Disclaimer: apologies for the crummy photos once again. I really need to pick up a new SD card and start using a non cell phone camera again.
[Disclaimer 2.0… I wrote this post nearly a year ago…]
Maybe you’ve noticed that the last several baking posts have been on the simple side. (Read: lots of cookies.)
I’m going to go ahead and blame pregnancy for my low baking mojo over the last little while. I’ve felt busy and a little low on energy, and I haven’t had it in me to spend a whole day in the kitchen. Beyond keeping up with our bread requirements (we need our daily toast!), I haven’t been experimenting much in the world of baking – for now, anyway.
Having said that, I couldn’t resist stepping up my game a little bit when I received my reprinted copy of Sweet in the mail. This is a gorgeous cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh that I received from my parents for Christmas. The only problem: evidently, there were several typos, misprints, and translation issues in the original printing. I imagine this is a cookbook author’s very worst nightmare. And so, I had to wait for the publisher to send me a revised reprinted version – autographed, no less!
Sweet is equal parts mouthwatering, impressive, and overwhelming. It generally seems to veer more in the advanced territory – think high end restaurant dessert, not grandma’s baking. I decided to drudge up my inner pastry chef to attempt a recipe for a book club meeting. I decided on the Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and white chocolate cream. It looked relatively simple (relative being the key word here), not overly decadent, and above all – delicious.
The recipe is in the mini-cake chapter, but you can also do it as one single large cake, which is exactly what I did. I don’t make a lot of cakes, partly because I find them hard to share, partly because I just find them plain old hard (maybe because I don’t make them often enough). But nonetheless, I gave it a go.
First up: the white chocolate cream. I had a heck of a time finding white chocolate in Squamish – I didn’t plan ahead far enough to order the good stuff online, so I settled on a bar of Lindt that I found at Nesters. Making the cream involves simmering the cream, then pouring the hot liquid over the chocolate and leaving it to melt before giving it a little stir. I don’t think my chocolate ever completely melted, to be honest.
The whole thing cools for an hour, and you come back to it later by adding more cream and whipping the whole thing for a good, long while in the stand mixer.
While the chocolate is cooling, you can start on the strawberries. True story: I baked this cake in early April and I had a HECK of a time trying to find strawberries in Squamish! I know it would have been ever better if I had waited for fresh, juicy strawberries from the Squamish Farmer’s Market, but I did the best I could with what I had. Making the strawberry layer is kind of like making jam: you boil the berries, some sugar, and some lemon juice in a saucepan. You are supposed to add an empty vanilla pod (which you use for the cake), but I only had vanilla extract – no pods here (extract is expensive enough!) – so I skipped it over.
Cake time! First, you whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla (seeds, normally, but extract for me) and lemon zest over a double boiler. You really, really whisk it – continuously, for 5 minutes, which doesn’t sound long but man oh man, does it start to feel long after awhile. Then, the mixing gets kicked up a notch, as the ingredients take a turn being whisked in the stand mixture. They don’t give a timeline – they just say “until the mixture has tripled in volume and is no longer warm”, so I made sure to really give it time and let it cool down.
Next, flour and salt get sifted three times (this is no joke!) before being gradually folded into the whisked egg/sugar mixture from the previous step. Once you’ve managed to incorporate it all without causing the whole thing to collapse, you drizzle in some melted butter, which gets (carefully, carefully) folded in, too.
Finally, the whole thing is ready to bake. They suggest about 25 minutes for a longer cake, and I left mine in for 30 – though I think I still pulled it out a little early because, as you can see, I had some minor collapsing issues.
Once the cake has cooled completely (pro tip: don’t rush this step unless you are in the Great British Bake Off and time is money), you slice it in half and get ready to fill. Yeah – my slicing skills could use a little work.
The layering process goes like this: cooked strawberries (so the jamminess can seep into the lower layer);
then half the white chocolate cream;
then fresh strawberries;
then more cream;
and finally, the top layer of cake.
The entire thing gets dusted with some icing sugar. It’s pretty – but unfortunately for me, there wasn’t much room to hide my errors.
It wasn’t pretty, but luckily, it was delicious. As suggested in the recipe, I served it up only a few hours after I baked and assembled it. I knew a mostly naked (i.e., not iced) sponge cake would probably dry out quickly, but it was nice and moist when we ate it.
Although this recipe was a little intimidating because it required a number of different recipes and steps, it ended up being pretty easy once I broke it down step by step. And man oh man, it was delicious. I hope I can muster up the energy to attempt a few more Sweet recipes over the next little while. I can’t promise they will be pretty, but I have a good feeling they’ll taste phenomenal.