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.
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
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
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.
- To make the sponge - Place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To make the buttercream filling - Place the butter, icing sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and cream together until very pale and fluffy.
- Add the dulce de leche to the mixture and stir through until combined and smooth
- 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.
- 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.
- Chill until set. Dust the top of the cake liberally with cocoa powder before serving.