It has been a few years since I have been baking birthday cakes for my kids, hubby and family. But you could easily say and I would concede that I have really been really baking and learning only in the past 15 months. Yes, since I started to blog. In all these years, I have baked cakes for everyone except me! Somehow, baking for my birthday has never been part of the plans. Nope I haven't even bought a cake from the bakery either for no particular reason. Am not a party person either, and don't believe in having a lot of people over for the day. So its always just us, having a quiet meal out. Hubby though insists that I don't cook and he will buy me breakfast, lunch and dinner out. Did I tell you, he can't cook anything decent to save his life? Except Maggi and rice of course from his bachelor days. Both of these don't really have foodie me drooling uncontrollably. And I just can't eat all three meals in a day and actually enjoy each meal. But I do look forward to the meal out followed by a good dessert.
This year however, we had done a lot of eating out as my sister was visiting and I did not want to eat out anymore. People do feel that way when they reach the grand old age of 35?? Gosh! I really am growing old! And the bright spot of my birthday this year - I had decided that I would surely bake myself a cake, no matter what. My birthday was on a Monday, I spent Saturday and Sunday noon at my parent's place and excused myself for Sunday evening as I had to bake a cake and for me. My family has now realized how futile it can be to talk me out of my baking plans and we headed home. Oh I had to get the whipping cream to thaw and chill, then whip, bake the cake, cool it, fill and frost and then allow it to sit overnight in the fridge - the last in the process an absolute must, must! Came back home, settled kids down and started the process which ended quite late in the night when I sleepily, finally pushed the almost done cake in the fridge. The decoration would be taken care of in the morning...
Thankfully, one part I did not have to spend time on was deciding what cake I would be baking - or I can be extremely indecisive about this too (among other things). I had decided long back that I would be baking myself a Coffee Cream Cake.
I had actually wanted this cake to be a Coffee Walnut Cake. I had run out of shelled walnuts and was too lazy to break open the shells and then toast them. Hubby did run to the nearby store late in the night only to find the store out of stock. He shelled the walnuts I had, I toasted and chopped them to go between the layers of coffee sponge and coffee cream. Only to forget the walnuts right next to the cake when I sandwiched it:-(.
I do keep telling myself that I have to try out more sponges for cakes, but again, I did not have the time nor inclination to experiment (God forbid, a flat cake at the last minute, yikes!!!). I again baked my favorite fat less sponge. The recipe is the same, adapted from Deeba's PAB. Only I used granulated sugar in place of the powdered sugar I normally use. The sponge turned out lighter, but Deeba would turn out an even lighter sponge...all those super sponges on PAB... sigh! Yet, a lesson learnt, albeit late...
Fatless Sponge: This is my favorite base for a fresh cream cake, for its airy lightness and ability to soak up the sugar syrup so well. The porous structure of the cake and its dryness makes it ideal for soaking with syrup. Chilling the cake overnight allows the flavors to mature and the cake tastes even better with more time in the fridge. If you haven't yet tried your hands at this kind of a sponge, you surely must. It will become one recipe you will use again and again for various cakes.
This cake does not have baking powder or fat in it. The proportion of eggs to the flour is high. The cake relies on the whipped volume of eggs for the rise. The trick here lies in folding in the flour into the whipped eggs while retaining the volume.
I have tried this in an 8'' round tin as well as 9'' round tin. I think the 8'' works better in terms of the height of the sponge. If you would be doubling the recipe a 9'' tin would work fine, with a variation in the baking time.
Eggs - 3
Sugar ( I used fine grained sugar)- 1/2 cup
Plain flour - 1/2 cup
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence( you could use 1 tsp, I am worried about the eggy smell)
1 tablespoon instant coffee
Procedure: Grease, line a 8'' round tin, flour lightly. Keep aside. Pre heat oven to 190 degrees C / 375 degrees F. In a large wide bowl, take the eggs, instant coffee, essence and the sugar. With an electric mixer, whip the eggs for 10 minutes, till thick and mousse like. I start with low speed, move to medium high speed. And yes, i time it.
Sift the flour over the egg mixture in three additions. Fold in the flour very gently but thoroughly. This works best in figure 8 movements, scooping the mixture from the bottom as you go. A good silicon spatula really helps. When all the flour has been incorporated, transfer the batter to the tin. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. DO NOT open the oven door the first 20 minutes of putting in the cake. If you find the cake browning too much, carefully slide a sheet of aluminum foil over the cake.
I normally bake for about 40 minutes as I am scared of an under baked sponge. This is one cake I prefer overcooked rather than under cooked. Over cooked and dry is better because I always soak the cake with syrup. If you bake the cake in a Swiss roll tin, you would need less time. I am yet to try this...oven size constraint.
Once done, leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then run a knife along the sides to release the cake. Turn on a wire rack and cool completely. When cool, slice horizontally into 2 layers. Mark the cake layers with food color so that you can reassemble correctly. You can bake the sponge ahead and refrigerate for 2 days. This helps a lot, saves a lot of time.
For the coffee cream:
Sweetened whipping cream, very cold - 2 cups
Instant coffee - 1 tablespoon or to taste
Vanilla essence or extract - 1 teaspoon
Walnuts, toasted and chopped fine - 1/2 -3/4 cup (optional but really nice)
Chill the beaters and the bowl ( in which you will whip the cream) in the freezer for 15 minutes. Take plenty of ice cubes in another large bowl. The bowl with the cream needs to sit on this bed of ice. Plug in your hand mixer, pour the cream into the chilled bowl, add the essence and the coffee. Now get out the beaters and whip. ( I really do this, as I want the beaters cold. Whip till soft peaks form and the cream holds its shape. I prefer not to whip to hard peak consistency as spreading the cream evenly becomes tough.) Refrigerate if using the cream later.
Sugar Syrup - For a cup of water - I normally use 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon instant coffee, do use according to your taste and the rest of the ingredients in the cake. For this cake, I have used about 3 tablespoons sugar as there is coffee in the cake, the cream and the syrup too. Optionally add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Do not add too much as it may be over-powering. This cake would have done with only 3/4 cup syrup as it was lighter. Half asleep me did not realize this and the bottom layer turned out over-soaked and thinner than normal.
Assembling: First reserve some whipped cream for piping or decoration if needed. The layer facing the bottom of the tin is normally the layer which goes on the top as its smooth. Place the bottom layer cut side up on the cake platter. Brush or spoon sugar syrup evenly. Spread the cream using an off set spatula. I have put too much of cream, made uneven layers.. you should not do that..Nuts or chocolate chips can be put on this layer of cream at this point if you are wide awake and alert...Place the top layer, spoon syrup again. Frost with the cream.
Chill and decorate to your heart's content... I took the mandatory precious pics, cut and ate a full slice - I was the birthday girl after all! Again some more when no one was watching ;-)