The standard layer cake and cheese shallot bread

I had to admit that the first sight of the oven in my new house was a disappointment to me. It was an old oven with quite much of tear-and-wear. But ever since I moved into this house, I have always yearned for baking again. And this old chap, surprisingly, did better than I expected.

The first recipe to try out should be within reach, nothing too fancy or wierd, so I opted for the layer cake. I also planned to focus this time on the look rather than the taste of the cake. So here is the newly-baked beauty.

This beauty doesn’t have a very smooth complexion, but it doesn’t matter. It was a complete success as it only fell a bit after being removed from the oven. You can see that it retains the little dome on top, which is a nice surprise for me. About the ‘pimples’ I guess they are there because I always tend to overmix the batter and incorperate a bit extra air. That’s what I love about baking: beating, mixing, seeing the ingredients blending into a smooth combination. If  you hate these ‘pimples’ simply trim them off. This is supposed to be a layer cake anyway.

The taste of this golden beauty, hmmmm, I must say that it was another nice surprise to me. It was everything that a standard cake has to be, so very very ‘cake’: soft, almost melt in your mouth, not too blank, not too sweet, with this golden brown edges, in short, tasty! I don’t know if it was the oven which gives the exact temperature for the baking or the recipe that gives the good proportion of the ingredients. I will post the recipe below just a moment later.

Because it is to become a layer cake, I cut this base into 2 layers. As you may have read elsewhere, the technique of cutting cake requires a bread knife (a knife with teeth, like a saw), and running the knife around the cake bit by bit rather than making a sharp cut straight across. Anyway, you can cut your cake in whatever way you feel comfortable with, just be sure to be gentle, it’s your cake!

I cut one layer further into smaller rings, to mount a layered tower. This is the single one that was spared, and after a while thinking what to do with it rather than simply putting it in my mouth, this is what it had become.

Luckily I have some plums in the fridge, so my cake ring suddenly became a Vietnamese girl with a conical hat. I gave this conical hat a touch of gloss by brushing it with a bit of gel (water + sugar + gelatin). The proportion is up to your taste. I made it quite sweet to balance with the sour plum and add all the rest of the gelatin packet I had. I wanted to make sure it’d be a gel, or glue, or whatever sticky enough. And I like the thought that my conical hat would have a snowcap like Fuji mountain, so I dusted it with caster sugar. But the gel was not dry enough so as soon as the snow landed, they melted immediately. In all, make sure that the gel rest only on the fruit (whatever fruit you use), and not the cake as the gel will damage the nice soft texture of the cake layer. As I said before, I was focusing more on the look.

I mounted my cake tower with berry jam, whipped cream and a ready-mixed pudding, called Sitron .. hm (what’s the french word for cheese?). It’s simply a pudding with sitron favour. But after tasting it, I’d recommend leaving out the pudding. This cake goes best with simple whipped cream, or anything sweet, not sitron. It didn’t taste bad, it was just that the sitron was quite out-of-place and graceless here. Anyway, the look (again) was not bad.

As you can see, I top some shaved chocolate on the cream whirls. It’s be a better theme if I had lime peel shaved, but I didn’t. For a bit outside chit-chating, to mount a layer cake tower small like this, you need a form. I saw the forms I need in a shop called Tilbord (translated into English ‘for table’), and was totally shocked at how such a simple and small item can have such a crazy dear price. So my cake form is simply a trunk of mineral water bottle. You can still see the print on this bottle on my cake. Remember that this form is for shaping the cake layers in the fridge, not for baking in the oven!

Here are the inside pattern of the layer cake.

To match with the red layer of jam, I drizzled some dried cranberry on top.

And here is the complete presentation, cake on garden threshold.

As I used only one half of the original base to mount this layer cake, I had the other intact. To decorate the uncut layer is a much simplier task. Just pour the rest of pudding on top, then arrange fruit in some pattern and finish with some swirls of whipped cream. Not any less beautiful, but much less challenge.

The close-up. When making close-up ic, I really miss my camera. I think My.Bear’s camera doesn’t make as good effect.

What I love about this close-up is the miniature pillars of cream. For me, the standard whipped cream has to have a bit of caster sugar and some drops of vanilla extract.

Here is the cut-out piece. The most gorgeous thing of all is still the cake, so soft, spongy and flavourful.

It dawns on me now that to make evenly distributed layer cake is much more difficult than I thought. It’s not only about having the right form, but also about the right texture of the ingredient layers. I set off with the idea of sacrifying the taste for the look, but once again, it turned me back to the eternal truth that the taste is more important than the look. There is no such thing as a bad but beautiful cake. And the key point in building a good, beautiful cake is the simple, ordinary-looking base. Big lesson!

Ingredients for the base cake

175 g butter (room temperature) + extra for brushing the baking form

175 g sugar

3 eggs, beaten together

175 g all purpose flour

1.5 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

(the ingredients for decoration is not listed as it is up to your imagination)

How to do it:

1. Brush the baking form(s) with butter or cooking oil. If you don’t want to go thru the pain of cutting the cake, use more than 1 forms correspondingly to the number of layers you want the cake to have.

