Friday, 14 August 2015

Cakes

Here are some cake recipes I posted on my previous blog from January 2010 till February 2015.

Torta di mele or cake with apples
A cake that is always a success.
This is an old recipe of torta di mele (a cake with apples) which my family has handed down from mother to daughter for three generations.
It contains basic cake ingredients plus apples. If you prefer to avoid the apples and make the simple cake, a sort of sponge, you can vary it by adding chocolate chips, or cutting it in half and filling it with custard or cream mixed with mashed strawberries. Let your imagination inspire your appetite!
For the basic recipe you need 200 g flour, 150 g sugar, 50 g butter, two eggs, three tsp baking powder, half a glass of milk, the grated rind of a lemon and one tbsp of liquor (brandy, rum or marsala).
For the apple version you also need three apples, the juice of a lemon, two tbsp sugar and half a tsp cinnamon.
First prepare the apples. Peel and core them and cut them into quarters. Then cut the quarters in ¼ inch slices. Put them in a bowl and season them with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.
For the cake, beat the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon till the butter is smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and the yolk of the eggs and mix. Pour the flour little by little and mix again, adding the liquor, the lemon rind and the baking powder dissolved in the milk. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and add them to the mixture as well. Stir till it is smooth and even.
Finally pour the mixture in a round greased tin and set the apple slices on the top, dipping part of them in the mixture (see the picture). Bake for half an hour/forty minutes, 150 C°.

It is guaranteed for at least one more generation.

Black and white circle cake
 A warm treat for winter time
Winter time always arouses the longing for a cup of coffee and a generous slice of cake. I went back to my recipes some days ago and found a traditional cake I often used to make when the children were little. And they loved it.
You need: 120 g of butter, 200 g of sugar, 4 eggs, 400 g of flour, 2 tsp of baking powder, one and a half tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 2 tbsp of cocoa, 100 g of ground milk chocolate, 1tbsp of liqueur (optional), half a glass of milk.
First work the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon,  beating in the sugar and the yolks of the eggs. Pour part of the flour into the mixture and add the milk with the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda whisked in. Add the rest of the flour and the egg whites whisked until stiff. Divide the mixture into two bowls. In one of them stir in the cocoa powder, the ground chocolate and the liqueur. Spoon the black and white mixtures, alternately, into a greased ring-shaped tin, one on the top of the other to create the effect (and taste) of a black and white cake. Bake for about forty minutes at 150° C. When it is cold dredge the top of the cake with icing sugar.

I already feel warm and cosy.

Chocolate cake with hazelnuts and almonds
One more birthday cake
In February is my daughter Valentina’s birthday.  It is just a day before my husband’s birthday so we have plenty to celebrate and eat.  For her I made a chocolate cake as light as a sponge.  She liked it so much she licked the bowls in which I mixed it and ate a large piece after she blew out the candles.  I decorated it by writing her name and age with pink icing.
For the cake you need:
Six eggs, 150 g sugar, 150 g flour, 40 g cocoa, 50 g butter, melted, 100 g ground hazelnuts and almonds, two tsp baking powder, one tsp bicarbonate of soda, 300 ml whipping cream and coloured icing to decorate (optional).
At first mix the yolks with the sugar and whisk them for about ten minutes.  Add the melted butter, half the ground almonds and hazelnuts and keep stirring.  Sieve the flour and the cocoa and add it little by little to the mixture with the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda.  Finally, whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the mixture.  Bake the cake in a round greased tin for half an hour/forty-five minutes, 150° C.
When it is cool whip the cream with one tbsp of sugar and stir in the remaining almonds and hazelnuts.  Spread it on the top of the cake and decorate it with coloured icing, if you like.
It is a big treat!


Birthday cakes

Lemon or orange cake with yoghurt
In our family most of the birthdays are celebrated in February or March.  There is my husband’s birthday in February, then there are those of my two daughters and that of my son.  In this period I am frantically looking for good new cake recipes to make and decorate for the different occasions.  Here are some of them.
You can make this cake with lemon or orange.  My favourite is the lemon one.
You need: 300 g of flour, 100 g of butter, 170 g of sugar, 5 tbsp of milk, 2 eggs, the grated zest of one lemon or half an orange, 3 tbsp  fresh lemon or orange juice, 2 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and 250 g of natural yoghurt.
Cream the butter in a bowl using a wooden spoon and add sugar and eggs. Grate the zest of the lemon, or orange, into the mixture and add the juice. Sieve the flour and add it little by little.  Mix the bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder with the milk and add it to the mixture.  Finally add the yoghurt.  Pour the mixture into a greased round tin and bake for 40/45 minutes at 150° C.
If you like you can fill it with 50 g of strawberries mixed with 100 ml of whipping cream and then decorate the top with strawberries and whipping cream or whipping cream and coloured icing.

