rhubarb butterscotch layer cake

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so i’ve noticed on instagram this year there seems to have become this trend of making ridiculously beautiful layer cakes, strewn with flowers and glazes and gorgeous garnishes, that i just hadn’t seen before! a couple of student acquaintances have started up selling their services for 21sts and the like, and are really producing such stunning delicious creations!

me, i’m a home cook – i would never pretend to amazing, beautiful presentation skills – but these talented chicas inspired me to get ambitious during my time at home and make something that looked as good as it tasted!

my grandpa kindly obliged by having his 83rd birthday while I was home during the break, so a beautiful cake was in order.

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if you haven’t noticed, i really like rhubarb, and baking with rhubarb especially! it has such wonderful sour, tart quality that marries so well in baking, as you’re basically guaranteed to have it temper out however much sugar you throw at it! it goes well with custard, in crumbles, in cakes and muffins, in tarts, just any which way.

speaking of throwing sugar around, the sugar fast has clearly ended – with a bang huh! I am really glad i did my fortnight of no sugar and i’m definitely going to try moving forward to avoid the stuff.

i think i will continue to cut out drink sugary drinks (ie juice, hot chocolates, chai’s, sweet teas etc) because that’s how i often consume sugar in a flatting/day to day context, as we don’t really bake at the flat and i’m pretty good at not buying chocolate and lollies at the supermarket. a hot chocolate or heavily sweetened milky tea is thus how i get my sugar hit, so having a blanket rule against those will hopefully cut most of my sugar without feeling hopelessly hard done by and neglected!

this really is a beautiful cake: moist fluffy cake layers, creamy butterscotch icing, tart tender hits of rhubarb, and of course smooth luscious caramel. i adapted it from a lovely ripe recipe: i really adore these cookbooks and angela never steers me wrong! this was enjoyed by my grandpa and the rest of my extended family last night, and i’m currently eyeing up the last piece in the fridge as we speak!

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rhubarb butterscotch layer cake 

cake
250g butter, very softened
100g caster sugar
160g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 tbsp milk
250g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces (5 stems for me)

preheat the oven to 180ºC. prepare two 22cm springform cake tins with baking paper. blitz the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs in the food processor until fully combined and creamy. Add the flour and pulse to combine. add 2 tbsp milk and blitz again. fold through rhubarb bits (i took the sharp blade out and stirred the rhubarb in) then divide between the two cake tins. i weighed them to make sure they were equal, but you don’t have to! place in the oven and bake for 20-25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean – they will still feel fairly soft on top. allow to cool completely.

roasted rhubarb 
750g rhubarb, chopped into 2cm pieces (this was 9 stems for me)
2 tbsp sugar

line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the rhubarb on it. sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 15-20 mins or until tender.

caramel
300g caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup cream
place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. don’t stir, just tilt the saucepan to swirl the mixture. bring it to the boil and then let boil for another 10 mins or so – it will be a light golden, then a darker golden brown, at which point remove from the heat immediately. slowly drizzle in the cream, whisking the whole time. it will make a thin caramel sauce. set aside to cool

icing
250g cream cheese
1/2 cup caramel

beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the caramel. beat again until fully combined and no lumps remain.

note- the original recipe called for 400g cream cheese with 1 cup of caramel, we only bought one block of cream cheese so i scaled it down and nobody missed it. however, if you would like a really indulgent, decadent helping, feel free to make the original amount!

assembly
cut the two cakes in even halves, using a long serrated knife. assemble, using 1/4 of the icing and rhubarb and a little of the caramel each time. when you get to the last layer, swirl the icing over the top, mound the rhubarb in the centre of the cake and then drizzle the caramel on the edges as well as the centre so it drizzles down the sides. this would be lovely served with greek yoghurt. enjoy!

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blue sky bran muffins

Deb from the Smitten Kitchen was the first ever blogger I really discovered. I don’t remember how I stumbled across her, but i do remember that from the first post I read that I was hooked! The thing is, saying you love smitten kitchen is like saying your favourite type of biscuit is chocolate chip or your favourite gossip girl character is Blair – not exactly original! But there is a reason for all those things being very common – they are simply great!! I’ve lost track of how many smitten kitchen recipes I’ve made over the years: whenever I’m after a recipe for something, it’s my go-to, and then if I don’t find what i’m looking for, make my way down the ranks of my other much loved blogs (a rare happening, her site is like a cooking   encyclopaedia!!).

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anyway, this gushy, fangirl rant is just a prelude to yet another amazing smitten kitchen recipe. The recipe is from the Blue Sky Bakery in New York and Deb mentioned that the muffins are very wholesome, barely sweet yet still very delicious, so I decided that a monday, home alone in my pjs (holidays I love you) was the perfect occasion to audition these treats.

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We have flourishing rhubarb in the garden and I love the rhubarb and apple combination, so I after rounding up a few apples at the back of the fridge I knew had to make these. I subbed yoghurt + milk for the buttermilk because we didn’t have any buttermilk and hello, pyjamas, coconut oil for the vegetable oil because my family have turned into raging hippies (goji berries, amaranth and oat milk in the cupboard, um since when??), and added some cardamom and ginger cause I knew they’d go nicely with the fruit combo. Deb actually only calls for 3/4 – 1 cup of fruit but we love ultra fruity baked goods so I upped it and found them perfect, but you’re welcome to drop the fruit-batter ratio or just use one of the fruits if you’d like. Other fruit would also substitute nicely – I’d recommend having a read through the comments section to see what worked for other people.

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They were well received by the family, and helped fuel my brother through his scholarship history exam – needless to say, if he gets scholarship, it’ll be the muffins (and ergo me) that get the credit ;)

wrong season for rhubarb and apple? for winter fruity baking, i have a delicious flourless mandarin cake over here; brilliant summery cherry clafoutis; or super indulgent portuguese custard tarts for any time of the year!

blue sky bran muffins

1 cup greek yoghurt
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup melted coconut oil (canola or vegetable would be fine too)
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup apple chunks (3 small or 2 large apples)
1 cup rhubarb, chopped in 1 inch/ 2cm slices (this was about 6 stalks)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 F) and prepare muffin tin (I used squares of baking paper, but you can also grease with a nonstick spray or just melted butter with a pastry brush). I whisked the melted coconut oil with the brown sugar and egg first and then added the other wet ingredients as I was wary of it solidifying with the cold yoghurt, but if you’re using regular oil you can add them all then mix away. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a large bowl. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined – any more and you’ll have tough muffins. Fold the fruit in. Using a large spoon, divide evenly into the muffin tin, then sprinkle the tops with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake muffins for about 18 mins, checking after fifteen. they are done when the tops spring back when tapped (the skewer test may not work as well due to the large amount of fruit in them.) Do not over bake, as they will continue to cook for a little while once out of the oven. let them cool in tin for 5-10 mins then transfer to a container. They will keep for 3 days and would also be last for ages in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap.

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