Baking | Sinful Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche … chocolate + toffee = heavenly!

“In today’s world, when many of yesterday’s fashionable habits are today’s misdemeanors, we should rejoice that a chocolate dessert can bring so much innocent pleasure.”
Marcel Desaulniers

hocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche 1Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche … a sweet beginning to 2014. Always fun to end a year decadently {Dark Chocolate Kumquat Amaranth Mousse Cakes}, and begin the next one on a clean slate. As in my case, maybe with a dose of some more decadence? Actually, it’s more of a ritual because the daughter was born on the 2nd of Jan. Every year begins with a baking frenzy, and of late, chocolate is being demanded more than ever before!

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche It was more frenzied when she was young as there had to be cookies, brownies, dips too. The works! As they grow up, the pressure here falls … increases everywhere else I have to add! This year was the big 18 and most of her day went with friends as expected. For me, it was a situation which reminded me of Driving Ms Daisy … I drove her up and down all day long! Since I love driving, I cannot complain!

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche The previous day was busier than I could manage. The cake became a rushed affair. I did have this fancy fondant cake in mind, the colours that she would have loved, with stuff on top which might have knocked her breath away etc… that remained in my dreams! Instead, between racing around like a headless chicken for two whole days, I threw in one genoise after another. Cakes baked, frosting was the next challenge. Thankfully I had a tin of dulce de leche made from an earlier batch when I did this Banoffee Pie.

Dulce de leche,” meaning candy of milk or milk jelly in Spanish, is a rich and decadent sauce or syrup, similar in flavor to caramel. Unlike caramel, however, which is made by heating sugar, dulce de leche is prepared by heating sweetened condensed milk. Dulce de leche is especially common in the desserts of various South American countries, including Argentina and Uruguay.

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Might work I thought. Well it had to because I had cut it too fine. While she had a friend over to ring in her birthday at midnight, the poor mother stood in freezing January temperatures trying desperately to fill a chocolate genoise with a hair brained ‘toffee inspired‘ filling idea. Fast approaching the Cinderella hour, I ended up using an adjustable dessert ring  {one of my best buys in Sydney many years ago} and gelatin to stabilize the filling.
Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Thankfully it turned out fine and ‘set‘ overnight, else I might have wept copious tears. Chocolate and toffee are a wonderful combination. With less than an hour in hand, I did a quick dark chocolate ganache to frost the cake, and made some shards to garnish. There was just enough time to give it a dusting of powdered sugar, take a few snaps …

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche … and the rest is history! I didn’t get any shots of a slice as the cake went pretty quick after the 18 year old did the honours. I am however sure I will make this again soon. Maybe as soon as I get those cans of condensed milk into the pressure cooker again!

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Baking | Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin Compote

“Life is a great big canvas,
and you should throw all the paint on it you can.”

Danny Kaye

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteWhen we were very young, we received  a Danny Kaye for Children LP as a gift. We spent HOURS listening to “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat”, “Tubby the Tuba Song”, “Popo the Puppet”, “Laugh it Off Upsey Daisy” … and so many more.  Can’t not mention “I’m Late” from Alice in Wonderland. Did you listen to Danny Kaye when you were little {alright, I’m like talking the 70’s!}? Life was carefree, full of hide & seek moments, climbing trees – a laugh-riot all the time with simple and fun comfort zones everywhere!

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteI often miss those ‘no TV, no computer, no i-this, that and the other‘ days. Days when you could count the minutes pass, catch butterflies and grasshoppers, and languish mindlessly in the mid day sun. Can still feel my shaky little hands gently lifting the needle of the record player to place it on the LP … blissful! I often feel bad that my kids will never know simple joys of playing and listening to an LP … their comfort zone existing in plug-ins and downloads!

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteThis dessert was a result of one of my recent carefree adventures,  one of those things that happened. I seldom follow a plan for desserts I serve at home as this is my playing ground; my experimental comfort zone. I know that if my culinary escapades turn out good or even just OK, my sweet guinea pigs will lap them up. They’ll let me know whether it’s a ‘HIGH FIVE’ or just ‘Hmmmm OK‘, but they won’t let it go waste! I count my blessings…

