Red Velvet Rainbow Cake

A year or so ago, I bought Mima Sinclair’s Rainbow Bakes Book and it’s definitely one of my favourite baking books! It always inspires me to be a creative baker and I do love that you can make a special cake which looks amazing but isn’t actually that complicated. Take this cake, for example. Underneath all the icing, it’s actually a simple and tasty red velvet cake. The ‘tricky’ part is the icing and decorating. The icing itself is a simple buttercream icing, and the only ‘tricky’ thing with it is that the shape of the cake can be a bit awkward so you just have to be patient. As for the decorating – there is a little precision required and a lot of patience to be exerted as you make a rainbow from individual skittles. However, believe me, it’s worth it for the fantastic result you get at the end! Full recipe below, but the original recipe and more fantastic bakes available in Mima Sinclair’s Rainbow Bakes book.

Red Velvet Rainbow Cake

Serves 10 | Prep time: 1 1/2 hrs + cooling | Baking time: 40 minutes | A little effort
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Red Velvet Rainbow Cake
You’ll need:
For the cake:
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing;
  • 300g caster sugar;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 40g cocoa;
  • 1-2 tsp red food colouring paste or gel;
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract;
  • 240g buttermilk;
  • 300g plain flour;
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda;
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt;
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar.
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened;
  • 250g icing sugar;
  • 200g full-fat cream cheese;
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
To decorate:
  • 3 large packets (or around 800g) of Skittles, or other rainbow coloured sweets, separated by colour.

First, make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm x 9cm bundt tin or ring mould. Using an electric hand whisk, beat the butter and caster sugar together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, food colouring paste and vanilla extract to make a thick paste. Whisk this into the butter mixture.

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Starting to decorate

Beat in half the buttermilk until smooth and combined. Sift over the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and fold through evenly with a large spoon. Gently beat in the remaining buttermilk with vinegar, then beat the whole mixture for 2 minutes.

Pour into the prepared bundt tin, spreading evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

For the cream cheese icing, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the cream cheese, a spoonful at a time, then beat in the vanilla extract until smooth and combined.

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Ready to be iced and decorated!

To decorate, once the cake is cold, use a serrated knife to trim the top so that it’s completely flat, then cut it in half vertically so you have to crescents. Use some of the cream cheese icing to sandwich the flat sides of the trimmed base together and then ‘stand’ them up on a serving plate or board securing them with a little icing underneath so the cake is the shape of a rainbow.

Using a palette knife, cover the outside of the cake evenly with the remaining icing, then press the Skittles or sweets in a coloured rows over the cake to look like a rainbow.

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And enjoy!

Original recipe from Mima Sinclair’s book Rainbow Bakes.

Just a note to say, the cake isn’t hard to make but the decoration can be a wee bit fussy. The shape isn’t the easiest to ice evenly and placing the skittles is a job for the patient ones! It takes a bit of precision and a lot of patience. However, it’s definitely worth it at the end as the cake looks absolutely beautiful and it’s just as delicious!

 

Carrot Cupcakes (Gluten-Free Option Available)

These little cakes are really easy to make and are sure to go down well with everyone, especially lovers of carrot cake. Until making these cupcakes, and eating them, I had never tried carrot cake before. They definitely converted me, so I’m pretty sure anyone would like them! Not to mention that they are really pretty, and if you substitute my decoration for sugar flowers, they would have a sophisticated finish suitable for any event – high tea, dinner party, charity bake sale or, as Delicious magazine suggests, a wedding. I made mine gluten-free as they were for a charity event at work so I have included a GF version to Delicious Magazine’s original recipe (ingredients in bold where you can swap to GF ones). I hope that by making this recipe, you’ll see that gluten-free baking doesn’t have to be hard and I doubt you’ll be able to taste the difference from the non-GF ones!

(Gluten-Free) Carrot Cupcakes

Makes 22-24 | Takes: a couple of hours including cooling | A little effort | Gluten-free
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You’ll need:
  • 200g grated carrots (about 2 medium carrots);
  • 250ml light olive oil;
  • 4 large eggs;
  • 75g sultanas;
  • 75g raisins;
  • 1 orange, zested;
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice;
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice;
  • 225g self-rising flour/ 225g gluten-free self-rising flour (I used Dove’s Farms freee range, available in most large supermarkets and free form sections).
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda.
For the icing:
  • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature;
  • 250g full fat cream cheese at room temperature;
  • 100g icing sugar.
To decorate:
  • Sugar flowers or other small decorations (baking aisle in large supermakets)

To make the cupcakes, heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix well with the mixed spice and ground spice. In a small ball, whisk the olive oil and eggs together. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry. When everything is mixed well, add the carrot, dried fruit and orange zest. Mix everything well.

Line 2 x 12-hole cupcake/muffin trays with pretty cupcake paper holders or use silicone cupcake holders.  Spoon the batter into each case and divide the batter evenly between 22 or 24 cases. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the trays until cool enough to handle, then put onto a rack to cool completely.

For the icing, beat together the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Then start beating in the cream cheese a spoonful at a time until smooth and well combined. You can spoon or pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes and top with sugar flowers. I topped mine with mini fudge bites.

