I love chocolate and it’s a fact…..Here’s some of the chocolatey creations that have emanated from the FFF flab over the past few days…

Gorgeous chocolate cake covered in whipped cream surrounded by a chocolate cage. Aren't those strawberries adorable?

Gorgeous chocolate cake covered in whipped cream surrounded by a chocolate cage. Aren’t those strawberries adorable?

Triple chocolate mousse cake with strawberry coulis

Triple chocolate mousse cake with strawberry coulis

Even tied up in ribbons it's still stunning

Even tied up in ribbons it’s still stunning

Strawberries and chocolate........dessert Heaven.......

Strawberries and chocolate……..dessert Heaven…….

imageimage

This is post is really just meant to sate your chocolate appetite…..however if you want us to bring these gorgeous baked yummies to life for you then contact us at nkem.o@foodandfashionfusion.com or use the contact form on the home page.

A lot of people underestimate the thought process that goes into setting a meal before someone. Some people even trivialize the whole cooking “thingy”. In my opinion, the truth about preparing food, be it for a feast of 100 or a quiet meal for one, is that when you cook with love it comes through in the food. It really does……this has been my experience.

When I cook, I get inspiration; all sorts of ideas float into my head and before I know it I have a delicious creation before me. It’s great fun!

Over Christmas, I came across an amazing recipe for a tuxedo cake which went down a treat during Christmas lunch.

IMG_3654

IMG_3658

IMG_3655

It is essentially a two layers of decadent chocolate cake slathered in whipped cream and topped with a chocolate ganache. In the version I made over the holidays I slathered mine in vanilla cream cheese frosting and topped off the ganache with cherries not the strawberries that the original recipe recommended.

The gasps of delight the ensued when I appeared with the cake and the mmmmmms that escaped from my guests’ cake filled mouths assured me that the cake was a huge hit. Not to mention every one left with a an extra piece safely ensconced in foil and ziploc.

The recipe is simple enough to make. Although I must confess you MUST be fairly organized in order to set about putting this cake together. It’s not something you make on a whim; it’s a simple but deliberate process.

Ingredients:
To make the cake:
226 grams unsalted butter
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable oil ( I used corn oil)
4 cups sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee (optional)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1 tbsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

*I don’t know about you but butter milk is a pretty scarce resource to find in the city of Lagos so I save myself the grief by deploying a nifty alternative I learned a while ago. Measure a cup of whole milk and add 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to it. Stir and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. And voila! Buttermilk!

To make the frosting:
4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups icing sugar, sifted

OR

You could opt to use store bought cream cheese frosting. Betty Crocker make a good selection.

For the chocolate ganache
100 grams good quality bittersweet chocolate (50 – 70% cocoa) finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Garnish
A 12 – 15. fresh strawberries or cherries (optional)

The “How To”

To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 175˚ C. Line three 9-inch round cake pans (or two 10-inch round cake pans) with parchment paper. Butter and flour the inside edges of the pan. Tap the pans gently to discard of any excess flour and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, coffee (if using) water and vegetable oil; heat until the butter is melted then take of the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flour; whisk to blend. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then add in the buttermilk and vanilla to the bowl and mix until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

You might wonder how the heck you should divide the batter evenly, well, if you have a flat surface digital scale the. Weigh the pans until each have equal weights. Or if you’re like me you just eyeball to. Alternatively you could go through the messy process of sticking toothpicks I. The batter to see the level in each pan but that’s so messy….just eyeball it or weigh it. I must point out that I used 9″ pans and I found the batter to be too much so I usually hold some of the cake batter back and simply fill a teeny weeny loaf tin and made a cute chocolate loaf for myself. Anyway back to the matter at hand….

Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Please check the cake from the 28 minute mark; for my cakes they were done at about 32 minutes.

Now, this is the hard part; LET THE CAKES COOL IN THE PANS for at least 15 minutes. Then carefully run a table knife or spatula around the edge of each cake layer and carefully invert onto a wire cooling rack. Now, allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting for at least 2 hours.

This cake is a great make ahead dessert so once the cakes have cooled you can plonk them in the fridge. Be sure to wrap them secure in cling film or parchment paper first.

Now for the fun part; to make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat or you will effectively end up with butter and water……which is not such a bad thing……..:-)

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake platter and spread a layer of the whipped cream frosting over the top. Top with a second cake layer, more frosting (and the third cake layer, if using). Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake. Refrigerate until the frosting has stabilized/set. This should take at least 1 hour but the longer you leave it the better!

IMG_4152

To make the chocolate ganache, place the finely chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering (do not boil the cream. Once you can see steam rising off the surface take it off the heat). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes; this step is crucial because if you apply the hot chocolate the cake directly it will completely ruin your frosting however do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake – see what I mean about it being a deliberate process?

Slowly pour the gooey ganache over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides. It’s a mesmerizing process and creates such a beautiful visual!

