When I asked for suggestions for a cake to enter in the village show I commented that my favourite cake, Reine de Saba, would not likely be a good choice as it has an unusual texture. The same is true of the two suggestions I chose to make so it was no surprise to me that neither got into the prizes, but it was fun to ‘compete’.

I made the ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’, suggested by blogger Georgina at The Fresh Princess of Bel Air, original recipe by Lily Vanilli, a couple of days before. The chocolate cake, suggested by Tracey at ‘foodandforagehebrides‘, original recipe from Delia Smith, was made on the morning of the show. I won’t give the recipes here; just follow the previous links to go to them.

However, my experience may be of interest as I’d say don’t make either of them for an important occasion before doing a trial run or you may not get what you expect.

Beetroot cake

Georgina suggested using a processor to grate the beetroot. Personally I have an aversion to machines in the kitchen (I’ve never come across a machine which can compete with a big hand balloon whisk and a copper bowl for beating egg whites) and grating the 500g of beetroot was quick and easy – I just put a polythene bag over each hand, secured with elastic bands around the wrist, grating them into a stainless steel colander over a stainless steel bowl to catch the juice. It took a few minutes then seconds to rinse them out; I hate to think how long it would have taken to clean my wife’s food processor had I used that.

Georgina commented that the unbaked mix was very liquid and needed far longer in the oven than the recipe for a test probe to come out clean. With that in mind I pressed out some of the juice when in the colander. I think it was a mistake as the end result indicated to me it should have been wetter. I baked it for the recommended 35 mins but I think it should have been quite a lot longer. However, the short cooking meant the top of the cake still had a wonderful beetroot colour so I decided not to cover it completely with mascarpone, leaving a rim of cake showing. I didn’t like the idea of chives on top so did a bit more decoration with the raspberries and some mint leaves. I’m sure when the show judges took the tiny slice and found a very strange texture that put paid to any prize; they’d been sampling some good but conventional sponges! It really does taste great though.

Chocolate cake

I followed Delia Smith’s original recipe almost exactly but it did not ‘work’ as suggested. Perhaps it was my ingredients.

The two halves of the cake came out of the oven just as intended – perhaps because I’m used to making the Reine de Saba which is similar though it does have a little flour. However, although I soaked the stated amount of prunes in the correct amount of armagnac for three days, the puree (here I did use an electric liquidiser) came out far too thick and stiff to spread on the very delicate cake so I had to ‘water’ it down, first with more armagnac but, when that began to get too expensive, with water until it became spreadable. The same happened with the melted chocolate (don’t know why as I’m quite used to doing this for souffles) and again I had to dilute it to be able to spread it on the cake ( I couldn’t find 75% cocoa solids chocolate so used half 70% and half 90%).  Again, the show judges probably wrote it off for not having the texture of the sponge cakes they had been ‘tasting’. Yet again, however, I can tell you the cake is delicious.

I also had a suggestion from my Canadian/Romanian blogger at ‘fotogfoodie’ for what sounds like a super cheese cake, but as it is not cooked I decided it was probably not appropriate for a ‘baking’ competition. I’ll be making it for some guests in the future though.

PS. Something crazy has been going on in the email linked to this blog and I just found 137 ‘valid’ notification messages in ‘spam’, dating back to mid August. This is alongside the reader going awry from time to time, not just for me I understand. So one or two of my recent comments about ‘missing’ bloggers may have sounded odd.