Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Coffee, Almond & Chocolate Dessert Cakes

So I turned a year older!  One of the things I look forward to is the cake I bake for myself. Its more fun as I don’t have to organize for a birthday party as I do for the kids.  And I can get away without cooking anything for the day if I chose to! A good time to get experimental as I can survive a not-quite-there cake as it is my birthday cake and just for the immediate family.

A chocolate genoise I baked did not quite rise to the occasion –  was I grouchy! My mother thought I was crazy to be spending half a day baking myself a birthday cake and even crazier to be baking another after one failed! But that’s me and it makes me happy! At times like this, old cakes in your repertoire are saviors. You know you are sure to turn out something decent.

This cake is one from my earliest baking days a recipe I have used innumerable times. Always tasted good and (sheepish!) was the only recipe I knew! An oil based one, makes a good tea-cake, works well as a base for a cream filled cake when moistened with the right amount of syrup.  It is not in the same league as a fatless sponge in terms of texture, but the chocolaty-ness of the cake makes up for it. But the cake surely takes fairly well to a decent amount of syrup and retains its texture when moistened and chilled.

The cake came together quickly and baked quickly as I wanted a thinnish layer of cake and not too many cakes in numbers.  Lots of coffee, ground almonds and agar agar powder just enough to help the cream hold its shape once out of the supporting mousse strips.  Layers of chocolate cake and coffee almond cream – not a bad dessert for the birthday girl to eat on her birthday…and the next day too!!

Chocolate Cake – A Nita Mehta recipe ( Sorry, don't remember the name of the book)


All purpose Flour – 65 grams / 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder – 4 tablespoons /20 grams approx
Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Oil – 6 tablespoons
Eggs – 2, large / 96 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon


  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Grease, flour and line the bottom of an 8’’ square tin with baking parchment.  Shake off the excess flour. Keep aside. 
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder together thrice. Keep aside. 
  • In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla for about 2-3 minutes (speed 3 on your hand mixer) or till double in volume.  On low speed beat  in the oil till incorporated, then the sugar. Beat just enough to incorporate well 
  • Fold in the flour mixture gently. This makes a batter of dropping consistency, neither too thick nor thin.
  • Spread the batter in the cake tin and bake for about  16-18 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake or it will be dry. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack, cool completely 
  • Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 2 layers (about 5mm thick each worked best). Cut into circles with a sharp round cookie cutter. Keep covered in an airtight box till you make the cream.
Before you make the cream, have your mousse strips (10-12), cake circles and syrup ready.  You can at this point soak a circle in syrup (read below) and refrigerate covered for an hour or more to see how much of syrup you will like in the cake and soak the rest accordingly.

For the syrup

Hot water –1/2 cup
Instant coffee - 1 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 2 tablespoons (or 3 for a sweeter cake)
Vanilla - 1/4 teaspoon

Mix everything together, taste. I like the syrup to be just about sweet.  Cover and keep aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. If using coffee in the syrup you will need more sugar to temper the bitterness.

For the coffee-almond cream

Sweetened whipping cream, chilled – 2 cups
Instant coffee powder –4-5 teaspoons ( I used 5)
Powdered Sugar – 2 tablespoons (Read note)
Agar agar powder (not flakes) –1/2 teaspoon
Ground raw almonds (ground till powdery but with a bit of texture) - 1/2 cup