At this point, if you have the stamina………lol, you may dip your washed and dried strawberries in the chocolate and place carefully on the cake.

Refrigerate the cake until the ganache is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least another hour. Slice with a long, sharp knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.

IMG_4155

IMG_4154

Now bite into decadent chocolatey goodness!

This cake has been in high demand since I first made it and in within one week I have made it twice for two clients. The first was as a birthday cake from a loving hubby to his wife and the second was for a swanky private dinner party.

If you would FFF to create this impressive for you just fill the contact m or send an email to nkem.o@foodandfashionfusion.com

FFF tip of The Day

1. In order to get even layers between your cakes, when the cakes are completely cool, carefully, slice off the domed part of the cake with a long sharp knife until you have a level surface.
The scraps need not be wasted as you can use them in a lovely parfait, layering them up with any left over whipped cream and chocolate ganache or just snack on them as they are 🙂

2. Before whipping cream, ensure that the cream is well chilled. Also chill the bowl the whisk in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. I prefer to use a metal bowl. This ensures that the cream whips up nicely and easily.

Summer time is often characterized by the abundance of bright sweet fruits like cherries and berries. When you think of strawberries and cream, you think of sun and Wimbledon. Cherries evoke thoughts of ooey gooey cherry pies….the truth is, I live in country where it is pretty much “summer” for at least 2/3 of the year so there is generally a glut of tropical fruits which I take great advantage of in my food lab. Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries etc are usually imported and wield a hefty price tag.

This did not deter me one weekend when I went grocery shopping; I just craved something different and decided to splurge on some cherries. When I got home I stared at them and was loathe to eat them…..the portion was disproportionate to the price and I was beginning to query my decision to purchase them. I scoured all my resources for a recipe that would stretch these overpriced fruits and found something quite interesting! A healthy cherry pie muffin! And there was no fancy shmancy prep work involved! Now THAT really got my attention! I adapted my recipe from The Cheeky Kitchen

Ingredients for the Muffins
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 fresh cherries, pitted & halved

For the topping
1/4 cup almond flour. Read this post for an easy way to make your own almond flour.
2 Tbs rolled Oats
2 Tbs caster or icing sugar
1/2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs coconut oil

The “How To”
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

In a large bowl. beat together all muffin ingredients until well mixed. Spoon mixed batter into a muffin tin prepared with cupcake wrappers. If you don’t have cupcake wrappers you could use squares of parchment paper, pushed in gently into the muffin pan to form a “cup” for your batter. (Pitting the cherries with a knife was a little fiddley but doable).

IMG_2689.JPG

In a medium bowl, use a fork to combine all topping ingredients until you get a coarse crumb. Sprinkle it over the batter in each muffin tin (about 1 1/2 tsp for each), then bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes, or until the center of the muffins bounce back to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Top with fresh cherries…..if you have any left to spare 🙂

My family made quick work of this weekend treat which I served with cherry yoghurt, a slice of coconut banana bread and a smidgen of raspberry coulis.

IMG_2597-0.JPG

The tomato is an interesting, and not mention, versatile fruit (we all know that it is a fruit right? Not a vegetable :-)…..good). It’s great to eat raw on it’s own or in sandwiches and salads. It works well when puréed and cooked or used in a gazpacho and it is an amazing garnish.

It’s baby cousin, the cherry tomato, is just a cuter sweeter version of the fruit and I find them impossible to resist.

Here are two cheery cherry tomato inspired meals that are super simple to put together. I’m fact, one of them is a left over make over.

The first is a simple, light, stir fried spaghetti dish with a side of fish.

Ingredients
100 grams spaghetti
1/2 chopped green bell pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbs vegetable oil
Salt to taste

The “How To”
Cook spaghetti in salted water following packet instructions. Drain and reserve hot spaghetti water.

In pan heat vegetable oil and when it is hot, add the chopped onions and garlic and sautée for a minute, then add pepper and tomatoes for another minute. Add drained spaghetti and back pepper. Mix to ensure that the spaghetti is evenly coated. Add about 1-2 tbs of spaghetti liquid (depending on how dry your pan is). Serve immediately and enjoy.

IMG_2600.JPG

For the fish recipe and another great recipe using two types of berries in a dessert, read Flavour Infusion; Taste Explosion

IMG_2598.JPG

The second cherry tomato meal is a simple sandwich using left overs from the pork chop meal in this post. I call it the “Caveman sandwich”….for no particular reason other than I thought it was cute name for the sandwich….go figure….:-)

Essentially layer slices of bread with sliced pork chops, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers topped with wasabi and mayo until you have a decent stack. Top with cherry tomatoes for a fun garnish and voilà!

IMG_2704.JPG

IMG_2703.JPG

All meals in this post were met with great enthusiasm and devoured with equal gusto. Throw some cherries and berries into your meals for a pretty delicious eating experience.

FFF Tip of the Day: Berries and tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin c and deliver a good dose of antioxidants to the body. Whenever possible eat them fresh to maximize their full benefits.