Monday, 1 April 2013

Different Sponge Cake Flavours (no April Fool, it's after 12pm)

Yes, it is April Fool's day, but I got up late today and thus missed the 12pm cut-off for practical jokes. Although, not many people know this is a rule.

And so, we move onto how to flavour the basic sponge cake recipe. Last week I uploaded a blog on a coffee cake, so I thought I'd be kind an tell people how to make the normal vanilla flavour sponge into a coffee sponge, and various other kinds of sponge. In the picture, there is a vanilla cake, a coffee cake and a chocolate cake for sake of demonstration.

The following changes are specifically for the three-egg quantity as explained in the basic sponge cake recipe. If you've changed the amount of cake mixture, the alterations will need to be changed accordingly. To jog your memory, here is the recipe again.

  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 4½ ounces (130 grammes) caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence (preferably the pure and natural kind)
  • 1½ ounces salted butter (if lactose intolerant, see notes); if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the flour.
  • 1½ ounces sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) hot water

If you want an orange, lemon or other citrus cake, take 1 whole citrus and grate off its zest. You want only the orange or yellow outer layer of skin, not any of the white bit underneath – known as pith – because it’s very bitter. Add this to the eggs and sugar before beating. Instead of the hot water, add the same amount of the citrus juice or a mixture of citrus juice and hot water if you want a less intense flavour.

If you would like a chocolate cake, replace 1 ounce of the white flour (not corn flour) with 1 ounce of cocoa powder. Because coca powder is very dry, add an additional tablespoon of hot water. This makes a very rich, dark chocolate cake, so if you don’t like it as dark you can reduce the substitution, or use hot drinking chocolate power, which is sweeter. Also, for a fudgier taste, you can replace half of the caster sugar with soft brown sugar, or even a mixture of caster sugar, brown sugar and golden syrup. Only replace 1 ounce of sugar with golden syrup, though, otherwise weird things happen.

If you would like a coffee cake, replace the milk with the same amount of very strong black coffee, either made with instant espresso powder or from a filter. If you want even more coffeeness, you can replace 2 teaspoons of the white flour with ground coffee beans, or replace the vanilla essence with coffee essence, or both if you’re truly coffee mad.

For toffee or caramel cake, simply replace the caster sugar with soft dark brown sugar, and then also replace one ounce of the sugar with one ounce of golden syrup (only 1 ounce, as aforementioned). If you can get it, you can use butter-vanilla flavouring instead of the vanilla essence; I managed to get a few vials of such flavouring from Lidl, and it adds a lovely note.

For any kind of berry or soft fruit cake, such as strawberry, banana or raspberry, replace the water with the same quantity of fruit purée. You can make this by squidging fresh or defrosted frozen fruit through a sieve. For extra special fruitiness, you can replace one ounce of sugar with the same quantity of fruit jam put through a sieve.

For coconut cake, replace 1 ounce of the plain white flour with desiccated coconut, and the water with the same quantity of coconut milk or juice. In Ireland, coconut milk comes in both liquid and solid form, so if you can only get your hands on solid form, dissolve it in hot water to make up to the quantity needed. Coconut cake is one of my especial favourites, especially with nice pillowy icing on it.

For spiced cake, you don’t need to replace flour with spices, you just add the spices to your dry ingredients at the beginning and sieve them as well. I tend to add a maximum of 2-3 teaspoons total of ground spices, whether you want to add 2-3 teaspoons of one spice (which is quite extreme), or a mixture of spices that amounts to 2-3 teaspoons (as in ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of ginger, ¼ a teaspoon of coriander, et cetera).

For Queen cakes, which is basically a vanilla fairy cake with dried fruit in, just add 3 ounces of raisins or currants - tossed well in flour - to the mixture. You could also add chocolate chips for chocolate chip cakes, or even chopped crystallised ginger.

A nice idea for children’s parties (especially little girls) is to add 2 tablespoons of hundreds and thousands. This will make the cake spotty on the inside. Don't use dragées, as they are big and crunchy to find in a delicate little cake.

When adding colouring to your mixture, you can use either gel or liquid colouring, just not powder; it doesn't mix in properly. You can add up to 1 fluid ounce of liquid colour before a) the mixture starts to get too thin, or b) the colour is frightening deep/dark/nuclear. I don't really go in for colouring the actual cake, though, as I like to leave the cake natural and get my colour hit through the icing.

So go forth, and flavour!

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