Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

Caramelised rum and coconut pina asadas, and a big dose of guilt

As what I would consider a truly amateur food blogger, it’s always a lovely surprise when I’m contacted by anyone asking me if I would like to review their product/book/restaurant, and as long as it fits in with the content of my blog I’m happy to do it.

The only problem is, sometimes I end up with just too many things to post about and not enough time, which means it can take a little longer than I’d like to write up the posts.

I have what I think of as a guilt chest – all the things I know I should do, and feel terrible about not doing, but just haven’t quite go around to doing.

The biggest dose of guilt in it is for a cookbook I was sent months and months ago – and actually love – but until now hadn’t blogged about.

World Food Cafe: Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey has been written by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, who run the World Food Cafe in London’s Covent Garden.

World Food Cafe Quick & Easy

The book contains more than one hundred veggie recipes, literally from all around the world. It’s split into sections by country – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Chile, Cuba, Japan, Laos, Helsinki & Lapland, Namibia, Syria and Vietnam – each with the story of Chris and Carolyn’s travels in that country, and lots of notes about the traditional dishes accompanying the recipes themselves.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write this up is that I made loads of the savoury recipes straight away, but wanted to wait until I’d baked something sweet to post the recipe for. I couldn’t let it drag into the new year though, so now is the time to get rid of the guilt!

I love South American food so immediately gravitated towards Cuba to make the Huevos Habaneros (eggs from Havana) and the Sweetcorn and Caramelised Onion Tortilla de Papa, both of which were delicious.

After cooking my way around some of the other countries, I returned to Cuba to make these Caramelised Rum and Coconut Pina Asadas. I have to say, I think they would taste a million times better sat on a beach on a sunny evening in Cuba than they did in my kitchen on a cold December evening, but regardless it was a delicious dessert that I will definitely make again.

A big part of the reason I loved this recipe is the generous glug of dark rum involved – I love rum in general, but paired with pineapple, coconut, cinnamon and lime, it really is like tropical heaven.

My photos absolutely don’t do this dish justice, it was so good and I will definitely make it again. I also plan to keep trying new recipes from the World Food Cafe cookbook, as there are so may that sound amazing – the only slight downside is that a lot of them use ingredients I suspect most people don’t already have in their store cupboards, but if the ones I’ve tried so far are anything to go by it’s worth stocking up.

Caramelised rum and coconut pina asadas

  • 1/2 medium pineapples, sliced into 4 rings
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp demerara sugar
  • grated coconut
  • vanilla ice cream to serve

Melt the butter over a low heat, then add the rum, lime, cinnamon and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the pineapple and leave to marinade for half an hour.

Heat a griddle pan and lay the pineapple slices in it. Sprinkle the coconut on top, and baste with the leftover butter mixture. Once the underneath has caramelised, flip over to cook the other side and sprinkle with more coconut and baste with more butter.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – and a perhaps a side of rum if you have any going spare…

Courgette Mojito Cake

Continuing my mini-series of vegetable bakes, using the fab produce sent to me by Riverford Home Delivery Cornwall, is a recipe using one of my favourite vegetables, courgettes.

I cook with courgettes in my savoury meals usually once a week, but I’ve only ever used them once for baking, in a fairly basic chocolate cake.

When I received the box of veg from Riverford (full selection of veg above!), I was excited to have the chance to try something a little more adventurous, and pretty quickly an idea came into my head that just wouldn’t go away – courgette mojito cake.

I think my thought process started with pairing courgettes and lime, having seen a few recipes for lemon courgette cakes. Turning it into a mojito cake was jointly inspired by the fact that mojito cake has been on my to-bake list for a very long time, and by the fact that I might have drank one or two of the cocktails while on my travels and was having slight withdrawal symptoms…

I did a bit of research, and decided to combine two different recipes – a courgette and lime sponge on the River Cottage website, and the delicious sounding sugar syrup used in Lorraine Pascale’s mojito cake, from her book Baking Made Easy.

I wanted it to be easily shareable, so I made a flatter rectangular cake rather than a tall round cake, splitting it into two thin layers to soak with the sugar syrup and sandwich with a lime, rum and mint buttercream.

The cake turned out exactly as I had hoped – light zesty sponge with a real flavour of mojito, rather than just being lime and mint. It went down pretty well with everyone who tried it, and it’s a fabulously summery cake so I think I will definitely have to make it again!

baking with spirit

This cake is also perfectly timed to enter into June’s Baking with Spirit challenge, hosted by Cake of the Week. The challenge was to create something based on a cocktail, using spirits you already had in the house – I’m currently back living at my dad’s house, and one of the benefits of this is an exceptionally well-stocked alcohol cupboard with Bacardi among the many spirits available!

