On the Importance of Cooking and Baking with Children

I should preface this short essay by saying that I wrote it two years ago and have just stumbled across it again whilst browsing through my drafted posts. It is all as true now as it was then, so I’ve … Continue reading

Orange flavoured Cassata alla Siciliana Cake

Orange Cassata Cake

Upon my return from the beautiful Italian island of Sicily, I promised I would experiment with baking some Sicilian treats that I could share with you all.

Cassata is a traditional Sicilian cake and can be found everywhere on the island, from cafés to pasticcerias to restaurant dessert cabinets. It is traditionally a sponge cake, moistened with fruit juice or liqueur and filled with this cake’s namesake – ‘cassata’, which is a mixture of sweetened ricotta cheese, mixed peel and chocolate (it can be flavoured with vanilla also); and decorated with a layer of marzipan and icing, usually in pastel colours.

As you can see from the picture above, mine is far from traditional in the icing stakes! But it’s creamy ricotta filling and fruity flavour echoes its more authentic Sicilian cousin.

My inspiration came from Dan Lepard’s glorious tome, ‘Short and Sweet’. Indeed I followed his sponge recipe entirely, only deviating when it came to the filling, to which I added marmalade rather than mixed peel; and moistening the cake. He describes this as the ‘Sophia Loren’ of cakes, which I can only imagine denotes its elegance and refined and delicate flavour as well as its Italian roots. I hope you enjoy making this wonderful cake…

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 125g Softened Unsalted Butter
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • Grated Zest of 3 Oranges
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 25g Cornflour
  • 75g Icing Sugar
  • 75ml Cold Milk
  • 50ml Orange Juice (or Grand Marnier) for moistening

For the Cassata Filling:

  • 500g Ricotta
  • 150g Icing Sugar
  • 50g Dark Chocolate
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Tbsn Marmalade (Fine Shred)

For the Icing:

  • 3-4 tablespoons Orange juice
  • 125g Icing Sugar

To make the cake:

  1. Line two 18cm cake tins with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees for a fan oven).
  2. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs little by little to the butter and sugar mixture, beating thoroughly after each addition.
  4. Fold in the orange zest.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, cornflour and icing sugar together into a separate bowl.
  6. Alternately fold a spoonful of the dry ingredients and then a tablespoon of the milk into the sugar and butter mixture until all ingredients are evenly combined.
  7. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the centre of each cake feels springy to the touch.
  8. Leave to cool in their tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks.
  9. When the cakes are almost cold, poke some small holes into the surface of each with a cocktail stick. Drizzle the orange juice, or orange liqueur if you prefer, into each sponge to moisten.

To make the filling:

  1. Beat the ricotta with the icing sugar until smooth and fully combined.
  2. Finely chop the dark chocolate and stir in until the flecks are evenly distributed.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and marmalade and stir well.
  4. Place in the fridge to chill until needed.

To make the icing:

  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
  2. Gradually add the orange juice and stir until smooth and at ‘ribbon’ consistency. This means that when a spoonful of the mixture is lifted and trailed over the icing in the bowl, it will leave ‘ribbons’ on its surface and won’t simply blend in – if it disappears as it hits the icing in the bowl, add some more icing sugar until it thickens to the correct consistency.

Assembling the Cassata Cake:

  1. Place the bottom layer of sponge onto a plate. Spread with a generous layer of the Cassata filling.
  2. Carefully place the second layer on top.
  3. Using a metal spoon, drizzle the orange icing onto the cake.

I hope this cake will give you all a taste of Sicily and maybe even inspire you to visit the island one day! It is truly a charming and captivating place. Don’t forget to let me know how you got on 🙂

BunzBakes is now on Instagram!

Sourdough Loaf

Hello Everyone!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instragram @bunzbakes for lots more delicious home-baked snaps! I can post pics faster than I can write posts, so there will be many a pictorial delight to be had there!

I have a personal account which I constantly fill with my baking photographs and I’m worried my friends think that is all I do! So @bunzbakes will now be the home of all my #freshlybaked #picsoftheday!

Happy snapping!

Tastes of Sicilia

photosiciliy

I have just returned from beautiful Sicily, where I spent a wondrous week with my other half and our little man, sampling many a foodie treat and tanning ourselves shamelessly on the local beach! We even squeezed in a few days worth of sightseeing – Sicily has so much to offer both in terms of its spectacular landscape and its rich history and culture. You can look forward to some Sicilian treats, or at least some Sicily-inspired experimentation, coming soon.

