Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me With A Coffee Cake Inspired by Eric Lanlard's Masterclass

I am bad with birthdays. My own. With other people's birthdays I am a star. I love organizing parties, baking cakes, cooking up dinners, planning surprises, buying gifts. You get the drift.

But when it comes to my own birthday, I am a miserable failure. I am mostly lost, not being able to decide how I should go about celebrating it. Heck, I cannot even deal with birthday wishes. I mumble indistinctly when wished and try to make light of it all. Don't get me wrong. When someone remembers to wish me on my birthday, I am thrilled to bits. But at the same time I do not know how to react. I so envy those people who know exactly how they want to spend their birthdays and go about getting it done. After a lot of brain searching I have realized that they take ownership of their birthdays and control it, to give themselves maximum pleasure. I, on the other hand, do nothing and end up being miserable. Well mostly. But when a girl hits my age, you can no longer run away from owning up stuff, be it your birthday or other issues.

So I have decided to make a public post wishing myself and baking something to mark the day. Its true that I am cringing a little, but I have promised myself positive action this birthday and I cannot quit even before I start.

It all started with Eric Lanlard's masterclass at his luxury cake boutique Cake Boy. I was thrilled to be invited because Nielsen Massey organised/sponsored it and without my knowning much about them I was already their fan. I think their vanilla products are the best that you can find in the UK markets and they are pretty affordable too.So far I had only used their vanilla extract and I just love the smell of their vanilla extract. And once you buy a bottle it goes on for quiet some time. All things considered I love their products and was telling my mother that the next time I visit India I would take her some bottles. And then I got this invite.

Photo Credit Nisha of Look Who's Cooking Too
 The class started with Master Patissier Eric Lanlard giving us an introduction about Nielsen Massey's vanilla products and the care and attention that goes into extracting the all natural vanilla flavours. Then Eric showed us how to bake a Fraisier cake using the vanilla extract and paste among other ingredients. Throughout the entire demonstration he kept chatting with us, giving us tips on baking, answering our questions and clearing our doubts and sharing some of his baking experiences with us. The cake, once it was done looked scrumptious and beautiful. Check it out yourself.

Eric Landlard made this beautiful Fraisier Cake right in front of us using Neilsen- Massey vanilla products among other ingredients.

Eric putting in the final touches to his cake!

Eric with the finished Fraisier cake!
In case you are wondering about the recipe you can find it here. The class ended for us with vanilla cupcakes, goody bags filled with baking and vanilla products and a challenge. The Neilsen-Massey guys asked us to bake something with the ingredients they had provided. Since the deadline was the end of September, I decided to wait till my birthday which is at the fag end and bake myself a cake. Challenge accepted, deadline set now all I had to do was actually decide on what to bake and of course bake it too. Of course I could try Eric's Fraisier cake, but since I have never eaten a Fraisier cake before I did not want to jump right in. I have to taste it at least once before attempting it. The search was on and I kept pondering over possibilities. Till I ate a slice of coffee cake at a cafe. I am one of those people who love the smell of coffee way more than its flavours. This coffee cake I ate smelled heavenly of coffee but was rather too sugary. While eating it I thought that if I made it I would make it way less sugary and that was when the idea hit me. of course I would bake a coffee cake for my birthday and submit it for the challenge.

For the cake, I followed my mother's basic sponge cake recipe with a few tweaks here and there.


2 cups self rising flour
1 and half cups of granulated sugar
3/4th cup vegetable oil
1 tea spoon of baking soda and baking powder each
1 pinch of salt
1 tea spoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of milk
2 table spoons of Starbuck's Bottled Frappuchino at room temperature
3 eggs (at room temperature or even slightly warm, you could keep it on the window sill if the sun is out)


Switch on your oven at 150 degree Celsius and in your mixer (if you have a cake mixer how I envy you!) start blending the oil and sugar one after another for about 5 to 7 mins. You can see the colour and consistency changing. A little patience is needed at this stage, but believe me you, it is absolutely worth it.

Then add the eggs one at the time, with the first egg add a table spoon of the flour. The flour stops the egg from curdling. Give it a blitz and move onto the next egg. Once all the eggs are added mix for 3 to 5 mins more. Add the vanilla extract, the coffee and the milk. Give it one more blitz. For now let the mixture be, once you stop the mixer, you will see air bubbles forming in the sugar mix. These bubble are the secret to a good, fluffy cake.

