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Berry Mousse Layer Cake

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I love meringue and I love a really light and airy sponge cake. I also love berries and cream. I decided to create a cake that incorporated all of these elements into one festive cake.

Each layer is easy to make, and the whole cake can be assembled on the day you bake it. But it does take a little more time than (my) average throw-all-the-ingredients-in-the-food-processor cake!

It’s a lovely celebration cake. I made it for a friend’s special birthday. It would be a great cake to serve at Christmas for dessert – it’s so fresh, colourful, full of berries – Christmas on a plate!

To make it, you construct layers of meringue and sponge cake with layers of  berry mousse, rasbberry jam, more berries and cream. The mousse really softens the meringue layers and make the sponge cake almost dissolve.

Decorate how you like – fancy or plain – the cake will look good and be delicious either way!

You will need: meringue layers, sponge cake layers, berry mousse, raspberry jam, whipped cream and fresh berries.

Berry Mousse – I used raspberries, blackberries and a few cherries. I’ve made it before with blueberries and strawberries in the mix too.

Ingredients
400g mixed frozen berries
125g caster sugar
300ml cream
1 sheet gelatine
Method
Soften gelatine in a bowl of water for 5 minutes. Place frozen berries in a saucepan with the caster sugar. Cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the berries begin to break down. Remove from heat.
Squeeze excess water from the gelatine and add to the berry/sugar mixture in the saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the gelatine. Set aside to cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks in an electric mixer. At this stage you can strain the berry mixture if you want a pure mousse, or you can leave the broken down berries in the mixture if you want a more fruity mousse.
Fold the berry mixture carefully into the whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until the mousse has thickened but not set completely.

Meringue Layers

Ingredients
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Roughly mark out rectangles the same size as the sponge cake tins on baking paper (about 23cm x 33 cm). Turn over the pieces of baking paper – you can see the rectangle markings – and place them on each of 2 baking trays.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until very stiff. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.
Spoon meringue onto paper rectangles, smoothing out tops so there no obvious peaks.
Place baking trays in centre of oven. Cook for 10 minutes to set the meringue, then turn down oven to 100 degrees C.
Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meringue is dry, but not brown.
Turn oven off, leave in oven with door ajar until meringue is cool. When meringues are completely cool, carefully remove from baking paper.

Sponge Cakes
Ingredients
50g cornflour
50g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
4 x 60g free range eggs, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease 2 rectangular cake tins or Swiss roll tins (I used a regular cake tin and a Swiss roll tin, both 23cm x 33 cm) and line bases with baking paper. Sift flours and 1/4 teaspoon salt together three times to aerate.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed for 6 minutes, or until mixture is thick, pale and tripled in volume. Gradually sift flour mixture over egg mixture while simultaneously folding in with a large metal spoon until just combined.
Divide mixture between prepared tins. Gently level the batter with a spatula. Bake for 15-20 minutes  or until cakes have shrunk away from the sides slightly and spring back
when gently touched.
Turn out on to baking paper-lined wire racks. Carefully peel away baking paper, then leave to cool.

To assemble the cake:

Mix a couple of tablespoons of raspberry jam with a teaspoon of water and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Brush the jam mixture liberally over both sponge cakes.

Place one of the meringue layers on a serving platter. Spread the meringue with 1/3 mousse. Scatter a few sliced fresh berries over the mousse. Place one of the sponge layers on top of the mousse. Spoon another 1/3 of the mousse onto the cake. Dab a little whipped cream – a couple of tablespoons – onto the mousse. Scatter a few more sliced berries over the mousse and cream. Repeat with the other sponge cake layer, the remaining 1/3 mousse, a little whipped cream and more sliced berries. Place the other meringue layer on top.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm the cake. Decorate with whipped cream and fresh berries in whatever way takes your fancy.

The cake cuts well once it’s chilled. Everything softens up. It keeps well in the fridge, and like trifle, the flavour improves as everything blends together with time!

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Mixed Berry Muffins

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Lots of mixed berries make these muffins moist. I varied my usual recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook by adding some ground almonds to the dry ingredients. This gave the muffins a softer texture. Cooking the muffins in flexible silicon molds lined with muffin papers gave the muffins a nice high shape.

Ingredients – Base Mixture

1 and 1/4 cups plain flour + 1/2 cup ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bi-carbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
Demerara sugar for sprinkling on tops of muffins

Mixed Berries

3/4 cup fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Line 6 silicon muffin molds with muffin papers. If you don’t have these molds, use an ordinary muffin tin. If you use the muffin papers and three quarters fill them you will get 6 muffins.

Mix the dry ingredients for the base mixture with a spoon in a bowl until well combined.  In another bowl mix the oil, beaten egg and milk.

Gently fold in the mixed berries.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin papers.  Sprinkle the tops with a little demerara sugar for extra crunch. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven – eat  warm or cold.

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Breakfast with the Doctors: Buttermilk Pancakes and French Toast

Two amazing breakfasts were cooked for a very lucky Quirky in the Hunter Valley on the weekend by the debonair Doctor M and his partner in cuisine, DD. The fourth member of band, the senior rock chick, was another appreciative recipient.

Bill Granger’s buttermilk pancakes and French toast were lifted to new heights by the thoughtful recipe tweakings of these two experienced cooks. I don’t know whether their prowess with the frying pan is down to professional dietary knowledge, or familiarization with so many of Sydney’s eateries or cooking on demand for several discerning male offspring… my money’s on the latter!

Bill Granger’s Buttermilk Pancakes

Ingredients

250 g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
750 ml (3 cups) buttermilk
75 g (2½ oz) unsalted butter, melted
unsalted butter, extra, for greasing the pan


Method

1. Stir the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a bowl.
2. Add the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter and whisk to combine.
3. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and brush a small portion of butter over the base.
4. For each pancake, ladle 80 ml (1/3 cup) of batter into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until bubbles appear on the surface.
5. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another minute.
6. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the rest of the pancakes.


Serving suggestions

Serve the pancakes in stacks with the plums, a jug of maple syrup and some yoghurt. Makes 16

Doctor M and DD served with grilled plums, strawberries, low fat yoghurt and honey.

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Bill Granger’s French Toast

Ingredients

3 eggs
185ml (3/4cup) milk
8 thick slices of brioche or panettone (Doctor M used sourdough bread – worked well)
30g (1oz) unsalted butter

Method

Whisk the eggs and milk together. Place the brioche or panettone in a shallow dish and pour the milk mixture over the top. Allow the milk to soak in thoroughly, then turn the bread over and soak the other side.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat and melt half of the butter. Add four slices of bread to the pan and fry for about one minute, until golden. Turn over and cook until the other side is golden. Repeat with the remaining bread.

Bill’s recipe suggests serving with berry sauce and a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Doctor M served with banana, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, low fat ricotta, low fat yoghurt and honey.

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