14 September 2014

Lundulph's Birthday Cake 2014

My Sister Bip's been to visit us for a short week. She had a few days left on her holiday and decided to come over for Lundulph's birthday and some shopping. And it's during this that she bought me a little book called Peek-A-Boo-Cakes, which was rather interesting, particularly after my dismal failure at Falbala's last birthday. This book has a more traditional approach to hidden design cakes plus some quite novel ideas, which seem very appealing and I might try later on.

I took Friday off, to make sure to get all ingredients and bake the cake. Also Bip wanted to go to our local farm shop, she's been there before and wanted to go back to have a look at the various curiosities they have there. And she wanted cream tea for breakfast and it made quite a nice start of a long day.

It was Bip that chose the cake for Lundulph this year. I was a bit skeptical to it, but thought that worst case it would be similar to Falbala's latest cake - ugly, but very much edible thanks to all the sugar in it. Also Bip had brought me 500 g of 60% marzipan, not something you want to waste just like that.

I made some stupid mistakes here, it's embarrassing to mention really. Still it turned out quite nice.

Makes a 20 cm cake
700 g marzipan
blue, red, green and purple food colouring, preferably paste
3 large eggs
225 g unsalted butter + extra for greasing
175 g caster sugar
300 g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp almond extract
100 g ground almonds
2 tbsp milk
4 tbsp apricot glaze
icing sugar


  1. Make sure everything except the milk is at room temperature.
  2. Take four 75 g pieces of marzipan and colour in blue, red, green and purple respectively. Use about a knife's edge (1 ml) of paste, to get a nice bright colour. Using latex gloves, knead each piece by folding it along with its colour until it is evenly coloured through, then set aside.
  3. When all four are done, roll each out to a circle between two sheets of baking paper - preferably use one large piece folded in two. Roll until the circles are just a little smaller than the diameter of the cake tin. Wrap in cling film so they don't go dry and set aside.
  4. Grease the cake tin and line it with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 160 °C.
  5. Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together lightly.
  6. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Preferably with an electric whisk.
  7. In another bowl sift together the flour and baking powder, making sure they are well mixed and lump-free.
  8. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, a little at a time and incorporate well before adding more. Add the almond extract as well.
  9. Using a large spoon, stir in the ground almonds, followed by the flour and finally the milk. Note that the batter is quite thick, almost like porridge.
  10. Divide the cake mixture into five parts. Spoon one into the cake tin and spread evenly.
  11. Carefully place one of the coloured marzipan circles on top of the mixture, making sure there are no air bubbles.
  12. Proceed with the next part of cake mixture, followed by another marzipan circle, then continue layering and finish with the firth part of the cake mixture. Make sure to level it.
  13. Bake in the oven for about 1 h 30 minutes, until it's golden brown and has come away from the edges and feels firm to the touch. If it goes too brown, cover with aluminium foil to prevent it from burning.
  14. Remove from the oven and turn upside-down onto a cooling rack, but leave the cake tin on for about 20 minutes.
  15. Then remove the tin and the lining paper and leave to cool completely.
  16. In the mean time colour in the remaining 400 g of marzipan purple (or another colour if you like).
  17. When the cake has cooled down completely, roll out the marzipan to a large circle, enough to cover the whole cake and the sides, again between two pieces of baking paper.
  18. Heat up the apricot glaze in a small pan until it starts boiling, then brush the whole cake with a thin layer.
  19. Carefully transfer the marzipan circle onto the cake, make sure it's centered, then carefully start working down the sides to gently stick the marzipan onto the cake without ending up with folds and edges. Using latex gloves when handling worked really well for me.
  20. Trim excess marzipan around the base - this can be used to make additional decorations or you can just tie a ribbon around to hide the edge.
  21. Dust with icing sugar on top before serving.

Overall, I'm rather pleased with the result. The mistakes I made were that I skipped sifting the flour and baking powder. Really a beginner's mistake, I really don't know what I was thinking there. I had a number of lumps in the cake mixture, I fished out the biggest ones and was worried I'd end up with big holes in the sponge, but it was actually OK. A lucky thing was that I had cut the lining paper for the sides a bit wider than necessary. This was good as I filled up the cake tin and when it baked it rose up and was attempting to escape, so an extra cm or two of baking paper is recommended very strongly.

I also had to cover it up after one hour, since by then it looked ready. The book said to test the cake with a skewer, but I'm not sure it would work because of the marzipan. I think it would end up cleaning the skewer on its way out, so you wouldn't be able to tell if the cake was done or not. I gave it 1 h 30 minutes, at which point it had come away from the paper lining a bit. I also touched it and it felt firm.

