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Nov 1, 2008 03:18 PM

Nov/Dec Dessert Cookbook of the Month: Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: CAKES & PIES

Here's the place to post recipes, experiences, pros and cons, raves, ingredient information, and general discussion of the CAKES and PIES chapters in the book.

As always, please indicate the name of the recipe and the page number.

If you do not have the book, there are usually lists of online recipes in the general topic post about the Dessert COTM.

There are apparently errors in some of the editions of this book, so please note anything you notice. I posted a list of the mistakes and fixes in the main topic thread.

Thanks, Oakjoan

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  1. Victoria Sponge - British paperback version, p14

    I just finished sandwiching together my two sponges with raspberry jam, fwhipped cream and fresh raspberries and it's looks simply gorgeous! Am about to take it to my friend's new flat as a housewarming gift so will let you know what it tastes like when I get back...

    As for the making - very simple as it's all done in the food processor. All you do is process 125g of soft butter, 225g of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 large eggs, 25g of cornflour and 1 tsp baking powder. When it's combined, add 3-4 tbsp of milk, pulsing, until it gets to a soft dropping consisteny. Divide between two 20cm sandwich tins and bake for around 25 mins. Let cool for 10 mins or so and then turn out. When cool, slather on some raspberry or strawberry jam, scatter with berries of your choice, and spread with whipped cream. Put the second layer on top and dust with icing sugar. Stand back and admire your creation.

    I've never made a Victoria sponge before, so wasn't sure whether my cakes had risen sufficiently. Now I've put it all together it looks about right, but I only had medium sized eggs so it may be that the cakes would have risen a bit more if I'd used large ones, or added an extra one (I only had four eggs left as we had scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast!).

    I will give the results of the taste test later. ;-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Question No. 1: Is Victoria Sponge a typical cake in the UK?

      Well, actually there isn't a question 2.

      I made the PANTRY SHELF CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE last night and found it extremely easy to put together. You melt butter and chocolate over very low heat, add marmalade, sugar, salt and 2 large beaten eggs, stirring to combine. Add flour bit by bit until incorporated. She says to use a wooden spoon, which I usually do anyway.

      Put into an 8" springform pan (buttered and floured) and bake for 50 mins at 350 degrees. She says you can eat while it's still slightly warm, perhaps with creme fraiche, or cold. She also suggests dusting with powdered sugar, perhaps using a cake stencil. I didn't do that either.

      Anyway, this is very rich, moist and dense, as I said above. It's almost chewy.

      Quite deelish, if not nutrish. Well, there is the vitamin C from the orange marmalade.

      It's a very dense, rich cake.

      My only problem was that I didn't have an 8 inch springform pan. The only plain springform I had was 10 inches, and so I used a tube springform that was 9 inches across with a design on the bottom. I was hoping that the depth would be made up for by the space taken up by the tube. Blahblahblah, natter, natter.

      In any case, the cake was probably less tall than it should have been. HOWEVER, it was quite delicious, chocolate and marmalade being a great flavor combo. It's quite dense. I had one piece and husband took it to work to distribute amongst the peons. He called and said it was a big hit.

      1. re: oakjoan

        A Victoria sponge (named after Queen Victoria) is the "standard" layer cake in the UK. My Mum often made a chocolate version (flavoured with cocoa powder) for our birthdays.

        I regret not using blueberries now, and making it into an Obama Sponge!

      2. re: greedygirl

        The verdict is in - and it's a hit! My friend and her parents were most impressed - "delicious" and "perfect", apparently. My friend's Dad particularly liked the raspberries in the filling. But the best accolade was from her Mum, who said it was like going to a National Trust tea shop, but I think you have to be British to get that one.

        I thought it was very nice - the sponge was tender and moist and not too crumbly, perhaps a little sweet for my taste, but that's probably because I don't have a sweet tooth. I liked the raspberry jam/fresh raspberry/whipped cream combo a lot (what's not to like?) but I think it would work equally well with strawberries or blueberries. Blackberries would be very nice too.

        1. re: greedygirl

          Glad yours was a success. I've made that victoria sponge a few times for work events, and it always goes down well. I'm American but I do get the NT tea shop reference; I work with heritage-site people a lot!

