Friday, 27 July 2012

Viennese Whirls

When I was a wee nipper, ours was never a particularly confectionary-heavy household. To this day, my Mum proudly tells stories of how I used to nibble at carrot sticks when the other kids were having sweets, and how, on warm days, I used to sit in a cardboard box in the garden, munching away on a bag of frozen peas. I'm pretty sure that this would be widely tutted at in today's society (by parties other than the vegetable-eating youngster, I mean), but that's not really the point...  

The point is, the first time I was introduced to some of the more spectacular-looking boxed confections, it made a pretty big impact. French Fancies seemed like cartoon goodies - out of this world - and Mr Kipling's Viennese Whirls were just about the ultimate in decadent chic.

So when I saw Mary-Anne on the Great British Bake off make her version of Viennese Whirls, 'Melting Moments', I knew I had to give them a try, and I've just been waiting for the opportunity to get around to actually doing it. I know that the buttercream she uses in the recipe is excellent, as I have used it in several recipes before, so I started out with very high hopes for re-living the sugar rush experiences of my youth.

Mary-Anne's original recipe can be found here, and is definitely worth a look, as is the rest ofher excellent blog. You will see by comparing her pictures to mine, that she's also a darn site better at piping than me. Hey ho, I'll live to pipe another day! For ease of reference, I've reproduced the recipe below, with instructions for making only a half quantity of the buttercream filling from the original recipe (which was ample for this amount of biscuits).

Viennese Whirls/Melting Moments


250g plain flour
58g cornflour
58g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
a little food dye (optional)


1. Cream together the butter and icing sugar until very pale and fluffy. You will need to pipe it later, so take the hit now and do it properly, or your crampy fingers will never forgive you (I speak from experience here!)

2. Add in the vanilla extract and sift in the flour and cornflour. Beat together until the mixture is nice and smooth.

3. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, and pipe out in circles on a lined baking tray. If you are conscientious, you may want to draw out the circles so that you get a good shape. If you want the distinctive coloured stripe on your biscuits, then paint a line of food dye down the inside of your piping bag before you fill it. Mary-Anne suggests matching the colour to the flavour of jam that you use in sandwiching them together. I've made them twice, once with strawberry jam, and once with a strawberry and blackberry jam that my Mum made - hence the batch of double-coloured biscuits.

4. Pop the biscuits in the freezer for 15 minutes to help them retain their piped appearance when you bake them. I only have a teeny overcrowded freezer box, so I tried putting them in the fridge for half an hour instead. It really didn't work as well, so bear that in mind if you do have the freezer option available to you.

5. Bake at 180°C  for 12 minutes, until the biscuits are slightly golden in colour.

6. Put the tray on a wire rack for a few minutes, and when the biscuits have cooled for a few minutes, remove from the tray and allow to cool completely on the rack.

7. Sandwich together with jam of your choice, and Mary-Anne's delicious 'depression era buttercream'. If you prefer the biscuits simple, leave them unsandwiched, and they will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container with no bother. Once they are sandwiched, though, they'll go soggy fairly quicky, so put them together when serving if possible.

Depression-Era Buttercream

(due to the cooling time needed, it may make sense to start this before you start the biscuits, just sayin').


125ml milk
2tbs plain flour
110g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


1. Gently heat the milk and flour, together on the hob, stirring continually with a whisk until the mixture thickens.

2. Continue cooking and stirring for another minute to get rid of the floury taste.

3. Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover closely with cling film, and allow to cool. The cling film will stop a skin forming. The mixture musst be totally cool before proceeding to the next stage, or your buttercream will end up as a melty, curdly mess.  

4. Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy and pale in colour. 

5. Add the thickened milk mixture and continue mixing together until fully incorporated, pale and thick. Mary-Anne estimates that this will take another 10 minutes.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Strawberry Milkshake Rainbow Sponge

Last weekend my friend Beth celebrated her birthday with a children's party, which gave me the perfect excuse to make the rainbow cake I've been thinking about. Although this takes a lot of timely and careful preparation, the recipe itself is incredibly simple.

You will need six 6" square cake tins and six bowls for mixing (small bowls will do). If you have fewer tins, you can re-use them. I used one of these marvellous adjustable tins.

For the sponge:
12oz/330g margarine
12oz/330g caster sugar
6 eggs
12oz/330g self raising flour
3 tsp baking powder
6tsp vanilla extract
6tsp strawberry flavouring
1/2 tsp each of gel food colourings - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

 For the internal buttercream:
(recipe courtesy of Mary-Anne at Time to Cook Online)
This is lighter and less sickly than standard buttercream.
250ml milk
4 tbs plain flour
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the external buttercream:
This gives a sturdier buttercream for the outside of the cake.
200g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp strawberry flavouring

To decorate: An assortment of rainbow-coloured children's sweets. The ones on this cake are all suitable for vegetarians (no gelatine or cochineal).