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteThese verrines were lapped up joyfully. I had a vanilla bean genoise sponge ready, one that I wanted to make into a strawberry kiwi cake for someone, but that day strawberries played truant in the market. {Yes, the strawberry season in North India has just begun again}. I came back rather disappointed, and baked a coffee genoise instead, but had this basic sponge on hand. The daughter declared that she wanted to frost it on Sunday…but as I knew would happen. With her exams on, and rather lost as always, she forgot about it! It still played on my mind …Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteAll of a sudden, another frosted cake seemed a boring proposition. I looked around and saw a sachet of lebkuchen spice that spicy Meeta had got for me a while ago. YES… that was definitely part of my dessert,  maybe in cream. The mind began wandering. What next? I saw these coffee mugs, and thought ‘layered dessert’. One thing led to another, and soon I was whizzing chunks of the cake in the food processor to get a breadcrumb like mix. What followed was layers of vanilla genoise crumbs, lebkuchen cream, and more crumbs. Scrabbled through the larder. What would go with warm, spicy Christmas flavours that the lebkuchen spice threw up so enticingly? It’s a seductive spice blend, one which calls your name! Apple compote sounded like an idea, maybe with craisins or raisins. Some orange zest too? I was on the track.Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteMake sure you leave the cream whipped to soft peaks so it mingles gently with the cake crumbs, moistening it as you allow it to stand in the fridge for a couple of hours. It permeates the layers and infuses the lebkuchen spice aroma right through. This is a light dessert, yet quite satisfying. I do love verrines for their appealing looks. Play around with layers if you like. The space within is your canvas. I think verrines are a wonderful playground of colours and textures.Make the holiday season fun. Grab any transparent glasses, coffee mugs, goblets, shot glasses, ice cream bowls you have, doesn’t matter if they are mismatched. Begin the layering. Add a red cranberry compote layer to tie the colours in nicely, and top the glasses with a sprig of mint. Red and green ribbons swathed around tie it all together nicely. I love dressing up my food, and I’m having fun as you can see. {Thank you Mia for the vanilla beans that I spiced my genoise up with, and the ribbons! Love them!!}

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteLebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin Compote
6-8 servings { depending on size of glass}
Prep: 30 mins | Cooking: 25 mins | Assembling: 10 minutes
2/3 of a 3 egg vanilla genoise sponge
300ml low fat cream {25% Amul, chilled}
3-4 tbsps powdered sugar
1 tsp lebkuchen spice
Method:
Whip all ingredients till the cream holds soft peaks.
Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteApple Craisin Compote
3 medium apples, peeld,cored, chopped
1/2 tsp lebkuchen spice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 cup water
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup craisins/raisins
Zest of 1 orange
Method:
Place all ingredients in heavy bottom pan. Simmer, covered till aples are soft and liquid almost evaporated. Stir from time time. Taste and adjust lime and sugar {and lebkuchen} if required.
Genoise cake cubes for topping:
18-24 tiny cake cubes, like croutons
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
Place sugar and butter in a frying pan on simmer. Once the butter and sugar melt, before the sugar turns brown, add the cake cubes, and toss them around to coat all sides.
Keep an eye on them, and take off once the sides begin to get caramelised. Cool and store in an airtight container until use
Assembling the verrines:
Run genoise slices in food processor for a minute or two till you get a fine breadcrumb like mixture. Spoon 2-3 tbsp per glass.
Add 2 tbsp of lebkuchen spice cream over the crumb layer,and add some more cake crumbs. Divide any remaining cream over the second layers. Poke a thin cake tester through the centre to gently ease some cream through to the bottom layer.
Spoon the warm apple-craisin compote over the second layer of cream, and chill until time to serve.
Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteTop with crisp sautéed genoise cake cubes!
♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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Chocolate Chip & Strawberry Shortbread Streusel BarsDo check out these Chocolate Chip & Strawberry Streusel Bars I made for the Holiday Cookie Exchange @ Lovefeasts Table

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{Baking} SWISS BLACK FOREST CAKE … whipping up low fat cream into submission!

“Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection”
Rose Levy Beranbaum
Was missing from bloggerville for a while as we took the kids for a vacation to a charming town called Gangtok tucked away in the Himalayas in the North East of India. It was a 2 hour flight from New Delhi, and then a 5 hour bumpy car ride to the resort. From there, I thought I would tweet and blog a bit, but surprise surprise … we had no connectivity there! It was a surreal feeling in some ways not to be able to keep in touch with the external world. In my free time I experienced twitter cravings, FBC withdrawal symptoms etc and at times felt I had disappeared into oblivion. Thankfully there was loads to do there, so these feelings were pretty short-lived!

Time to return after a good 6 day break in the beautiful Himalayan hills, and we landed on the eve of the lad’s birthday! Didn’t know what hit me as I faced his extreme birthday excitement, piles of laundry, the feeling of extreme food disconnect, and the panic that in 6 days I might have forgotten how to cook & bake! I was mighty relieved that I had baked the basic sponge for his birthday cake and frozen it before we left. Phew!!

Crept out early the next morning, while the rest of the family luxuriously snoozed in dreamland, cursing my luck, but the cake had to be assembled, and that too in soaring temperatures! Yes indeed, we were back into summer. From a cool 15C in the hills, we landed the night before at 39C The day highs here are back to 42-44C. The impending task of frosting a cake in such smoldering conditions was not exactly appealing, but I was  determined to stick to my choice of Swiss Black Forest Cake. The upside was that almost all parts of the cake can be made in advance, so assembling it is a breeze! In retrospect, it was the best Black Forest Cake we’ve ever had! Am still ruing the fact that it disappeared rather too quickly!


Rose Beranbaums version of the Black Forest Cake, a German Classic, was inspired by Confiserie Tschirren in Berne, Switzerland. They brought the recipe from Germany after World War II, and it has since become the national cake of Switzerland. In her words, the Swiss version is far lighter and more delicate than the original German one, which also includes buttercream.