In a mixing bowl, sieve in the flour, the baking powder and soda and a pinch of salt. Slowly add the liquid mixture and fold in gently, moving in one direction.

Grease your cake tin, get your magic cake strips ready, if using any and pour the batter onto the pan. These cake strips stop the cake from doming in the middle and a flat top is a great help while spreading the icing. The cake takes usually 40 to 45 mins to bake. But each oven varies, so please keep checking. After 20 mins or so I place a big piece of foil over the cake tin. This stops the top from burning.

Once your cake has passed the toothpick test, bring it out of the oven and leave it to cool completely. Ideally the cake should be left more than a couple of hours before attempting to cut it in layers. If you cut into a warm cake it crumbles and that we do not want under any circumstances. This video has a good tutorial on how to how to cut a cake into layers.

The Coffee Filling/Icing  :

300 gm double cream
3 tea spoons of icing sugar
1/2 tea spoon of Neilsen-Massey pure vanilla paste
2 tea spoons of coffee

In a big glass bowl, start to stir the cream vigorously. You have to stir it for 5 to 8 minutes till the cream thickens. Add the sugar a little at the time during this process. Also add the coffee and the vanilla. Continous stirring will thicken the cream to the extent that even if you invert the bowl it will not fall off.

Once your cake has completely cooled down, cut it into two. Spread the filling, starting from the centre and leaving a little space on the edges, once you put the top layer back, the filling under pressure would automatically be pushed to the edge.

Spread the remaining filling on the top and the sides by using a spatula.

The Decoration :

10/12 whole walnuts
Shavings of milk/dark chocolate

Lightly roast the walnuts and let them cool down. In a saucepan make a caramel sauce with two tea spoons of sugar and 4 tea spoons of water. Once the mixture has thickened turn off the flame. Holding the roasted walnuts upside down lightly dip into the sugar syrup and leave them to cool down. Arrange the walnuts along the edge of the cake.

Finely chop about 25 gm of chocolate and spread over the icing. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours for the icing to set.

The cake is ready and the party can now begin!

Thank you Cake Boy and Neilsen-Massey for the delightful bag of baking goodies. You made this cake possible!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New in Town: Kellogg's Special K Cracker Crisps

Recently I went to the launch of Kellogg's Special K Crisps.

It was held at the Curzon Cinema in posh Mayfair, where they showed us 'The Eye Has To Travel', a movie on Diana Vreeland. Us, the food bloggers settled down with drinks and boxes of Kellogg's Special K Crisps that were about to hit the UK markets that very week.

Just 95 calories per 21 crisps, the Kellogg's guys informed us that these crisps were popped. There are three different flavors: Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream & Onion. My personal favourite is the Sweet Chilli. It is just perfect for me, with a hint of chilli. I found the Sour Cream & Onion one a little too dry and I am not a fan of the Salt & Vinegar flavor anyhow. But the Sweet Chilli one, I sure am going back to the shops for more.

Generally associated with breakfast cereals, this new venture of Kellogg's sure makes the crisp lover me happy.Very happy indeed. Cos with this Special K launch crisp eating has become guilt free. For someone like me this is very good news. Because I have a pattern. On good days I sensibly stay away from high calorie crisps with a sigh and on bad days I demolish a bag only to feel guilty about it for the rest of the day.  It seems those days are over for good. Now I can munch on these ''guilt free'' crisps and not feel bad.

Do try them out and let me know which flavor you like the most.

Before I end, I must tell you about this Dianna Vreeland movie. Wow what a woman. She was instrumental in changing the fashion scene and made it fashionable for women to work. A lot of character and spunk! I only wish she was more supportive of the feminist movement during her time. And also that she did not popularize the skinny look. She sure made life difficult for us women. Back to the movie, it is beautiful and vibrant. I loved the 1920s fashion that they showed. And you know what even an iconic woman like her got fired from her job!

Oh another must mention is the Kellogg's bag in which we were given the crisp boxes. Such a sexy bag. It looks like a carrier bag of  an expensive fashion house. I was expecting to find a pair of shoes inside, out came a box of crisps! Oh well, never mind!



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