Thursday, 21 February 2013

Food, yummy food!

This week I have been cooking up a storm...and eating like a pig! It is only Thursday and I am running out of steam in the kitchen...and I have successfully undone all of the healthy eating I had been doing! It all started this past weekend, a holiday weekend here in Canada (Family Day). For the holiday (Monday) I had my family over for dinner...a turkey dinner. It was my first time roasting a turkey. It was a bit of an adventure, having to defrost the 13 pounder and trying to remove the goodie-bag that was wedged inside. While the turkey roasted I prepared the accompanying veg - well, what I could in such a small kitchen. In my family we always have roasted potatoes with a roast dinner and there just wasn't any room for spuds in the oven, so my mum made her delicious crispy roasted potatoes and brought them over. For dessert my brother and his girlfriend brought homemade chocolate shortbread cookies, vanilla ice cream and choco-sauce. What a dinner! The turkey was a tiny bit overdone, but there was plenty of gravy and I have learned a thing or two for next time.

Next up?! Trying to figure out what to do with all of the leftover turkey! Some turkey went home with my brother (a drumstick/dark meat fan). The rest I had to sort out - but what to do? Tuesday night we had a repeat of  the previous evening's turkey dinner (leftovers always taste better!) but we were still left with a load of turkey. With the ingredients I had on hand, I whipped up some turkey chili and a batch of turkey curry. Both turned out well, but there is only so much turkey I can eat!

Today is my mum's birthday (Happy Birthday!). I am getting ready for another yummy family dinner this evening. My brother is cooking the dinner (I will help if he allows me), while I am in charge of the cake. Baking is not one of my strengths*, but for my mum, who made a cake for almost every birthday in our family, I will give it my very best! I am baking one of her favorites, a Victoria Sponge. She shared her recipe for the cake with me several years back and I have only made it a handful of times. It seems a straight forward enough recipe, but it is temperamental and I have had as many successes as I've had failures. Everything has to be just right or you can end up with a flat cake that is a bit hard and dry. The cake is a bit more dense and slightly dryer than your typical chocolate or vanilla cake and rather than being covered in icing, you simply sandwich two sponge layers together with some strawberry jam and butter cream icing and sprinkle icing sugar over the top. If done right, this cake is magic!

One of the last times my mum made a Victoria Sponge, she rocked the boat by using apricot jam instead of the usual strawberry. It was good. Damn good. So I have decided to do the same for her today. The apricot jam doesn't quite look as nice as the red strawberry jam (there, I said it), but once you give it a taste you forget all about it!

I followed the recipe exactly, and I mean EXACTLY (got the kitchen scales out and everything)! I have yet to taste the cake, after all it wouldn't be right showing up with a half eaten cake to a birthday get-together, but the cake didn't stick in the pans, isn't burnt and looks pretty good, so I am half way there! I'll let you know how it tastes once we dive in later this evening.

Update: the cake was a success! But here's a tip, don't cover a cake in powered sugar, then cover it in candles for the birthday girl to blow out, unless you are cool with cleaning down your entire dining table and washing all place-mats!

Victoria Sponge

For the cake:

225g Butter
1 Cup sugar
4 Eggs
225g Self raising flour*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:

75g Unsalted butter
1 1/2 Cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsps milk or warm water

4+ tbsps strawberry jam (enough jam of your choice to spread over the bottom layer of the cake)
Icing sugar to sprinkle over top
*You can use store bought self raising flour or mix together your own by doing the following: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 2 1/4 tsps baking powder + 3/4 tsp salt.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease/flour two 8 inch round cake tins. For the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly add some flour as you are beating the mixture. Add the remaining flour to the mixture and fold it in with a spoon. Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins - the cake mix is very thick and difficult to spread in the tins but once it starts to bake it fills the tins and evens itself out. Bake for aprox. 25 minutes or until the cake is golden and firm to the touch. After baking, allow cakes to cool in tin before turning out onto cooling rack.

To make the icing, put butter in a bowl and beat until it is soft. Gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar, followed by the vanilla extract. Add water or milk to make the icing fluffy and spreadable.

Once both cakes are cool, spread the jam on one of the cakes (bottom cake) and spread the butter icing on the other cake (top cake), sandwich the two cakes together and sprinkle the top with icing sugar.

*I don't know how, but every time I attempt to bake, without fail I mess something up. In the case of the Victoria Sponge, I have messed up the measurements for self raising flour in the past and ended up with a flat cake, so I stuck to the store bought stuff this time. I thought today, since I took things slowly and followed the recipe EXACTLY, I would be fine...right?! As I was typing out the recipe above, I realized that I had not followed the recipe exactly, as I thought I had. I used a tablespoon of vanilla extract in both the cake and icing, instead of the teaspoon the recipe calls do I manage?

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