Sunday, 15 September 2013

Look back in ombre: Narcissus ombre cake

“It was a dark and rainy night…”

This seems to be the way that most of my recent blog-posts have started. 

“It was a dark and rainy night and I took shelter in a cocktail bar…”

That kind of thing.

Luckily for you guys, I usually erase it and try and find a different way to lead into a post.

It’s been Spring officially for a fortnight now but the glimpses of warmer weather have been infrequent. Rainy days are good for baking and blogging but they are also good for staying in and doing the work that you have had to bring home. That work that suddenly appeared while you were having a fantastic holiday in Sydney, and now seems like a punishment for having enjoyed yourself too much.

But, having met the deadlines for all the writing projects that have recently come my way, I finally had a quiet, free weekend for the first time since I got back, and it was time to get reacquainted with the kitchen.

I’ve been wanting to try and ‘ombre’ style cake for ages, but have been very aware that the trend (in cake, in hair, in weddings) has now passed out of fashion. There are a thousand blogs with a thousand clever ombre cakes out there. It isn’t new. It’s been well-and-truly done before. Still, I have never been stylish and I wanted to have a go, just to say that I had done it, so, with a sense of Spring in the air as I took my early morning walk this morning, I decided that today was the day.

A patch of everlastings that I saw while I was out walking. It seems like Spring - but for how long?
I chose the ‘narcissus’ colour theme because to me, any daffodil-sighting means that real Spring cannot be too far away. This meant yellow food-colouring – lots of it. I didn’t buy gel-colouring. I didn’t buy organic colouring. I shamelessly grovelled at the shrine of the gods of Tartrazine and used bog-standard chemical colouring that is found in any supermarket aisle. If you (or your cake-eating family and friends) are the kind of person who objects to this, I am sure that you are also possessed of the knowledge to find a healthier alternative, so when, in the recipe, it says ‘yellow food colouring’, you will know exactly what to do.

The vanilla extract was organic though!

Narcissus Ombre Cake

For the cake batter:

1 cup caster sugar

200g butter (melted)

2 eggs

1.5 cups milk

1 cup plain flour

1 cup SR flour

Yellow colouring (and 1 drop of red food colouring for the darkest layer)

For the lemon butter icing:

50g butter (melted)

Juice of 1 large lemon

3 cups of icing sugar, sifted

To make the cake batter:

In a food processor, mix melted butter and caster sugar until pale. Add eggs. Add the cup of plain flour. Then add the milk. Then add the cup of SR flour and the vanilla essence and mix until completely combined.(Adding the flours separately seems to result in a smoother batter.)

Separate the cake batter into 5 small bowls. Pour the (uncoloured) contents of one bowl into a standard spring-form tin which has been lined with baking paper. Place in oven, pre-heated to 200C, and bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
At this stage, your cake will look more like aioli, mustard and cheese sauce, but do not despair! All will be well.

 While the first section is baking, colour the other 4 portions of cake batter so that you have progressively deeper shades of yellow. Adding a single drop of red colouring to the darkest layer will get you a much richer yellow. When you have coloured all bowls to your satisfaction, repeat the baking step above with each portion of cake batter.

If they aren't perectly round, that's okay. Icing will hide a multitude of sins. ;)

Place all layers of cake onto wire trays and leave until completely cool.

To make the lemon butter icing:

Place the melted butter into a mixing bowl, add sifted icing sugar and mix thoroughly. Gradually add lemon juice until you have a mixture that is firm and not too thin. You want the kind of texture that will hold its shape and not be runny when you want to cover the cake.

To assemble the cake:

Starting with the darkest layer and working up to the uncoloured layer, stick each layer of cake together with the thin covering of lemon butter icing (you don’t want the icing to be obvious, because it will spoil the seamlessness of the ombre effect).

Use remaining icing to cover the top and sides of the cake.

To serve:

Cut each slice of cake using a clean, warm knife (you can run it under the hot-water tap before drying it off) to avoid smudging the layers when you cut the cake.

This is a pretty cake which I decided to make prettier by using some jasmine and lemon blossom from the garden, but some people actually go the distance and decorate their ombre cakes with ombre icing on the outside. It’s up to you, really.

Me, I just wanted to decorate the cake as quickly as possible, so I could cut a slice and eat it outside in the sunshine. I’ve seen the weather report for tomorrow – it says ‘increasing showers’ which means another dark and stormy night is on the horizon, and instead of being outside in the Spring weather,  I shall probably have to seek shelter in some bar…