Adapted from a Delicious Magazine recipe, issue May 2018, not available online.

Golden Layer Cake with Buttercup Icing

This is a really easy and simple cake, with a very light sponge and delicious buttercream icing in between. I made this for a colleague’s birthday and it went down really well, even though I had a bit of a mishap with the oven when baking. Note to self… Make sure your oven is definitely on Fan and not on the Grill setting. Just in case you end up grilling your cake one day, instead of baking, test to see if it has cooked through by inserting a skewer which should come out clean. If it hasn’t bake it, covered, in a fan assisted oven for another few minutes test again… If it did cook through, like somehow mine did, scrape off the burnt bits and cover with icing as usual. No one could tell I grilled my cake instead of baking it so…. I guess it worked! 🙂 This is a myWaitrose magazine recipe.

Golden Layer Cake with Buttercup Icing

Serves 10 | Prep 30 minutes | Cook 25 minutes | Easy | Vegetarian

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You’ll need:

50g porridge oats
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 lemons, zested
175g caster sugar
25ml sunflower oil
3 eggs
150ml double cream
75g unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup:

2 tbsp lemon juice
25g caster sugar

For the icing

100g lemon curd
100g cream cheese
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Line the base of 2 x 18cm round cake tins with baking paper. Blitz the oats to a powder in a blender or food processor, then mix in a bowl with the flour and baking powder.

Put the lemon zest, sugar, oil and eggs into a seperate bowl and mix until smooth, then beat in the cream and butter. Tip the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, fold through evenly and divide between the tins. Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Leave the cakes in their tins on a rack to cool.

For the syrup, place the lemon juice and sugar in a small pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then set aside to cool. While the cakes are still warm, prick the top of each with a skewer and spoon over the syrup.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and beat with the soft butter until smooth. Start adding the cream cheese, a heaped tablespoon at a time and incorporate well each time until you are done. Chill for 30 minutes. When the cakes are cool, spread a good layer of icing at the top of one of the cakes, then top with the other cake. Spread the remaining icing on top.

You can just serve the cake as it is without decorating – it is elegant and simple as it is! However, if you want to decorate it you can top with berries, freeze dried raspberries or chocolate swirls. I topped mine with fresh raspberries and freeze-dried raspberries.

Original Recipe from myWaitrose February 2012, available here.

Salted Caramel Traybake

I love a bit of baking during the weekend. I find it to be a lovely way to relax after a busy week and be a bit creative. I actually don’t eat a lot of cake and don’t really have a sweet tooth, but I find baking to be a great way to bring a smile to a friend’s face, say thank you and just an all around good way to bring a bit of happiness to those around me. After all, almost everyone loves cake.

I made this double-caramel treat of a traybake for a picnic this weekend and brought in the leftovers at work. It was very well received and gone within a few hours after dropping it at the office. It was also easy to make so even if you are new to baking, this should be straightforward. The original recipe is from Olive Magazine, and I have modified it ever so slightly.

Salted Caramel Traybake

Tip: I made this traybake Gluten-free by substituting the regular self-rising flour with Gluten-free self-rising flour (I use Doves Farm which you can find in most large supermarkets).

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Makes 16 squares | Takes 1hr and 15 mins + cooling | A little effort | Vegetarian | Gluten-free (see tip above)
You’ll need:
  • 4 tbsp Ready-made salted caramel sauce (I used Waitrose’s one);
  • 175g butter, softened;
  • 150g light muscovado sugar;
  • 175g self-rising flour;
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder;
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds;
  • 3 eggs.
For the toffee icing:
  • 150g butter, softened;
  • 200g (golden) icing sugar;
  • 4tbsp ready-made salted caramel sauce;
  • Chocolate or caramel sprinkles for decoration (optional).

To make the cake, first heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Spread the salted caramel on to a baking paper lined 23cm square tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until soft. Sift in the flour and baking powder and start mixing slowly adding one egg at a time. Add the almonds and mix well. Beat the mixture until smooth. Spoon into the tin and level the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack and let it cool completely. The caramel should have been absorbed by the cake, but if there is any remaining on the baking paper just spread it onto the cake.

To make the icing, beat the butter until it’s very soft and then start beating in the icing, adding it in batches. When half of it has been incorporated, beat in the salted caramel and the remaining icing sugar. Beat until smooth. If the icing is too stiff, add a bit of milk to soften – it should be easy to spread on the cake. When the cake has cooled completely, spread the icing on the top. Sprinkle with the chocolate or caramel sprinkles if you wish and cut into 16 squares. The cake will keep for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

Original recipe from Olive Magazine, issue May 2014, available here.

New Year’s Eve Potluck

New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as the Scots would say, is one of my favourite holidays. I love how we get together with our friends, family and close ones to celebrate the welcoming of the new year. Over the past few years, M and I have started a wee tradition of hosting a potluck NYE party for our friends. There is always plenty of drink to go around and a very full table with all sorts of food. We always kick off the festive buffet with a meat and a veggie main, a side or two and dessert, and our friends usually bring a dish each. You can imagine how much food we end up with!

 

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Some of the food we enjoyed on NYE!

