At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Friday, 29 August 2014

NEO cake. (Neo-rlly as nice as the original...) and Nibble Buns.

I'm a bit of a wanderer when it comes to food shopping - like clothes shopping, I love a good bargain, and I probably waste a good deal of time studying the price labels in the various supermarkets in our local area, trying to work out what's the cheapest per litre/gram, etc; even if the differences are miniscule and choosing the less expensive one only saves me a couple of cents. A bit mad, I know, but having been blogging My Cocoa Stained Apron for a good while, now, I think I am sort of a bit on the crazy side - not in a harmful way as I was when i had the ED, no: more on the benevolent side of things. Not crazy, just crazy for baking, and food, and sweet things: that's me, the Ganache-Elf. Anyway, to get back to what I was saying, I do like to shop around and make the most of the special offers and different bargains which vary from shop to shop. One week I might pop into our nearest supermarket, the little SuperValu down in Mountmellick, intending to only get a bottle of milk and a couple of bananas: and I come out with my arms full of goodies which I may not necessarily need, but just couldn't resist picking up, telling myself Ahh, well, they're unlikely to EVER come down to such an agreeable price EVER again, right? Another week, I might decide to go into Aldi before going into Tesco for our weekly "big shop" (tesco being, in general, where we would do this. The routine is normally to go into Tescos first swiftly followed by Aldi, where we buy alot of our fresh fruit and veg and other stuff which Tesco just don't do quite as well or as cheap as Aldi's.). And end up getting on so well in there we don't actually need to go into Tesco afterwards. And so this week I went to Lidl for a change and saw, in the biscuit section, some biscuits that looked suspiciously like my latest sweet addition: the wonderful, totally scrumptious, and irresistibly cute Oreo...
But they WEREN'T Oreos, of course. They were the Lidl version, entitled, rather unimaginatively on Lidl's part, "Neos". (I find it quite intiruging, to note the to note the general lack of inventiveness by the discount brands when they imitate something. Mysticals instead of Minstrels, for example. And Okey Dokeys for Hunky Dorys.) Now there IS of course a difference in taste and appearance. It would be extremely difficult, after all, to reproduce such a classical biscuit as the Oreo to perfection. Lidl haven't done a bad job, though. And of course there is the added attraction of they're being alot less expensive. Meaning I felt perfectly justified in using plenty of them in the making of my appropriately named Neo Cake. image 
Well to be honest I can't really crow on too much about this cake and its Neo content because apart from sticking the Neos onto the iced (or should that be, ganache-d) cake, and crumbling some on top, there isn't really anything that Neo-ish about the cake itself. though I hope in time to somehow get the actual biscuits into my cakes, and baking...or who knows, even make my own Oreos. This cake, though, probably shouldn't really be called Neo Cake. The chocolate sponge was from my trusty chocolate fudge cake recipe which has never once let me down though I've lost count of the amount of times I've done it. And the icing...I don't think I need to tell you what I used for that. So no, I don't really think my creation could be called a proper Neo Cake...that might be a project for next time I guess, now that I know for certain Neos are completely harmless(as in, a very yummy alternative for the more expensive Oreo.) and that I can use them to my heart's content without feeling guilty in doing so, for after all no one had accused me of cheating in substituting the beloved classical Oreo with a cheaper brand of biscuit.
On making the ganache for the cake, I went a little overboard with the quantities of chocolate and cream, needless to say. Which meant that the remainder of the lovely concoction left in the saucepan had to be utilised in some way or other. Conveniently, a couple of packets of Cadbury Caramel Nibbles (in case you are unfamiliar with them…they are sort of like Giant Buttons with caramel inside them…ahhhhhhhhhh) had materialised in the candy cupboard during the week: buy-one-get-one-free-across-the-whole-cadbury-range offer in Tesco, you are a godsend. And so along with Neo cake, we had…Nibble buns. 
As you can see, nothing really too complex about these...a lovely little chocolate cupcake topped with swirls of ganache, with a little caramelly disc at their heart. I applied the caramels when the buns were still warm - I didn't push them completely into the sponge; I sort of only tilted the little chocolate circle at an angle and then inserted it in so that a good bit was still left sticking out. So that the chocolate remained whole, but became seductively soft. But yet, as in the case of Neo cake, there was no actual Nibbles in the actual buns, or icing. Sometimes though it's nice to keep things simple, as there is most certainly beauty in simplicity, I believe. But yes, for next time...I may have to buy a few extra Neos. And Nibbles. In order, of course, to be able to make both sponge and icing Neo-y / Nibbley. And who knows there might even be some left over for Ganache-Elf to nibble on, too.
So here is my recipes for both NEO cake and Nibble Buns. :)
NEO cake. :)
For the cake...
  • 125 g butter/margarine, softened
  • 285 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 170 g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp full-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cream