Note: The non-dairy cream is sweetened, but I have used a bit more as there is enough coffee (to give good coffee flavor) to temper the sweetness. Without the extra sugar and so much of coffee the cream may taste a bit bland.
  • Keep the beaters and a large bowl chilled. 
  •  Take about 6 tablespoons of the cream (from the 2 cups), agar agar and coffee in a small saucepan. On low heat, heat till bubbles form around the edge and towards the center. About 30 seconds to a minute. Be careful not to burn. Stir to mix with a spatula. Strain using a fine mesh strainer.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Do not leave for too long as the agar will begin to set and you may need to re-heat and cool again. 
  • Fill a larger bowl with ice cubes.  Sit the smaller bowl in the ice.
  • While the hot cream cools, whip the remaining cream and sugar over ice. Once the beater marks start to show, add the coffee cream and continue to beat till soft drooping peaks form when the beaters are raised. Fold in the ground almonds. At this stage, the cream will be of spooning consistency (will set more firm on refrigeration, so do not keep it in the fridge at this point). The cream can’t be made ahead as it will set in the fridge. Take about 1 ½ cups of cream and fill in a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip. 
  • Remove the adhesive tape from the strips, stick together to close and fit the cake circle snugly. Test one and remove, you can fit them in after spooning the syrup. 
  • Keep the closed mousse strips on a platter (this will be the platter which will sit in your fridge once assembled. I kept my platter in my cake caddy). 
  • Spoon syrup over the cake circles one by one. The cake should be thoroughly moist, but not soggy or dripping syrup. If needed turn the circles over and spoon the syrup on both sides. Immediately, carefully fit within the strips (one at the bottom of each). 
  • Now spoon the cream on the cake to come a little under the rim of the strip. You will fit another soaked circle on top. 
  • Moisten more circles and place on top of the cream. Pipe some cream on top, cover airtight. Refrigerate at least 8-10 hours before serving. 
  • Remove the strips carefully and place on the serving platter.  Just before serving, dust some coffee on top. Place a coffee bean on each. Making simple chocolate decorations like the one above is fun, try it if you haven't!
Please note:  Prolonged refrigeration made the cream with agar agar it go a tad dry-ish, so you may not want to keep these around for more than 2 days once assembled.

If not using agar agar, whip the cream to soft peaks (which hold their shape when the beater is raised) and use immediately. In this case, the cream will not hold its shape firmly.  Bake 1 ½ recipe of cake above in an 8’’ round spring-form, increase baking time accordingly. Make 3 layers and layer with cream (you will need more of this too). Chill, release and decorate with a chocolate lace collar.

A note on agar agar: I am experimenting with agar agar powder, used it to give texture to just hold its shape and this looks like it worked! The cream took on a slightly mousse-y texture and held its shape while it was still creamy, but obviously not the same mouth feel as softly whipped cream. How do you use agar agar?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Adams & Company ( Baking Supplies In Bangalore - A Feature)

If you have a Bangalore based grandmother or mother who bakes, you are no stranger to Adams! This almost century-old store established in 1920 specializes in bake-ware, bakery equipment, hospitality needs, crockery and cutlery among other things. Located amidst the chaos of a typical wholesale market place, close to Russel Market,  tucked away is this shop. I have been here long ago, but never really had an opportunity to go with my camera in hand and some time to browse in relative leisure!

It can be quite a task to find parking space on the lane opposite to Richards Square. If you choose to go you go on a Friday, even tough! Richards Square has little shops selling old fashioned charcoal grillls and other metal and plastic stuff. I always stop to take a look at the grills and wish I had the space to accommodate one. The shop right ahead is the shop you are looking for!
The store has two levels and before you proceed upstairs, you may want to stop to check some ramekins.

Haven't some of us been looking for these since ages? They come in quite a few sizes and shapes, from 1/4 cup (60 ml approx) to 1 cup (240 ml) and much bigger ones too. I got a few 60 ml ones in white as I thought they are just the right serving size for my pots de creme or creme brulee. If they do not have the size you want, you can request them to get them for you.

You can get blowtorches (some 850 Rs for a basic low-tech one, wow!!), double boilers, silicon mats, cake stencils, pasta machines too, told the sales person. So do absolutely try for these here.  

Ceramic ware for your scalloped potatoes, casseroles and au gratins...
  Glassware for your trifles, puddings, microwave cakes and desserts.

While you are here, take a look at the spatulas and the silcion brishes and pick up some longish wooden skewers too. Handy for using as a cake tester for tall cakes. And some more beauties in white for your food pictures.

Moving upstairs, we have a whole lot of baking tins!  Reasonably priced  heavy duty square pans (about 200 Rs for the 8'' and 9'' square ones), mini decorative (not exactly bundt shape) cup cake tray, regular and non- sticks loaf pans (they may not be standard size, do measure), pie tins, mini pie /tart tins, little metal molds (for mini cakes, muffins), brioche moulds and springform tins.

Swiss roll tins / jelly roll pans. ( Darn! I forgot to measure what size fits in my oven or find out the standard size for these!)

Wooden pizza serving platter... loved this find! Pizza lifters too...