Happy birthday!

Cake with ricotta and cinnamon

This is a different cake with a strong flavour and a special quality.  It reminds me of pastiera, a traditional Neapolitan cake we usually make at Easter, but there is much less involvement in making it and it is still delicious.
You need: 300 g of flour, 200 g of ricotta, 200 g of sugar, 100 g of butter, 3 eggs, 5 tbsp of milk, 2 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and 2 tsp of cinnamon.
Cream the butter in a bowl using a wooden spoon and add sugar and eggs. Sieve the flour and stir it in little by little.  Mix the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda with the milk and add it to the mixture.  Finally mix in the ricotta and cinnamon.
Decorate it with icing sugar, coloured sprinklers and coloured icing.  Success is guaranteed.


Princess Torte or Princess Cake

I learned to make this cake in Sweden, where I lived for a year some time ago. Everybody makes it for great occasions and I think a birthday is an important celebration in a family, so have a go at it yourself.
At first I couldn’t find potato flour in supermarkets but then I went to Holland & Barrett where they regularly sell it.
You need: 200 g of flour, 100 g of potato flour, 200 g of sugar, 4 eggs, 50 g of butter, 2 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and marzipan to cover and decorate.
Beat the yolk of the eggs with the sugar till it becomes pale and creamy.  Melt the butter in a pan and mix in the flour, the potato flour, the butter and the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  Whip the white of the eggs stiff and stir them in.  Bake it in a greased round tin for 40/45 minutes, 150° C.
You can fill it with custard cream and cover and decorate it with marzipan.  The traditional Princess Torte is covered with green marzipan.  But you can be much more creative!

Fresh Fruit cake

Summer time is near, hopefully, so let’s try a fresh fruit cake.  You can vary the kinds of fruit you like, mixing at least two types.  In this recipe I am using kiwi and raspberries, but you can have cherries, pineapple, blackberries, peaches, apricots  and blueberries if you fancy them.
You need:
for the cake: 200g of sugar, 300 g of flour, 2 eggs, 125 g of butter, 5 tbsp of milk, 2 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 200 g of kiwi and 150 g of raspberries
for the icing: 3 tbsp of icing sugar and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.
Cream the butter in a bowl using a wooden spoon, add eggs and sugar and mix for about ten minutes.  Add the flour little by little and the baking powder plus bicarbonate of soda mixed with the milk.  Finally add 150 g of kiwi, peeled and chopped, and 100 g of raspberries – keep the rest for the decoration.
Pour the mixture in a greased round tin and bake for 40/45 minutes 150°C.
When the cake is cold prepare the icing by dissolving the icing sugar in the  lemon juice over a low heat.  Add the remaining fruit and pour everything on the cake.
Bright candles will complete the effect.

Nut and chocolate cake

This is a type of Sachertorte, though not exactly the same.  It is a great energy booster and a comforting treat, due to the large amount of chocolate in it.
You need:
for the cake: 170 g of sugar, 200 g of flour, 3 eggs, 4 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of liqueur, 5 tbsp of milk, 2 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of nuts, 100 g of milk chocolate pieces and 2 tbsp of cocoa powder
for the icing: 100 g of grated dark chocolate, 50 g of icing sugar and 3 tbsp of thick double cream.
Mix sugar and olive oil, then add the yolks of the eggs and beat for about five minutes.  Add the flour little by little and the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda mixed with the milk.  Pulse the milk chocolate and the nuts in a blender and add them to the mixture together with the liqueur.  Finally whip the whites of the eggs stiff and add them as well.
Bake in a round greased tin for 40/45 minutes 150°C.
For the icing, warm the cream and the icing sugar in a little pan, add the grated dark chocolate and mix.   When it is smooth and dark pour it on the cake and cover the surface. Decorate with almonds, nuts, coloured icing and sprinkles.

Granny’s Cake

Olive oil instead of butter
This is a cake my grandma Conforta used to make.  She came from Tuscany, a land famous for its hills dotted with olive trees, so she used olive oil instead of butter.  I remember she stirred the mixture with a wooden spoon for ages...or maybe it was only 15 minutes.   Nowadays we can use a blender as an alternative.
You need:
300 g of plain flour, 200 g of sugar, 5 tbsp of olive oil, 7 tbsp of milk, two and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and three eggs.
First beat the eggs with the sugar till they become frothy.  Add the oil and the flour little by little, the milk mixed with the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda and stir, or blend, the mixture.  Bake it in a greased round tin for 45 minutes at 150° C.
My grandma also added some of the things she had at home, e.g. pine nuts, almonds, chocolate (all of them ground), raisins (first soaked in  liqueur) or candied fruit, about a 100 g of each.  Not all of them: one or two were enough to make a delicious cake we cousins gobbled up before one could say Jack Robinson.

