Archive for March, 2011

I am conscious of the fact that giant cupcakes and rainbow cakes both did the rounds of food blogs several months, if not years, before. Luckily, I have never let being fashion backwards slow me down. I recently bought a cheap giant cupcake mould and, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, decided to play baking with the 3 year old Miss B. When asked what kind of cake we should make, she said very firmly that it should have different colours in it and that one of them must be pink. And so the rainbow cake plan was set.

I used a basic, but enormous, butter cake recipe and tinted one third pink, one third brown (chocolate, naturally!) and left one third untouched. All three colours were enthusiastically sampled by Miss B and judged to be suitable.

Here is what it looks like when you let a 3 year old cook:

Messy messy fun

The separate pieces ready to go into the oven

And here is a poor quality photo of the separate pieces prior to assembly. As you will note, they had far too much mixture in them (oh no, forced to eat cake off-cuts, sad sad day)

Dpdgy phone photo of cake

And the finished product!


Messy? Yep! Healthy? Nope! Fun way to spend an afternoon with your little baking assistant? Absolutely!


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The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

It took me a while to work out that, in America, coffee cake just means a cake you eat with coffee, not a coffee flavoured cake. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it – after all, a teacake is not flavoured with tea. I’m not always the brightest.

Jamie and Ria presented two variations of this delicious coffee cake: Jamie’s All-American versions with cinnamon, chopped pecans and chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and Ria’s Indian-inspired version with saffron added to the sweet yeast bread dough and garam masala and cashews flavoring the filling.

Much as I loved the idea of a chocolate and nut combination, nuts are a no-go with the main cake eater. I therefore decided to make a caramelised pear and cinnamon cake, complete with the cinnamon chips I had found at an imported sweet shop in the city and bought on a whim.


Preparation time:

For the dough:
10 – 15 minutes preparation of the dough
8 – 10 minutes kneading
45 – 60 minutes first rise
10 – 15 minutes to prepare meringue, roll out, fill and shape dough
an additional 45 – 60 minutes for second rising.

Baking time: approximately 30 minutes

Equipment required:

Measuring cups for dry ingredients
Measuring cup for liquid
Measuring spoons
Cutting board and sharp knife for chopping nuts & chocolate if using
2 large mixing bowls
1 small mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl for beating egg whites, preferably plastic or metal
1 medium saucepan
Electric mixer or stand mixer
Wooden spoon
Rolling pin
Clean kitchen scissors or sharp knife
Plastic wrap & clean kitchen towel
Parchment paper
2 medium-sized baking trays (or 1 large if your oven is large enough)
Cooling racks
Serving platter
Vegetable oil to grease bowl


For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ – 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:

Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Ria’s version:
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below – or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

I halved the recipe and, for the filling, roasted diced fresh pear with sugar and cinnamon until the pear became soft and the sugar became cinnamon toffee.


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

My version

A confession (of sorts) – I have a Thermomix. I have a great love of my Thermomix. I therefore decided to try this recipe in the Thermomix, which basically meant chucking everything in to mix it, then using the knead function to knead it (funny that). I think it worked moderately well, although I thought the cake was a bit dry. That may also have been down to insufficient meringue though, as I couldn’t work out how to halve 3 eggs!

The dough proving

Dough with meringue and pears

The shaped cake prior to the second proving

The shaped, cut, proven (?) and cinnamoned cake prior to baking

The finished product!

I was happy with the flavour, but as noted above the texture seemed a bit dry.

So I started all over again…

Version 2 – Chocolate and Cinnamon Chips

I played this one pretty straight – masses of meringue and loads of grated dark chocolate and cinnamon chips (I had to get them out of the house in order to stop eating them by the handful anyway). I also made this one by hand, and can confirm that it is a really lovely dough to knead.

The dough spread with meringue, grated dark chocolate and cinnamon chips

"Arty" angled shot of the cake prior to baking

Finished cake and cheesy icing sugar shower (not literally cheesy, that would be disgusting)

Close up action shot

And the result? A bit hit and miss really – the cake was less dry but the filling was perhaps a bit sickly. Either way, both versions were great fun and I would happily make them again. Thanks Jamie and Ria for continuing my baking education!

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