Tag Archives: caramel

Apple cake with yuzu caramel (sort of)

It’s Bramley Apple Week this week, so I decided to make an apple cake.  The most adventurous one I could find in my books was an apple cake with yuzu caramel from James Martin’s Sweet.

I started off with a hunt for yuzu juice.  I’ve seen it on Masterchef and maybe the Bake Off, but nowhere else.  I didn’t think Tesco was likely to have any and I was right.  I thought Holland and Barret may come up trumps, but when I asked one of the assistants he just gave me a funny look.  I tried Marks – no luck, and then I thought about the oriental supermarket at the bottom of town. It didn’t have any yuzu juice, but it did have tinned lychees (something I’ve been looking for since last Valentines Day when I ended up making a coffee cake and not the super-pretty lychee and raspberry cake of my romantic dreams).

The only other positive thing about the yuzu hunt was that the journey to the far end of town would probably register about half an hour’s exercise on my Fitbit.  Ten minutes it gave me.  Ten minutes.  It credits me with more than that during martini hour* on a Saturday.  Pick up glass, lift to mouth, take a sip, return glass to table, repeat.

Anyway.  How could I make yuzu caramel with no yuzu juice?  I turned to the bloggers at Food Bloggers Central for help.  There was a consensus that some kind of citrus juice would work, and the recipe did say that yuzu tasted somewhere between mandarin and lime.  I didn’t have any lime, and I really couldn’t be bothered to hit the shops again so I went with mandarin by itself.

I made the sponge cake first.  There was no fat in it, just a lot of eggs creamed with soft light brown sugar with plain flour, baking powder, and grated apples folded in.  I put the mixture into a 23cm square tin and put it into the oven at 160° fan.  The cooking time in the recipe is 25 minutes. I’m not sure whether the oven temperature given was already a fan oven temperature (it said 180°), and I couldn’t find anything in Sweet that said anything about oven temperatures, but my cake took much, much longer than 25 minutes before it passed the skewer-in-the-middle-comes-out-clean test.  When I say much longer, I mean almost half an hour longer. Not a good start.

The next thing on the list was the Bramley apple filling.  I chopped my apples,

apples-resizeput some caster sugar into a saucepan over a medium heat, and tried to wait until it had melted without stirring it.  I just about managed it but the sugar had just started to catch when I added butter, water and the apples.  I cooked the apples for a few minutes and let them cool down.

Onto the yuzu/mandarin caramel.  According to the recipe, all I had to do was to put soft light brown sugar into a sauté pan and heat it (no stirring on pain of death) until it had melted and was dark brown.  Really?

p1020220I threw my first batch away and started again.  My mom and dad were visiting and, at one point, the three of us were stood over the hob prodding at the sugar with a wooden spoon.  In the end, we stirred before the sugar had melted, added butter and cream and then the mandarin juice.  The caramel was OK.  There was a bit of bonfire about it and absolutely no mandarin flavour at all, but it was edible.

Once everything had cooled, I cut the cake in half, put the Bramley apple filling onto the bottom half, and drizzled the caramel over the top of the apples.  I put the top half on and sandwiched the cake together.p1020221

The cake was fine.  A decent apple cake with a decent filling.  The caramel tasted slightly burned, although this was pretty well disguised by the apples.  There was no citrus taste anywhere though, not the slightest hint.applecake-resize

Usually, when I’m not particularly happy with a cake, I know that it’s my fault (or the children’s).   This time though, I’m not so sure.  The baking time for the cake given in the recipe was far too short and the instructions for the caramel were pretty vague (I’ve since found a video at DeliaOnline which makes everything caramel pretty clear – why I didn’t think of going to Delia earlier I have no idea).

I’m pretty depressed about the baking for this year.  Everything I’ve tried has turned out to be a bit on the disappointing side.  Fingers crossed for next time.