      3. Thus far I have made two recipes from this book. The first one I tried was My Mother-In-Law's Madeira Cake and the second one was the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake. About the Madeira cake Nigella says that it "is one of those plain cakes that you think you can't see the point of until you start eating it." Well, I have to say that even after I started eating it, I still can't see the point! I love plain cake, and I guess that it was just too plain for me. I would probably prefer vanilla to lemon, which didn't give the cake enough oomph, IMHO. As to the Chocolate Loaf Cake, it was quite tasty, but when Nigella says that it's a damp cake, I found that wet might be a better description! I had a issue with the outside of the cake getting too brown while the interior was downright soggy. I had to leave it in the oven a bit longer to try to cook the interior to a point where it wouldn't puddle when it was cut, and this caused the outside of the cake to get a bit overdone. I cut off the end and started slicing from about an inch in. The taste was very good, and everyone who tried it loved it, but it looked nothing like the photo in the book. Mine did sink in the middle, as expected, but much more so than the recipe indicated.

        The other issue I have with the book is that many of the recipes call for self-rising cake flour, which I never have in the house. I had to look up equivalencies, which is not what I want to do when I am baking. I also wish that the recipes had weights for ingredients, which I find ever so much more exact and far easier. At the very least, I wish that the recipes that call for self-rising cake flour, also had the amounts for regular cake flour, baking powder and salt.

        Despite these problems, I am still smitten with this book since her descriptions make everything sound so darn appealing. I actually went out and bought a box of self-rising cake flour so that I could make more of the recipes without the hassle of converting amounts.

        34 Replies
        1. re: roxlet

          I understand about the self-rising flour deal. I guess I don't mind it because I have several cookbooks that call for it so I'm used to it. I just mix up the self-rising flour before I start. Smart idea about buying it ready-made, though.

          I just wish those danged Brits would stop writing such good cookbooks! I've become expert at converting after making Ottolenghi recipes. Weren't we supposed to be going metric about 300 years ago? Whatever happened to that?

          1. re: oakjoan

            My nifty scale measures in grams and ounces. If they have the weight, I have no problems at all working with the recipe...

            1. re: roxlet

              Yes, it's really so much easier with a scale - no math!

          2. re: roxlet

            I never remember the conversion for self-rising flour so I have it written down on a sheet of paper that I keep tucked between the pages of HTBADG. I was in New York Cake and Baking Co. the other day and I saw self-rising cake flour _ first time I've ever seen it. I considered buying some but passed.

            1. re: NYCkaren

              Funny, it's a standard baking ingredient here. I have done the baking powder + plain flour thing but most of the time I have self-raising flour in the cupboard.

              1. re: greedygirl

                Yes, I understand that SR cake flour is standard in the UK _ and maybe even in other parts of the U.S.
                I am big a Nigella fan. I have all her books, I use all of them, and I'm sure I'll get "Nigella Christmas" when it goes on sale here. But I do think the U.S. editions of the books are imperfectly adapted to American kitchens.

              2. re: NYCkaren

                I am so surprised that you are in NYC and you never saw self-rising flour! For the most part, that was ALL they ever had in the NYC supermarkets, and I remember searching high and low for the plain version! I also used to sometimes buy plain cake flour when I would visit friends outside NYC -- it was that hard to get. Things must really have changed.

                1. re: roxlet

                  What I want to know, since I'm about to make the Apple Walnut Cake on p. 36, is this: I know what self-rising (or self-raising as they say in strange, foreign lands) flour is but what is self-rising CAKE flour? I always thought cake flour had added b.p. or soda or something in the first place.

                  Plz advz A.S.A.P., since I want to make this today.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    Self-rising cake flour has BP and salt. Plain old cake flour is just flour with a finer milling and a lower protein percentage.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      Sounds to me like the problem is that self rising flour is available anywhere but self rising cake flour is not. Am I misunderstanding?

                      1. re: yayadave

                        Yes, I think that there is a misunderstanding. Self rising flour is usually/almost always cake flour. As far as I know, there is no reason to have any other kind of flour with BP and salt. What would you use it for? When a package says self-rising flour, I take that to mean cake flour. Does anyone else have a different take? I'd be interested to hear about it.

                        1. re: roxlet

                          I've always thought that one could make one's own cake flour by adding some corn starch to regular flour....I actually have done that several times over the years after buying a box of cake flour, using it once and not noticing it again until several years later. I hate to buy stuff that I use only once like that.

                          What do you guys think about this?

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            I need the answer for this too. I can get self-rising flour, I can get cake flour, but I've never seen self-rising cake flour (at least not labeled as such).