My version of the cake is one which is quite popular in bakeries and patisseries all across India. I think it’s referred often as the Black Forest Gateau here, and is made with whipped cream and canned cherries. I took advantage of fresh cherry season, and loved the way the cake came together. The crumb was light and very moist, the filling luxurious and the flavours outstanding. Mr PABs verdict … the best BFC he’s ever had!

A very sweet reader of my blog, Zareena from the UAE sent me this beautiful book a short while ago. I used The Cake Bible last month to make these Cherry and Matcha Cheesecake Pots. I waited impatiently for the son’s birthday to arrive so I could bake a cake from it. On the cover it says, “If you ever bake a cake, this book will become your partner in the kitchen”! Words that ring true for me! I am also happy to blog about this because I get a large number of requests from home bakers especially in India for a BFC recipe, and even more queries for whipping up low fat cream. Our basic problem in India is that we get just one sort of cream here, a 25% low fat cream {Amul}, and in warm weather, it almost never gets whipped up. I was thrilled to read how Rose Beranbaum found a way to get the butterfat back into the cream. To quote her, “I am both abashed and delighted to announce that it is the very soul of simplicity“… music to my ears!!

Swiss Black Forest Cake
Minimally adapted from The Cake Bible, Rose Beranbaum
Serves 12-15
2 moist chocolate genoise cakes {recipe follows}
500gms cherries {fresh, frozen or canned}
1 cup syrup {recipe follows}
1 portion Real Old Fashioned Whipped Vanilla Cream {recipe follows}
Fresh cherries, grated dark chocolate and chocolate flakes for garnishing

Moist Chocolate Genoise
Adapted minimally from The Cake Bible, Rose Beranbaum
230gms dark chocolate
3/4 cup water
8 eggs
1 cup vanilla sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornflour

Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare 2 9 x 2″ spring form cake tins – greased, bottoms lined with baking parchment, greased and floured again.
Sift the flours. Reserve.
In a large pan, bring the chocolate and the water to boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the chocolate thickens to a pudding like consistency. {The original recipe has 1 cup of water, but I found it way too much and the chocolate took forever to thicken}. Cool completely.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl on high speed till tripled in volume, about 7-10 minutes. {I use an electric hand beater}
Sift 1/2 the flour mix over the beaten egg mixture, and fold in gently but rapidly until some of the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour until all the flour has disappeared. Fold in the chocolate mixture until incorporated.
Pour immediately into prepared pans {about 2/3 full}, and bake at 180C for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Loosen the sides with a metal spatula/butter knife, and invert onto lightly greased cooling racks. Re-invert to cool. {At this point, the cake stays at room temperature for 2 days, in the fridge for 5 days, and in the freezer for 2 months. I froze it for 10 days, and brought it down into the fridge the night before I was due to use it}
Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp cherry brandy / liqueur / kirsch {optional}
Bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Take off heat, stir in the liqueur if using, cover and allow to cool. {Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month}
Cherries:
500gms fresh cherries, pitted {reserve 8-10 for topping}
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar {depending on how sweet they are}
I tossed the cherries in the sugar and froze them as suggested by Rose Beranbaum in The Cake Bible. The sugar helps them hold shape. I brought them down into the fridge the night before, drained any liquid, and roughly chopped them up for use. I think you can use freshly pitted, chopped ones too. I have used canned cherries in the past. Halve the cherries if they are too big.
Real Old Fashioned Whipped Vanilla Cream:
Adapted from Rose Beranbaums recipe
800gms low fat cream {I used 25% Amul Cream}, chilled
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean scraped
3-4 tbsp powdered sugar {increase if desired; as per taste}
Refrigerate the bowl and beater for 15 minutes.
In a small pan, melt the butter and 1/2 cup cream, stirring constantly till the butter has completely melted. Add the scraped vanilla seeds, and bean, mix well. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup to cool to room temperature. {Remove the bean before use}.
Beat the remaining cream with sugar until soft peaks are reached. Now begin adding the butter in a gradual stream, beating constantly on low speed, until stiff peaks are formed. {Because the temperature that day was about 43C, I didn’t get very firm whipped cream, but it was good enough to fill and frost the cake.}
Assembling the cake:
Split the chocolate genoise horizontally to get  4 layers. Sprinkle both sides of each layer with the syrup, and reserve on platters. Place the bottom layer on the serving platter.
Reserve about 1/2 the cream for the topping and frosting. Take a third of the remaining cream and spread over the bottom later. Distribute 1/3 of the cherries over the cream, poking into the cream. Repeat with the remaining 3 layers.
Put about 1/2 a cup of cream in a piping bag to make rosettes on top if desired. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream. Cover the sides with grated dark chocolate. Pipe rosettes on top, sprinkle chocolate flakes in the centre, and place cherries on the rosettes. Chill until ready to serve. {I found the cake easier to cut with a serrated knife because of the cherries in the filling}
Note: The cake will taste better if allowed to chill for at least 4 hours to help the flavours to mature.
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