Dulce de Leche and Strawberry Chocolate Meringue

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 Don’t say it! I know what you’re thinking. Double cream? Dulce de Leche? MERINGUE?!?!?! What is this unhealthy monstrosity! Well I’ll tell you what it is. It is my friend Sammy’s birthday cake. And if you had heard that hopeful little voice requesting something with chocolate and caramel involved, you would have cracked too! Sometimes I just have to accept that no matter how excited I get about vegan avocado mousse tarts and chocolate fudge orange cupcakes made out of chia and almonds, not everyone feels the same. In the words of one wise friend, not everyone wants that mangy vegan shit. True words. Amen sister.

So this cake was born! Did it fill the criteria? Caramel? Check. In the blessed form of Argentinian boiled condensed milk- Dulce de Leche. (Mmm who is remembering those evil caramel chocolate cookies?) Chocolate? Holy mama. And the chocolate was vegan! So please, I tried. I had so much fun shaving shards off my 2.5 kilogram block! Now that’s a lot of chocolate. I had lots of egg whites languishing in the freezer leftover from a recent vanilla ice cream episode, so meringue was the obvious way to go. The strawberries were a really yummy and colourful addition to what turned out as quite a light and creamy dessert. I made it in just over an hour, including the whole time the meringue was baking and I was dancing aggressively to Celtic rock music. (I have no shame). 

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I don’t actually recommend making it in such a short amount of time because as you can see from the equally delicious and equally horrendous photograph below, cream spreads when warm. It seriously knows no bounds. I was running late for the birthday lunch so I whipped the underdone meringue out of the oven, comforting myself that it would be perfectly chewy and marshmellow-centred because of my lack of baking time. I practically threw it on the floor and poured on a pile of cream and caramel. I like to think it was Jackson Pollock inspired. “Controlled chaos”. Once in the car, it started to ooze and meld together into a pool of creamy caramel and melted chocolate. For some reason, no one eating it complained at all!

Meringues and pavlovas were seriously one of my favourite desserts ever when I was growing up. Number one, they were always served with a practical mountain of fresh berries on top. I was OBSESSED with berries from a very young age. Number two, it looks like a marshmellow cloud, and is covered in cream. Number three, for some reason when people serve meringue, the slices are seriously enormous. And there’s nothing better than a plate of dessert that’s bigger than your plate of dinner was.

You can do lots of things with this super simple meringue base! I used the same ratio that Jamie Oliver uses. You can cover it in cream and whatever you really want. Fresh fruit, chocolate mousse and toffee shards, crush it up with ice cream, berries, yogurt and honey, anything! Go insane. And please forgive me for any mishaps in getting this post up or if I’m slow replying to comments, questions etc. I’m away! And sending lots of love from overseas.
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Caramel, Strawberry and Chocolate Meringue: Adapted from here

1 400ml can (13.5 fluid ounces) condensed milk

5 large egg whites, at room temperature
220g caster sugar

1 300ml (1 + 1/4 cup, 1/3 ounce) double cream
150g (5 ounces) chopped dark chocolate
400g (1 pound, 14 ounces) strawberries or mixed berries
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Put your can of condensed milk in a saucepan and fill half-way with water. Boil gently for 2-3 hours, constantly making sure the water is covering the bottom third of the can. Alternatively, pour it into a baking dish and bake for half an hour until golden and thick.

Preheat the oven to 150C (302F). Lay a sheet of baking paper on a tray. In a stand mixer with a very clean bowl, start whisking your egg whites. Speed up to fast and whisk until the egg whites form stiff peaks (not so stiff they are lumpy! You whisk more later). At this point, slow it down and start pouring in your sugar. Whisk on low to combine and then put it back on fast. Whisk for 5-8 minutes, until the meringue is glossy and thick, and when you rub some in between your fingers there are no sugar granules. Spoon the meringue on to the tray and flatten down with a spatula, leaving room on the edges for expansion. Bake for about an hour, until white but still spongy in the centre.

When the meringue is done, leave it to cool. Whip the cream with a teaspoon of vanilla, if you want. Just until slightly thicker and fluffed. Wash and cut your strawberries, and cut your chocolate in shards. Spoon the cream over the meringue, then smooth over a layer of caramel. Dulce de Leche is thick but try and smooth it by using a knife and spoon to create long strands. Just before serving throw on the berries and chocolate and dig in! Serves 8. Once the toppings are on, try and eat it within the hour.
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Mango, Peach and Chocolate Sorbet Layer Cake

Vegan and Gluten Free

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Guys, come on. How epic is this cake! I made my own birthday cake! Before you start thinking “oh no, that’s really sad! The baker’s curse strikes again!” I was actually really excited to make my own cake. Making your own birthday cake equals making your idea of cake heaven. It means creating the most amazing and perfect combination that doesn’t have to please anyone but yourself. 

