Monthly Archives: July 2011

Harvey Wallbanger cake redux

For the past few weeks the bottle of Galliano that I bought for my Harvey Wallbanger cake has been staring at me.  The only two options I have are to drink it, or to bake another cake.  I went for the second option.  However, there were a few things about the cake I didn’t like the first time.  The taste was a bit mild and the icing was way too runny, so I vowed to fix these things this time around. I experimented a bit with the recipe.

One thing that the non-from scratch versions of the cake use is vanilla Jello instant pudding.  However, with the lack of pudding in the UK (pudding here is something, or rather lots of somethings, very different), I needed to find something else that might work.  I went for custard powder.  Basically it’s just corn starch with some color and flavorings, so I decided to use that instead of the corn starch in the recipe.  I also decided to add a few more tablespoons, so I upped it to five, hoping that it might make for a moister cake.  The second thing I did was to only use Galliano.  Since the taste of vodka is practically non-existent, I figured using all Galliano in place of the vodka might infuse the cake with more flavor.  I also decided to add less liquid to the glaze in order to make a thicker glaze.  I also baked the cake for five minutes less than I did before.

The cake ended up tastier.  It was still not quite the consistency as the one I remember as a child, but I think box cake mixes just have a different texture, so it’s likely that I will never achieve that soft texture.  It was still a bit dry, but getting better, so if I make it again, I might add more orange juice to the batter just to see what happens.  Also the glaze was much better, as you can see in the picture.  I noticed that the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of vodka in the glaze, and I think I added 1 tablespoon, so it’s probably my fault the glaze was so runny.  This time I went with 2 tablespoons of total liquid (which was much too thick) then added a splash more Galliano to it to thin it out a bit more.  Overall, I think I ended up with a slightly better cake, so I’m happy with how it ended up.  The flavor of the cake as a whole is still a bit mild, so I’m not sure how I can improve that.  I suppose I could add more vanilla extract or maybe some orange extract in order to punch the flavor up a notch.

Harvey Wallbanger cake redux

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Cake


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Big Apple Pie

About a week ago, I decided to try a new recipe out of my Serendipity cookbook.  The recipe looked interesting as it had a new pie crust that looked interesting, and I was eager to try something new.

Here’s the recipe (as I couldn’t find it online anywhere):

For the Crust:

  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup cold water

For the Filling:

  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 5 large Red Delicious or Johnathan Gold apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  1. To make the crust:  Have two identical 9 inch pie pans ready.  Add the butter and flour to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.  Add the cheddar cheese and process briefly to blend.  With the machine running, pour in the cold water in a steady stream.  Process just long enough to completely blend.  The mixture will have the texture of cake batter, not a traditional flaky pie crust.
  2. Scrape two-thirds of the batter into one pie pan.  Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture firmly onto the base and up the sides of the pan, forming a uniform crust about 1/4-inch thick.  Place the remaining batter in a small bowl.  Refrigerate both until firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Remove the firmed crust and remaining batter from the refrigerator.  Keeping your hands generously dusted with flour, take small bits of batter from the bowl and mold a rim atop the pie pan edge, taking care to completely join the rim with the main crust.  (The rim will prevent this very soft dough from sinking during baking.)  Work quickly as the batter can get soft; if it does, simply refrigerate it again.
  4. Place the entire crust in the refrigerator to firm again.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once the crust is firm, line it with parchment paper.  Set the second pie plan on top of the parchment, so that the two pans are stacked.  Fill the top pan with pie weights.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is partially baked and lightly golden.  Remove the upper pan and parchment paper, and cool the crust completely on a rack.  You may store the crust at this point, wrapped in plastic.
  6. To make the filling:  preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the egg yolk over the entire rim of the partially-baked pie crust.  In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cinnamon stick, and juice.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Immediately remove from the heat and drain, reserving the juice for another use (if desired).
  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg white with the vanilla, cake flour, sugar, and sour cream, and whisk to blend.  Add the drained apples and mix to coat completely.  Transfer the apples to the shell with a slotted spoon.  Pour in as much of the liquid as will fit; you may not need it all.
  8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the liquid has mostly firmed up.
  9. Meanwhile, make the topping:  In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with a handheld mixer until light.  Add the walnuts and blend.  Add the flour and cinnamon and beat 30 seconds more.  Refrigerate until needed.
  10. Remove pie from oven and cover with topping.  You may not need all the topping.  Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the topping is browned.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely, serve at room temperature.