Courgette Mojito Cake (adapted from here and here)

  • 250g courgettes
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • zest ad juice of 1 lime
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 60ml fat free natural yoghurt
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the sugar syrup:

  • 40ml white rum
  • 20ml water
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • half a bunch mint leaves

For the buttercream:

  • 50g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • zest and juice 1 lime
  • 3-4 mint leaves, very finely shredded
  • 1-2 tsp white rum

For the cake, start by grating the courgettes finely – it takes ages – then squeeze out any excess moisture. Whisk the eggs and sugar until trebled in volume, then add in the oil, yoghurt, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture, then pour into a greased and lined 8×12″ rectangle tin. Bake at 170 degrees (fan oven) for around 30 minutes, or until golden and springy.

While the cake is cooking, make the sugar syrup. Add the rum, water, sugar and lime juice to a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and stir until the liquid thickens into a syrup, then remove from the heat, add the lime zest and mint leaves and leave to infuse.

For the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then add 50g of the icing sugar and beat until no lumps remain. Add the lime zest and juice, finely shredded mint and 1 tsp rum and the rest of the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Taste and add more rum if necessary, or more icing sugar if it needs thickening.

Once the cakes are cool, use a sharp bread knife to slice through the sponge horizontally. Brush the cut side of the bottom layer with sugar syrup, and the cut side of the top layer with more rum, if you like. I like. Spread the buttercream over the bottom layer, then place the second layer back on top.

Cut into squares and serve, on a sunny day with a long glass of refreshing mojito on the side!

Cosmopolitan truffles

Happy second birthday We Should Cocoa!

Sadly I haven’t been involved with Choclette and Chele’s chocolate challenge since the start (largely because this blog hasn’t even been running that long), but in the year or so that I have been taking part I’ve had a fantastic time coming up with chocolate creations that use the chosen ingredient or theme.

Thanks to We Should Cocoa I’ve discovered I love blackcurrants and can eat them without an allergic reaction, that chocolate pairs well with goat’s cheese, and that crocodiles make surprisingly cute cakes…

This month Choclette decided the best way to celebrate WSC’s birthday was with a cocktail – an excellent idea, I think everyone will agree.

After much deliberation, I decided the cocktail I wanted to use as inspiration was the Sex and the City favourite, the Cosmopolitan – a properly girly concoction of vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry juice and a twist of lime.

White chocolate seemed like the natural partner for those flavours, and rather than bake an overcomplicated cake I thought a simple truffle would be best so all the flavours could come through.

These are definitely best suited to people with quite a sweet tooth, but the flavours work well – if you like the cocktail, you’ll probably like these!

Cosmopolitan truffles

  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • zest of an orange
  • zest and juice of a lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 10g butter
  • 80ml double cream
  • 100g white chocolate to coat

Put the cranberries in a non-metallic bowl with 1tbsp (15ml) of the triple sec, the orange zest, lime zest and juice and sugar, and leave to soak for half an hour. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat gently until the cranberries soften, then blitz in a food processor until the cranberries are chopped into very fine pieces.

Chop the 150g white chocolate and place in a bowl with the butter. Heat the cream until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate and butter. Leave for a minute then stir until all the chocolate has melted. Stir in the cranberries and remaining 15ml of triple sec, then whisk with an electric whisk for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is cooled and has thickened a bit.

At this point I added a couple of drops of pink food colouring, because the cranberries alone hadn’t quite achieved the vivid pink colour I was hoping for, but this is totally optional – depends how much you care about looks!

Chill the mixture in the freezer for an hour or so, then spoon small amounts of the mixture and roll into balls (it’s a fairly soft truffle so I found dusting my hands with icing sugar helped a lot). Put back in the freezer while you melt the remaining white chocolate, then either did the truffles in the chocolate or spoon the chocolate over the truffles, whichever way you find easiest. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat!

Lime drizzle cake

This is my final cake from last month’s barbecue, and by far the most simple!

If you like lemon drizzle, you’ll love lime drizzle, and even if the weather is typically miserable and British this cake will be like a little ray of sunshine in your day!

The recipe is from Levi Roots’ Food for Friends cookbook, and uses the slightly unusual (to me at least) method of rubbing in the flour and butter as you would for pastry rather than creaming butter and sugar. I was a little concerned it would end up lumpy, but it actually turned out as a very nicely textured, light sponge.

The only thing I’d change if I made this again is adding even more lime to the cake mix for a little extra zing!

Lime drizzle cake (from Levi Roots’ Food for Friends)

  • 125g butter
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • zest and juice of 3 limes
  • juice of another 2 limes
  • 100g caster sugar

Rub the butter into the flour until it forms a breadcrumb like mixture, then stir in the 125g sugar, followed by the zest and juice of the first three limes. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until risen, golden, and springy to the touch.

While the cake is baking, make the icing by stirring the remaining 100g sugar into the juice of the two limes. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke it all over with a skewer and then pour the lime sugar mix evenly over the top. Leave to cool then cut into squares.