Monday, 20 April 2015

The Princess is (a) lush

It's true, this cake soaked up a phenomenal amount of vodka-spiked tea. I would have been under the table if I'd drunk that much (and was the size of a small sponge cake) but the Princess remained steady and upright on her way to the fridge, with nary a leak during the night.

The Polish Princess, the Alpha Bakers' latest test subject from the Baking Bible, is an alcohol soaked sponge with layers of flavoured custard-type cream. It looks delicious and the individual components taste pretty nice but it hasn't been cut yet so I'll have to report back.

Yum! Eggs whisked with sugar to make meringue. There isn't much to this cake, just plain flour, a little baking powder, eggs and warm water. It's a little unusually put together in that you make a meringue then mix in the yolks and fold in the rest.

I was waiting for something to happen (eggs to fluff or flour to fold...) when it started to rain. So I took this picture of the view from my kitchen window. You can't actually see the rain even though it was running off the eaves in little waterfalls. Then it stopped as suddenly as it started and the sun shone as if nothing had happened.

There wasn't a whole lot of batter and I was a bit doubtful. 

The ingredients for the infamous vodka tea syrup which douses the cake. I only had Swedish vodka but I knew the Princess wouldn't care. I thought the Russian Caravan tea was apt, or, at least in the right region.

Look! Is that a flying saucer?  No, it's a slightly overcooked, possibly rubbery, sponge cake (oh, so that's why they call it 'sponge'). I toyed with the idea of making another one (it was Saturday evening and I was hungry) but when I saw how much syrup there was I decided it was unlikely to end up dry (and thus resisted the strong urge to have warm sponge cake for dinner).

It took a while but eventually she drank all the vodka tea syrup. I'm not convinced that vodka tea is going to catch on. Maybe if I lived in the cold North I'd appreciate it more.

Raisins popped up again in the buttercream recipe, and I got confused all over again about the raisin - sultana distinction. So I googled...again. I found some useful links which I'm going to record here and here for posterity, or if she's not interested, then for my own future reference.

Future me, the answer is sultanas.

I absolutely love vanilla beans, the smell is so alluring. It's hard not to take a bite.

This is the point of the recipe (as with many of Rose's recipes) where you heave a huge sigh. You think you're nearly finished and then discover there's another couple of confusingly similar steps. 

So, unfamiliar with buttercream, I made the pastry cream thinking that was the beginning and the end of that. But no, buttercream is actually (in this case) butter plus pastry cream. And believe me, you do not want to think about how much raw butter ends up on top of that cake. 

Below is pre-huge sigh, when I had finished the pastry cream and put it into the fridge to cool, covered with gladwrap to stop a skin forming. It was delicious (milk, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks and cornflour) and quite rich.

After the pastry cream has cooled you beat an enormous amount of butter and add the pastry cream. This creates a heart attack in a bowl. Then you divide it and add cocoa and walnuts to one half.

And spread it onto the sozzled cake.

Then you add the aforementioned sultanas and some dark chocolate to the other half. I went to the shops three times on Sunday and forgot to get the right chocolate each time, so had to make do with 90%. The buttercream is sufficiently sweet to cope with the bitter chocolate. I had a thought that the sultanas might be nice soaked in a liqueur but then decided the Princess had definitely had enough alcohol for one day.

Once the cocoa layer has firmed up in the fridge, you can spread out the choc-sultana layer.

I managed to do this without disturbing the lower layer or making a big mess - hurray!

I sprinkled it with chocolate shavings and put it to bed for the night, to be unveiled the next day for my neighbour's birthday. So two days, three dishwasher loads and one washing load of tea towels later, behold the Princess!

Update - the Princess in pieces. It was quite delicious although the buttercream was a bit too much for me in volume. I think a custard based mousse would be a bit lighter (relatively) and I would probably replace the cocoa walnut buttercream layer with a cocoa walnut mousse, perhaps in the middle of the cake. I also think the custard cream layers could benefit from some alcohol!

Next week it's back to biscuits with Lemon Jammies.


  1. The Princess jokes going around is funny stuff. The Princess is a lush is a good one! What an eyeful out your kitchen window. My view is greenless grey and mud. BTW, I resisted the same urge to tear open the syruped caked without the butter cream. It had to be wonderful all by itself. Good post! Fun to read.

  2. Your Princess is in Shangri-La! Heart attack in a bowl, indeed. The cake batter was so peculiar but then turns out lovely. It's going to be quite interesting to see how the alcohol plays off these buttercream flavors when she makes her royal appearance.

  3. What a celebration! Your princess is beautiful! Oh..our weather/climate is similar, it would rain and stop suddenly too. LOL! I guess this is how tropical climate is. Do you get ants and mosquitoes there often? I see those familiar looking trees and I wonder if there would be insects & mosquitoes..LOL!

    1. Oh so many Faithy! And the ants love buttercream. I saw a small dark patch on the kitchen floor this morning and found it was those tiny honey ants swarming over a drop of buttercream that had fallen onto the floor. They give the cake 11 out of 10.

  4. your cake look great, just like your post.

  5. How kind of the ants to give you feedback! Booze in the pastry cream is a great idea. I didn't realise it was so tropical where you live. Makes me feel sweaty, just looking at all those palm trees :-)

  6. So many steps and you came through beautifully. What a good neighbour you are!

  7. We should all take pictures from our kitchen windows! I'll bet we'd get a lot of different views--mine definitely looks different than yours. And I may take up drinking vodka tea next winter. Love the picture with the sparkler!

  8. We should all take pictures from our kitchen windows! I'll bet we'd get a lot of different views--mine definitely looks different than yours. And I may take up drinking vodka tea next winter. Love the picture with the sparkler!

  9. Hello, Catherine: Lucky neighbor!! I enjoyed your post and the view from the window! I grew up in the tropics and it's nice to see a palm tree. I did enjoy the Princess, found it to be delicious and not difficult to make. I couldn't taste the tea or the vodka in the finished dessert, however. Baking on the Lemon Jammies...