Walnut cake
My husband’s birthday cake
Spring is a busy baking time for me. We have four birthdays in February and March in the family and I am used to making the cakes. This year I chose a walnut cake for my husband.
For the cake you need: two eggs, 200 g of flour, 120 g of sugar, 200 g of ground walnut (you can grind whole kernels yourself if you like), two tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 50 g of butter and five tbsp of milk.
For the decoration you need: 50 g of walnut kernels, 150 g of icing sugar and some chocolate drops.
Prepare the cake by beating the butter till soft, then adding the yolks of the eggs and sugar. Whip the whites till stiff and add them to the mixture, stirring in flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Add the ground walnuts. Bake for 45 minutes at 150°C.
When the cake is cold prepare the icing with 150 g of icing sugar and three tbsp of warm water or spirit. Spread the icing on the top of the cake and sprinkle with chocolate drops. Finish off the decoration with walnut kernels.

Strawberry cake
My daughter’s 18th birthday cake
My daughter has just turned eighteen. Since the start of the year I wanted to prepare a special cake for her and decorate her room with banners and roses. I bought everything in advance and searched for a cake which would look special and taste good, too. Here is a strawberry cake, easy to make and delicious at the same time.
For the sponge you need: four eggs and two yolks, 150 g of sugar, 150 g of flour, 50 g of melted butter, two tsp of baking powder and one tsp of bicarbonate of soda.
For the filling and decoration you need: 250 g of strawberries, three leaves of gelatine, one tbsp of sugar, a jar of strawberry jam (about 350 g) and 50 g of almond flakes. You can make a similar cake using raspberries and raspberry jam instead.
Whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar in a bowl for 15-20 minutes. Add the other ingredients and keep whisking. Pour the mixture in a greased round tin and bake for half an hour at 150°C.
When the cake is cold cut it in half horizontally and spread 3-4 tbsp of strawberry jam on one half (it is better to dilute the jam with some warm water). Put the top half back on and spread a bit of jam on the top of the cake and around its sides. Put the leaves of gelatine in cold water for five minutes, then take out and dissolve in two tbsp of warm water with one tbsp of sugar, mixing well. Wash and cut the strawberries in half, set them on the top of the cake and pour the gelatine over them. Finally stick the almond flakes around the sides of the cake: the effect is superb!

Pineapple cake
My son’s birthday cake
I chose a special cake for my son this year, as he turned sixteen. He loves pineapples so here is my cake.
You need: a tin of pineapple slices with juice, two eggs, 100 g of sugar, 200 g of flour, 100 g of butter, zest of a lemon, 2tsp of baking powder, 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda.
Melt the butter and pour half of it into a round tin, then sprinkle one tbsp of sugar over the base. Lay the pineapple slices on the sugar. Prepare the cake, mixing the eggs, the rest of the melted butter, sugar, flour, zest of lemon, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, and three tbsp of the pineapple juice. Pour the mixture on top of the pineapple slices and bake for 30-45 minutes at 150°C. When it is ready, turn it upside down onto a plate while still warm and leave to cool.

Coconut cake
Valentina’s birthday cake
I made a small cake for Valentina, my autistic daughter, with whipped cream and pretty sugar flowers.
For the cake you need: 100 g of desiccated coconut, 100 g of flour, 100 g of sugar, two tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, two eggs, 50 g of melted butter and the zest and juice of a lemon.
Mix all the ingredients together and bake the mixture in a greased round tin for half an hour at 150°C.
For the decoration, whip 300 g of whipping cream, cover the cake with it and make some swirls using an icing syringe or bag. Finish off with sugar flowers.
Valentina loved it and, though cakes are not always her thing, she dipped her fingers in the cream several times.

St. Valentine’s cakes
St. Valentine’s Day is close to both my husband’s birthday and our daughter Valentina’s, so we have one big celebration. Two of my children, who now live near their universities, try to come home if possible just before or after St. Valentine's Day. As you can imagine, I’m very busy and happy, as having the whole family at home rarely happens now. Here is the recipe for some delicious little cakes I prepared for Valentine's Day. They are soft and sweet, appropriate for such a day.

