Cake-Off Challenge: Fish in the Ocean

The first cake to be tasted and tested in the third and final round of the 2010 Christmas Cake-Off Challenge was Sam’s Fish in the Ocean, or “My two mistakes.” Having originally come up with an exceedingly novel idea involving strawberry-fed snails and swiss roll, which was shot down by several friends on the grounds that cakes should not involve meat, Sam intended to create a giant chocolate fish. A large mould was duly layered with chocolate, and a filling of kahlua ice cream inserted. A pavlova side was to accompany. Alas, the ice cream came out leaving the chocolate behind, and the pavlova collapsed. Nonetheless, the resulting Eton-esque Mess was truly original and delicious, and the fish still clearly visible.

Guest Judge, Lord Forrester of Governor’s Bay, had this to say about the creation:

You can really taste the Kahlua – yum. Very good effort. She knew the bar was set high and she delivered. Ice cream very tasty, and cream meringue aka mess creamy and chocolatey delightful.

Other comments from the assembled tasters included “Almost speechless with delight,” and, “Wow!”

Vote for Sam’s Fish in the Ocean in the 2010 Cake-Off Round 3 Poll.

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 20:25  Leave a Comment  

Cake-Off Challenge: La Bombe Noel

The second cake to be tasted and tested in Round 2 of the 2010 Christmas Cake-Off Challenge was Janine’s La Bombe Noel. This take on Bombe Alaska was an extravaganza of home made blackboy peach ice cream, coated in meringue on a chocolate sponge cake base. The chef claimed, “it’s mainly fruit, so it’s actually quite healthy.” Then she produced a jug of extra chocolate sauce.

Guest Judge, Lord Forrester of Governor’s Bay, didn’t have much time to spare in between spooning this cake hurriedly into his mouth, but paused briefly to say this about the sparkling structure:

A bombe in the finest tradition of Inspector Clouseau. All round delicious summer fruits. Obviously very healthy.

Other comments from the assembled tasters included, “I’m not sure it needs more chocolate sauce, but I think I’d better try it,” and “This ice cream is amazing!”

Vote for Janine’s La Bombe Noel in the 2010 Cake-Off Round 2 Poll.

Published in: on December 14, 2010 at 19:52  Leave a Comment  

Cake-Off Challenge: Rhubarb & Strawberry Tarts

The first of the Christmas Cake-Off 2010 Challenge Cakes to be tasted on this fine December morning was the rhubarb and strawberry tarts by Nina. The original recipe called for a single, large tart, but our budding baker come chemist decided to down-size and up-booze. “I realised that they would have less time in the oven as small tarts, so I boiled the rhubarb first in red wine. On reflection, I recalled that my previous cake club offering had a disappointing alcohol content, so then I soaked the strawberries in white wine. Overnight.”

Guest Judge, Lord Forrester of Governor’s Bay, had this to say about the tarts:

Very short pastry. A nice tartness between the strawberries and rhubarb, with a hint of Christmas in the jus.

Other comments from the assembled tasters included “The pastry is so light,” and simply, “Yum.”

Vote for Nina’s strawberry and rhubarb tarts in the 2010 Cake-Off Round 1 Poll.


2 cups flour
Rind of 1 orange
Pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter
Some fluid, originally ice water, but things like orange juice or champagne also work well
1 cup sugar
2 tbs tapioca
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tsp corn starch
500 g chopped rhubarb
50 ml orange juice, or white wine
500g coarsely sliced strawberries
Some flakes of butter

Dough: in bowl combine flour, orange rind and salt, cut butter in small pieces and cut through flour with 2 knifes. With a cold hand knead, add fluid as needed for all to stick together. Then put in fridge in plastic wrap.

Combine rhubarb, sugar (I usually use less than the 1 cup, because I like it to be a bit sour still, but it is usually pretty sour like that), tapioca and corn starch (I sometimes omit those, you will have a juicy pie then), salt, nutmeg and the orange juice/wine.

Roll out 2 thirds of the dough on a floured surface and put it in a greased 20 cm springform. Fill it with rhubarb and the strawberries on top. Roll out the remaining dough as well and cut out (heart) forms, or alternatively cut into strips and criss-cross them over the pie. Put some butter flakes on top.