2. Beat butter and sugar in a big bowl until they turn white, better to use an electric mixer. Introduce the beaten egg, little by little, make sure the egg incorporate into the butter mixture thoroughly before adding the next batch.

3. Sieve the flour and salt into another bowl, then add the flour mixture bit by bit into the wet mixture above. In corporate each batch well before adding the next. I used a rubber spatular to fold the flour into the wet mixture, giving them as much volume as I can  (hence the pimples on my cake).

4. Transfer the batter to the form, smoothen the surface of the cake as you like and bake the cake in the middle of the oven at 180 degree C for 25 -3 min. Test if the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick in the thickest part of the cake, it should comes out clean.

5. Take the cake out of the oven, wait some min for them to cool off. Normally the cake will fall a bit. Run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the form. Remove the form, and there you have it. You can now decorate your cake in any way you like.

About the cheese and shallot bread, it took me so much time (as always does with bread). This is the first time I make bread, and I chose this recipe simly to use up the cheese and shallot I have in my fridge. Shallot is the kind of grass-like onion that looks similar to spring onion, but smaller in size. In Vietnamese, it’s called ‘hẹ’. I’m not a fan of bread, i must say. The problem is that Norwegian bread are often too big for me to finish before they go moldy or turn hard. So comes the need for me to bake smaller bread.

Well, the making of bread is not so eventful, you just need a lot of patience. As said in any bread recipe, you’ll need a working surface dusted with flour (to avoid sticking) to knead the bread on. I have to admit this procedure of  ‘torturing the batter’ is the most scary part for me. I tried it, and it still stuck to my fingers, and the table. So, for get the cookbook, I transfered the batter back to the mixing bowl, and used my spatular to mix it forcefully. No sticking, and no messing. And the effect is the same.

This recipe requires weaving the batter like you do to your braids. I don’t know if it’s a technique,or simply for shaping the bread, but I did it anyway. I can never weave my hair, so I can do it with my bread. And here is the batter after weaving.

Here is the batter after baking

Maybe next time I will use a bread form, so that my bread will raise a bit more instead of spreading flat like this.

And here is the texture inside

This bread is a great start for me. The flavour is so savoury, with crunchy shell and soft, moist inside. It’s a great way to lure cheese-skeptics (like me) to eat cheese. If you like the smell of burned cheese and burned onion of the rim of the pizza, you’ll like this bread. It tastes so good that you can snack on the bread by itself, but I’d recommend to accompany it with soup or salad.

Ingredients

450g all purpose flour, + extra for dusting

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 small packet of Idun dry yeast (if you’re in Norway) or 12 g dry yeast

25 g butter

115 g shredded Chedda cheese (I used the cheepest kind of yellow cheese I can find here)

3 tablespoon of freshly-cut shallot (vary to your taste)

4 spring onions, chopped (I omitted this as I didn’t have spring onion and increased shallot)

1 1/2dl of finger-warm milk

1 3/4 dl of finger-warm water

cooking oil for brushing the form

beaten egg for brushing the bread

How to do it:

1. Sieve flour and salt into a warm bowl. Mix in sugar, and crumble the butter in (I cut butter into small squares and use my fingers to scrumble them into the flour). Mix in the cheese and onion. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Mix the milk together with the water and disolve the yeast. Mix the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Blend the mixture until combined. Tranfer the mixture to a table slightly dusted with flour and knead the batter for 10 min. (As I said before I gave up with this step and stayed with the mixing bowl instead)

2. Put the batter in a bowl, cover with cling film (or anything you have, just cover it), leave the bowl in a warm place for it to rise in 1 hour. It will double the size. Preheat oven at 220 degree C. Brush a baking tray with oil. Tranfer the risen batter (you can punch it to release the air first) and knead one more 1 min. Divide the batter into 3 parts, roll each into a long  sausage and then weave these 3 sausages together, like you do to make a braid.

3. Transfer the braid to the baking tray, cover and let it raise further in 45 min in a warm place. It will double the size. Brush lightly with beaten egg and bake the braid in the middle of the oven for 20 min.

4. After 20 min, reduce the oven temperature to 180 degree C and bake further for 15 min, until the braid is golden brown.

For acknowledgement of my two baking success in this new house, I don’t know if the thanks should go to the oven, or the cook book. Both of these recipes are from this cook book.

As you may guess, everything in this cook book is in Norwegian, but if you have a Norwegian dictionary, it shouldn’t be too difficult to follow. This small and inexpensive book (I think I bought it on sale) has a variety of baking recipes, from sweet to savoury, from cakes, tart, muffins to cookies, and at least up to now two of its recipes worked for me.

It always takes me so much time to bake, and to post my bakes, but so little time to eat them. This morning, I woke up to see no cake left in the fridge, and only half of my bread is left. The culprit, you know whom.

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