My excellent boyfriend, Dylan and I have decided to embark on a new project together. It is rather exciting. Both of us have a huge love for bringing people together with food and all the fandangle frills and thrills that go with it. We are going to set up another new blog where we document all of our dinner party antics in the hope that we inspire others to do the same. Dinner parties are great, you can eat whatever you like without paying $40 a main and drink whatever you like that was on special at the supermarket that day. You can even start belting out power balled anthems into the wee hours of the morning without getting kicked out. The dinner party at home is the ultimate solution for young people who want to be sociable without the clubbing and without the final table bill.
This cosy dinner party of four was to celebrate the first official gathering in DJP's new abode. It felt only right to invite people over after all the effort we spent trying to make his house a home. For the record, in the photo above Dylan is typing out the evening's menu on the type writer he found at the eco store. Told you we are into all the details. I shall leave it at that though or else I won't have anything to say on the new blog! What I will go into depth on here though is the dessert I made for the affair.
I have been trying to escape the chocolate layer cake for some time. I wanted to experiment with seasonal produce for something a little more interesting than a dense, brown sticky tower of cake. I found this recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks, Ripe Recipes by Angela Redfern. It was for a four later masterpiece of messy, rustic glory. Seeing as rhubarb is in season at the moment I knew this would be the cake for us!
As DJP lives in Christchurch and all my bakeware is in my flat in Auckland I have to plan ahead and be rather particular over what I use my carry on baggage allowance to smuggle down. Often it is frozen dinners from his mum, electric hand beaters, half a frozen animal (that has happened twice now) or in this case, three 15cm cake tins, four soup bowls and a very large Mason and Cash mixing bowl. Next time I fly it will be my ice cream machine. It is safe to say I have mastered the smile and wave as I go through security and smuggle my sometimes very excessive baggage onto the plane.
The most distressing thing about making this in Dylan's kitchen was the lack of Kitchenaid to mix my cake batter with. I'd forgotten what is was like to have to stand there at your bowl with a hand beater while it mixes rather than multitasking like a pro. Man, it was so tedious #firstworldproblems.
This recipe's method actually called for a food processor to make this in but as that too was sitting in Auckland next to my stand mixer I resorted to changing the method all together to the creaming method (creaming the butter and sugar together then adding ingredients in a pretty standard order after that).
The original recipe also called for using two larger cake tins then slicing the cakes in half once cooled to create four layers. Seeing as that could only go badly for me I opted for the three smaller tins and forfeiting one of the layers. It was definitely a less messy option and less likely to result in a knife related injury.
The icing was made without icing sugar which was a refreshing change. It meant it made a beautiful sloppy mix that wasn't overly thick and sweet with all that extra sugar. For cream cheese enthusiasts this is the icing for you. Dylan wasn't entirely convinced, he liked it but thought it needed to be lightened up with something. I kind of want to try mixing in whipped cream or mascarpone to see if that would work. Watch this space.
Also if you happen to really like rhubarb please add more. This recipe was rather stingy so I added more anyway. Feel free to add a bit more than that especially in the portion that you roast and layer it with. The tartness of the stem is an excellent contrast to the rich cream cheese.
To decorate I used just over a third of the roasted rhubarb, some sliced almonds, sprinklings of freeze dried raspberries, salted caramel and a few drizzles of the sugary rhubarb syrup from the roasting pan. The little green leaves you might be able to spot are thyme leaves. I thought it needed something to balance out the colour but in all honesty it was purely for that reason. If you want a little bit of green try and find some pretty flowers with green leaves still attached.
