I must admit I hadn’t a clue what the origin of a Tunis Cake was. Mary Berry had made one on one of her and Paul Hollywood’s original Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes from a couple of years back. I remember having a go at making one myself after seeing the pretty impressive chocolate topped almond and lemon sponge which was finished off with marzipan holly leaves and berries.
The definition of a Tunis cake according to Wikipedia is that it’s “a madeira cake topped with a thick layer of chocolate and decorated with marzipan fruits,” The origin of the cake dates back to Edwardian times.
I had been at work in the morning and was back home just after lunch time to get jobs done. Not much had got done this week at home and don’t even ask about the Christmas shopping. But baking would relax me and I fancied baking a cake for my daughter coming home from uni the next day!
When I had my last go at baking the Tunis Cake I used the wrong size tin and therefore the cake was wider and shallower than it was meant to be. Also, the icing didn’t look as neat as it should be. Didn’t spoil the taste though! Traditionally, the decorations are marzipan but I used sugar paste both times. I needed to save the marzipan for our Christmas Cake!
First of all I started to bake the Madeira Sponge. I love madeira sponges and this one is full of flavour from ground almonds and grated lemon zest. All the ingredients were weighed out and mixed together in an all in one method. The mixture was then put in the greased and lined deep cake tin. While this was baking I made myself a well needed cup of tea and did the washing up!
The topping for the Tunis Cake is a very deep chocolate ganache. I heated double cream in a small pan on the hob, then once it was starting to boil I took it off the heat and stirred in the chocolate pieces until they melted. The ganache was left to cool a little and then poured on top of the cake still in the tin. It was left in the tin until the chocolate was set. I was worried that the cake wouldn’t come out of the tin properly but it did.
The holly leaves were made simply by using ready made and coloured sugar paste. I had a holly cutter and put the veins on the leaves using a mini roller. I also rolled mini red balls for the berries.
Before the cake completely set, I arranged the holly leaves in a wreath pattern around the edge of the cake. I didn’t dare eat a piece there and then but by the following lunchtime I caved in and ate a piece instead of eating a healthy lunch. Too much temptation. Over the next few days the cake got eaten. It’s definitely one you would have as an alternative to Christmas Cake or pudding if you’re not a great dried fruit lover.
Along with millions of others I got whipped up into all the excitement now that The Great British Bake Off is back! Week one started with cakes. Now for me that wouldn’t be a problem but may be with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry watching me I might feel different.
First of all the bakers were asked to bake their Signature Cake- their take on a Madeira Cake. To me, a Madeira cake is a well loved classic that shouldn’t be messed about with too much. I think the simpler the better and the recipe on page 17 of The reat British Bake Off Celebrations book fits the bill perfectly. It is a lemon flavoured cake with accompanying home made candied lemon peel. It has a closer texture than an ordinary sponge and I use a Madeira recipe when I want a plain cake to carve into a shape for a birthday cake.
Madeira cakes first became popular in Victorian times where a slice was served with a glass of Madeira wine.They don’t come from the island of Madeira like I originally thought!
Last Thursday, the day after the Bake Off had been on TV I had a day at home. I had lemons in the fruit bowl and wanted to bake. Bake Off has two effects on me, it makes me want to get my apron on and also to stuff my face! It was also a crazy day, I had to take my dog to the vets, run around after my two teenage children and get some ironing done in between all that. But at least I had time in between.
First of all I needed to make some candied lemon peel. I’ve never made this before, seems such a faff. I had to cut a large lemon into 8 wedges, cutting off the flesh and leaving the pith and some peel behind. Then each wedge needed to be cut into 4 strips.
At this time I had to break off to go and take the dog up to the vets and then collect my son’s friend from the train station. I had to leave the peel out on the surface to harden up and hope it turned out ok later on.
Later on I finally got round to actually starting on the cake itself. I was still giggling and laughing to myself about the Bake Off the previous night with all the innuendoes flying around the tent, this week was all about showing your cracks! Mary Berry said that she expected a Madeira cake to have a crack and a dome. So of course I wanted to make sure I had a “crack” too!
The lemon Madeira cake was baked using an all in one method and mixed together using my hand held mixer. Butter, caster sugar, self raising flour, ground almonds, eggs and the grated zest of a large lemon were weighed out and combined. This was done until the mixture was smooth, yet well combined. It was then put into a deep filled 18cm diameter cake tin which had been lined and greased carefully.