For me that equalled not even making a cake at all. Instead, I made an ice cream layer cake! Who wants to bother with fiddly layers and boring old cake flavours when instead you can just eat ice cream. Lets be serious here. Especially when the ice cream is home churned and made out  of three mind bogglingly good flavours.

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The bottom layer is of course mango. I know I’m overwhelming people with the mango…it’s getting ridiculous. Imagine if I had a follower that hated mangoes! They’ve probably unsubscribed until March. The good thing about this cake though is that you can kind of choose whatever flavours you like the best. The middle layer (my favourite layer) is chocolate sorbet, and the top layer is an amazingly refreshing peach and raspberry sorbet. 

This cake is similar to the chocolate, berry and cinnamon ice cream cake I made for my boyfriends birthday a while ago. Ever since making that cake I was just itching to make another one. It was so good! My dream would be to have a recipe list full of hundreds of different ice cream cake combinations with all the ice cream flavours of the land! 

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I didn’t bother making a base for the cake because whenever I’m eating ice cream cake, I always want less base more ice cream. AND IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! You could of course make the brownie base from the cinnamon and berry cake, or you could make a gluten free and vegan base like in this frozen lychee cheesecake. Just double the recipe so it’s enough for the larger tin. 

This cake is absolutely perfect for holiday season. It’s actually super easy. Especially if you aren’t as in to making ice cream as me, and instead just buy your three favourite flavours. It makes a lot of ice cream to feed a crowd with minimum effort. And it’s naturally vegan and gluten free! My idea of the perfect birthday cake 🙂 Hope you like it as much as me! Speaking of, I might go eat another slice right now…

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Mango, Peach and Chocolate Sorbet Layer Cake:

Mango Sorbet: loosely based on Serious Eats

3 medium mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks

150ml (2/3 cup) water

130g (1/2 cup) sugar

juice of 1 medium lime

2 tablespoons gin or white rum

Blend all the ingredients together thoroughly. Pour into a bowl, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled (at least 5 hours). Freeze in your ice cream machine according to instructions. 

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 Chocolate Sorbet: Recipe from David Lebovitz

170g (1 3/4 cups) dark chocolate

550ml (2 +1/3 cups) water split into 375 ml (1.5 cups) and 125ml (1/2 cup) bowls

200g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) sugar

75g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk 375ml (1.5) cups of water with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil and whisk frequently. Boil for about 1 minute until completely combined and glossy

Break up the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Pour over the hot chocolate mixture and leave to melt. Stir together until completely incorporated, then stir in the rest of the water and the vanilla. Cool in the fridge over night then churn in ice cream machine. 

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Peach and Raspberry Sorbet: Recipe from Cookie and Kate

6 medium yellow peaches

150ml (1/2 cup) water

250g (1/2 pound, 9 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen

Cut up the peaches and place in a pot with the water. Put a lid on and gently simmer until the peaches are soft. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until combined. Mix in the raspberries and leave to cool. Blend well, and refrigerate for 8-10 hours until cold. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions. 

To assemble: Get a 23cm (9 inch) round springform pan and release the bottom. Slip a sheet of plastic wrap in between the bottom and the sides and secure in place, so that the plastic wrap is curled up around the outside of the tin and covers the bottom. Line the sides either with oil and baking paper, or more plastic wrap. Take out one sorbet and let if defrost until soft. Scoop into the tin and spread evenly. Freeze until hard. Repeat with the other layers, allowing a few hours inbetween to let each layer freeze solidly and prevent them bleeding together. Release the cake from the tin before serving and place a plate on top of the cake, before inverting it and peeling off the plastic. Place a large plate on the exposed base and flip it back over. Work fast so it doesn’t melt! Run a knife under boiling hot water in between slices to get a smooth finish. Eat it!!!

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Lemon and Berry Butter Layer Cake

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Eleven years ago, when I was little, me and my family moved suburbs. We changed primary schools to go to the local public school. I really didn’t want to go! I didn’t want to leave all my friends behind. I didn’t want to wear egg yellow shirts and crimson boy shorts, or have our school initials constantly changed to ANUS. But now I realise that move was the best we could have ever made, because it led me to my friend Maddie.

Our families became friends basically straight away, and almost all my childhood memories are interwoven with Maddie’s family. We moved to within a block of each other, bought a puppy in the same week, bought the same car, went to the same high school, went on holidays together and even went to university together. Maddie and her family don’t realise this, but I’m actually involved in an intense lifelong stalking project.

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For her birthday I made her a classic victoria sponge cake, but fruitified. The sponge is infused with lemon zest because she loves lemon. In between the layers is a strawberry and raspberry curd and sliced strawberries as well. And the whole thing is encased in whipped cream, sort of like a giant jam scone.

