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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Last Course: Cadbury's Hot Chocolate Orange Pudding (2-pack)

It's actually slightly bizarre that, when I go shopping, I spend very little time in the dessert aisles. Granted, most of my local shops have a paltry selection, but even when I go further afield, my fridge is filled up with main courses rather than puddings.

This purchase was something of a whim... I saw it, it sounded interesting, I thought I'd give it a go. It's one of those desserts that comes in small plastic pots (supposedly individual servings, but what kind of miser doles out servings this small from a home-made dessert? I've seen larger portions in a central London restaurant!) that just need a minute at full blast in the microwave to make them ready to serve.

And I have so say, portion sizes aside, it's an excellent idea, and a great convenience... there are a great many ranges of such desserts - frequently in 2-packs (which basically makes for about one proper snacks & the single man serving per pack), so chocolate sponge with a Cadbury's chocolate orange sauce sounds pretty much like a no-brainer, right?

As far as it goes, yes... the sponge is wonderfully moist, not excessively gummy, and has a subtly chocolate flavour - chocolate flavour sponges do sometimes overdo it somewhat with the flavouring - and the orange tang of the sauce complements it perfectly. It's not overly sweet, the balance of chocolate/orange flavour is pretty much spot-on, the sauce is perfectly smooth and didn't seem to develop a skin as it cooled. There's just enough of it to get a taste of sauce with every mouthful of sponge, without the pudding getting drowned in it.

The one and only problem I had with this dessert is warned on the packaging: when this thing comes out of the microwave it is hot. Really, really hot. So hot, in fact, that when I tipped mine out of its pot and onto a plate, and I was clumsy enough to let a finger get in the way, I ended up with quite a nasty burn on that finger.

Still, that won't dissuade me from eating the other one, or from buying this product again, or other, similar products, for that matter. While I might prefer the individual pots to be larger, these do make for a very quick and easy dessert that can be frozen, but which lasts pretty well in the fridge.

Monday, 13 June 2011

7 Days of Baking: Day 2 - Wright's Toffee Cake

OK, so Facebook polls at this point are a bit of a mistake... But I did get one vote, and it was for my preferred cake so, rather than delay things further by setting up another Facebook Poll of Fail for the embellishments, I just went ahead and did it the way I'd hoped to do it in the first place.

Not that I was going to rig the poll, you understand. I just had my preference, which would have been an option... and it's just possible that the other options would have been crap.

So. Toffee Cake by Wright's, à la snacks & the single man... The more you think about it, the more tantalizing 'toffee cake' becomes. I mean, it's a cake... but it's toffee flavour, evoking the smooth, chewiness of toffee while offering the lighter, less tooth-threateningly sticky experience of eating a cake.

Ingredients:
  • Wright's Toffee Cake Mix
  • Water
  • Cooking Oil
  • Cadbury's Caramel Nibbles
  • Betty Crocker Buttercream Style Vanilla Icing
Preparation Time: About an hour

Tools Required:
  • Medium/Large Bowl (for the mixing)
  • Whisk (or electric mixer, if you're lazier than I am, also for the mixing)
  • Baking Tin (20cm Round... or, y'know, 2lb loaf size - paper liners optional)
  • Measuring Implements (jug for the water, tablespoons or similar for oil)
  • Cooling Rack
  • Table Knife (for spreading the icing)
The Process:
Pretty much the same process for all the Wright's cakes: preheat the oven to 140-160degrees C (160-180 C if not using a fan-assisted oven). Measure out 200ml of water and 60ml of cooking oil into the bowl, then gradually add the Wright's cake mix, whisking all the while. I have found that different cake mixes require different amounts of mixing to smooth them out, and it's worth bearing in mind that some have 'bits' in, such as the toffee pieces in this one. While mixing, it's not always easily apparent what's a clump of cake mix to be eradicated and what's a chunk of yumminess to be savoured. Had I realised that there were little toffee pieces already in the mix (or had I, say, read the ingredients list), I may not have embellished this one at all... but I'd decided in advance that I wanted to add something substantial to this cake, and seeing the toffee pieces didn't put me off chucking in a couple of handfuls of Cadbury's Caramel Nibbles.

And then scoffing the rest of the pack.

Well, it seemed like such a shame to stick half a pack back into the fridge...

Look, are you sure you've quite understood this site's raison d'être? No snack goes unscoffed here.

It's also worth restating that there are baking tins and there are Baking Tins. My first cake was baked in a loaf tin I picked up in a local pound shop. Everything since has been done in tins I acquired in John Lewis - they're thicker and produce more consistent results that rise better. There's nowt wrong with pound shop merchandise, but it's worth remembering that you do get what you pay for. For this cake, I decided to try a 20cm round cake tin, with the ideal result being a cake I could divide into an icing-filled sandwich.

Pour the batter into the tin (buttered or with a paper liner) and place into the oven for 50 minutes to an hour.

When it looks ready, remove the tin from the oven and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes to cool, then tip out onto a cooling rack for a few minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a flat surface and apply the icing carefully and as evenly as possible using a table knife. While Bettie Crocker icing is reasonably solid straight from the fridge, it doesn't take long to become thinner and more easily spreadable, though trying to patch bits can be tricky, so try to be as consistent as possible, spreading outward from the middle on top, before tackling the outer rim.

The Results:
 I've been varying the length of time I leave my cakes baking as part of this ongoing experiment. The Carrot Cake took 55 minutes, this one remained in the oven for the full hour and, in retrospect, that was probably a bad idea. Outwardly, the cake looked perfect, but the crust was far too firm for my (Lakeland) cake-leveller to penetrate, even having given it a start with a knife. So, out went the idea of an icing-filled sandwich. I did use most of half a pot of Betty Crocker Buttercream Style icing covering the top and rim of the cake. While I used Vanilla, other options such as Butterscotch would be perfectly appropriate to this cake... those I've tried have been pleasantly sweet, rather than unbearably sugary.

Most if not all of the caramel nibbles had sunk to the bottom early on in the baking process, and most seemed to have leaked their entire caramel content into the surrounding cake, leaving large, frequently hollow patches of chocolate inside dense, sticky clumps of cake.

I would imagine that, if I'd left the cake for a little while longer before icing it, or perhaps stuck it in the fridge overnight, the crust would have softened slightly, but the addition of the icing moistened it a little anyway and, for the most part, the end result was pretty good. Flavour-wise, Wright's have produced another winner. The cake ends up moist, but not gummy and, while the toffee pieces seem to melt completely into the cake, there is a strong toffee flavour and scent throughout the cake. If large toffee pieces are more your thing, I'd suggest visiting your local confectioner to pick up your preferred brand to add to the batter. Alternatively, chocolate works well enough, and adding any kind of icing to the finished cake is a fine finishing touch.

Sprinkles might be taking it a bit far, though...
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