Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Spiced Treacle Cake

I could go on and on about why I chose to do another Beauty-related goodie, but this one is actually inspired by something that McKinley wrote in the pages. I couldn’t really find the passage again, but I’m telling you, the book mentioned spiced treacle cake, and I totally hopped up on the idea!

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a straightforward retelling of an iconic fairy tale. One of the things that I remembered from the book was a scene where Beauty wakes up in the morning thinking of hot chocolate and toast. And later on, she ruminates on the types of foods she’d been having while in Beast’s castle, and Beauty eventually decides that one of her favorites is a spiced treacle cake. Often she would ask for it, and there was an adorable scene where she even feeds the Beast a piece because she wanted him to try it!

So I went on a search for a spiced treacle cake.

Ginger Spiced Treacle Traybake

I actually gleaned this recipe from Fold in the Flour, though the original recipe is very much thanks to Mary Berry. I mention this because I had become addicted to The Great British Bake Off and after seeing that this was a recipe she had, I wanted to try it!

I will say that Mary Berry knows her shit, and honestly, even with the changes I made, it was still delicious and spiced and utterly gingery!

I’ve converted the ingredients into American measurements the best way I can. Also, these are the ingredients of changes I made as well, so if you want to follow the recipe to its totality, there’s plenty of places where this recipe can be found (including the Fold in the Flour link).

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 2/3 cup molasses (I substituted with maple syrup, but you can use honey or some other syrup that has a thicker consistency)
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 3 bulbs stem ginger (I used 1 Tbsp ginger powder because I couldn’t find stem ginger in the groceries)

Glaze

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp ginger powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • water (as needed)
  • chopped candy ginger (as needed)

Making the Cake

Mix the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy, add eggs one by one. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Bake cake in 9 x 13 inch tray for 35 minutes at 350 F. Set aside to cool and make the glaze.

Prepare glaze. Mix the dry ingredients and add water as needed, up until the consistency is what you want to pour onto the cake.

Sprinkle chopped ginger candy on top for decoration.

Verdict: Not everyone is a big fan of ginger or spiced cake, so this was not exactly the household favorite. The changes I made also made the cake not so treacly, but eh, I’m not a big fan of molasses, so that definitely cut down on the stickiness and the density. of the cake itself.

However, as a ginger-lover, I didn’t mind this so much, and it was like eating a super delicious sponge with candied ginger!

Of Peaches and Upside Down Cakes

I seem to be talking about food a lot.

But to be fair, I’m on vacation and when I’m on vacation, I tend to cook and bake a lot more than when I work. It’s definitely a combination of having the time and not spending money on transport (ergo, spending that saved-up money on ingredients!).

This week, my household got bombarded with peaches. After relishing in it with some Fourth of July jello, we still wound up with too many peaches and not enough motivation to want to eat them all the time. I love my fair share of fruits, but even I can’t bring myself to stuff my face with peaches.

Up until I decided I’d bake it into a cake.

So this is what I did.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Confession, I’ve never done an upside down cake before. Well, most of the time I don’t do repeats of what I bake unless it’s one of the more popular bakes (like salted caramel or Irish car-bomb cupcakes…or toffee). But this was the first time that I’ve worked with fruit in my baking period, so it was interesting.

I got the recipe from Flavorite and didn’t really deviate from the recipe except for the sugar. One thing I will note is that I didn’t have brown sugar on hand, so I ended up using granulated sugar instead. The only thing I would have changed was the amount of batter and the lack of crispness at the top. There was too little batter to the amount of peaches I used, and the top was sweet, but had a weird peachy-gooey texture I wasn’t a fan of.

But at that point I’m just being nitpicky, because the cake pretty much disappeared within the day. So I guess it was more than just “really good”?

(At some point I’ll go back to doing book reviews, I swear!)

Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Rose Apple Tarts

Oh baking. How I’ve missed thee! The idea actually came to mind because in under two weeks, my friend Meg and I will be releasing our first ever episode of Fableulous Retellings Podcast. Our first theme, surprise surprise, is the tale of Beauty and the Beast!