This huge wire whisk can be really useful for mixing chiffon cake batter,  mixing large quantities of muffin, brownie batters ..till we get our Kitchen Aid mixers ladies!

Dessert rings on the right, the ones on the left...don't recall! Can you tell me?

For frosting and decorating your cakes

For playing with fondant

Other supplies

  • Blow torches
  • Silicon mats
  • Double boilers
  • Pasta machines
  • Ice cream cone shaping forms (make you own ice-cream cones!)
  • Silicon ware
  • Cake lifter
  • Palette knife
  • Serrated knifes
  • Offset spatulas
  • Chocolate moulds
  • Ice cube molds
  • Pastry tongs
  • Egg separators
  • Acrylic rolling pins
  • Savarin molds
  • Dough scrapers (metal and plastic)
  • Turntables
  • Cake combs
  • Pastry bags
  • Nozzles
  • Cake pillars
  • Fondant modelling tools
  • Cake servers
  • Pastry tongs
  • Spatulas
  • Silicon brushes
  • Cookie cutters
  • Measuring cups and spoons
    and other regular baking supplies.

They have some stylish storage glassware, copper serving kadhais and more! So do go at leisure and browse. 

They home-deliver and also try to procure most metal bake-ware according to specifications...this I think is fantastic!! They have a lot more products listed on their website. The salespeople say they have or can get all the things listed there. I was again in a rush to come back before my kids arrived, so I could not stop to browse more.

You can reach Shivajinagar Bus terminus and ask for Richards Square.

Adams & Company
#19, Richards Square
Near Russel Market
Bangalore - 560051
Phone: 25596144
email :
Website :

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oven-baked Ice Cream Cones

Summer is here and how! And a I-can't-believe-this-is-Bangalore summer at that!  A slight rise in the mercury levels and I will be squirmish, so not surprisingly just staying put in Bangalore is my idea of a summer vacation. We are boring folks, I told you! While the kids are enjoying at their summer camps, I thought I must at least try and build some excitement around making ice cream, ice-pops and fro-yos at home. And some fun homemade ice cream cones too! No, I am not lucky enough to own a waffle iron but I actually quite enjoy eating ice creams from the waffle cones made in front of ice-cream outlets. Don't tell anyone, but if my daughter has second thoughts about finishing her cone, my son and I invariably kind of (note, only kind of) compete with each other to help her finish! 

Now that a waffle iron is not one of my prized possessions, I was glad to find a recipe for oven-baked ice-cream cones from the master of frozen desserts, David Lebovitz. Though not exactly easy to shape unless you have asbestos hands, making these is still fun! Cones in chocolate, vanilla and chocolate,  zesty orange and chocolate, lemon and sesame /poppy seeds, coconut and cardamom flavors, or chocolate dipped cones. Miniature ones for kids' parties, sporting the creative designs you can think of.  Spread the batter on your cookie sheets and let your kids do a spot of  'cone designing'. ( If they look clumsy like mine, you can always say the kids did it) Something you must surely do this summer as a fun project, then fill your own ice cream or with some out of a tub.

The batter and method for these cones is very similar to that of tuiles, but this one has more flour for more sturdiness. Tuiles are really really fragile, but a tad more forgiving when you shape. The ice cream cones harden even before you can yelp 'ouch' and mine had a few cracks here and there when I tried to give them better shape. You can pop the cones in the oven again for a minute or more and they do soften again, but still a bit tricky to shape. Keep your counter-top free, have your metal cone right next to the oven, wear heat-proof, food safe gloves (if you have them) which are thin enough to allow you to shape the cones. Or use 2 thin, short kitchen towels to help you shape by partially draping the towel (just enough to protect your fingers and give you a grip) over the hot cones.  Whew! I know, this sounds more like a complex surgical procedure than making some simple cones, but I am telling you all this just so that I can say, don't tell me I did not warn you!