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Where are you located? I am in Westchester NY, and I just purchased a box of "Presto Self-Rising Cake Flour" at the Food Emporium in Bronxville, but I see Presto four everywhere. It's in a box, not a sack...

                              1. re: roxlet

                                I live in North Carolina, and the grocery stores leave a lot to be desired. I went to my local gourmet store the other day and they didn't have anything like it. Any thoughts on how I make regular cake flour into self-rising cake flour? Thanks much in advance ...

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    Thank you JoanN. You are, as always, a cooking Goddess.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Joan N: All the recipes I've seen for "Cake" flour have included corn starch. This conversion doesn't have this as an ingred. Cake flour is supposed to be "softer" than regular flour, I think.

                                      I was going to go with adding corn starch AND the ingredients listed in your link. Hmmmm. Anybody have any info on this?

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        The recipe in my link *starts* with cake flour. I had thought that LLM was looking to make self-rising cake flour out of cake flour, not out of AP flour.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Exactly. I followed the directions for self-rising cake flour and made the cake. The flavor of the cake is wonderful (and this comes from someone who isn't a huge fan of fruit and chocolate together), but it was slightly dry. I think this is totally my fault, not the fault of the recipe. It is possible that my baking powder is a bit out of date, and my pan was a 9 inch instead of an 8 inch. I baked for 5 minutes less than called for, but probably should have gone even shorter. My cake didnt' rise much (photo later), but given how little batter there is, it probably rose as much as this cake is supposed to (I'd be interested to hear how much others' rose). Also had to sub semi-sweet for the bitter sweet choc. called for. And last, but not least, I didn't have the full amount of jam (I used apricot, and it is a really nice combination). Still, the fact that with all these changes/misteps it still turned out to be tasty shows that this recipe is forgiving.

                            2. re: roxlet

                              I use self-rising flour for beer bread. I think it is commonly used for biscuits.

                              1. re: yayadave

                                Come to think of it, I think that I have seen White Lily self-rising flour down south. As I recall, it comes in 2lb sacks, and you could certainly use it (or self-rising cake flour) for biscuits or quick breads. Since most quick bread recipes that I use don't call for it, it would take some math to figure out the difference in the recipes, so I just add my own salt and leavener. Lulusmom -- do your stores have White Lily flour?

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  I don't have any problem finding self-rising flour ... just self-rising cake flour (and sometimes even plain old cake flour). Never seen White Lily, but I'll try again next time I'm at one of the local stores. I've got the pantry cake in the oven right now, so we'll see how the measurements JoanN gave me work.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    WHAT SHE SAID! See my post above.

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      So I used a conversion recipe for the self-rising cake flour and plunged into making the Apple and Walnut Cake, p. 36.

                                      It turned out perfectly, very moist and tasty. The golden raisins add a lot to both the moistness and the taste, bringing a bit of tang. It's pretty easy to make, no whipping of egg whites or creaming butter and fact there is not butter, just walnut oil.

                                      My husband is taking it to work tomorrow so that we won't wolf down the whole thing.

                                      A really good cake that I'll make again and again. I'm sure it also helps to have great apples as I did from the local Monterey Market and Berkeley Bowl. Also used a few from my CSA box...little tiny green ones that were quite good, but irritating because coring them and all was too much trouble when they were gone in 2 bites.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        I made this recipe and have two comments -
                                        (1) the edition I have called for both self-rising cake flour AND soda and cream of tartar. its a mistake - since the online english edition calls for plain flour and the same leavenings. I had added baking powder to my cake flour and decided to leave out the extra leavenings. Anyone making this recipe as written would get a metallic tasting mess.
                                        (2) it was a good solid cake but undeerwhelming - with neither really good walnut flavor (tho I roasted my nuts and used walnut oil) nor good apple flavor. tho I used good apples. It will get eaten but it wasnt loved. Perhaps we just doint like italian style sweets or it got overshadowed by thanksgiving.

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          Oakjoan -- you sparked a longing for Berkeley Bowl with your comment on the plethora of fruit available there! I lived in Oakland for two years and brought every East Coast visitor to BB to check it out..... YUM! Good job on the cake. It's so satisfying to find a recipe that you know is going to be recreated many times with delicious results. :)

                                2. re: roxlet

                                  roxlet there is plenty of non-cake self rising flour around to serve southern bakers who make biscuits, cornbread etc. Aunt Jemima is a common brand. (I may have seen gold medal too) the self-rising formula is a shortcut for people who do a lot of daily, simple baking, it seems to me.