I had a few options regarding this story, and likely I will do a couple more between podcast episodes. To start it off, though, I was a bit inspired by the whole rose concept. In the original story–and most of the retellings afterward–Beauty often asks for a rose for her father to bring back from his trip. For the most part, he does, and for some reason, the Beast is none too happy with this poor old man pilfering from his rosebushes. I guess beasts don’t suffer thieves, either!

In any case, the rose is important, as is the garden, and even Disney got up on that in their version of BatB.

SO. Onto my baked good.

I thought about trying a rose-flavored macaron but I would have been at a loss, because I haven’t actually learned to make macarons! (All in good time…). So I browsed and I realized, oooh, an apple tart sounds yum!

Rose Apple Tarts

The original recipe I got from Preppy Kitchen, though I will admit that other than the apple seasoning, I didn’t really follow the rest of the ingredients. I couldn’t remember where I got the pastry shell recipe, however, but I do recall using powdered/confectionery sugar instead of regular sugar, just for a sweeter taste. And with tarts, you want something on the sweet side to balance out the sour that’ll be coming from the baked fruit.

The other thing I would say about making and shaping this tart shell is that it would be a good idea to have kidney beans or beads to keep the tart’s shell in place. I had neither, so it was much harder to stuff the apples in and shape them as roses afterward. The other suggestion is not to blind bake the shell and put the apples in immediately. Blind baking wasn’t really necessary for me, especially since I wasn’t making a huge tart shell, but little itty bitty ones.

I used my mini cupcake pan for such an occasion.

I also don’t have a tart pan, so this was definitely me improvising by using one of my cookie cutters to cut out pieces of dough and placing it in my cupcake pan. They shaped up rather well!

Probably the hardest part, however, was slicing the apples in very, very thin layers. In retrospect, I should have used the potato peeler, because slicing things very thinly with a knife took way too long. And most of the slices were still not thin enough! Maybe I just need a bit more practice.

Not that anyone’s complaining. Most of these tarts disappeared the moment they came out of the oven.

Food and Fiction: Mercy’s Trouble Chocolate

Alright, it’s chocolate-centric week, because I’m most likely in Belgium right now, gallivanting about and visiting chocolate shops. However, that is something I’ll probably be blogging about much later in the week when I get back from vacation, and instead, this is more along the lines of “Oh, hey, I finally finished Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs and I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies!”

Or chocolate in general.

So just a quick summary of the book and the Mercy Thompson universe: Silence Fallen is the tenth installation of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and revolves around Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, now the mate of the Columbia Basin’s Alpha werewolf. For those who are a fan of–or who have read–the series, you’ll know at this point that Mercy is living a rather eclectic life as a mechanic and non-werewolf wife. She’s also a shape-shifting coyote, is friends with a powerful fae, is bonded to an equally powerful vampire, and has adopted a fire-generating fae spirit. Mercy can also see and command ghosts. So. Yeah. Not a normal life by any means, and things just escalate from there.

One of my favorite things about Mercy is the fact that she bakes cookies. You laugh at this minute detail, but seriously, she does a lot of baking in the books. I admire her for that, because honestly, how does she find the time between being kidnapped by vampires and having to fend for herself against the Gray Lords and coyote-hating pack members? But she does, and in the beginning of Silence Fallen legit starts with her trying to bake cookies.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong afterwards, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, I ended up with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. So I made them.

Thankfully, I wasn’t making cookies for a pack of werewolves, so I didn’t have to worry about lack of ingredients! So no vampire-induced car accidents here!

I was, however, baking these cookies for a get-together, so I decided to add a bit of extra into it. Mmm…coffee chocolate chip cookies here we come!

I used the recipe from Cathy at Lemon Tree Dwelling. And they came out delicious, by the way!

The coffee flavor came out, and the cookies themselves were seriously disappearing pretty quickly! I’d definitely make them again.

Anyway, I’ll end it there. Gotta run and frolic!

This post counts as #3 of my Food and Fiction Challenge.