The cake was meant to be baked in the oven first for about 35 minutes. Then you added a few pieces of the candied peel to the top of the cake and returned the cake to the oven for another 20 minutes or so. This was until a cake tester poked into the cake came out clean. Unfortunately my phone started ringing as I was putting the cake in the oven so I stupidly forgot to switch the oven timer on. I had to guess the time I’d put the cake in the oven. So it does look a little bit pale on the top but it was definitely cooked when I tested it!
I did take the cake out of the tin when it was still a little bit warm and it was a bit crumbly when I cut a slice. I should have waited but I was running out of time. It tasted absolutely delicious although it didn’t taste as lemony as I thought it would.
The Technical Bake featured on the Great British Bake Off last week was Mary Berry’s Walnut Cake. It was described as “the de-caf version” by Mel and Sue. Usually you do get coffee and walnut together in a cake but this cake was different. The recipe is featured in the new Bake Off book but there is also a version like this in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I baked this cake last year and it didn’t come out too well. It was the icing that let me down. It just wouldn’t thicken up and I was too ashamed to take it along to my WI meeting as one of my contributions to our supper.
As you can tell from the above picture it looked nothing like it should have done and to me, it also tasted strange. One for me to practise again in the future!
The final challenge for the Bakers was to produce a showstopping Black Forest Gateau. I love the flavours of Black Forest Gateaux and really enjoyed baking one a couple of years back for my hubby’s birthday. Even though he doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he was impressed with the cake I baked for him using a recipe in the Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation book.
I’m looking forward to the Bake Off again tomorrow. Biscuits this week. I can’t wait to see what everyone’s baking and I fancy having a go myself later on this week if I have time.
As I type, it’s now December 30th. the rain is lashing against the windows and it feels decidedly un- Christmassy. I’m catching up on all the blog posts and getting up to date. It’s been great to veg out at home and I’m now feeling totally relaxed. I won’t be saying that this time next week when I’m back at work and the kids are back at school. My hubby has had some time off over Christmas but he has been nipping into work to see things tick over. So, for me it’s time to catch up on the blog.
One of my favourite bakes this year just has to be this gorgeous Tunis Cake which Mary Berry baked on the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special from a couple of weeks back. Not only did it look simple to make, it looked pretty impressive and would be a fantastic pudding or cake for someone who doesn’t like lots of dried fruit. My children don’t like fruit cake or Christmas pudding so it would be perfect for them. I had never heard of a Tunis Cake before so it was great to try something new to me, although it is said they originate from Edwardian times according to Wikipedia!
The Tunis cake followed an all in one method and included ground almonds which gave the cake a lovely moist texture. It took no time at all to prepare in my trusty KitchenAid. I like cakes that do this, saves a great deal of time not faffing about!
For the ganache you needed 400g plain chocolate. I used some 70% cocoa solids Swiss chocolate from Tesco which was the cheapest good quality chocolate I could find. I’ve used it in lots of different recipes before and it always works out well.
In the recipe Mary uses marzipan coloured with food colouring for her holly leaves but I couldn’t be bothered to get my food colourings out and mess about with the marzipan. I needed to keep some back for using in stollen (which in the end I never got round to making, but that’s another story). I had a special Christmas Cake Decorating pack from Renshaw Icing which contained five different coloured packs of their Christmas colours. The green one was perfect for the holly leaves so out it came! The red berries were made from some leftover icing (also Renshaw but coloured the previous week) when I was baking Christmas cookies with the children I work with in school.
The cake turned out completely different to the way it looked on the programme. My cake looked a lot wider and shallower and I obviously in a rush had baked the cake in the wrong tin. Also, being as Mary’s cake was a lot deeper, she made the ganache go halfway down the side of the cake. As my cake was a lot shallower I couldn’t do that without making a mess so I just put the ganache on the top of it. The holly leaves were put on a bit haphazardly but I thought the cake still turned out well.
All of my family really enjoyed the cake and it didn’t last long enough til Christmas Day. I had to make another Christmas Pudding alternative instead.
I was so glad that Mary featured this recipe on the Great British Bake Off. Looking through Facebook and Twitter just after the programme was on, it seemed like lots of us cake bakers were keen to try the Tunis Cake. If you baked it, what did you think? I’d love to know.