Rhubarb Butterscotch Cake
Recipe adapted from Ripe Recipes by Angela Redfern
Makes 3 15cm layers of cake, serves 8
For the cakes
225g butter (salted or unsalted, up to you how salty you like your food - I buy what is on special), softened
160g brown sugar (apparently 1 cup)
100g castor sugar (seriously regular white sugar will do the trick too)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoonish of vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour (OR 1 1/2 cups of plain flour mixed with 3 teaspoons baking powder)
1/4 cup cream (milk will do if you're in a pinch)
200g rhubarb stalks (pick the lovely red ones) chopped into 1cm pieces
1/4 table salt
For the cream cheese caramel icing
300g white sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup cream
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes (your preference of course)
200g cream cheese
For the roasted rhubarb filling
250g more of the reddest rhubarb stalks you can find (300g if you're a real enthusiast) chopped into 1cm pieces
2 tablespoons white sugar
Freeze dried raspberries
Flowers or greenery of some sort if you wish
To make the cakes, start by preheating your oven to 180 degrees on bake. Grease three 15cm cake tins with butter and flour plus a disc of baking paper for the bottom.
Cream together your butter and sugars making sure it is all wonderfully creamy and fluffy. For those of you with a stand mixer, please take a moment to appreciate the ease of this action. Next beat in the vanilla essence and the eggs, one at a time until voluminous etc etc. Sieve in your flour, salt (and baking powder if you are making your own self raising flour) and gently stir to combine then add in the cream to make it a smoother batter. Fold through the rhubarb.
Split the batter between the three tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer just comes out clean. You want the cake to be moist still but not gooey and raw. Leave to fully cool before icing. If you're running out of time like me then pop the cakes in the freezer for an hour and a half, they'll cool right down in there for sure.
While the cakes are baking you can make the salted caramel for the icing. Don't do what I did and spill the bubbling cream all over the stove. It was the first time it has ever happened to me and the pan I was using was even larger than normal. It made a dense, dark caramel though so I'm not complaining. Warm the cream in the microwave until hot to the touch but not boiling then leave to one side. Boil together the sugar and water on a medium to high heat until it turns a dark amber colour. Remove the sugar from the element and gently start pouring in the hot cream, quickly stirring with a wooden spoon. When the cream bubbles up stop pouring until it has calmed down. Once all your cream has been added you can return the pan to the stove to help dissolve the lump of solid sugar at the bottom (hey it happens sometimes, it can't always be perfect) and to darken the colour of your caramel. If you are into a dark almost burnt caramel sort of taste I recommend doing this. Remove from the heat and start by adding in half a teaspoon of salt. Once it is cool enough to dip your finger in without suffering from third degree burns add more salt until it is suited to your taste. Transfer to a bowl or container and leave to cool in the fridge (or in the freezer if you're short on time).
Once the cakes come out of the oven you can whack in the last of the rhubarb for the filling and topping. Line a baking tray with baking paper, throw in the rhubarb pieces, sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 20 minutes or so until soft and glossy. Once again, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Once everything is nice and cool (cool enough so that icing won't start melting and sliding around) you can start the great assembly.
Soften the cream cheese slightly in the microwave then beat in one cup of the caramel until it turns pale, smooth and slightly fluffy. Add a little more caramel if it tickles your fancy but try and save some for drizzling over the top at the end.
Remove the cakes from the tins and the baking paper! (Wouldn't that be a faux pas?!) Using a nifty cake levelling wire or a large serrated knife, slice off any doming to make the cakes as flat as possible. Place cake one on a cake board or cake stand with the rough, cut edge facing upwards. Place a good dollop or two of the icing onto the cake and smooth over right to the edge. Take about a third of the rhubarb and dot it over the icing. Place cake two over the top and repeat the icing and rhubarb. Place cake three with the rough cut edge facing downwards. Slather over the remaining icing, swirling and twirling it as you fancy. Drizzle over some of the left over caramel, you can even attempt to drizzle some down the sides like it was no effort at all but in fact it was very efforty and much stressful ("Dylan, less caramel??? More caramel? Halp!").
Once your caramel is on fleek start piling on the rhubarb pieces, putting more in the centre to look like a slight mound. Take a teaspoon and use it to drizzle some of the lovely pink syrup from the rhubarb pan over the icing and down the sides. Scatter over some almond slices, freeze dried raspberry pieces (I like to put a mix of crushed and chunky pieces on) and anything else you desire.
Serve this beauty up with any leftover salted caramel you may have (my friends like a good extra drizzle on their slices).