*Martini hour – new for 2017 following a new year’s resolution to dust down my lovely but underused martini glasses.  No longer are they underused.  It’s the first resolution I’ve kept until February for years.

Curate’s Egg Caramels

I’ve had one of those rare weeks when I’m fed up of cake.  I’m also fed up of biscuits. Fed up to the extent that I put half a packet of Christmas shortbread out for the birds.  A very rare week indeed.

I didn’t want cake and I didn’t want biscuits so I decided to give sweets a go.  I thought I’d try caramels from Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple, I thought I should make something from the book, given that I never quite managed the beautiful rose, raspberry and lychee cake.    The recipe is really short (three paragraphs) so caramel making must be a doddle, right?

The first step was to grease and line a 23×13 loaf tin with baking parchment or foil, and grease it again.  I used foil.  Tesco never has baking parchment and I’m not too sure whether the greasproof paper that it does have can be used where the recipe says parchment.

The next steps were to melt caster sugar in a medium pan and warm cream in a small pan.  I’m sure I’ve griped about this before, but how big is a medium pan and how small is a small pan?  I never know whether my small pans are too big, or my medium pans are, really, large pans.  Anyway, as per the recipe, I heated caster sugar in one of my medium pans and put some double cream over a low heat in one of my small ones.

The caster sugar has to be heated until it is a dark copper-caramel colour and it must not be stirred.  I had a bit of trouble here, since the sugar at the bottom of the pan turned coppery before the sugar at the top even started to melt.  Since no stirring was allowed I started to swirl until everything was dark.  Once all the sugar was coppery I gave the warm cream a quick stir (to get rid of the skin that I hadn’t noticed forming on the surface), took the sugar off the heat and carefully poured half of the cream into the sugar.  The effect was pretty volcanic.  Once the fizzing had stopped, I poured in the rest of the cream and added cubed butter and sea salt.  Could I stir it now?  I wasn’t sure.  The recipe didn’t say I could, but it didn’t say I couldn’t either.  I dabbled about a bit with a wooden spoon.  A bit more than a swirl, but not quite a stir.

I put the pan back onto the heat and put my thermometer in.  I’ve upgraded from my sugar thermometer to one of those whizzy electric ones that bleep when you hit the right temperature.  It was set at 122°C and, as soon as the bleep went, I poured the mixture into my tin and left it to set.  Then, with the choice of several heat-proof surfaces to put it on, I chose the kitchen table and peeled off the top layer of paint.  I moved the tin to somewhere a bit more suitable and left the caramel to set.  It looked OK.  It was a bit darker than Edd Kimber’s perfect slab, and it did have a big bubble in the middle, but otherwise, I was pretty pleased.

When the pan had cooled a bit, I did scrape some of the mixture off the bottom to try.  It tasted OK.  I doused the pan in Cilit Bang Grease & Sparkle Turbo Foam and tried to forget about it. I hope it’s going to survive.

I left the caramel to set for around five hours.  The recipe suggests leaving at least four.  It wasn’t set after five hours and it didn’t look like it was going to.  I put the tin into the fridge for a while to firm up so that I could cut it into pieces.

These are what I ended up with (well, there were a few more, but they’d gone before I got around to taking the picture).

P1010691 (640x480)


Something was definitely wrong with them.  They were too soft to hold their shape out of the fridge, and there were hard bits and crunchy bits that just shouldn’t have been there. There was also the slightest hint of a burnt taste about some of them.

I think I should have swirled more at the beginning, stirred more when I added the butter and salt and let the mixture get a tiny bit hotter before pouring it into the tin.  That said, if these are the result of so many mistakes, then I can’t imagine how delicious caramels with no mistakes would be.

Calling them curate’s egg caramels doesn’t really do them justice because, even the parts that weren’t good tasted great.  They were like a salty version of Thornton’s Special Toffee that doesn’t yank your fillings out – which can only be a good thing. I Can’t wait to have another go at these if my pan survives.