Thursday 29 September 2016

Three beautiful cakes for that special summer occasion

Hannah Mills

Published 03/05/2015 | 02:30

Gluten-free ginger and vanilla cake
Gluten-free ginger and vanilla cake
Strawberry layer cake with chantilly cream
Red velvet cake

Special occasions and celebratory Communion buffets all call for a great cake centrepiece. Hannah Miles is the queen of the cáca milis, each one more spectacular than the next

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Gluten-free ginger and vanilla cake

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Although this sponge is gluten-free, you would not know it and it is therefore nice enough to serve to anyone, whether they are allergic to wheat or not. Filled with a delicate whipped ginger cream and topped with pretty camomile flowers or daisies, this is a simple summer cake. It is important to use gluten-free icing sugar, as some anti-caking agents contain wheat. Serves 10.

You will need

225g caster sugar

225g butter, softened

4 eggs

140g ground almonds

115g gluten-free self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons buttermilk

4 balls stem ginger preserved in syrup, finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of the preserving syrup

icing sugar, for dusting

edible, pesticide-free camomile flowers or daisies, to decorate

FOR THE FILLING

250ml double cream

2 tablespoons ginger syrup

2 x 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

For the cake, whisk together the sugar and butter until light and creamy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg is added. Add the ground almonds, flour, ground ginger, vanilla and salt and whisk in. Fold in the buttermilk, chopped ginger and ginger syrup, then divide the mixture equally between the prepared cake pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and spring back to the touch, and a knife inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When you are ready to serve, put the cream and ginger syrup in a mixing bowl and whisk to stiff peaks. Place one of the cakes on your serving plate and top with large spoonfuls of the cream. Place the second cake on top and dust with icing sugar. Place the camomile flowers or daisies on top of the cake and serve immediately. Although the flowers are edible, they are best used for decoration purposes only, as they can have a bitter taste. Never consume floral decorations unless you are certain it is safe to do so.

Serve straight away or store in the fridge until you're ready to serve. As the cake contains fresh cream, it is best eaten on the day, although it will keep for up to two days in the fridge.

Strawberry layer cake with chantilly cream

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This is a perfect summertime cake with cream and fresh berries and perfectly scented with vanilla. If you want to make a smaller cake, you can use a 4-egg cake batter and make the cake in the smaller 20-cm/8-inch square pan instead, halving the quantity of cream and strawberries.

If possible, use real vanilla seeds in the Chantilly cream rather than vanilla extract, as it gives a better flavour. If you are lucky enough to find wild strawberries, these make beautiful decorations. Serves 18

You will need

FOR THE 6-EGG CAKE BATTER

340g butter, softened

340g caster/granulated sugar

6 eggs

340g self-raising flour, sifted

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

600g strawberries

5 tablespoons strawberry jam/jelly

icing/confectioners' sugar, for dusting

a few strawberry leaves, for decoration

FOR THE CHANTILLY CREAM

600ml heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean

powder or seeds of one

vanilla pod/bean

2 tablespoons icing/

confectioners' sugar, sifted

20-cm/8-inch and 25-cm/10-inch square loose-bottomed cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4. Use an electric whisk to mix the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk again. Fold in the flour, baking powder and buttermilk or sour cream using a spatula, until incorporated.

Fold the vanilla into the cake batter and spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pans, dividing the mixture approximately two-thirds into the larger pan and the remaining one-third into the smaller pan, so that the depth of the cakes is equal.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and spring back to the touch and a knife inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. The smaller cake will take less time to cook than the larger one, so check it regularly towards the end of the cooking time. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Chantilly cream, put the cream, vanilla and icing/ confectioners' sugar in a large bowl and whisk to stiff peaks.

Set aside one or two of the whole strawberries for decoration, then hull and slice the remaining fruit.

Cut each cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife. Place the bottom half of the larger cake on a serving plate and spread cream across the surface. Cover the cream with some of the strawberry slices and 3 tablespoons of the jam.

Top with the second large cake half and dust the top with icing/confectioners' sugar. Spoon a tablespoonful of the jam in the centre and spread out a little, keeping it in the centre of the cake so that it will all be covered by the smaller cake - this will hold the smaller cake in place. Place the bottom of the smaller cake on top of the jam and repeat the above steps with the cream and the remaining strawberries and jam.

Place the second half of the small cake on top and dust with icing/confectioners' sugar. Decorate with the reserved whole strawberries and a few strawberry leaves. The leaves should be removed before you cut the cake.

Serve straight away or store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. As the cake contains fresh cream, it is best eaten on the day it is made.

Red velvet cake

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Red velvet cake is an American favourite, flavoured with cocoa and chocolate and coloured with red food colouring. This cake is coated in a thin layer of buttercream and white roses, and would make a stunning wedding cake. Serves 14.

You will need

FOR THE 6-EGG CAKE BATTER

340g butter, softened

340g caster/granulated sugar

6 eggs

340g self-raising flour, sifted

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

60g unsweetened cocoa powder

100g plain/bittersweet chocolate, melted

red food colouring gel food-safe, pesticide-free white roses, to decorate

FOR THE FROSTING

200g cream cheese

400g cups icing/confectioners' sugar, sifted

50g tablespoons butter, softened a little milk (if needed)

3 x 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment

2 x 12-cm/5-inch round springform cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4. Use an electric whisk to mix the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk again. Fold in the flour, baking powder and buttermilk or sour cream using a spatula, until incorporated.

Sift the cocoa powder into the cake batter and, using a spatula, fold in, together with the melted chocolate and a few drops of red food colouring.

Divide the mixture between the prepared cake pans, adding less to the smaller cake pans and more to the larger ones so the batter is of equal depth in all. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the cakes spring back to the touch and a knife inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. The smaller cakes will take less time to cook than the larger ones, so check regularly towards the end of the cooking time. Leave to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.For the frosting, whisk together the cream cheese, icing/ confectioners' sugar and butter until you have a smooth stiff icing, adding a little milk if the frosting is too stiff.

Place one of the larger cakes on a serving plate and cover with a layer of frosting. Top with the next large cake and repeat the steps so that you have a stack of the three larger cakes. Spread a little icing in the centre of the stack of cakes and place one of the smaller cakes on top. Spread the top of the smaller cake with a little of the frosting, then place the final cake on top.

Using a round-bladed knife, spread the thinnest layer possible of frosting over the cake so that the cake is still visible through the frosting. Decorate with the roses. These will not be edible, so they are for decorative purposes only and should be removed as you cut the cake. Do not eat any floral decorations unless you are certain it is safe to do so.

This cake will keep for up to two days stored in an airtight container, although it is best eaten on the day it is made.

‘Naked Cakes’ by Hannah  Miles, published by Ryland Peters & Small

Photos © Steve Painter

Irish Independent

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