So, I eagerly went to work trying to make this interesting new pie crust.  It really is quite difficult.  I also think I had the wrong shaped pie pan.  Plus I was using greaseproof paper instead of parchment paper.  Basically it was a nightmare.  The crust is quite soft, so a lot of the crust kind of melted off the pie pan and onto the baking sheet below it.  The greaseproof paper also stuck to the crust, so there was no saving it there either.  I did try a bit of it, and it tasted kind of like a cheese biscuit that you can get here in the UK.  Basically, there was nothing I could do.  I had already made the filling, so the pie needed to be made!  The apples choices on the recipe list weren’t available here in the UK (no surprise), so I opted for a Bramley cooking apple which they have everywhere in the UK.  I noticed that a lot of apple pie recipes from the UK seem to use these apples, so I figured it would be a good substitute.

So I whipped up a regular pie crust.  I went ahead and tried the Cook’s Illustrated Pie Crust recipe that I used for the Strawberry Pie I made a few weeks before.  I thought I’d give it one more try.  I made the pie crust, and I probably should have let it set a bit longer as it was a bit soft and tricky to work with, but I managed to get it into the pie pan.  I added the filling and baked!  Then the topping.

The pie was actually delicious!  I also made some fresh homemade whipped cream for the top.  The cream is quite simple, and also from the serendipity cookbook.  To 1 cup of whipping cream, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn syrup (or golden syrup in the UK) and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then whip until soft peaks form.  The pie crust was better than it was before, and probably due to the longer baking time.  It leads me to believe that I should try it one more time just to see which recipe is better.  I think if I make it for a strawberry pie again, or something that doesn’t require baking, then I need to make sure to bake the crust longer than I had before, as it really wasn’t as nice as it could have been for that pie.

I also need to get another pie plate similar to the one I already had to attempt this recipe again.  I really want to try it with the cheesy pie crust that it is supposed to have instead of the substitute I ended up using.  Oh and here’s a few pictures:

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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Pie


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Baking Hiatus

Well the last couple of weeks didn’t involve a whole lot of baking, but I did bake an apple pie over the weekend which I plan on posting about soon.

The main reason for this is that we were out celebrating Tom’s birthday!  After his party on Saturday with the chocolate blackout cake, we had Mexican and saw Chicago on his actual birthday (Tuesday).  We had a great time, as the show was very well done and entertaining.  On Friday, we left town to go to Bray.  Bray is one of those funny little places as it has two restaurants with three Michelin starsThe Waterside Inn, and The Fat Duck, which is also ranked as one of the top restaurants in the world.  I got reservations to The Fat Duck, and then we decided to hit up The Waterside Inn as well, so it became a luxury meal weekend for Tom’s birthday.

Since I didn’t do a lot of baking, and I finally got the photos downloaded, I decided to present pictures of the desserts we had at the two restaurants until I get back on my baking and blogging feet:

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


Chocolate Blackout Cake

Last weekend Tom had a birthday barbeque at someone’s house, so I decided I should bake a birthday cake for him.  I found a great recipe in one cookbook, but the cake seemed like it might be a bit small (as it served only 12) and the barbeque was likely to have 30 or more people.  Tom suggested I make a Chocolate Blackout Cake from my Serendipity 3 cookbook.  I had made this cake once before for a dinner party where the theme was bacon.  I originally planned on doing a bacon dessert, and I found a recipe for bacon maple cupcakes which were quite tasty, but apparently there was going to be a vegetarian there, and since he couldn’t have bacon, I decided on an alternate dessert.  The alternate dessert was this chocolate cake.  At this point, I had only cooked one other recipe from the cookbook, the fudge pie, and it was tasty, so I knew this was going to be great.  The recipe says serves 10, so I figured it would be just enough.  Needless to say, the cake was gigantic, and along with the cupcakes, we had plenty left over to take to another party the next day and to Tom’s work the following day (with about 1/6 of the cake left over to take home).  The cake feeds way more than 10, and it seemed appropriate for a party like this.