I made one recipe of the vanilla batter and 1 recipe of chocolate. Having both helps use the batters for contrasting flavors and colors in one cone. Recipe from Epicurious
Vanilla cones (see variations below)
  • Egg whites, 2 large  - 60 grams
  • Sugar - 7 tablespoons (85 g)
  • Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
  • Flour - 90 grams
  • Unsalted butter, melted  - 30 grams / 2 tablespoons (weighed and then melted)
Chocolate Variation:
  • Egg whites, 2 large  - 60 grams
  • Sugar - 100 grams / 1/2 cup 
  • Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
  • Flour - 60 grams
  • Cocoa - 20 grams / 3 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter, melted  - 30 grams / 2 tablespoons (weighed and then melted)
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350°F. Mise en place.
  • In a small mixing bowl, stir together the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the salt and half of the flour (or the flour and cocoa sifted together for chocolate cones), then mix in the melted butter. Beat in the rest of the flour until smooth.A tiny whisk works well here. At this point you can use the batter immediately or refrigerate it for up to 4 days. Let the batter come to room temperature before using.
  • Line a baking sheet (or the back of a 8''/9'' square or round tin) with parchment paper and use a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread 2 level tablespoons of the batter into a circle 6 inches across (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons to make about 51/2'' circles, baked for 13 minutes). Try to get the circles as even and smooth as possible. I found it easier to start off in the middle of the circle and move the back of the spoon in concentric circles (like dosa) moving outward. You will have to rotate the pan as you go, holding the parchment between your left thumb and the middle finger as the parchment tends to come away from the pan with the viscous batter.
  • Put the baking sheet in the oven and begin checking the cones after about 10 minutes. Depending on your oven, they’ll take between 10 and 15 minutes to bake. The circles should be a deep golden brown (for vanilla) throughout (some lighter and darker spots are inevitable, so don’t worry). Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use a thin metal spatula to loosen the edge of one disk. Slide the spatula under the disk, quickly flip it over, and immediately roll it around the cone-rolling form, pressing the seam firmly on the counter to close the cone and pinching the point at the bottom securely closed. ( I did a really clumsy job as the cones were really hot!)
  • Let the cone cool slightly on the mold until it feels firm, then slide it off and stand it upright in a tall glass to cool. Roll the other cone the same way. (If it’s too firm, return the baking sheet to the oven for a minute or so until it’s pliable again.)
  • Repeat, using the remaining batter. You’ll find it easier to spread the batter if you slide the reusable parchment paper off the baking sheet; any heat from the baking sheet will make the batter fussy to spread.

  • For Sesame or Poppy Seed Ice Cream Cones, stir 3 tablespoons (35 g) toasted sesame or poppy seeds and a bit of grated lemon zest into the batter.
  • For Gingersnap Ice Cream Cones, add 1 tablespoon mild molasses and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the batter. Increase the sugar to 1/2 cup (100 g).
  • For Honey-Cornmeal Ice Cream Cones, substitute 1 large egg and 1 egg white for the 1/4 cup (60 ml) egg whites. Melt 2 teaspoons of strongly flavored honey with the butter, and substitute 1/2 cup (70 g) of flour and 1/4 cup (35 g) of stone-ground cornmeal for the 2/3 cup (90 g) flour.
  • For Rosemary Ice Cream Cones, add 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary to the Honey-Cornmeal Ice Cream Cone batter.
The batter can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Let the batter come to room temperature before using. Once baked and cooled, store the cones in an airtight container until ready to serve. They’re best eaten the same day they’re baked.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lemon & Pistachio Baby Bundt Cakes - And Meeting Kate Bracks!

Receiving invites for food related events and promotions happens now and then if you are a food blogger. Now receiving an invite to meet Kate Bracks, winner of MasterChef Australia 2011 is something that doesn't happen everyday! MasterChef Australia's contestants from all walks of life made the world sit up and take notice as they morphed from cooking amateur style food to gourmet class food, presented with elan - all under pressure and the watchful eyes of George, Gary and Matt Preston. Hope for folk like us that there is a  possibility that you can cook and bake like a pro sans any formal training!

Kate Bracks, testament to ordinary people doing extraordinary things out of passion, discovering their true potential and achieving super success. A mother of three, previously a school teacher in New South Wales, Australia, Kate became a household name with MasterChef Australia 2011. She had considerable following even as one of the contestants in the phenomenal television series. Months spent away from family, husband and kids, the most difficult choice a wife and mother can make. Kate's very supportive husband urged her to enter the contest and boy, did she make him proud!! From wife-mother-teacher-homecook to world famous celebrity, television chef, author and so much more! Kudos Kate!