1. Grease and line your tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.

2. In each of your bowls, cream together 2oz/55g margarine with 2oz/55g sugar until light (almost white) in colour.

3. Beat togther one egg with one of the colourings, and gradually mix in to one portion of creamed butter and sugar. If the mixture starts to curdle, add in a little of the flour.

4. Repeat this process, adding coloured egg to as many of the bowls of cake mixture as you will be able to bake in the first batch.

5. Stir in 2oz/55g flour and 1/2tsp baking powder into each of the batches that are ready to be baked, adding 1tsp each of vanilla extract and strawberry flavrouing at the same time.

6. Put each prepared portion of cake mixture into one of the prepared tins and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.

7. Allow the baked cakes to cool thoroughly on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, start preparing the internal buttercream. Whisk together the milk and the flour in a pan on the hob until the mixture thickens. Continue cooking and stirring for another minute to cook out the flour.

8. Pour the mixture onto a plate and cover closely with clingfilm so that a sking does not form. Allow to cool completely.

9. Beat together the sugar and butter until creamy and pale in colour. Add the milk mixture when it is completely cooled, and the vanilla extract. Continue wisking until the mixture is pale and thick.

10. Sandwich together the six layers of cake with the internal buttercream, starting with the purple on the bottom, and working up to a red top layer.

11. Prepare the external buttercream: Whisk together the butter and icing sugar until very light and pale in colour. Whisk in the vanilla extract and strawberry flavouring.

12. Cover the outside of the cake with the external buttercream and decorate with the colourful sweets.

Try and keep the exciting insides a secret, and wait for the gasps of excitement when the recipient finally cuts the cake!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Bake-it list

Have you seen the film The Bucket List? Basically, the two main characters write a list of all the things they want to do before they die, and set of crossing everything off.

Now although baking and dying don't go hand in hand for me (thankfullly), I nonetheless thought that it might be a rather nice idea to commit to the page all the things that I keep saying I'd like to have a go at making, to encourage myself to branch out, rather than making hundreds of increasingly random cakes and cupcakes, which seems to be my default setting. I may well add to or update this list over time, but for a starter, here's my bake-it list for the rest of 2012, in no particular order...

1. Meringue. I have never actually made meringue, but my mum used to make me little meringue mice with sugar string tails when I was a nipper. I'd almost forgotten about them until I was in a cake shop last year and saw a tray full of meringue mice and had a chilhood flashback. So maybe meringue mice, and maybe just meringue in general. We'll see.

2. Viennese Whirls. I used to like the Mr Kipling variety of these when I was younger, and ever since I saw these on one of my favourite blogs, Time to Cook Online, I have been obsessed with the idea of making some. [27th July 2012]

3. Spinach roulade of some description. I like it when savoury goods look as delightful as sweet ones.

4. Vegetable terrine. It seems like an awful faff, but I love the simplicity of the terrine form, even if I don't like the idea of how complicated it is to make. Anyhoo, Mary Berry has a bit to say on these, so I shall trust in her expertise and give it a go!

5. Bread. Proper bread that I've kneaded myself, and not the cheaty Beer Bread that I tend to favour (basically, whack a bottle of beer and some flour into a tin in the oven), and not produced in the bread machine. I really love the idea of home-baked bread, but never make it for a series of reasons. Firstly, I've got a recurrent issue with tennis elbow, so kneading isn't my favourite hobby, and even sugarpaste kneading can be painful. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I am hideously impatient. The idea of waiting for the dough to proove fills me with the jitters. But I'll get over it, right? Also... foccacia.

6. Praline. Despite my preference for making sweet treats, I'm not such a big eater of them. However, there are two sweet treats that I would choose over savoury ones any day. The first is creme brulee. The second is praline. Food of the gods! Highly naughty, decadent, calorific, and entirely satisfying. My mouth is watering even now...

7. Rainbow cake - 7 layers, each a different colour (?and flavour?). What's not to like? [15th July 2012]

8. Savoury cheesecake. I have actually made this before, but I pulled the oven shelf out too enthusiastically, and it turned upside down on the bottom of the oven. Gutmans. Definitely worth another go though. Probably involving spinach, and maybe pine nuts.

9. A coffee and walnut cake that people will enjoy. No, I'd probably never choose it myself, either, but I like the idea. Hopefully decorated with chocolate covered coffee beans.

10. ???????????

I've decided not to add an arbitrary tenth target, but I am very much open to suggestions. So if you have any ideas for what other recipes you would like to see on my blog, then please feel free to comment below!