Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas bites

My favourite Christmas decoration, not surprisingly an angel... I have lots of angels in the house around this time of the year.

Daddy's traditional Fisherman's soup with carp slices


Flower-shaped linzer cookies with meringue in the middle

Poppy-seed beigli (or bejgli), a traditional Christmas cake, which you can find in every household at this time.

My favourite foodie-present, a gorgeous cookbook holder from hubby

The engagement party

I've never really understood the wide-spread tradition of having an engagement party exactly at or slightly before Christmas. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year, I want to enjoy it for its sake and not connect it with another event, however joyful that might be. I even told hubby, when he was only a boyfriend of mine, that if he'd want to propose to me at Christmas, he'd better prepare for an unfavourable answer LOL
So you can imagine my terror last year, when my aunt's daughter announced that she would have her engagement party on 23rd December. Oh why, oh why?? Isn't one busy enough getting ready, baking and shopping for Christmas, why should one waste a whole day for other things, which would be so much more fun at any other time of the year? Anyhow, I survived that party, unaware that this was only the beginning... About two months ago my aunt's son announced that he was having an engagement party... right, you guessed, just before Christmas, on the 22nd. I didn't even have the strength to be really appalled, I was so tired because of all the stress this year and even agreed to make a similar cake as last year, as my cousin's fiancée liked it so much.
So before you start thinking I'm a naughty bitch, I must say I'm really pleased about the happiness of both my cousins, and I happily started planning how to twist the cake to make it unique. But I must say I'm really glad my brother is too young to get engaged, I don't think I would survive another party this time next year LOL In a few years' time, perhaps...

So as for the cake, last year I made Nigella's sour cream chocolate cake from HTBADG and coated it in pink icing, which I made myself - damn the fact that royal icing is not available here - with golden syrup, icing sugar, butter and some food colouring.
This year I wanted something different, so I made a marshmallow fondant, which failed miserably, perhaps marshmallows here are different from the American version, but the icing turned out to be a big chunk of rubber...
Fortunately I had some marzipan and managed to coat the cake in an acceptable way, making it Christmassy at the same time, though I had quite something else in mind when I started LOL But it went down a treat and the fiancée was really pleased, so it made me happy, too.

Festive cake

For the cake:
Follow the sour cream chocolate cake recipe in the book but use 1.5x amount of ingredients and bake in two 22cm tins

For the filling:
250g mascarpone
500g frozen chestnut puree, defrosted
50g soft butter
icing sugar to taste (depends how sweet your puree is)
a few tbsp rum to taste

For the icing and decoration:
250g marzipan
cocoa powder

The filling is very easy to make, just whisk everything thoroughly together and fill and ice the cake.

For the decoration, I rolled the marzipan until I thought it was big enough to cover the whole cake. Actually, I think you could even use 500g marzipan to get a smoother and thicker finish but I only had that much at hand. I coated the cake carefully, cutting the edges off, which I then kneaded with some cocoa powder and rolled out to make the ribbon. I used a ruler to cut out the ribbon evenly and folded it so that it slightly resembles a real ribbon LOL For the Christmas theme, I sifted cocoa powder through a piece of paper in which I cut out some stars.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A festive birthday cake

I don't think you can ever fail with a Black Forest Cake, no matter what the occasion is. Who doesn't like chocolate, cream and cherries in one cake? I certainly don't know many people who don't. And I certainly know my mum is mad about this cake, so it felt just right to make it for her birthday. And also because the cake is so festive and in the run-up for Christmas it's another advantage, isn't it?

So here's my recipe for Black Forest Cake:

for the sponge:
6 eggs, divided
180g fine caster sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
120g flour
50g cocoa powder

for the filling and decoration:
1l double cream
icing sugar to taste
cocoa powder (optional)
about 350ml pitted cherry preserve,
Kirsch or cherry preserving juice

Whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar until the mixture turns pale and multiplies in volume. Then beat the egg whites until they start to stiffen, then add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Add the beaten egg whites to the yolks and mix very carefully but firmly. Mix the flour and cocoa and add to the mixture in 2 or 3 parts, again, stirring carefully but firmly. You should avoid crushing the beaten egg whites as much as possible. Pour the batter into a 22cm round tin (whose bottom you have lined with baking parchment) and bake in pre-heated oven at 180 C for about 20-25 min, or until a tester comes out clean. Don't open the door until 15 minutes though, or the sponge will collapse. Let it cool completely, remove from the tin then divide into three layers.

Whisk the double cream until it stiffens with as much icing sugar as you like. I usually use 3-4 tbsp for this amount of cream. I like a bit of chocolate in the filling, so I add 1-2 tsps of cocoa powder to 1/3 of the cream, but you don't need to do it. Sprinkle over a few tbsp of Kirsch or the cherry preserving juice on a sponge layer, then spread about 1/4 of the cream (alternatingly and including the chocolate cream if you made it). Scatter half of the cherries on top. Repeat with the other layer. Put the last layer on top and spread a thin layer of cream (only white) on the cake. Put the cake in the fridge for about half an hour and spread over half of the remaining cream generously. This way you will get a crumb-free frosting. Decorate the cake with the remaining cream and a piping bag, as you please, and sprinkle with grated chocolate or similar, adding a pitted cherry here and there.