 

It is also a Bulgarian tradition, that just after midnight we have a pastry dish called “Banitsa“. Each piece of the pastry includes a New Year “fortune” message and one piece also has a coin hidden in it. Whoever gets the coin will have lots of prosperity in the new year, and the ‘fortune’ is meant to give you an idea of what to expect in the new year. Despite the fact that I’m a great believer in “we make our own luck”, I still love writing messages of good luck and fortune and hiding them in the Banitsa. It’s always great fun reading them out and sharing what the new year will bring to us :D!

We made quite a lot of food on NYE, but  I’m going to share the three best recipes below, including a traditional Banitsa recipe:

Pizza Rustica

 

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Pizza Rustica

 

Serves: 12 | Time: 1:50 hrs | Difficulty: Easy, but requires a little effort

Tip: As the Pizza can be served just warm or at room temperature, you can make in advance (but on the same day). This is a great dish for a buffet, or for finger food. Also, I’m going to be making this when the summer comes as it’s a fantastic picnic food dish!

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil;
  • 2 large onions, sliced;
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed;
  • 1 tsp dried oregano;
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes;
  • 750g ciabatta bread mix (1 and 1/2 packets);
  • 140g salami;
  • 150g prosciutto;
  • 1 small jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced;
  • 4 balls mozzarella, thinly sliced;
  • 20 pitted black olives, halved;
  • 4 eggs, beaten + 1 egg for glazing;
  • 50g parmesan, grated

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Add the oregano and chilli to the bread mix, then make up following pack instructions.
  2. While the bread is rising, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Cook the onions and garlic until soft and golden. Season and leave to cool.
  3. Roll out half the dough to fit an oiled 30 x 40cm baking tray. Layer up the onion mix, salami, mozzarella, roasted peppers, black olives and the prosciutto, making sure the mozzarella is evenly spaced. Mix the eggs and parmesan, season and pour over the ingredients. Roll out the rest of the dough to fit the top. Trim to fit then crimp the bottom edge over the top to seal.
  4. Glaze with the extra egg then slash the top 4 times. Bake for 50 minutes, covering with parchment if it gets too brown. Cool to warm temperature before cutting into squares.

Olivier Salad

 

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Salad ‘Olivier’

 

I have grown up eating this in Bulgaria, where we refer to it as Russian salad. This is a fantastic salad which is easy to make and goes well with almost everything! My grandmother used to always serve this at family gatherings, usually as part of the starters and appetisers.

Serves: 12 (as part of a buffet) | Time: 30 mins | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 500g potatoes, peeled and halved, if large;
  • 4 eggs;
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots;
  • 1 small jar cornichons;
  • 1 small tin peas;
  • 300g cooked ham, preferably a whole piece rather than sliced;
  • 500g mayo.

Method:

  1. Boil the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes until they are just cooked (they shouldn’t be too soft). Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs – place in cold water over a medium heat and boil for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes and eggs are cooking, finely dice the carrots, cornichons and ham. Ideally, everything should be around the same size. Place everything in a large bowl. Drain and rinse the peas and add to the diced veggies and ham.
  3. When the eggs and potatoes have boiled, rinse under cold water to help cool them down. When cool enough to handle, peel the eggs. Dice both the boiled potatoes and eggs, and add to the rest of the ingredients. Start adding the mayo – around 300-400g first and mix well. Taste and add more mayo if necessary – everything should be well covered in it. Serve cold.

Banitsa

 

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Traditional Bulgarian Banitsa

 

This is one of the most versatile dishes in Bulgaria. It is often eaten for breakfast, or as a snack, served as dessert (it can be made with a sweet filling), and it is traditionally featured on the New Year’s Eve table – filled with fortunes and charms for the new year. This is a recipe which includes a traditional filling of white cheese and yoghurt, but other popular fillings include spinach or squash for a sweet version.

Serves: 16-20  | Time: 30 mins | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs,  beaten + 1 egg for brushing;
  • 300g feta cheese (or Bulgarian white cow’s cheese if you can find it);
  • 450g yoghurt;
  • 2 tbsp plain flour;
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda;
  • sunflower oil;
  • 1 packet filo pastry, at room temperature;
  • 50g butter, melted.

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C fan. Beat the eggs with the yoghurt. Crumble the feta cheese into the yoghurt mix. Add the plain flour and bicarbonate soda, mix well.
  2. Brush a baking tin (size of the filo pastry sheets in length and width, about 30x20cm) with the sunflower oil. Crumble the first two filo pastry sheets and place at the bottom. After that start layering the pastry in the following order: pastry sheet, brush with a little of the melted butter, add another pastry sheet, pour some of the yoghurt and feta mix on top (don’t overfill it but make sure it’s well spread). Repeat until you run out of the mix, finishing with the yoghurt and feta mix if there is any left. If not, you can brush with a beaten egg.
  3. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until brown.
  4. Leave to cool slightly and cut into squares.

I hope you all have a great start of 2018 and that perhaps you will be inspired to make some of these recipes, or at least try to cook some Bulgarian food at home! For more Bulgarian food inspiration, you can find three more recipes in my previous post.

Have a great year!

~Em