It was indeed a pleasure to meet her at Marriot, Whitefield last month. I know this comes a bit late, but then what is it that they say about being late better than never?  Watching her in action, it was hard to remain unaffected by her infectious energy.  We also got to taste some scrumptious Raspberry, Chocolate and hazelnut muffins The Dessert Queen baked for us!

MasterChef Australia, says Kate, made her pay as much attention to the textures and balance of flavors as the taste of food. Crispy with creamy, soft with crunchy, sweet, salt and tang - that's food for you! Here is one of the recipes from Kate's book The Sweet Life. Soft, sweet and tangy baby lemon cakes with the mild crunch of pistachios brushed generously with sweet hot syrup... they were dainty and delicious with a lovely crumb! Oh! Is this me? Am not much of a lime/lemon in desserts person, but loved these Kate! I had to stop myself from pouring some chilled vanilla bean crème anglaise over the bundts and let it pool around the bottom ...yes, that would have been even more delish!

Lemon Pistachio Baby Bundt Cakes  From  here . Kate's recipe has coconut flakes in it, I have used pistachios instead. The other minor changes I made, a slight reduction in the sugar and a tiny bit of baking soda I sneaked in. I have halved the original recipe and the batter gave me about 12 mini cakes. If making the batter with double the below recipe, you can also bake it in an 8'' round tin, preferably spring form says Kate.

Be sure to use fresh lemons for the juice and zest. Don't be scared of pouring the hot syrup on the hot cakes. Don't absolutely let anything (not even the pictures!) stop you from tasting these as soon as they turn barely warm...that's when they are at their irresistible best!

Lemon & Pistachio Baby Bundt Cakes

The Cake
All purpose flour - 105 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon
Baking soda - 1/8 teaspoon
Salt - 1/8 teaspoon
112 grams Self Rising Flour

Unsalted butter, at room temperature - 60 grams
Superfine sugar - 85 grams, approximately 7 tablespoons, read note (Kate uses 1/2 cup/ 100 grams caster sugar)
Eggs - 72 grams / 1 1/2 large
Zest of one lemon - about a teaspoon
Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
Fresh thick yogurt, lightly whisked (or sour cream) - 6 tablespoons
Sliced, raw pistachios - 1/4 cup ( I am going to make this mandatory!)

The syrup (please read note)
Water - 3 tablespoons
Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon (or more water if you do not want the tang)
Sugar - 3 tablespoons

To Serve
Crème anglaise, chilled or whipped cream and fresh blueberries.

  • Getting ready : Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F.  Generously grease your mini bundt pan (mine is about 5 tablespoons capacity) or any other mini molds, flour lightly, tap to shake off the excess. Sprinkle some of the sliced pistachios inside.  Reserve some for garnish. Set aside. 
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt thrice. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest in a small cup. Measure out the ingredients for the syrup directly into a saucepan, ready to go on the heat as soon as the cakes come out of the oven.
  • In a medium sized bowl, cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. I did this on speed 3 of my hand mixer for about 5 minutes. 
  • On speed 1, add the egg in 2 additions, beating till fully incorporated (about 30 seconds) before you add the remaining egg. Beat another 30 seconds.
  • Keep the speed low, add the lime juice, vanilla and zest.
  • Fold in the self-rising flour in two additions, alternating with the yogurt..
  • The batter will be of normal cake batter consistency, neither thick nor nor thin.
  • Spoon into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile bring the water, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low-medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. As soon as the cakes are removed from the oven, pierce each randomly 6-8 times with a fine skewer or toothpick and spoon the hot syrup on the top. Let cool for a minute, invert and spoon more syrup on the bottom of the cakes. 
  • Remove the cakes on to the serving platter, serve warm with cream and berries or with chilled vanilla crème anglaise
  • The syrup soaked cakes were terrific warm, though they were still delicious the next day.  If you wish, you could omit the syrup and they should still taste great!
Please note: Use more sugar in the batter if not using any syrup. Kate uses 1/3 cup water, 150g (3/4 cup) sugar for the double the above recipe. You could make it to your taste and the amount of sugar you have used in the cakes.

Picture courtesy Nandita Iyer
It was wonderful and truly inspiring to meet you Kate! Thanks to you, these little cakes will be made quite often in my kitchen!