You need: four eggs, 100 g of flour, 100 g of sugar, 20 g of melted butter, one tsp of baking powder, a biscuit cutter and, to decorate, icing sugar, jam, cake sprinkles and chocolate fudge icing.
Beat the eggs and the sugar with a mixer for 15-20 minutes until soft and foamy. Add the other ingredients little by little and keep beating for another five minutes. Spread the mixture evenly over an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 150°C. When it’s ready (springy to the touch) turn it out onto a damp cloth, peel off the baking paper, let it cool, then cut out the hearts using a biscuit cutter. Finally decorate the hearts with pink or red readymade icing sugar, or make icing sugar with 125 g of icing sugar, a tbsp of warm water and a few drops of strawberry flavouring or red food colouring. You can also use jam, cake sprinkles and chocolate fudge icing. Be creative!


Brown sugar recipes
While I was doing my usual supermarket shopping, I spotted different types of brown sugar on the shelves. I took a packet of light brown, soft cane sugar (which was a pleasant reminder of distant, exotic, warm holiday places) and decided to try it in some new recipes. I love making them for weekend treats. Here they are.

For the cake you need: 300 g of flour, 70 g of butter, 200 g of brown sugar, 1 and a half tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 3 eggs, 150 g of ground hazelnuts and half a glass of milk.
Beat the butter with a wooden spoon until creamy and add the brown sugar and the yolks of the eggs. Mix the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda with the flour and add it  together with half a glass of milk (about 100 ml). Grind the hazelnuts (keep about ten for the decoration) and stir them in. Finally whip the whites stiff and fold them into the mixture. Pour into a round greased tin and bake for 45 minutes at 150° C. When the cake is cold, decorate it with white icing sugar mixed with warm water (about 125 g of icing sugar and 1 tbsp of warm water), then chop the nuts and stick them onto the icing sugar.
For the biscuits you need: 250 g of flour, 150 g of brown sugar, 2 eggs, half a tsp of baking powder, half a tsp of cinnamon and 1 tbsp of melted butter.
Beat the eggs with the brown sugar and add the cinnamon and melted butter. Add the flour and the baking powder, mix it well and knead it on a floured work surface.  Let it rest for half an hour covered with a tea towel. Roll the dough out and cut the biscuits (I used a moon-shaped cutter). Bake them on a greased tray for 10-20 minutes at 150° C. When the biscuits are cold, decorate them with icing sugar and chocolate pieces.

Schiacciata fiorentina
I found a schiacciata cake in an Italian supermarket during the Christmas holidays and thought at first it was a Christmas cake. It was delicious and we devoured it in an instant.
I knew it was from Florence but I had never tasted it before. The name comes from the verb ‘schiacciare’, which means ‘push down’, probably referring to the way you prepare it (though the mixture is so smooth that you don’t need to do it), or to the fact that it is fairly thin (about one or two inches) compared to a sponge or a normal cake. Actually it is a Carnival cake (and the Carnival starts right at the end of January) or an Easter cake. It’s a traditional, easy homemade cake, usually rectangular (though the one I bought was round), similar to a Madeira cake but with a more ‘rustic’ kind of taste. There are different recipes: they may use lard instead of oil, add pine nuts and/or almonds or fill it with cream or custard cream. But let’s stick to the basic recipe, which is my favourite.

You need: 300 g of flour, 150 g of sugar, half a glass (8 tbsp) of warm milk, 5 tbsp or olive oil (or 100 g of lard), 2 eggs, the zest and juice of one orange, one tsp of baking powder, half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda (some recipes use dry yeast instead in which case you need to let it rest for one or two hours and then probably knead it and ‘push it down’), vanilla drops and a tip of a tsp of saffron. Use icing sugar and cocoa powder to decorate.
Beat the eggs and sugar, add all the other ingredients little by little and mix well till the mixture is smooth and even. Pour it in a rectangular greased tin and bake for 20-30 minutes at 150°C. When it’s ready let it cool and sprinkle the top with white icing sugar and/or hundreds and thousands. To finish, you can prepare a stencil of a Florentine lily and sprinkle cocoa powder on it. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Carnival Cake
A fantastic small cake (or big biscuit) ideal for Carnival time (January-February in Italy), when it’s still cold but looking forward to spring time.
There are two versions, one with hazelnuts and dark chocolate chips, the other with white chocolate chips and almonds.
You need: 200 g of flour, 80 g of butter, 100 g of sugar, 2 eggs, 50 g of chopped hazelnuts (or almonds), 100 g of dark chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips), 1 tsp of baking powder and 2-3 tbsp of milk.
Mix the eggs and sugar first then add the melted butter and all the other ingredients. The mixture should be rather sticky. Spread it onto the base of a small greased tin (I used a sandwich tin) and bake for half an hour to forty minutes at 150° C.
Score into slices while warm and sprinkle icing sugar and/or hundreds and thousands.
Have a good Carnival time!

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