                                  Cake flour is specially formulated and finely milled for cakes to give that delicate crumb.

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    You're right, but I have always believed that the flour used for biscuits is also a low protein flour like cake flour. I have never seen the Aunt Jemima or Gold Medal brands of self rising flour. Maybe it's regional.

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      I can only speak to self rising flour being sold in NYC. The bleached self rising flours I mentioned are both lower protein suitable for pastry, but cake flour (I understand) is a slightly different, more finely milled formulation. Ive made a lot of cakes in with all purpose flour, but if I had a choice and the recipe called for it I would start with cake flour. If I didnt have cake flour I would use bleached, lower protein flour like gold medal, do the multiple siftings required and reduce by a cpl of spoons as recommended. If the recipe called for self-rising, would add leavening and salt.

                        2. re: NYCkaren

                          That's odd! I used to buy it all the time in NYC in my supermarket (Food Emporium). The only difference is that in the UK it's called "self-raising," and in the US it's called "self-rising."

                        3. re: roxlet

                          Hi Roxlet

                          I made the Dense Chocolate Loaf cake and the exact same thing occurred with me. The exterior was set but the interior, as you mentioned, was sunken and molten (and not molten good as you would find from a molten chocolate lava cake). I practically had to eat and bake as I went, cutting the pieces that were edible and nice looking, to serve to my roommates. Unfortunately the unset filling ran out and I had to coax it back in with a spatula, so I wouldn't end up with a hollow loaf!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            My husband just made the Chocolate Loaf tonight and we're finding the same thing. We've let it cool and one side has just dropped to the bottom and he recalls following the recipe closely. We've tried some of the pieces that cooked over the pan... and we do love the taste. Too bad it's probably not going to look nice.

                          2. Banana bread: UK paperback, p. 33

                            I make this a lot and it's always terrific. I've got one in the oven right now. Very easy to make and she's right--it makes your house smell divine.

                            It's also a very forgiving recipe, like a lot of Nigella's. SO can't have walnuts, so I leave them out. I also stopped bothering to soak the raisins long ago. I actually like them chewier. And though it calls for flour+baking powder+salt+baking soda, I've used self-raising flour (I think I add about 10g) with very good results.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Kagey

                              I've also made the Banana Bread many times, and even the chocolate version which is divine.

                              I didn't have time to soak the raisins once and regretted it - I think the taste of rum in the cake adds something special.

                            2. Blackberry Galette

                              I had a punnet of blackberries in the fridge, and a guest coming for dinner so decided to whip up this quick dessert. It's basically a free-form tart made with a polenta crust that you whizz up in the food processor. I didn't have any vegetable shortening so used beef dripping instead and it seemed to work fine (you only need 15g combined with 50g of butter).

                              After resting the pastry in the fridge you squidge it out onto a lined baking tray, plonk the blackberries on top and sprinkle with sugar. Then you spoon on some creme fraiche and fold up the edges to make a rough rim. I was in a rush and forgot to do this but it didn't seem to matter too much, apart from some of the blackberry juice leached out.

                              This was very easy to make and tasty - I particularly liked the crust. The polenta made it robust enough to stand up to the blackberry juice.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Burnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes, p. 41

                                Officer, please arrest me and put me away for life in a place I won't be able to get at these heavenly cupcakes ever again!

                                These are divine. The secret is to brown the butter and then strain it to remove all the sediment. You then cool the butter so that it re-thickens and use it in the batter for the cupcakes. It's quite a simple recipe except for the butter burning and cooling.

                                No whipping or sifting. You just put flour (self-rising cake flour, butter, sugar and brown sugar, eggs, vanilla 1 tsp BP and 2-3 tblsp milk into the food processer and whirl until you have a "soft dropping mixure". This recipe makes 12 cupcakes. They're frosted with burned butter and confectioner's sugar icing. Amazing taste. Very rich with a hint of burnt. Whatever that means.

                                The only instruction I found to be incorrect was this: Nigella says to burn the butter, strain out the sediment and then let it solidify. She cautions not to put it into the fridge and says the solidifying part "shouldn't take long, except in hot weather". After it sat there, first on the counter and then outside on the back porch and still wasn't solidifying...I put it into the fridge and even into the freezer for a couple of minutes. It finally firmed up enough to be used. So don't lose confidence when the butter doesn't set up in time....I used Plugra butter. Don't know if that made any difference.

