Moving to Hanoi is not something that idlers and the idyllically inclined should do. The city breathes fumes – the thick paste-grey in the sky owes to the never ending rush of scooters that race around the warren-like streets… and is matched only by the billowing wafts of steam and woodsmoke that puff out from every street corner, advertising the specialty of each vendor as you walk past. The drab parts I understand, for the city itself is over 1000 years old, and you have to admire a place where the roofs are thatched with whatever seems waterproof, and the closer to the dirt you have to sit to eat, the more likely it is to be symphonic with deliciousness. Continue reading
I’m still baking at the Cafe™, albeit less so than before due to road construction right outside the front door that shakes our rafters with jackhammer sounds from open to close. There’s a particular truck that stands and digs like a red BRONTOSAURUS METALREX, every day, and at this point I’ve come to almost look at it with some certain fondness, but I am weird, and excavators kind of invite personification. I’ll get a picture of it up later.
BOO-ROWNIES, guys. Like, spooky little nubbins of fudgy-fright, especially if y’aint a white chocolate fan. But if y’aint, y’ought to be, ’cause like, white chocolate is actually really great stuff, especially when it’s all playing as bedsheets on mini-spooks.
I also happened to make the sweet potato cake from Sky High: Triple Layer Cakes, my favourite new cake book. It’s three layers of spiced sweet potato sponge, with an orange cream filling and a chocolate cream cheese frosting that all comes together into an autumnly sweet and massively interesting package. Because it’s got all the “spice cake” spices, but it’s more vegetal, and somehow lighter than spice cakes usually are (maybe lack of molasses), and anyway – just good! I would warn against overbeating this one, I ended up with subtle little air holes here and there, but who really minds when the taste is so sup-awesome, and it’s got chocolate leaves and little adorable orange marzipan pumpklekins on it? Not I! I’ll just start looking for the maple ice cream at this point, thanks.
Sweet Potato Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting & Orange Filling
- 2 medium or 1 large sweet potato (12 ounces)
- 3 cups of cake flour
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
- 5 eggs, separated
- 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
- 1 and 1/4 cups of milk1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes in 2-3 places, place on a small baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. (I baked the sweet potatoes the day before and kept them in the fridge)2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms and the sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper also.
3. When the sweet potatoes are cool peel off the skin and remove any dark spots. Cut the potatoes into chunks and puree in a food processors. Puree until smooth. Measure out one cup of potato puree and set aside. (I skipped pureeing in the FP; instead I whipped the potatoes in the stand mixer using a paddle attachment, and then added the rest of the ingredients as written)
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Set aside.
5. In the bowl of electric mixer add the egg whites and attach whip attachment. Beat on medium speed until egg whites are frothy. Raise the speed to high and gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are moderately stiff.
6. In another large bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the sweet potato, butter, vanilla, and remaining sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each egg yolk is added. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk in alternately in 2-3 additions making sure to begin and end with the dry ingredients.
7. With a large spatula, fold in one fourth of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Then fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Making sure to not over mix or this will deflate the batter. Divide the batter among of the three pans.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cake layers onto a wire rack and cool completely at least 1 hour.
9. To assemble the cake, place one layer flat side up on to a cake stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and filled with chocolate cream cheese icing, pipe border around the edge of the cake. Fill the center with the orange cream filling smoothing it to the edge of the border. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process. Place the third layer on top and use all the chocolate cream cheese frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
Chocolate Cream Frosting
makes 3 cups
- 10 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 stick of butter at room temperature
- 16 ounces of powdered sugar; sifted
- 1 and 1/2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate melted and slightly cooled
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar to cream cheese butter mixture making sure to scrape down the sides the sides of the bowl. Then beat until light fluffy 2-3 minutes.
2. Measure out 1 cup of frosting and set aside.
3. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining icing in the bowl and beat until well combined.Orange Cream Filling
- 1 cup of reserved cream cheese icing from above
- 2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract
1. Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.