First, the cake is a four layer cake.  Not a four layer cake where you bake two cakes and cut the layers in half, but four normal sized cake layers:

The four layers for the cake.

Second, the cake batter requires a massive bowl.  It’s impossible to do in any sort of normal sized bowl.  The first time I made it, the cake was overflowing.  Luckily, I had bought a giant bowl from Ikea when we moved in, so I had one I was sure would work.

Third, the cake requires two pounds of unsweetened chocolate.  Yes TWO pounds of chocolate.  The batter requires one pound, and the frosting requires the second.  Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to just go into the grocery store and buy unsweetened chocolate in the UK.  I found some that had hints of other flavors, which I wasn’t sure about.  So I ended up getting a Lindt 90% chocolate instead.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s close, and I was hoping for the cake it would be close enough.  I also had a problem finding cake flour.  They don’t really have such a thing like they do in the states.  The closest I could find in the grocery store was fine plain flour, which is still not quite right.  According to the internet, there is apparently something called extra-fine flour which is the same, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I had to use the fine plain flour instead, which honestly seemed to work okay.

So I went about baking the cake.  I decided to bake the cakes on one day, to give them time to cook and frost on the next.  Basically there frosting requires boiling sugar, corn syrup (or I had to use golden syrup), and cream in a pan, and then pouring over one pound of finely chopped chocolate and stirring until mixed.  Then you let it cool and add sour cream.  I let it cool for over an hour, added the cream, but the consistency was a bit off.  So I put it in the freezer to cool it down.  It seemed to thicken so I decided to frost with it:

First layer of cake with frosting and chocolate chips.

As you can see, not only do you put frosting between each layer, but you also add quite a few chocolate chips, as if there wasn’t enough chocolate in the cake already.  The chips do add a nice texture change in the cake, which is probably why they are there.  After two layers, the cake is already looking quite huge:

Frosted cake after two layers.

Each of the first three layers requires frosting and chocolate chips.  After all the layers, the cake is looking quite massive!

The cake after all four layers are stacked.

After four layers the cake is massive.  Unfortunately, the frosting was still a bit runny, as you can see with it oozing out the sides of the cake.  I tried to add the frosting to the rest of the cake, but it just started running down the sides and pooling up around the bottom.  So I threw the frosting back in the freezer for almost an hour to see if that helped.  The frosting did get thicker, but it still ran down the side, so I didn’t use all the frosting on the cake.  I attempted to hide some of the oozing frosting with some raspberries, and took the rest with me to the party in case people wanted it for something.  I’m not sure why the frosting went south.  It could be that the flat is just way too hot and the frosting was melting.  It could also be that since I only used 90% chocolate instead of 100% that there was just not quite enough fat in the frosting to keep it from falling.  The frosting was supposed to be cooled completely before adding the sour cream, but I don’t think it was, so that could have caused problems too.

Anyway, my I shouldn’t have worried too much, as the cake turned out lovely (and unfortunately I was in a rush to get it frosted and out the door that I didn’t get a picture of the whole cake).  However, as you can see, the cake was a success and everyone tried a bit and really liked it:

The cake with a sizeable dent taken out of it!

It may not be obvious from the photo, but the cake is ridiculously moist and super chocolatey.  It’s not overwhelmingly sweet.  It’s is really rich though, so while it’s not overwhelming, it is difficult to eat a lot of it.  The raspberries did help quite a bit.  I did have a bit of an idea to pour some raspberry liquor over each layer before frosting, which would be a nice touch, but I kind of forgot to do it, so it was just standard.

It was even so good, that Tom decided to eat the top layer later in the night.  He just reached over to the cake and grabbed a hunk off the top and ate it.


Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Cake


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