15cm (6in) round cake card
Ridged side scraper (One from Wilton used in the book)

Bake the sponges one day ahead of serving.
Make the sugar syrup whilst baking the sponges. Prepare the filling and assemble and decorate the cake on the day of serving.
Dust the cake with the cocoa powder immediately before serving as, after a few hours, the cocoa powder may absorb moisture from the buttercream and appear wet.

Preheat the oven to 175C / Gas Mark 4.

Prepare the sandwich tins by greasing and lining them with greaseproof paper.

  1. To make the sponge - Place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.
  2. Beat the eggs lightly in another bowl and slowly add to the butter mixture while whisking quickly. If the mixture starts to separate or curdle, stop adding the egg and beat in 2-3 tablespoons of flour. This will rebind the batter. Once all the egg has been added and combined with the butter mixture, sift in the flour and stir until the batter is just combined. This will ensure the sponges stay light and fluffy.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins. If you find it difficult to measure by eye, use your kitchen scales to weigh out the amount of sponge mixture for each tin.
  4. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on your oven. If you are using deeper cake tins, the sponges will take longer to cook. The sponges are cooked when the sides are beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tins and the tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch. If in doubt, insert a clean knife or wooden skewer into the centre of each sponge; it should come out clean.
  5. To make the sugar syrup - While the sponges are baking, prepare the sugar syrup for soaking. Place the water, caster sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Set aside to cool and then add the brandy.
  6. Once the sponges are baked, let them rest for about 10 minutes outside of the oven. Using a pastry brush, soak the top of the sponges with syrup while they are still warm; this allows the syrup to be absorbed faster.
  7. Once just warm, run a knife all the way round the sides of the tins, remove the sponges from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
  8. Once cool, wrap the sponges in cling film and then rest them overnight at room temperature. This will ensure that all the moisture is sealed in and the sponges firm up to the perfect texture for trimming and layering. When trimmed too soon after baking, the sponges tend to crumble and may even break to pieces.
  9. To make the buttercream filling - Place the butter, icing sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and cream together until very pale and fluffy.
  10. Add the dulce de leche to the mixture and stir through until combined and smooth
  11. To assemble the cake - Trim and sandwich together the three sponge layers using one-third of the butter cream filling. With the remaining buttercream filling, cover or mask the top and sides of the cake.
  12. To decorate - Cover the chilled cake with another generous layer of buttercream and, using a side-scraper with ridges, created a sculpted barrel design. If you are unable to achieve a perfect sculpted side on your first attempt, simply scrape off any excess buttercream and repeat the process until you are happy with the result. Clean up the top with a palette knife.
  13. Chill until set. Dust the top of the cake liberally with cocoa powder before serving.
Serve the cake at room temperature. This cake is best enjoyed within 3 days of baking but it can last for up to 1 week.


Azuka said...

Looks delicious.

On a side note, you should add social links to your blog so we can like or +1 your posts. :-)

Chacha001 said...

Woww! Lovely.

Nwanne said...

Hi Vicki. I made the creamy caramel cake over the weekend, it was really lovely and easy. Best tasting buttercream, ever. Thanks, Nwanne

Unknown said...

@Nwanne thank you very much for feeding back and letting me know how it went. I am so glad you enjoyed it :)

Rania said...

thank you for sharing this looks really yummy...I was wondering can I use cover it with fondant or it won't hold under the fondant's weight?if not can I use this butter cream to cover a victoria sponge cake?..I am making a cake for my daughter's second birthday and I usually make a chocolate cake and cover with chocolate ganache but I want to try something different this time...thank you

Unknown said...

Hi Rania,of course you can cover this cake in fondant, it would hold the weight of the fondant I'm sure. You could also alternatively use the buttercream for a victoria sponge cake - I'd love to know what decision you make and see the final cake!

Rania said...

Hi Vickii...thank you for your reply:)...will send you a photo of the cake when it is done

Rania said...

I prefer yours because I think the syrup will make it moist but I am stuck in time,I have to cover it today with icing so I can put the fondant cover tom. and you mentioned that it has to be wrapped overnight before icing it:(

Unknown said...

Hi Rania, I didn't wrap it overnight before frosting it, I did it on the same day. I'm sure wrapping overnight helps the syrup infuse more but I don't think it is necessary. I believe it is more so that your cake layers are not so fresh that they break while you try to ice between them.

Rania said...

Hi Vickii
the cake turned out GREAT,really delicious,moist,this buttercream is the best one I tasted and it holds well under the fondant...thank you for encouraging me to do it...everyone loved it

Rania said...

I wanted to send you a photo of the cake but i didn't know how to do it:)