White Russian Cupcakes

Alright, so I need to catch up to my Food and Fiction Reading Challenges…but I haven’t really read a book lately that garnered any inspiration to cook good food. Alright, correction, I haven’t been inspired at the moment to cook good food. Besides the homemade tortilla pizza the other day, but that doesn’t count, ’cause that also wasn’t a Food and Fiction-y creation.

This one isn’t, either. But I’m going to post it anyway.

March came the return of my therapeutic baking, and this time I come bearing alcoholic gifts! For the past two years, I’ve actually made Guinness cupcakes with chocolate whiskey ganache and Bailey’s cream frosting. This year, I didn’t want to go all out. I mean, I already had an Irish Cream in the fridge, but I really didn’t want to have to work with another bottle of Guinness, because honestly, I hate drinking up the leftovers. Most beers and I do not often mix.

So this time, I decided I’d try to make cupcakes that threw vodka into the mix. And still make it a bit St. Patrick’s Day-themed.

Behold the White Russian Mini Cupcakes!

I actually wished I had green mini cupcake filters, but didn’t have the time to head to the store to grab some, so I made do with the ones I got. That said, I think they came out adorable! And the ganache has got to be the best one I’ve managed to do so far. Or maybe I’m just biased, because I am a vodka girl and not so much a whiskey one…

I got the recipe from Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen, although in all honesty, it was a bitch to have to convert everything from the Euro-measurements to the American ones (blast our weird non-metric system sometimes!). Thankfully, most things are Google-able now so I didn’t have to look too far to figure out whether 135 grams of unsalted butter meant a stick or two.

For the Euro measurements, you might as well head over to Charlotte’s recipe, she’s got quite a lovely blog.

For the Americanized version, here were my approximate conversions:

White Russian Mini Cupcakes

Ingredients

Vodka Ganache

  • 2 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2 tsp vodka

Cake

  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 50 ml Irish cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

White Russian Buttercream

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 cups confectionary sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Irish cream
  • ½ Tbsp vodka

Making the Ganache

  1. Place dark chocolate in a small saucepan and heat very gently until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat immediately and pour the chocolate into a bowl. Add the heavy cream and mix until combined.
  3. Add vodka and mix until combined.
  4. Leave to cool in the fridge until it ganache is at pudding consistency.

Making the Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven 350F.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whisk heavy cream cream to stiff peaks. Once stiff, add the vanilla extract and gradually add the Irish cream.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg until just frothy.
  4. Add egg to the whipped cream and whisk for a couple of minutes.
  5. Gradually add the granulated sugar, whisk in each addition before adding more. Once all of the sugar is added whisk on a high speed for a couple of minutes.
  6. Sift the remaining dry ingredients into the cream mixture and carefully fold them together until thoroughly combined.
  7. Spoon the cake batter into the cupcakes cases.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Once baked, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Making the Buttercream

  1. Beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add some of the confectionary sugar 1/2 cup at a time, making sure to mix thoroughly before the next. Combine Irish cream and vodka into the mix and add remaining confectionary sugar until you get desired buttercream consistency.

Construct the cupcakes

  1. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the center of each cupcake.
  2. Fill the center with ganache.
  3. Pipe the buttercream onto the top.
  4. Serve.

Some changes:

I used Molly’s Irish Cream and a splash of Grey Goose vodka, which was what I had in handy, and the cupcakes came out just as delicious! There were a few things I altered in the recipe, such as the amount of confectionery sugar I really used (around 1 1/2 cup as opposed to 2) and the order in which I did the recipe. To be honest, I tend to do the ganache first because I like my ganache to set for a bit before I pipe it into the cupcake.

Make note: this is, right now, my favorite ganache recipe, so I will definitely be doing it again!

(That said, it also helped that I purchased my dark chocolates from Jacques Torres, which made the ganache doubly amazing.)

Once the cupcakes were assembled, off they went! Honestly, I didn’t even leave any at home, the staff in school loved it, and I had to literally fend off any more takers to save the last one for myself.

Verdict: The frosting was a little too sweet for me, though the Irish cream flavor did show through. The best part was always going to be the ganache, because chocolate and vodka makes Mari happy.

Bon appetit!