Amongst the traditional fare we tasted were ‘Cannoli’, crispy sweet pastry shells wrapped around lightly sweetened, creamy ricotta; wonderfully crisp pizzas baked in a ‘forno a legna’, meaning wood-burning oven (these can be found all over Italy, but the Sicilians have their own particular flavour combinations – aubergine and seafood feature heavily on most Pizzeria menus) and ‘Cassata’, a moist sponge cake filled again with sweetened ricotta and moistened with fruit juice or liqueur.

Almonds or ‘mandorla’ are everywhere in Sicily! Almond wine, almond milk, almond granita, almost nougat, you name it, an almond has been involved in it! I happen to adore everything almond, though my better half prefers to steer well clear; so  this was excellent gorging territory for me. As well as sampling almond wine, I tasted some devine ‘paste di mandorla’ directly translated as ‘almond paste’. These were similar to amaretti biscuits but with a soft, crumbly and almost moist texture – beautiful!

I have come back feeling truly inspired by, as well as sorry to leave, this special island. More about Sicily’s baked goodies to come…

A Finnish Birthday Cake

Finnish Cream Cake

A Traditional Finnish Birthday Cake

I baked this for my wonderful boy’s first birthday. I chose this cake, not only because my partner is Finnish and this is a traditional Finnish cake (as the title of this post suggests!), but because it is full of fresh fruit sandwiched between layers of light, moist sponge; without the thick layer of gloopy white icing we have all come to expect from supermarket cakes aimed at young children.

I was first taught to bake this by my partner’s cousin, Sanna, who introduced me to a wonderfully simple way of measuring out the ingredients for this fatless sponge. At the time, I assumed it was a family recipe but I have since seen it crop up in a number of Scandinavian and Nordic cookbooks; so I guess it is the traditional way of making it!

So here you go, you will see that I have omitted the quantities of fruit in this recipe. This is because the amount of fruit you will need depends on how you wish to decorate your cake. Similarly, the amount of fruit required for the filling is a matter of personal taste.

Ingredients:

For Cake:

Equal quantities (in volume not weight) of:

  • Eggs (use half an egg per person)
  • Caster Sugar
  • Self-raising flour
  • Orange juice (for moistening after baking)

I usually use one of my glass tumblers (of which I have many) filled to a certain point with the eggs. Then use another, filled to the same point with the sugar and then the flour.

For topping and filling:

  • Approx. 800ml whipping cream
  • 200g Icing sugar
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi

To make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Follow the instructions above for measuring the eggs, sugar and flour.
  3. Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat vigorously until the colour lightens slightly and the mixture is light and frothy.
  4. Add the flour, little by little, folding in gently to retain the air.
  5. Bake in a tin lined with greaseproof paper for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean.
  6. Once the cake is baked, leave in the tin and make several small holes in the surface using a cocktail stick or fork.
  7. Using a small jug, pour the orange juice generously into the holes and let it soak into the cake while you get started on the filling and topping…

To make the filling and topping:

  1. Mix the cream with the icing sugar and whist until firm and spreadable.
  2. Crush some of the strawberries to a pulp, leaving behind enough to decorate your cake.
  3. Mash 2 or 3 bananas and mix with the crushed strawberries.
  4. Thinly slice the remaining strawberries from top to bottom for decoration later.
  5. Once your cake is completely cooled, turn out onto a wire wrack and, using a palate knife, slice evenly through the middle.
  6. Use a broad metal spatula to lift off the top layer and transfer the bottom layer carefully onto a serving plate.
  7. Spread the strawberry and banana mixture onto the base of your cake and sandwich on the top layer.
  8. Again using a palate knife, spread the sweetened whipped cream evenly over the top and sides of the cake. You could use the knife to create a peaked or wavy effect.
  9. Decorate with the thinly sliced strawberries and other fruit to finish.

Enjoy! This is a true celebration cake both in look and taste. I sometimes add a layer of butter cream to the filling. As well as balancing out the acidity of the fruit, it prevents the bottom layer of cake from becoming soggy over time. This is not a traditional addition, however, and I have left it out of the main recipe for fear of reprisals from Finns, who will undoubtedly claim that this is certainly not how their grandmothers used to make it! As well as for birthdays, this is an unashamedly summery cake, light and fresh and covered in summer berries, which wouldn’t look out of place as the centrepiece for any Summertime soiree.