Once it was out of the oven and on the rack, it sort of sank in at the middle. This was very worrying, I though it meant it hadn't cooked through, but at this point it was fairly late in the evening, so I left it at that to cool. I covered the cake the following morning. Now here I made another mistake - I didn't gently try to work around the edge, but squashed the whole lot in and of course ended up with some folds. The principle is the same as with fondant icing, but with marzipan more care is required as it can crack, at least at the 3 mm thickness I made it. The original recipe called for 800 g marzipan just to cover the cake, but I think that's a bit of a waste. I used 300 g and this was just right, but 400 g would have been easier to work with and you wouldn't need to worry about centering it perfectly. I ended up rubbing the whole cake for ages to hide the edges and various other lines. Again, latex gloves are brilliant and I didn't need to change them between the various colours either, one pair were enough for everything.

One unexpected surprise was that the purple food colouring didn't cope with being baked - as you can see in the photo, it's gone orange, when it was an aubergine colour when I put it in the cake. This didn't matter here, but is good to keep in mind in the future. I'm not sure there was a comment on this on the packet either. I'll have to try a different brand next time. As for the covering marzipan, it's not baked. However just using the purple resulted in grey colour. Bip said it would not be acceptable on a birthday cake. So I added a little of the red paste and it gave a really brilliant purple colour. So on 300 g marzipan, I had 2 ml purple colouring paste and 1 ml red colouring paste.

Mistakenly the green food colouring was liquid, I really wasn't pleased with this, as it means the mixture being coloured is diluted. This didn't seem to be a problem with the marzipan, but if colouring batter or meringues, it is important not to ruin the proportions..

As expected the whole thing was massively marzipan-y in flavour and went down extremely well with most of the family. We still have half a cake to go, along with lots of other things too. Birthdays are hard sometimes, when it comes to dealing with the leftovers.

2 September 2014

Pear sorbet

Sorry for dropping off for several weeks, I've reached new heights in stress levels at work and I'm worried that I'll start looking my age. There are bags under my eyes and there are wrinkles and what not. But things have finally calmed down and my inspiration and creativity is on the mend.

It is also the time of the year when the large pear trees in Lundulph's parents' garden are loaded with fruit, which is ripening and falling down and creating a health and safety hazard. So the week-end before last, Lundulph and I made a special trip for the purpose of picking pears and came home with a large bagful of the lovely things. OK, they were a bit on the hard side and quite a few of them were russet-y, but on Lundulph's Mum's recommendation, I left some of them on the window sill and a couple of days later the pears had turned yellow and started to go soft.

Thus the question came up - what do you do with a glut of pears? For some reason I plucked the word "sorbet" out of the wrinkles of my brain and did a quick search on the internet. And I was lucky to find this recipe (in Swedish), which turned out to be very easy and stunningly tasty.

I still don't have an ice cream machine, but decided to go ahead anyway, freeze the sorbet into ice cube trays, then run in the smoothie maker to basically turn it into some sort of granita or slush puppy. I also forgot the walnuts, again this turned out not to be an issue.


900 g ripe juicy sweet pears (net weight after peeling and removing the cores)
5 tbsp honey
2 dl chopped walnuts (optional)
50 g caster sugar
2 large egg whites


  1. Peel some ripe juicy sweet pears to make up 900 g and place in a deep bowl.
  2. Add the honey and purée together with a handheld blender, it should go a little fluffy even.
  3. Stir in the walnuts.
  4. Make Swiss meringue with the caster sugar and egg whites, taking care not to over-cook it.
  5. Carefully fold in the meringue into the pear purée by first loosening it up with a couple of tablespoons and then adding the rest of the meringue.
  6. Make sure there are no lumps of meringue left, then distribute into portions and put in the freezer.
  7. After 24 h the sorbet is ready

I was only able to find one ice cube tray, so distributed the rest of the sorbet mixture into my silicone brioche moulds. Then into the freezer they went last night and tonight we had some of this wonderful dessert. As I took it out, I realised that after a whole night and a whole day, the sorbet was still rather soft and would not require the smoothie maker treatment. So no need for an ice cream machine.

The one "special" thing I did was to use my vanilla infused caster sugar, though I don't think it made any difference. However, some cinnamon might be nice and possibly almonds rather than walnuts. I also wonder if this sorbet would work with other fruit like apples, bananas and mango. Actually I thought it was a bit on the sweet side, I'll use 4 tbsp of honey next time. I'd not realised how sweet the pears were.

Lundulph's verdict: Very nice, it was like eating frozen pears, but with a really nice texture. He also theorised that this might not be possible to achieve with shop-bought pears as they are varieties with long shelf life, rather than sweetness/softness/juiciness.