I know it’s not quite spring yet but it feels so close! Strawberries are super cheap at this time of year and it was actually warm enough not to wear jeans today! This cake has a feeling of spring about it. I think it’s the sugared violets that are actually three years old but I never deemed a cake worthy enough to use them.

The curd for me ended up turning out too thin, I think because I under-cooked it. Don’t worry I’ve adjusted the recipe, but lemme tell you there were some stressful moments trying to build this cake! I ended up thickening it with some icing sugar and ground chia seeds (so yes this is indeed a very healthy cake), and the flavour wasn’t affected. If you like a super sweet cake you might want to add some extra sugar to the curd anyway, depending on how tart your berries are. 

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In other news, the very kind Jessica from Daily Gluttony nominated Sugar and Cinnamon for the Versatile Bloggers Award! I was really excited because I think Jessica’s blog is great, and love reading her recipes and stories. I’m meant to tell everybody seven things about me but my posts are usually full of things about me so I’ll just tell you one little weird thing: I love peanut butter and banana slices on toast. 

I’m not really sure how to nominate my own favourite blogs, but here are some great new blogs that I have read this week, that I think are worthy of a mention: 

Sugary and ButterySinfully SpicyMunchin’ Mel, Tide and Thyme, Half Baked Harvest, Peeps From Abroad, The Baker Chick, Recipes From a Pantry, 350 Sweets, and Cesca

For a longer list of my long-time favourite blogs, check out my library page. Now for the recipe! Feel free to adjust the types of berries you use, and as I said judge the sweetness you think you’ll prefer. You’ll need to start this recipe the day before.  

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Lemon and Berry Butter Cake:
Berry Curd: Adapted from What She’s Having

700g (4 + 1/2 cups) mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, but not blackberries, mulberries or anything too sour)

170g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) caster sugar

60ml (4 tbsp) lemon juice

60g (4 tbsp) butter

6 large egg yolks

Cut up all the berries and toss with the lemon juice and sugar. Leave to macerate at least 45 minutes. Blend together and strain into a bowl. It might take some time! Use a spoon to push out the chunks. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Pour a ladle of the berry puree in to the eggs to warm them, then return it all to the pan. Add the chopped butter and stir constantly over a medium-low heat until thickened. Strain into a jug and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to stop a skin forming, refrigerate overnight. If the mixture curdles slightly, either strain out the lumps or blend for a few moments to bring it back together. 

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For the sponge: Adapted from Cook wWith Jamie

225 (1 cup) grams butter, softened

225g (1 2/3 cups) self-raising flour, sifted

225g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) caster sugar

4 large eggs

zest of 1-2 lemons

Either: Make two sponges with this recipe and use a knife to cut them in half once cool, or split the recipe in half and make four sponges, washing your two 20cm pans in between. I find it easier to bake the layers separately but it’s up to you. 

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line 2 or 4 20cm sandwich pans. Cream your soft butter and sugar together until pale. Slowly add each egg, beating well in between additions until smooth and creamy. Sift over the flour and use a spatula to fold it in. Split the mix into two and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool, then take out of the pan.

IMG_6034For the icing and extras:
600ml (2 + 2/3 cups) whipping cream
75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
250g (1.5 cups) strawberries

Beat the cream in a cold bowl on high until just starting to thicken. Decrease the speed to medium and slowly pour in the sugar. Beat until just thick enough for soft peaks to form.

Assembly:
Cut any domes off the four cake layers. Place one layer on a large plate. Spoon over a thick layer of curd and spread it to one or two centimetres from the edge. Top with sliced strawberries. Repeat with the next two layers. Top with the final layer. To ice, use a large offset spatula to gently spread the cream in waves around the cake. Decorate either with more berries, or sugared violets.
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Chocolate Caramel Truffle Cake with Chocolate Ganache

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 It has been raining for a week now. I am so sick of rain. I know some people might be thinking what, a week? That’s nothing! But I’m sorry, having grown up during a ten year drought, when we used to use buckets to collect bath water to pour back on to the garden, I am not liking this weather at all. The photos look so sad and colourless when there’s hardly any natural light. It makes this chocolate cake look mournful! Like a going away cake. So different from the celebratory chocolate layer cake of a few weeks ago! Well my friends. That is exactly what it is. So maybe the weather suits the mood after all. 

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In a very short amount of time my friend Hannah will be jetting overseas for a ridiculously long period of time, eight months! That’s almost a year! This cake was for her surprise goodbye party and it is my third layer cake attempt. It didn’t come out looking exactly how I wanted, but hey. It has character! 

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 This is a very rich cake. The layers are a variation of a chocolate truffle cake. The recipe reads more like a brownie than anything else, and the batter smelt amazing whilst it was baking! Probably because there was an entire vanilla bean mixed with the sugar. In between these layers is a whipped dulce de leche caramel filling. Encasing the whole thing is a silky whipped chocolate ganache and sprinkles of course because we are celebrating here. 

