So. This is a post which starts off with Ikea, has cake in the middle, and ends up all retro and nostalgic. You may want a cup of tea in the middle because the cake is pretty gooey, but see how you feel, ok?
Ever since Ikea started doing their Stolmen range, I had ideas running through my head about a cat tree. Not one of those horrible furry ones (actually if anyone wants one for free please let me know), but something a bit less interior-design-challenging. And finally in January, I did something about it. This was partly because I still didn't have a job(and therefore had time), and partly because via Modern Cat I discovered the fabulously chic Hollywood Cat Tower which spurred me on. So I got out my jigsaw and made a mess in the living room for a few days, and this is the result.
I put it by the back door so the Grey Cat can watch the world go by. Anyway, why am I telling you this in a post which is supposedly about cake? Because of the light. I have perfect light here for photos for this blog, often even when we are having a grey day, and one of the steps is just the right height for me to get close-ups without having to bend over double then wobble the camera like crazy. A perfect place, therefore, to take photos of the Donauwelle (see? I told you this was about cake) and if you look carefully you'll spot the cat tree in other posts too.
A certain someone, who will remain nameless because they don't like these things to be mentioned, had a birthday the other day, so I made Donauwelle. Something foreign? Yes. Something with doughnuts? No.
Donauwelle is German for Danube Waves and it's a popular cake in Germany (and judging from Google, the US as well). It's a vanilla and chocolate sponge cooked with fresh or tinned (ie, not candied) cherries and then topped with a kind of custard cream and a thin smear of chocolate. As the cake bakes, the cherries sink through the sponge which causes a ripple/wave effect when you cut the cake. You can get it at practically any baker in Germany, where it will look (invitingly) like this...
See how the cherries make the Welle in the sponge?
I had a nose round on the internet to look at recipes, and it turns out the cake is pretty much a standard sponge mix, although I have to admit that I was lazy and only looked at sites in English. The cream topping is 'vanilla pudding' which seems to be available in packets in the US (and of course in Germany); the only thing I could think of as an English equivalent is blancmange, which to me, on cake, is not very appertising. I'm not going to provide you with a detailed recipe because a) it's pretty straightforward and b) the cake wasn't an entire success so perhaps you should read on and wait for a better version.
So I made a 3 egg sponge (oh, go on then, 3 eggs and 6oz (sorry but imperial always seems to work best here) of butter, self-raising flour and caster sugar, with a splosh of vanilla extract and 2oz of ground almonds for moistness), spread half of it in a 10" square tin, mixed 3tbs of cocoa with the rest and spread that on top. Then I dotted a drained can of black cherries (ideally these should be sour cherries but hey, I live in Ireland) and stuck it in the oven for half an hour. The cake cooked. The cherries sunk. By about 5mm. Hmmm. I was not impressed. I soldiered on. I had a deadline.
What to put on top was the next question. And here we come to the The British Egg Marketing Board . How I love them. Somehow, don't ask me how (and don't ask my mother either, because I'm sure she won't remember), my ma got a book from them, The Book of Egg Cookery. You probably had to save empty egg shells or something, and send them to an address in Birmingham. Anyway....
Isn't that fabulously Seventies? Dont you just loke that chicken? It's made of plasticine! I LOVE THIS BOOK, but more about that in another post (get on with it?).
It has loads of good basic recipes including custard and all it's myriad of variations, and one of them is for Creme Saint-Honore, which is pastry cream mixed with whipped cream. The pastry cream is basically a flour-based custard and I followed the measurements in the book: 2oz sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1oz plain flour and half a pint of milk. This came together pretty well and with no lumps when I cooked it, but there didn't really seem to be enough to cover a 10" square cake. So I mixed in half a pint of whipped cream and that looked better volume-wise. That went onto the cake and was followed by a layer of melted chocolate and butter (the US recipies use oil but I wasn't too keen somehow). Then I put the whole thing in the freezer for an hour because aagh! the person who wishes to remain nameless was due home very soon and I wanted the cake to be edible upon their arrival.
The Arrival happened. The cake was presented. We tried to cut the cake. Lesson 1: use a thinned layer of chocolate and use the oil then you won't need a pick axe to make headway. Lesson 2: Creme Saint-Honore does not work (either that, or it didn't turn out like it should); it's too runny. Possible lesson 3: don't put warm sponge in the freezer; the consistency of the sponge was more like a brownie that something light and airy. We did, eventually, cut the cake. It looked a bit of a bomb site but we ate it.
I stuck the cake on the cat tree and took a photo of it (you see? there was a point to all that rambling). And the person who wishes to remain nameless proclaimed it a very good first attempt. And it did make waves, even though the cherries refused to sink.
Ok, so I managed to not get very retro and nostalgic, and mostly stay on the topic of cake. I think this would have been an even more confusing post, if I hadn't reined myself in. Ah, but you see, there is another post coming up shortly....