I’ve discovered a number of new blogs this January which are so good, the really make me want to read them. Beautiful design and photography, well written prose and of course – some wonderful looking recipes! When Hungry Hubby’s oldest buddy announced he was getting married and that the happy couple would like me to make their wedding cake, it seemed serendipitous to say the least. The Happy Couple came to visit this weekend and the bride to be has requested a very simple cake – vanilla sponge filled with blackberry jam, hopefully with brambles from her own garden so the instant I read Shari’s recent post about her blackberry and ginger chai spiced jam I just knew the stars were aligning and I just had to try out her jam. My cake of choice for special occasions is my own vanilla yogurt cake and that’s where the next fortuitous blog find came in – The Paddington Foodie’s homemade yogurt post. Star crossed (food) lovers or what?!
I will admit I was a little nervous making this jam. Having made only one batch of jam successfully in my life (two with ended up like road tar followed after my initial beginners luck) I was anxious. However I shouldn’t have been. I had Shari’s instructions printed off and her blog post loaded up on my phone so I could match what was happening in my pan to her glorious photos and it worked beautifully! Just look at the colour of those royal berries…
I was worried it was too watery, that there was too little sugar, that it couldn’t possibly set but all of my fears were averted. The smell of my chai masala and the spicy, warm hum of fresh ginger along with the cooking berries blipping along merrily in my biggest pot was so intense. Oh my, it was so deep in flavour just from the smell I just new the taste would be magnificent!
Just look at that colour one more time – is that not just the most regal tone of deep crimson purplish red you’ve ever seen? I loved that you sieve the jam once slightly thickened then return it to the pan with the remaining half of the fruit and just cook until they start to break down. Berry jam can be too seedy for me sometimes but this was a delight to eat, no stray seeds lodged in my teeth! Having dolloped the jam into a freshly sterilised jar it was time to make my yogurt. Which is easy as pie – you heat milk, mix with a small amount of yogurt then leave overnight to thicken, set and get all tangy. See the link above for the recipe on The Paddington Foodie’s blog.
Another dollop into another sterile jar and my Friday night’s cooking was done and dusted. Neither of which activity was particularly taxing and were both very satisfying as I am totally that sort of foodie who if she can make a store bought, commercially product at home herself – she will! And I encourage you all to do the same with these two delicious recipes from equally delicious blogs.
Come Saturday morning, a night of being swaddled in tea towels revealed a beautifully set jar or yogurt. It surprised me how thick and creamy it had become – it really was like a glimpse into the early days of alchemy when lotions and potions were brewed in apothecaries. Oh at least it was in my whimsical dreamy brain it was 😉
Now comes the final step in this trial wedding cake tale. Making the actual cake. This is a recipe I created several years ago when a friend of Hubby’s asked me to make a number 2 shaped vanilla cake for her daughter’s birthday. I wanted to use my own recipe and I made a rather giant version of what follows hereafter. Since then, I have baked it countless times, in round tins, square tins, cupcake pans, bundts, tray bake pans… You name it. I have, however, been holding back on sharing it until now as being a plain cake, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was as perfect as I could make it before I shared it with you. And I’ve discovered beyond using the best ingredients you can find, it’s not what you use but how you make it that makes the most magnificent of sponges, befitting of such a special day as one’s wedding day. My confidence increased when I nervously gave the recipe to a baker friend from Wales who used my recipe as one tier of her friend’s wedding cake having trialled it on her hungry boys. The reviews were excellent from both parties so here it goes! Here comes my vanilla yogurt cake. Gulp!
As this cake was to serve as a taste test, I simply made a two tiered 20cm cake using sandwich tins – the original recipe called for more than twice the amount of batter to make that giant number cake! A long while ago I embarked on a mission to discover the secret to making the lightest, most tender crumbed, tallest sponge cake and I really did my research. For me, you must adhere to some simple rules. Sure you could just bung it all in a bowl with a bit of extra raising agent and beat but in my experience, doing it this way, really paying attention to these simple guidelines produces the best cake:
- All ingredients must be at room temperature before you start
- Line and grease the tins well
- Cream the butter and sugar for 10 full minutes in you food mixer or with electric hand beaters – scrape down whenever it starts climbing up the bowl
- Sift your flours and raising agents together at least twice – it’s a bit messy but you need to ensure they are well mixed and no lumps are allowed!
- Add an egg and a spoonful of the sifted flours and whip it in until pale, light and fluffy – this stops it curdling
- Stop when all ingredients are combined and do not over mix
- Be gentle lowering the bowl to just over the prepared tins so you don’t knock all the masses of air you have creamed, sifted and whipped into the batter!
- Cook low and slow on the middle shelf of the oven – they are done when two things happen: (1) The cakes spring back when gently pressed (2) The cakes start to pull away from the sides of the tin (these are better guidelines that a strict adherence to the cooking times stated in any recipe
I filled these soft, moist and oh so creamy tasting vanilla cakes with a thick layer of vanilla buttercream and then came the jam. Oh that jam!
A dust of icing sugar and you’re done. The final design for Hungry Hubby’s and his missus to be won’t be revealed until after their special day in July so until then, I will leave you with this slice of lusciousness and my tried and tested recipe! They really enjoyed it and took slabs home wrapped in foil on their train back home. I hope you like it and please tell me if you try it. I would love you to share your photos of it on Facebook or Twitter (I’ve already had quite a few foodie friends make our Apple Chapel Cake and I can not tell you how much I love to see my recipes being used and enjoyed across the globe :D)
- 150g softened butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 125g plain flour
- 125g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp plus the seeds of a vanilla bean – my preferred option)
- 200ml Greek yogurt
- Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy – at least 8 if not 10 minutes in my KitchenAid (it needs to be almost white and all the sugar dissolved when rubbed between your fingers).
- Sift the flours and raising agents at least twice then take a spoonful and add to the creamed butter with one of the eggs. Repeat with all of the eggs.
- Sift over the remaining flour and mix in until barely incorporated.
- Add in the yogurt and vanilla and mix until the flour has turned to batter then stop.
- Gently and lightly tip into your prepared tins and flatten the surface making a dip in the centre (this helps them rise with a not-too-domed top).
- Bake for 30-35 minutes in the centre of the oven until they an even pale golden, pulling away from the sides of the tins and the centre of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.
- Cool on a rack 5-10 minutes then remove from tins, peel off paper and cool on the racks until fully cold before sandwiching with your choice of filling. I used about 1/2 cup (100-125g of Shari’s blackberry and ginger chai spiced jam) and a simple buttercream of 100g butter mixed with 200g icing sugar and a tsp of vanilla which I whiz in the food processor this time (it is less messy to whiz icing sugar in the covered bowl of the food processor than in my stand mixer!).