 While it’s exciting to see her go knowing she’s going to have an amazing time exploring Europe and Asia, I’m really sad to say goodbye. I will probably be consoling myself later with a piece of this cake and a spoon (for smearing over leftover ganache, of course). 

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 Chocolate Caramel Truffle Cake (adapted from Kate Quinn Davies recipe in June Delicious 2013):

500ml (2 cups) whole milk

200g (1 + 1/4 cups or 7 ounces dark chocolate

250g ( 1/2 pound, 8.8 ounces, 1.1 cups) butter, in cubes

125ml (1/2 cup) cream 

2 eggs

1 vanilla bean

375g (1 + 3/4 cups) caster sugar

410g (3 cups) plain flour

1 tbs cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line four 20cm cake tins (or as many as you have). Melt the butter, cream and chocolate in a large bowl over simmering water. Heat the milk until warm and add to the chocolate mix, stirring to combine. Allow to cool slightly. Beat your eggs, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean until thick and pale. Slowly pour in the chocolate mix until combined. Sift over the dry ingredients and stir well. To divide the cake batter evenly, set a large bowl over a set of scales and set the weight back on zero. Pour in the mix. Divide by four and spoon in to the tin a quarter of the mix, using the weight as an indicator. Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and dry when a toothpick is inserted. 

IMG_5029 For the filling:

Depending on how thick you want the layers, use 2 to 3 cans of condensed milk. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Pour into a shallow baking dish and smooth it evenly. Cover with foil. Place the dish in a larger baking dish and pour water into so that it comes half way up the sides of the can. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the caramel is thick and brown. Check throughout a few times and make sure the water doesn’t run out. Once cool, beat with electric mixers until fluffy. Put one layer of cake on a large flat plate. Spread one quarter of the caramel over the cake, leaving a little room around the edges because it will squeeze out. Use a pallet knife or large butter knife to spread the caramel evenly. Repeat with the remaining layers. 

IMG_5036 For the chocolate ganache:

150g (1 cup) dark chocolate, broken in to pieces

200g (1 + 1/3 cups) milk chocolate, broken into pieces

300ml (1 + 1/4 cups) thickened cream

Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until scalding and pour over the chocolate. Leave for a minute, then stir together until the chocolate melts. If some of it hasn’t melted set the bowl over a stove of simmering water and stir until smooth. Cool in the fridge for an hour, until thick. Pour into a mixer and beat until fluffy. Use an offset spatula to ice the cake, using a circular motion. Decorate with sprinkles or buttons if you wish. 

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Chocolate Rainbow Cake

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The best way to cheer up a friend when they’re down is to give them cake. Whether it be a rich chocolate cake, a fluffy cupcake or a simple tea-cake, there’s a slice of cake for everybody. Recently as my friends birthday approached, she had exams approaching and was recovering from acute appendicitis. Trying to think of the perfect present that would cheer her up, I saw a rainbow cake on the blog Raspberri Cupcakes that looked so happy and cheerful, I just had to make a rainbow cake of my own. (And completely steal the design! I can’t take any credit for that at all!) 

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The cake itself is Nigella’s rich chocolate cake that I often use for birthdays, because it is dense and fudgy and stable enough for holding decorations. The icing is a smooth chocolate ganache that holds well the crunchy topping of colourful smarties and fluffy, cloudy marsh mellows. Bring this cake for any friend on their birthday and you’ll make their day. 

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Chocolate Rainbow Cake: Inspired by this cake 

200g (1 + 1/2 cups) plain flour

200g (scant 1 cup) caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda

40g (2 heaped tbsp) cocoa powder

175g (1 + 1/2 sticks) soft butter

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

150ml (2/3 cup) sour cream or buttermilk

Put all cake ingredients together in a blender and pulse until smooth and combined. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for about half an hour, but check earlier to be sure. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing. 

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Icing:

300g (1 + 1/2 cups) dark chocolate chopped and placed in a heatproof bowl

1 cup heavy cream

2 packets of smarties

1 packet of white marshmellows

Optional vanilla extract

ImageGently heat the cream in a saucepan until almost bubbling. Once hot, pour over the chocolate and allow to stand for five minutes. Stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate gives way to the cream. Put aside until cool and refrigerate for an hour. Once ready to ice, get a large, sharp knife and carefully cut an 8cm diameter circle out of the middle of your cake. (This is easier if you cut a piece of paper this size first and place it on the cake. Now cut your cake in half so you have three pieces. To make life easier put your two cakes on the serving plates now. Cover your two semi-circles in your ganache with a flat palette knife, about 1cm thick. Separate your smarties into colours and carefully line your cake, starting from the bottom inner curve, in horizontal lines. Cut your marshmellows in half with scissors and pile like clouds on the plate. Each half serves around 8.