Thursday, July 5, 2012

Birthday = excuse for Edmonds

It was my birthday yesterday, so naturally I'd spent some time putting together a morning tea shout, taking advantage of the excuse to knock off as many recipes as possible.

Some months ago, I was given a three-tiered cake stand for a housewarming gift, and though I usually use it instead of a fruit bowl, I had never actually served anything on it. I decided to make enough to fill the cake stand, and just for the sake of completing another recipe, I figured I'd do a cake for my cake pedestal as well.

I made a start on Monday night, making some sweets for the top tier. I began with marshmallows (p220), dissolving sugar in water, then adding dissolved gelatine and bringing to the boil. This mixture had to boil for 15 minutes, so I made a start on my florentine caramels (p220) while it bubbled away.

Florentine caramels are sort of like a ginger fudge. You start with sugar, coconut, and ground ginger in a saucepan, then add golden syrup, butter and milk, and heat until the sugar dissolves. That bit probably takes the longest - it really doesn't take too much boiling to get it to the 'soft ball' stage, after which it's just a matter of beating until thick and pouring into a greased and lined tin.

Meanwhile, the marshmallow mixture had finished boiling and had been sitting aside to cool down. When it was lukewarm, I got the beater into it until it had gone thick and white. At this stage, I had the option of adding either vanilla or peppermint essence. I decided to go with peppermint, but a whole teaspoon's-worth made for a pretty strong flavour. Never mind: I poured it into a lined cake tin and stuck it in the fridge.

The next recipe I wanted to make was custard squares (p82). I thought I'd get the pastry sheets ready on Monday night, so I'd only have to add the custard on Tuesday. I used bought flaky pastry - the kind in a roll. Cut in half, the roll made two reasonable-sized rectangles of pastry. There were a couple of cracks from when I tried to unroll it before it was properly defrosted, so I sort of mushed it together and hoped for the best.

The pastry had been cooking for several minutes when I realised I should have pricked it first, to prevent it from puffing up too much. I yanked it out and took to the partially-puffed pastry with a fork. It was too late to entirely prevent the puffiness, but it kept the layers reasonably flat while it finished baking.

The florentine caramels set very quickly, so it wasn't long before I had those cut into squares and packed away in an airtight container. The marshmallow was another matter. It was still quite sticky, and I suddenly realised I should have wet the baking paper before I poured the marshmallow in. I chucked it back in the fridge and decided to worry about it later.

After work on Tuesday, I went straight into the kitchen to make the custard for my custard squares. It was dead easy - just mix custard powder, sugar and a bit of the milk to a paste in a saucepan, then add the rest of the milk, some butter, and a beaten egg.

While my custard was heating gently on the stove, I got out my mixer and threw in the ingredients for mocha torte (p75). It's a cake-mix recipe, so all I had to do was throw in the contents of the sachet, along with eggs, water and softened butter - easy enough to do while I was still keeping one eye (and hand) on stirring my custard.

When the custard thickened, I poured it into a cool bowl, then pressed plastic wrap on to the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming as the custard cooled. Then I divided my cake mixture into two sponge sandwich tins, and got those in the oven while I dealt with that marshmallow.

It hadn't got any less sticky overnight. I didn't think I was going to get the baking paper off, but eventually it peeled away, albeit quite messily. I smothered the sticky stuff in icing sugar, and it cut into surprisingly tidy squares.

The mocha torte is pretty much just a chocolate cake with a coffee icing. When the cake was cool, I mixed up a batch of the icing, and attempted to sandwich the two halves together with one-quarter of the icing, as per the recipe. I found it wasn't anything like enough, so I used all the icing I'd made to sandwich the cake together, then mixed up another batch to ice the top and sides of the cake. Once I'd finished icing and adding walnuts for decoration, the mocha torte actually looked quite impressive.

The custard took a long time to cool, but finally I deemed it cold enough to sandwich the pastry sheets together. After a bit more chilling, I dusted over some icing sugar, and carefully cut my custard squares. They weren't that beautiful, and there was oozed custard everywhere, but they were done!

There was one more 'recipe' to do: back when I counted up the number of recipes I wanted to cover, I accidentally included sandwich fillings (p194), which is more a list of filling ideas than an actual recipe. I'd counted it, however, so I had to do it. I planned to make the sandwiches in the morning, so I pottered around before I went to bed, preparing ingredients like grated cheese and boiled egg.

At 6am yesterday morning, I was back in the kitchen, making a selection of the sandwich fillings. I tried egg, cheese and parsley; egg and spring onion; carrot and parsley; cheese and pineapple; pineapple and mint, and date and lemon. Some held together better than others, and they didn't stack on the stand as tidily as I'd hoped. It didn't matter; the stand was full. It was only at this point that I realised my display was sadly lacking in colour, in fact everything I'd made was in various shades of beige, white or yellow. Never mind, I knew it'd taste ok.

No one else seemed to think there was anything wrong with my presentation - generally the workmates were quite impressed, if only with the amount of food I'd provided. There was plenty there, but we still managed to eat most of it. Tai, a newcomer to our office, has proved himself very useful in the area of food disposal.

I thought all the sandwich flavours were pretty good - my favourite was the date and lemon, though it wasn't too popular with the others. The cake was nice, though my doubling up of the icing tipped the scales to the sickly side - maybe do a 1 1/2 mix if you're making this one.

The custard squares were messy but tasty - not quite the same as a bakery-bought custard square, but nice in their own way. The marshmallow was horribly sweet from all the icing sugar I used (coconut is the other option - perhaps I should have used that) and the florentine caramels were nice, but a bit sickly in the way homemade sweets often are. I should have cut them into smaller squares.

So that's that: another birthday gone by, and another five recipes ticked off the list!


  1. Very impressive. Interesting the custard squares were only dusted with icing sugar.Have never seen that before, always icing. One cafe we frequent insists on adding lemon ess to the icing and it is truly gross.Well done.c

  2. Another option for the marshmallow is half and half icing sugar and cornflour. It still dusts the stickiness away, but isn't so sickly sweet. My sister discovered the joy of the half and half mix accidentally when making coconut ice with my nephew and he won the first price at the school show day with it.

  3. What an excellent idea! I can't say I'm tempted to have another go at marshmallow in the near future, but if I ever do make it again, I'll definitely have to remember that!


Popular posts this week