If you follow me on any of my social media accounts, you probably know already that I sent in an entry for Kitchenaid's probaker contest and was shortlisted in the top 50. Then I went to the regional bakeoffs and much to everyone's surprise, specially mine, I was one of the two winners. So now I get to go to Delhi in April to compete one last time in the national finale. By then, they will also have winners from Delhi and Bangalore who look like a serious set of bakers, so I am both excited and terrified at the same time.
Before I get practising baking with my shiny new red kitchenaid mixer that I won as a prize in the regional bakeoff, I wanted to share the two recipes that got me here. First, the recipe I created and sent for the first round. I thought that instead of just baking a dessert, I'd pick a theme and create a plate around it.
The theme I picked was 'Day at the Movies' which captures my favourite part of going to the movies - obviously, food. After all, what’s a trip to a movie theatre without the popcorn and a big glass of coke. And you can’t forget the candy bars. I always pick something that has caramel and/or nuts so Rolo or Snickers are a frequent choice. The dessert I created captures this movie theatre experience with a cocoa cola cake topped with a chocolate and nut praline frosting. Completing the moviegoer food trio is a butter popcorn ice cream. Enjoy the show!
For Popcorn Ice Cream
300 grams heavy cream (I used Amul whipping cream)
½ cup popping corn
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
½ tin condensed milk
For Cocoa Cola Cake
125 grams plain flour
120 grams dark brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
120 grams butter – you can use unsalted but I use plain salted Amul butter
125 ml coke
60 ml buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
For Chocolate Frosting
200 grams dark chocolate
200 grams cream (I used Amul 25% cream)
For Nut Praline
1/3 cup almonds, thinly sliced or slivered
1 cup sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
¼ cup water
Popcorn Ice Cream
Start with the popcorn ice cream the night before you make this dessert because it takes the longest. Melt butter in a large saucepan (my mother always used a pressure cooker and so do I). Add salt and popping corn and stir until the butter coats the corn kernels. Cover, and let cook over a medium heat. Give the pan an occasional shake. After a couple of minutes, you will start hearing popping sounds. Reduce the heat to low and let the corn pop until there is several seconds between each pop. Turn of the heat but leave the popcorn in the pan. Pour cream into another saucepan and heat gently. Add the warm cream to the pan with the popcorn and let infuse for an hour. After one hour, strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing onto the popcorn to extract all flavor. Add the condensed milk and whisk until you have a smooth mixture. Cover and let chill overnight. The next day, churn the cream mixture in your ice cream machine. Pack it back into an airtight container and freeze until required.
Cocoa Cola Cake
Preheat oven to 180C and line a 6 inch cake tin with parchment. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder) into a bowl. Heat butter and coke together in a saucepan until the butter melts. Add this to the dry ingredients alongwith the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Whisk until you have a smooth batter and pour into your prepared cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with no crumbs attached. Let cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then peel off the paper and move to a cooling rack while you make your frosting.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Heat the cream on a low heat until it’s warm. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth ganache. Remove from heat. At this stage, move the cake to your serving plate and pour ganache to cover the cake completely. Some of it will spill over to cover the sides and that looks really pretty. Refrigerate the cake for an hour for the frosting to set.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the sliced almonds in a single layer. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, vinegar and water – it should be the consistency of wet mortar. Put the saucepan on a medium heat and stir until the sugar melts. From that point on, let the sugar cook without a stir but watch it closely. After a few minutes, the sugar will turn an amber color. Your caramel is ready. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel over the nuts. Once it cools, the caramel will harden. Break the set caramel-nuts mixture into small pieces and grind into a coarse powder in your food processor or spice grinder. Put the ground praline into an airtight container until you are ready to eat the cake. Do not put this in the fridge as the moisture will play havoc with the texture.
Cut a slice of the cake, sprinkle with nut praline and serve with a scoop of popcorn ice cream.