Michelle Darmody shares the recipes for her favourite cakes
I was asked to list my favourite cakes for today’s Food Special. When thinking of favourite cakes I often gravitate to the simple and enjoyable. I have spent years making complicated cakes for weddings, birthdays, communions or engagement parties, but when I am at home, or want to bring something to a friend’s house I keep it simple. A Sponge cake always astounds me, the fact that eggs whisked with sugar and some flour can in twenty minutes turn into the lightest and most elegant cake always makes me smile. You can add as much fruit or jam and dollops of freshly whipped cream as you like. In the summer months I tend to fill the centre with sun ripened strawberries or raspberries, or a slick of lemon curd if I have some.
Another enduring favourite for me is the lemon slice. They are daintily small but pack a delicious zesty punch. I have yet to meet anyone who didn't enjoy the tang of the bitter and sweet on their tongue.
There is a bit of a knack to baking the lemon slices; leave the base cool a little before adding the topping and do not excessively whip the topping. It should not look like meringue. I think overwhipping is the most common mistake. You want your slice to be topped with a set lemon curd.
Lastly, how can I have a discussion about favourite cakes without mentioning chocolate. The Espresso and chocolate cake takes longer to make than the sponge but it also lasts longer, it is rich and fudgy so a small slice goes a long way. I have suggested it topped with coffee butter cream - it is about favourites after all - but you can simply eat the cake without any icing and it will still be tasty and more simple that way.
Strawberry cream sponge
- 150g of castor sugar
- 5 eggs
- 150g of self raising flour to decorate
- a large handful of sliced strawberries
- 150 mls of cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Heat your oven 180 degrees and cut a circle for the base of two 7 -inch sponge tins.
Whisk your eggs and sugar with a balloon attachment in your mixer until really light and fluffy. I do this for quite a while to make sure I get as much air in as possible.
Sieve in the flour and then fold it in, so the mixture does not lose its volume.
Pour into the lined tins and bake for about 20 minutes until they have risen and are nice and golden. Do not open the oven door during the first half of the baking time.
Once cool enough to handle place onto a wire rack. Once cool completely spread one sponge generously with whipped cream and dot your strawberries on top. Place your second disk on top and decorate as you wish, edible flowers look beautiful or some more fresh fruit is nice.
Espresso and chocolate cake with whipped coffee buttercream
- 200g of soft butter
- 200g of dark chocolate chips
- 120mls of espresso coffee
- 190g of brown sugar
- 190g of golden caster sugar
- 85g of plain flour
- 85g of self-raising flour
- 25g of cocoa powder
- 75mls of buttermilk
- 1/4 tsp of bread soda, sieved
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten for the icing:
- 200g of icing sugar
- 100g of soft butter
- 50mls of cold espresso
Preheat your oven 160 degrees and lined an 8-inch round cake tin. I use either a spring-form or loose based tin.
Place butter, chocolate chips and espresso into a saucepan. Gently heat until the chocolate has melted.
Mix the sugars and both of the flours with the cocoa powder. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix together.
Lightly beat buttermilk, bread soda and eggs and mix with the rest of the ingredients Bake for an hour and twenty minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.
Whisk the ingredients for the coffee buttercream until really light and fluffy.
Spread it over your cooled cake.
- 250g of plain flour
- 100g of icing sugar
- the zest of 1 lemon
- a pinch of sea salt
- 250g of cold butter, cubed
- 4 eggs
- a pinch of sea salt
- the zest of 2 lemons and 100mls of lemon juice (about two lemons)
- 300g of caster sugar
- 1 level tsp of baking powder, sieved
- 50g of flour
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 9-inch square tin with baking parchment.
Stir the plain flour, icing sugar, lemon zest and sea salt together. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Pat it evenly into the tin and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least a half an hour. Beat the eggs, salt, zest and sugar until it has doubled in volume Add the other ingredients but do not beat at this stage just mix together. If you over beat the topping it will turn out more like a meringue than the curdy texture you are looking for.
Pour on top of the slightly cooled first layer and bake for 20 minutes again at 180 degrees. If it still wobbles bake it for another 1- 2 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin then slice it with a warm knife dipped in water.