Bake 15 minutes at 220C (preheated), and then about 30 minutes more at 180C, until pastry is golden and filling bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving.

For the Christmas bake-off I first applied basic mathematics and instead of 1 big pie, made several smaller tarts. Realizing that the baking time would be less, and the rhubarb thus less well cooked, I decided to first lightly boil the rhubarb in red wine. That in itself was very successful and I cooked all the remaining rhubarb with wine and sugar and preserved it. While doing so I also realized this was already beyond basic chemistry, as I was boiling together intricate and complex molecules: oxalic acid of the rhubarb and tannins from the wine. Both substances play a role in my research, how is that for multidisciplinary baking.

Everything else was according to recipe: rolled out the dough and lined approximately 20 muffin forms with them (difficult), added the mushy rhubarb (it was a little too mushy), the strawberries, topped it off with another piece of dough (heart shaped)and baked it basically as long as I would have the full pie. But: I also soaked large strawberry halves in my favourite white wine overnight, and decorated the tarts with those in the morning.

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 19:04  Leave a Comment  

White chocolate carousel cake

Last week’s cake was a spectacular effort from Nina, which looked amazing and tasted even better. It should be noted that every cake clubber in the room not only demolished every last crumb, but also seriously considered (and some cases did) lick the plates clean, leading us to crown this cake a Great Success. Nina’s report follows, and earns a special award for most useful and interesting information volunteered along with ingredients and mixing instructions.

This cake comes from Canadian living’s best chocolate, the only book Nina brought with her to New Zealand. She couldn’t resist the temptation of fresh strawberries, even though they might be considered healthy. The rest of the cake surely lives up to the standards of cake club, and just to be sure she added some extra cream.

Nina also mentions that back in Germany she would have infused the whole cake with 3 different types of schnapps, as you can easily get little bottles of those in the supermarket without having to unearth your passport because you look under 25 even when you’re over 30 (oh, what a compliment!). Therefore she apologises for this particular cake only having homeopathic amounts of alcohol and promises to do better next time around Christmas.


3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp melted butter

Chocolate mousse:
285 g white chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp orange liqueur/essence
3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 cups whipping cream (or more)

Beat eggs until foamy, gradually beat in sugar, beat 5 minutes until batter falls in ribbons from beaters when lifted (I wasn’t quite sure about this, what sort of ribbon anyway? But 5 minutes seemed like a long time so I figured it was fine after that time). Beat in vanilla.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, sift half over egg mixture and fold in, using rubber spatula. Fold in remaining flour mixture.
Remove 1/4 of the batter to small bowl, gradually fold in butter, then gradually fold back into batter.
Scrape into greased 8 1/2 inch springform pan. Bake in center of 160C oven for 40 minutes or until cake springs back when slightly pressed.
Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, turn out onto rack, let cool completely. In my case the cake didn’t come out of the pan so I just left it in as I had to transport it anyway.

White chocolate mousse
In bowl over saucepan of hot but not boiling water melt together chocolate, liqueur and 2 tbsp water stirring occasionally, let cool to room temperature.
Place the springform ring on a platter, or back around the cake if it still sticks to the rest of the springform. Cut some waxed paper and fit it around the inside of the ring. Trim the top of the cake if rounded.
Cut 12 large strawberries in half, arrange with tips up and cut sides against waxed paper collar on top of cake. Snugly arrange remaining berries to cover the rest of the cake, making sure they are lower than the top of the halved berries.
Whip cream, fold in white chocolate mixture in three additions. Pour over strawberries, spreading to cover berries, swirl top attractively (or: not too unattractive). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24.
Decorate with sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, chocolate sprinkles, candied violets, or anything else that may fit the occasion.

Not surprisingly, an electric mixer is not a luxury but a must for this recipe.
You can substitute the white chocolate for dark chocolate, but I felt the aesthetics of dark cake, red strawberries and white mousse would be lost. However when using white chocolate make sure there is at least some cocoa butter in it, otherwise you might as well use cream, sugar and a few random artificial ingredients only.

Published in: on November 1, 2010 at 19:33  Leave a Comment