For the ganache (yes, you guessed correctly. ;) : 225 g plain chocolate and 250 ml single/double cream.
And also, of course...a box of Neos to decorate. :)
  • First make the cake. Grease a couple of 20 cm sandwich tins and line their bases with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c.
  • Mix the sifted cocoa powder with 4-5 tbsp hot water in a big bowl until you have a nice chocolatey paste. Add all the other cake ingredients and beat well with an electric mixer for about three minutes until smooth and well-mixed.  After two minutes, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a metal spoon or spatula before mixing for the remaining minute.
  • divide the batter between the two cake tins and smooth the surfaces of the cakes with the back of a metal spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch. Gently press the top of a sponge to see if its cooked or not - if it is, the sponge should spring back; there shouldn't be an indentation when you take away your fingertip. If there is bake for another 2 minutes and try again. 
  • Once they are cooked, leave them sitting in the tins for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Wait another minute and then remove the paper carefully from each cake. Allow the cakes to cool completely before you ice and decorate them. 
  • Next make the ganache by melting the 225g plain chocolate with 250 ml single cream, on a very low heat in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth and then refrigerate for about 1 ½ - 2 hours, checking after 1 ½ hours…you don’t want it very hard, just a nice spreadable consistency.
  • Spread a generous layer of ganache on top of one of the cakes and then sandwich the two of them together. Spread the reaming ganache on the top and around the sides of the cake, swirling with a palette knife to get a pretty decorative effect.
  • Now for a bit of Neo-ing. Apply whole ones, crush some of them and sprinkle on top, break them in half and stick them in the top of the cake pointing upwards... again it is really up to you. :)
Now for the buns, the ganache quantity is basically the same as the cake. Of course add a bag of Nibbles to your shopping list though. I'm sure everyone has their own chocolate cupcake recipe and that they don't need me to blah on about my own one. But anyway...this cupcake recipe is the one I use all the time and it is a very nice basic one and so straightforward and yummy :) So to make 12 cupcakes, you need:
125g butter/margarine, softened
150 g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
110 g self-raising flour
1 tbsp full-fat milk/cream
The way you make these is very similar to the chocolate cake method really. Preheat oven to 180c/fan 160c; line a muffin pan with 12 paper muffin cases. As with the cake, blend the sifted cocoa powder with 3 tbsp hot water in a bowl to get a thick chocolatey paste. Then add the rest of the bun ingredients and give it one nice big beat with an electric mixer until smooth and well-blended; scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after two minutes as before. the batter should be of a nice dropping consistency: scoop some of it onto a spoon and then let it drop back into the bowl to check this: it should slide or drop down easily enough and not be too thick. Add a little more milk/cream if it isn't dropping off your spoon.
Divide the mixture equally amongst the 12 paper cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch: like the cake, if you press the top of a bun lightly with a fingertip, it should spring back and there should be no indentation left. Remove from oven once they are cooked and leave in the muffin pan for about 3 – 5 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
If you would like your caramels sort of semi-melted like mine were, then push a Nibble gently into the top of each bun – don’t push it right in; leave a good half still sticking out and tilted at an angle so that when you pipe the ganache around it the Nibble will still be visible.
Make the ganache while the cupcakes are cooling and ensure it is chilled enough for piping.
Pipe generous  swirls of ganache on top of the cupcakes once they are completely cold; leaving a nice little hollow in the very centre so you can just see the Nibble peeping out. You can put them in the fridge to firm up the ganache a bit, or if you prefer you can eat them with the ganache still soft and tender...personally, this is the way I like them the best. Though microwaving a chilled Nibble bun for about 20 seconds in the microwave so that the ganache melts and the Nibble becomes all molten too...that makes a very naughty but nice little nibble indeed. :) 

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