                                I am VERY GLAD that my husband is taking them to work tomorrow....I'd be eating all of them if he left them here.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  I've been eyeing this recipes and now I'm definitely going to try it!

                                  I don't think I'll have many problems getting the butter to solidify though. Nigella clearly wasn't thinking of California when she wrote that instruction!

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    I had passed this recipe by, but now I think I'll make it. Sounds perfectly wonderful.

                                    by the way, do the people at your husband's job totally love you??

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Yes they do. I think I could get them to do anything for me....hmmm, "Please bring me 2 sacks of gold coins."

                                      I am quite addicted to their praise and, when they don't say anything or when there are leftovers at the end of the heart sinks. Well, it's not THAT bad.

                                    2. re: oakjoan

                                      I'm still awaiting my copy from the library, so I'm having fun reading along w/ everyone's baking adventures. These cupcakes sound yummy so I googled for the recipe.

                                      Does this one pretty much match your version?

                                      A couple of reviews of the recipe said it (I think mainly the icing) was too sweet. Did you find that to be true? I'll probably just gradually add the powdered sugar in the icing to taste.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        I've been dying to make these since I read oakjoan's review, and today was the day. They are everything she said - absolutely killer. Very sweet, but the burnt-ness of the butter adds a somewhat caramel or toffee type flavor. I'm in love with them.

                                        However ... my cupcakes fell. I've never had a cake fall before. What on earth could have happened? I'm using regular cake flour and using the link JoanN gave to make it into self-rising cf, but somehow it must not have worked. My cake flour is new, my baking powder is new. Anyone have any thoughts on why this happens sometimes? It wasn't a problem *at all* flavorwise, but they didn't look so pretty when they came out of the oven.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          LM: Could it be they weren't cooked enough? I had no problem with mine falling. That happened with my macaroons ;+)

                                          You don't say whether they fell while still in the oven or after they were removed.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            They fell while still in the oven. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it before. I did test them to see if they were done, and they seemed to be, so I really have no idea. I may have to give up on any of the recipes that call for self-rising cake flour. This is the second one I've tried, and both times the cakes were delicious, but odd looking. The cupcakes are almost hollow, they have a big dip in the middle - nothing a layer of icing can't conceal though!

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              I posted above my discovery that the US book I have incorrectly calls for both self rising cake flour AND leavening - it looks like this recipe calls for self rising flour AND 1 tsp baking powder - seems again like a lot of leavening - could that have contributed to your failure? Im no cake specialist - but its easy enough to look up how much leavening is needed to bake a cake using x cups of cake flour

                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                You're absolutely right - I used baking powder in the conversion to self-rising cake flour, and then again when she calls for it - that could well have been the problem. I swear, I bake a fair amount and usually things turn out very well, so this has been disheartening. But again, the taste is fantastic. I appreciate your thoughts on this - maybe the extra BP is the root of the problem.

                                      2. re: greedygirl

                                        Hmm. When I made this it ran ALL over the cookie sheet.

                                        1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                          AB: I don't understand. Since they're made in cupcake forms....did they bubble over?
                                          Or am I misunderstanding (oops, almost wrote misunderestimating) what you're talking about. Probably more likely.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            No, I was referring to the Blackberry Galette. The Cupcakes sound heavenly.

                                          2. re: Amuse Bouches

                                            Did you make the raised crust like she said? I forgot so mine ran out as well, but I assumed that was because I didn't have a crust.

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              I did make a raised crust. Now, this was 3+ years ago, but I remember thinking you win some you lose some and consigning that recipe to the "not again" pile.

                                              The supper onion pie, OTOH, is a keeper.

                                        2. Marzipan Fruitcake pg 34 US Edition

                                          Our Xmas giving for the past few years has included this recipe. The reviews are rave from everyone who receives it, and they ask for it every year. Ours never looks like hers, though. We bake it in small rectangular tins, add vanilla instead of orange water, and a little salt to the batter. I find that ours seems to have very little batter to hold all of the fruit together, so it is not as cakey as the picture on page 35. The marzipan liquifies and give the cake a lovely testure and flavor. If you are a fruitcake fan, try this one.

                                          peace, jill

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jill kibler

                                            Jill: It's good to see your post. I was intrigued by her fruitcake because I love anything with almonds in any form and because I usually hate fruitcake. What!?? Everybody doesn't LOVE fruitcake? Hardeehar.

                                            I think I'll try this.

                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                              I am curious to see what you think about it. Rum is a nice marinade too ; )