Rainbow Dash birthday cake

chocolate cake

The daughter of friends just turned five yesterday, and is VERY excited about this. All the things she can do now that she is five! Amazing possibilities, we hear. We were invited to the party, and also asked to provide the birthday cake. Rainbow Dash was requested by the birthday girl: some blue version of the My Little Pony plastic tat world, which is also adored by my my niece. We were happy to try. We were just as happy to pass on the actual party. Twenty feral five-year olds running around a park? No, thank you……..

Birthday checkerboard cake with cocoa frosting

3 eggs
190 grammes sugar
50 grammes butter
100 ml milk
190 grammes plain flour
2 tbs dark cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Frosting: Powdered sugar, softened butter, milk, cocoa powder
Decorations: Sugar sprinkles, sugar silver balls, fondant.

Whisk eggs and sugar until it is light and airy. (I used 4 eggs, as they were small-ish.) Add butter (melted and cooled), then fold in sifted flour, cocoa, baking powder and milk. I wanted single layers of cake to be stacked, so made this cake three times, in a parchment-lined tin 20×30 cm. In the third, I omitted the cocoa, to get a yellow layer. Bake at 180C for 35-40 min. Cool.

checkerboard cake

The next day, I cut the cake into blocks and stacked them in alternating rows, like a Battenberg cake.  It’s not a cake for carving, but worked well for this. Since we baked this the day before the party, I wanted a cake that would stay moist. The frosting was whipped up with icing sugar, softened butter, a splash of milk and cocoa powder. A little white frosting was kept aside for the edge of the top cut-out, and to glue fondant. I pieced the cake together in a checkerboard pattern with frosting between and top of the layers. The third cake was a base for the pony cut-out.

My husband patiently carved out the top in layers of fondant, after hand-colouring most of these. Blue, pink and white fondant are usually available in the supermarkets here for christening cakes, but this week there was nothing but white. Must stock up on other colours the next time I see some. The cake had to be robust, with car transport and a party in the park, on a windy day, so we popped this on a foil-wrapped oven tray, covered it in foil and sent it off, hoping for the best.

Rainbow Dash birthday cake We have not heard a report back yet, but the pack of five-year olds probably demolished this in no time at all. Chocolate! Sugar sprinkles! Artificial colours! Mmmmmm……..

 

Trying my hand at semmelwraps……

semmelwrapWhat is THIS, you might wonder? Well, I am trying my hand at semmelwraps……  To explain: Carnival season is approaching, there are tacky costumes for kids in Rome shop windows and bits of confetti here and there on the wet sidewalks. The bakeries have frappe, bits of flat deep-fried pastry dusted with icing sugar. It hailed here this morning, brrr….. and I really fancied fastelavnsboller, which are Norwegian yeasted Shrovetide cardamom cream-filled buns, so time to bake! In Norway we have fastelavnsboller to mark the last Sunday before Lent, which is actually in two weeks, but I wanted these now. Last year, mine looked like this: imageIn Sweden these are called semlor and are sometimes also filled with some marzipan or almond mass. Lovely. Only this time I thought I might try the super-trendy semmelwrap, the 2015 Swedish version of cronut-mania, invented by a Stockholm bakery. You make your sweet yeasted dough, roll it out like a tortilla, an then stuff it with almond mass and whipped cream, and make a wrap. See Baka semmelwraps  for what it SHOULD look like, and recipe in Swedish. Very, very hip in Sweden right now. I used a basic sweet yeast dough for the buns, and optimistically rolled out two of the buns to see if I could make a semmelwrap. How bad could it be?

Fastelavnsboller (Shrovetide cardamom cream buns) + 2 attempted semmelwraps

25g fresh yeast (or 13g dry yeast)
70g butter, melted and slightly cooled
350 ml lukewarm milk
500g plain flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
70g sugar

Filling:
300ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar
(Optional: marzipan)

Topping:
A little icing sugar, sifted over
This makes 14-15 buns, depending on the size. Or 13 buns and two wraps.

Melt butter, and add milk. Heat until it is just finger warm, about 37C. Crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl. When the milk and butter are lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in the milk and butter, in a large bowl. Careful it is not too hot, that will kill the yeast. Add flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and sugar. Stir well, the dough will be quite sticky. Knead for a few minutes, you will feel the dough getting smoother. Let the dough rise at room temperature, under cover (I use a plastic shower cap) for 1-2 hours, you will see it doubling soon.  (ALTERNATIVELY: we went for a very long Sunday lunch with friends today, so this dough was tossed together quickly and then sat in the fridge for six hours before I came home, pulled it out and shaped the buns. Dough seemed OK.)

Knock the dough back. Divide it into 14-15 pieces, and roll these out to round buns, roughly the same size. Leave to rise on parchment paper on a baking tray, covered with a tea towel. Leave to rise until it doubles, 20-30 min or so. You can glaze them with beaten egg if you like before baking, but I skipped that this time. Bake buns at 240ºC on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes. Let the buns cool on a rack.

hveteboller
When buns / wraps are cool (otherwise the cream goes runny): whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar. Slice the buns in half. Spoon a generous blob of whipped cream on the bases, then replace each bun top carefully. Sift over icing sugar, and serve. It can be messy but is delicious!

fastelavnsbolle

WRAPS: Bake at 240ºC on the middle rack for 5-6 minutes. Let the wraps cool on a rack. (Note: the Swedish video warns against over-baking, and recommends 3 min at 240C. Mine might be a bit thick, I baked them 8 minutes.)  For the two test wraps, we excavated some leftover marzipan (35 grammes or so) and crumbled that in the two wraps.  Add some whipped cream, and dust with icing sugar. Try to fold. Discover that yes, your baked wraps are a little too thick….. mine were like thin naan, but they really need to be rolled quite thin. One was foldable, one just cracked. Both were delicious though!

image

 

Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds

oranges with pomegranate
“Do you eat frozen pizza?” said the old lady. We had just left our small local supermarket, each wheeling our shopping home and as often happens, she fancied a chat, though we had not met before. It is good practice for my Italian, so I try (though my accent is getting rougher and more Roman, I am told). Anyway, the pizza query. Pizza, yes, but frozen? “Noooo… not very often. We usually make it, or go out…” I said, wondering where this was going. Did I look like the kind of person who eats frozen pizza? Shabby coat, flat shoes AND a frozen-pizza consumer? That would probably not be a good thing. She explained that she had just bought her first frozen pizzas, as they were on offer. “Look! 1.59 euro for two pizza margheritas! But how do I cook them?” The print of the cooking advice was small, so I read it out to her, wondering what she would think of the culinary experience that evening. We waved farewell, and I hope she was not too disappointed.

Speaking of culinary experiences, it is Fiesta Friday Anniversary (part 2)! This time I am bringing this Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, in honour of simplicity and freshness, cheerful neighbours and new friends. Very easy to make, and a nice serving of sunshine now that January rain is battering our windows. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts, especially Angie@thenovicegardener. And happy anniversary! This is bound to be a culinary and visual extravaganza! Now, please pardon me while I go schmooze and taste my way through the festivities……. Mmm……….

Fiesta Friday

Orange salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds

3 oranges
2 blood oranges
1 pomegranate

Slice the peel off the oranges, top and base, then sides. Then slice them horizontally, and layer them in a bowl. Scoop out your pomegranate seeds (a teaspoon helps) and sprinkle this over: voila! Dessert!

sliced oranges

You could use grapefruit as well, and a splash of alcohol might be nice too. This is great for a dinner party, just make it advance and cover it until ready to serve.

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